Sir Charles Spencer Chaplin, KBE (16 April 1889 – 25 December 1977)
was an English comic actor, filmmaker, and composer who rose to fame
in the era of silent film.
Chaplin became a worldwide icon through his
screen persona "the Tramp" and is considered one of the most important
figures in the history of the film industry. His career spanned
more than 75 years, from childhood in the
Victorian era until a year
before his death in 1977, and encompassed both adulation and
Chaplin's childhood in
London was one of poverty and hardship. As his
father was absent and his mother struggled financially, he was sent to
a workhouse twice before the age of nine. When he was 14, his mother
was committed to a mental asylum.
Chaplin began performing at an early
age, touring music halls and later working as a stage actor and
comedian. At 19, he was signed to the prestigious
Fred Karno company,
which took him to America.
Chaplin was scouted for the film industry
and began appearing in 1914 for Keystone Studios. He soon developed
the Tramp persona and formed a large fan base.
Chaplin directed his
own films from an early stage and continued to hone his craft as he
moved to the Essanay, Mutual, and First National corporations. By
1918, he was one of the best-known figures in the world.
Chaplin co-founded the distribution company United Artists,
which gave him complete control over his films. His first
feature-length was The Kid (1921), followed by
A Woman of Paris
The Gold Rush
The Gold Rush (1925), and The Circus (1928). He refused to
move to sound films in the 1930s, instead producing
City Lights (1931)
and Modern Times (1936) without dialogue.
Chaplin became increasingly
political, and his next film,
The Great Dictator
The Great Dictator (1940), satirised
Adolf Hitler. The 1940s were a decade marked with controversy for
Chaplin, and his popularity declined rapidly. He was accused of
communist sympathies, while his involvement in a paternity suit and
marriages to much younger women caused scandal. An FBI investigation
was opened, and
Chaplin was forced to leave the United States and
settle in Switzerland. He abandoned the Tramp in his later films,
Monsieur Verdoux (1947), Limelight (1952), A King in New
York (1957), and
A Countess from Hong Kong
A Countess from Hong Kong (1967).
Chaplin wrote, directed, produced, edited, starred in, and composed
the music for most of his films. He was a perfectionist, and his
financial independence enabled him to spend years on the development
and production of a picture. His films are characterised by slapstick
combined with pathos, typified in the Tramp's struggles against
adversity. Many contain social and political themes, as well as
autobiographical elements. In 1972, as part of a renewed appreciation
for his work,
Chaplin received an
Honorary Academy Award for "the
incalculable effect he has had in making motion pictures the art form
of this century". He continues to be held in high regard, with The
Gold Rush, City Lights, Modern Times, and
The Great Dictator
The Great Dictator often
ranked on industry lists of the greatest films of all time.
1.1 1889–1913: Early years
1.1.1 Background and childhood hardship
1.1.2 Young performer
1.1.3 Stage comedy and vaudeville
1.2 1914–1917: Entering films
1.3 1918–1922: First National
1.3.1 United Artists, Mildred Harris, and The Kid
1.4 1923–1938: Silent features
A Woman of Paris
A Woman of Paris and The Gold Rush
Lita Grey and The Circus
1.4.3 City Lights
1.4.4 Travels, Paulette Goddard, and Modern Times
1.5 1939–1952: Controversies and fading popularity
1.5.1 The Great Dictator
1.5.2 Legal troubles and Oona O'Neill
Monsieur Verdoux and communist accusations
1.5.4 Limelight and banning from the United States
1.6 1953–1977: European years
1.6.1 Move to
Switzerland and A King in New York
1.6.2 Final works and renewed appreciation
2.3 Style and themes
3.1 Commemoration and tributes
4 Awards and recognition
6 See also
9 External links
1889–1913: Early years
Background and childhood hardship
Chaplin was born on 16 April 1889 to Hannah Chaplin
(born Hannah Harriet Pedlingham Hill) and Charles
Chaplin Sr. There is
no official record of his birth, although
Chaplin believed he was born
at East Street, Walworth, in South London.[note 1] His mother and
father had married four years previously, at which time Charles Sr.
became the legal carer of Hannah's illegitimate son, Sydney John
Hill.[note 2] At the time of his birth, Chaplin's parents were both
music hall entertainers. Hannah, the daughter of a shoemaker, had a
brief and unsuccessful career under the stage name Lily Harley,
while Charles Sr., a butcher's son, was a popular singer.
Although they never divorced, Chaplin's parents were estranged by
around 1891. The following year, Hannah gave birth to a third son
Wheeler Dryden – fathered by the music hall entertainer
Leo Dryden. The child was taken by Dryden at six months old, and did
not re-enter Chaplin's life for 30 years.
Chaplin (lower centre) at the Central
School for paupers, 1897
Chaplin's childhood was fraught with poverty and hardship, making his
eventual trajectory "the most dramatic of all the rags to riches
stories ever told" according to his authorised biographer David
Robinson. Chaplin's early years were spent with his mother and
brother Sydney in the
London district of Kennington; Hannah had no
means of income, other than occasional nursing and dressmaking, and
Chaplin Sr. provided no financial support. As the situation
Chaplin was sent to Lambeth
Workhouse when he was seven
years old.[note 3] The council housed him at the Central London
District School for paupers, which
Chaplin remembered as "a forlorn
existence". He was briefly reunited with his mother 18 months
later, before Hannah was forced to readmit her family to the workhouse
in July 1898. The boys were promptly sent to Norwood Schools, another
institution for destitute children.
"I was hardly aware of a crisis because we lived in a continual
crisis; and, being a boy, I dismissed our troubles with gracious
Chaplin on his childhood
In September 1898, Hannah was committed to Cane Hill mental asylum –
she had developed a psychosis seemingly brought on by an infection of
syphilis and malnutrition. For the two months she was there,
Chaplin and his brother Sydney were sent to live with their father,
whom the young boys scarcely knew. Charles Sr. was by then a
severe alcoholic, and life there was bad enough to provoke a visit
from the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to
Children. Chaplin's father died two years later, at 38 years old,
from cirrhosis of the liver.
Hannah entered a period of remission but, in May 1903, became ill
again. Chaplin, then 14, had the task of taking his mother to the
infirmary, from where she was sent back to Cane Hill. He lived
alone for several days, searching for food and occasionally sleeping
rough, until Sydney – who had enrolled in the Navy two years earlier
– returned. Hannah was released from the asylum eight months
later, but in March 1905, her illness returned, this time
permanently. "There was nothing we could do but accept poor mother's
Chaplin later wrote, and she remained in care until her death
Chaplin in the play Sherlock Holmes, in which he appeared
between 1903 and 1906
Between his time in the poor schools and his mother succumbing to
Chaplin began to perform on stage. He later recalled
making his first amateur appearance at the age of five years, when he
took over from Hannah one night in Aldershot.[note 4] This was an
isolated occurrence, but by the time he was nine
Chaplin had, with his
mother's encouragement, grown interested in performing. He later
wrote: "[she] imbued me with the feeling that I had some sort of
talent". Through his father's connections,
Chaplin became a
member of the Eight Lancashire Lads clog-dancing troupe, with whom he
toured English music halls throughout 1899 and 1900.[note 5] Chaplin
worked hard, and the act was popular with audiences, but he was not
satisfied with dancing and wished to form a comedy act.
In the years
Chaplin was touring with the Eight Lancashire Lads, his
mother ensured that he still attended school but, by age 13, he had
abandoned education. He supported himself with a range of
jobs, while nursing his ambition to become an actor. At 14,
shortly after his mother's relapse, he registered with a theatrical
agency in London's West End. The manager sensed potential in Chaplin,
who was promptly given his first role as a newsboy in Harry Arthur
Saintsbury's Jim, a Romance of Cockayne. It opened in July 1903,
but the show was unsuccessful and closed after two weeks. Chaplin's
comic performance, however, was singled out for praise in many of the
Saintsbury secured a role for
Chaplin in Charles Frohman's production
of Sherlock Holmes, where he played Billy the pageboy in three
nationwide tours. His performance was so well received that he was
London to play the role alongside William Gillette, the
original Holmes.[note 6] "It was like tidings from heaven", Chaplin
recalled. At 16 years old,
Chaplin starred in the play's West End
production at the
Duke of York's Theatre
Duke of York's Theatre from October to December
1905. He completed one final tour of Sherlock Holmes in early
1906, before leaving the play after more than two-and-a-half
Stage comedy and vaudeville
Chaplin soon found work with a new company, and went on tour with his
brother – who was also pursuing an acting career – in a comedy
sketch called Repairs. In May 1906,
Chaplin joined the juvenile
act Casey's Circus, where he developed popular burlesque pieces
and was soon the star of the show. By the time the act finished
touring in July 1907, the 18-year-old had become an accomplished
comedic performer. He struggled to find more work, however, and a
brief attempt at a solo act was a failure.[note 7]
Advertisement from Chaplin's American tour with the
Fred Karno comedy
Sydney Chaplin had joined Fred Karno's prestigious comedy
company in 1906 and, by 1908, he was one of their key performers.
In February, he managed to secure a two-week trial for his younger
brother. Karno was initially wary, and considered
Chaplin a "pale,
puny, sullen-looking youngster" who "looked much too shy to do any
good in the theatre." However, the teenager made an impact on his
first night at the
London Coliseum and he was quickly signed to a
Chaplin began by playing a series of minor parts,
eventually progressing to starring roles in 1909. In April 1910,
he was given the lead in a new sketch, Jimmy the Fearless. It was a
big success, and
Chaplin received considerable press attention.
Karno selected his new star to join the section of the company, one
that also included Stan Laurel, that toured North America's vaudeville
circuit. The young comedian headed the show and impressed
reviewers, being described as "one of the best pantomime artists ever
seen here". His most successful role was a drunk called the
"Inebriate Swell", which drew him significant recognition. The
tour lasted 21 months, and the troupe returned to
England in June
Chaplin recalled that he "had a disquieting feeling of
sinking back into a depressing commonplaceness" and was, therefore,
delighted when a new tour began in October.
1914–1917: Entering films
Six months into the second American tour,
Chaplin was invited to join
the New York Motion Picture Company. A representative who had seen his
performances thought he could replace Fred Mace, a star of their
Keystone Studios who intended to leave.
Chaplin thought the
Keystone comedies "a crude mélange of rough and rumble", but liked
the idea of working in films and rationalised: "Besides, it would mean
a new life." He met with the company and signed a $150-per-week
($3,714 in 2017 dollars) contract in September 1913.
Chaplin (left) in his first film appearance, Making a Living, with
Henry Lehrman who directed the picture (1914)
The Tramp debuts in
Kid Auto Races at Venice
Kid Auto Races at Venice (1914), Chaplin's second
Chaplin arrived in Los Angeles, home of the Keystone studio, in early
December 1913. His boss was Mack Sennett, who initially expressed
concern that the 24-year-old looked too young. He was not used in
a picture until late January, during which time
Chaplin attempted to
learn the processes of filmmaking. The one-reeler Making a Living
marked his film acting debut and was released on 2 February 1914.
Chaplin strongly disliked the picture, but one review picked him out
as "a comedian of the first water". For his second appearance in
front of the camera,
Chaplin selected the costume with which he became
identified. He described the process in his autobiography:
"I wanted everything to be a contradiction: the pants baggy, the coat
tight, the hat small and the shoes large ... I added a small
moustache, which, I reasoned, would add age without hiding my
expression. I had no idea of the character. But the moment I was
dressed, the clothes and the makeup made me feel the person he was. I
began to know him, and by the time I walked on stage he was fully
The film was Mabel's Strange Predicament, but "the Tramp" character,
as it became known, debuted to audiences in Kid Auto Races at Venice
– shot later than
Mabel's Strange Predicament
Mabel's Strange Predicament but released two days
Chaplin adopted the character as his screen persona and
attempted to make suggestions for the films he appeared in. These
ideas were dismissed by his directors. During the filming of his
eleventh picture, Mabel at the Wheel, he clashed with director Mabel
Normand and was almost released from his contract. Sennett kept him
on, however, when he received orders from exhibitors for more Chaplin
films. Sennett also allowed
Chaplin to direct his next film himself
Chaplin promised to pay $1,500 ($37,141 in 2017 dollars) if the
film was unsuccessful.
Caught in the Rain, issued 4 May 1914, was Chaplin's directorial debut
and was highly successful. Thereafter he directed almost every
short film in which he appeared for Keystone, at the rate of
approximately one per week, a period which he later remembered as
the most exciting time of his career. Chaplin's films introduced a
slower form of comedy than the typical Keystone farce, and he
developed a large fan base. In November 1914, he had a supporting
role in the first feature length comedy film, Tillie's Punctured
Romance, directed by Sennett and starring Marie Dressler, which was a
commercial success and increased his popularity. When Chaplin's
contract came up for renewal at the end of the year, he asked for
$1,000 a week ($24,761 in 2017 dollars) – an amount Sennett refused
as too large.
Chaplin and Edna Purviance, his regular leading lady, in Work (1915)
The Essanay Film Manufacturing Company of Chicago sent
offer of $1,250 a week with a signing bonus of $10,000. He joined the
studio in late December 1914, where he began forming a stock
company of regular players, including Leo White, Bud Jamison, Paddy
McGuire and Billy Armstrong. He soon recruited a leading lady – Edna
Chaplin met in a cafe and hired on account of her
beauty. She went on to appear in 35 films with
Chaplin over eight
years; the pair also formed a romantic relationship that lasted
Chaplin asserted a high level of control over his pictures and started
to put more time and care into each film. There was a month-long
interval between the release of his second production, A Night Out,
and his third, The Champion. The final seven of Chaplin's 14
Essanay films were all produced at this slower pace.
began to alter his screen persona, which had attracted some criticism
at Keystone for its "mean, crude, and brutish" nature. The
character became more gentle and romantic;
The Tramp (April 1915)
was considered a particular turning point in his development. The
use of pathos was developed further with The Bank, in which Chaplin
created a sad ending. Robinson notes that this was an innovation in
comedy films, and marked the time when serious critics began to
appreciate Chaplin's work. At Essanay, writes film scholar Simon
Chaplin "found the themes and the settings that would define
the Tramp's world."
Chaplin became a cultural phenomenon. Shops were stocked
Chaplin merchandise, he was featured in cartoons and comic
strips, and several songs were written about him. In July, a
Motion Picture Magazine
Motion Picture Magazine wrote that "Chaplinitis" had
spread across America. As his fame grew worldwide, he became the
film industry's first international star. When the Essanay
contract ended in December 1915,[note 9]
Chaplin – fully aware
of his popularity – requested a $150,000 signing bonus from his next
studio. He received several offers, including Universal, Fox, and
Vitagraph, the best of which came from the
Mutual Film Corporation at
$10,000 a week.
Chaplin was a global phenomenon. Here he shows off some of
his merchandise, c. 1918.
A contract was negotiated with Mutual that amounted to $670,000 a
year, which Robinson says made
Chaplin – at 26 years old – one
of the highest paid people in the world. The high salary shocked
the public and was widely reported in the press. John R. Freuler,
the studio president, explained: "We can afford to pay Mr. Chaplin
this large sum annually because the public wants
Chaplin and will pay
Chaplin his own Los Angeles studio to work in, which
opened in March 1916. He added two key members to his stock
Albert Austin and Eric Campbell, and produced a series of
elaborate two-reelers: The Floorwalker, The Fireman, The Vagabond, One
A.M., and The Count. For The Pawnshop, he recruited the actor
Henry Bergman, who was to work with
Chaplin for 30 years. Behind
the Screen and The Rink completed Chaplin's releases for 1916. The
Mutual contract stipulated that he release a two-reel film every four
weeks, which he had managed to achieve. With the new year, however,
Chaplin began to demand more time. He made only four more films
for Mutual over the first ten months of 1917: Easy Street, The Cure,
The Immigrant, and The Adventurer. With their careful
construction, these films are considered by
Chaplin scholars to be
among his finest work. Later in life,
Chaplin referred to
his Mutual years as the happiest period of his career. However,
Chaplin also felt that those films became increasingly formulaic over
the period of the contract and he was increasingly dissatisfied with
the working conditions encouraging that. 
Chaplin was attacked in the British media for not fighting in the
First World War. He defended himself, revealing that he would
fight for Britain if called and had registered for the American draft,
but he was not summoned by either country.[note 10] Despite this
Chaplin was a favourite with the troops, and his
popularity continued to grow worldwide.
Harper's Weekly reported that
the name of
Chaplin was "a part of the common language of
almost every country", and that the Tramp image was "universally
familiar". In 1917, professional
Chaplin imitators were so
widespread that he took legal action, and it was reported that
nine out of ten men who attended costume parties dressed as the
Tramp. The same year, a study by the Boston Society for Psychical
Research concluded that
Chaplin was "an American obsession". The
Minnie Maddern Fiske
Minnie Maddern Fiske wrote that "a constantly increasing body
of cultured, artistic people are beginning to regard the young English
buffoon, Charles Chaplin, as an extraordinary artist, as well as a
1918–1922: First National
A Dog's Life
A Dog's Life (1918). It was around this time that
Chaplin began to
conceive the Tramp as "a sort of Pierrot", or sad clown.
Mutual were patient with Chaplin's decreased rate of output, and the
contract ended amicably. With his aforementioned concern about the
declining quality of his films because of contract scheduling
stipulations, Chaplin's primary concern in finding a new distributor
was independence; Sydney Chaplin, then his business manager, told the
Charlie [must] be allowed all the time he needs and all the
money for producing [films] the way he wants ... It is quality,
not quantity, we are after." In June 1917,
Chaplin signed to
complete eight films for First National Exhibitors' Circuit in return
for $1 million. He chose to build his own studio, situated
on five acres of land off Sunset Boulevard, with production facilities
of the highest order. It was completed in January 1918, and
Chaplin was given freedom over the making of his pictures.
A Dog's Life, released April 1918, was the first film under the new
contract. In it,
Chaplin demonstrated his increasing concern with
story construction and his treatment of the Tramp as "a sort of
Pierrot". The film was described by
Louis Delluc as "cinema's
first total work of art".
Chaplin then embarked on the Third
Liberty Bond campaign, touring the United States for one month to
raise money for the Allies of the First World War. He also
produced a short propaganda film, donated to the government for
fund-raising, called The Bond. Chaplin's next release was
war-based, placing the Tramp in the trenches for Shoulder Arms.
Associates warned him against making a comedy about the war but, as he
later recalled: "Dangerous or not, the idea excited me." He spent
four months filming the 45-minute-long picture, which was released in
October 1918 with great success.
United Artists, Mildred Harris, and The Kid
After the release of Shoulder Arms,
Chaplin requested more money from
First National, which was refused. Frustrated with their lack of
concern for quality, and worried about rumours of a possible merger
between the company and Famous Players-Lasky,
Chaplin joined forces
with Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford, and
D. W. Griffith
D. W. Griffith to form a
new distribution company – United Artists, established in January
1919. The arrangement was revolutionary in the film industry, as
it enabled the four partners – all creative artists – to
personally fund their pictures and have complete control. Chaplin
was eager to start with the new company and offered to buy out his
contract with First National. They refused and insisted that he
complete the final six films owed.
The Kid (1921), with Jackie Coogan, combined comedy with drama and was
Chaplin's first film to exceed an hour.
Before the creation of United Artists,
Chaplin married for the first
time. The 16-year-old actress
Mildred Harris had revealed that she was
pregnant with his child, and in September 1918, he married her quietly
in Los Angeles to avoid controversy. Soon after, the pregnancy
was found to be false.
Chaplin was unhappy with the union and,
feeling that marriage stunted his creativity, struggled over the
production of his film Sunnyside. Harris was by then legitimately
pregnant, and on 7 July 1919, gave birth to a son. Norman Spencer
Chaplin was born malformed and died three days later. The
marriage ended in April 1920, with
Chaplin explaining in his
autobiography that they were "irreconcilably mismated".
Losing the child, plus his own childhood experiences, are thought to
have influenced Chaplin's film, which turned the Tramp into the
caretaker of a young boy. For this new venture,
wished to do more than comedy and, according to Louvish, "make his
mark on a changed world." Filming on The Kid began in August
1919, with four-year-old
Jackie Coogan his co-star. It was
developing into a long project, so to placate First National, he
halted production and quickly filmed A Day's
Pleasure.[clarification needed] The Kid was in production for
nine months until May 1920 and, at 68 minutes, it was Chaplin's
longest picture to date. Dealing with issues of poverty and
parent–child separation, The Kid was one of the earliest films to
combine comedy and drama. It was released in January 1921 with
instant success, and, by 1924, had been screened in over 50
Chaplin spent five months on his next film, the two-reeler The Idle
Class. Following its September 1921 release, he chose to return
England for the first time in almost a decade. He then worked
to fulfil his First National contract, releasing Pay Day in February
1922. The Pilgrim – his final short film – was delayed by
distribution disagreements with the studio, and released a year
1923–1938: Silent features
A Woman of Paris
A Woman of Paris and The Gold Rush
Having fulfilled his First National contract,
Chaplin was free to make
his first picture as an independent producer. In November 1922, he
A Woman of Paris, a romantic drama about ill-fated
Chaplin intended it to be a star-making vehicle for Edna
Purviance, and did not appear in the picture himself other than
in a brief, uncredited cameo. He wished the film to have a
realistic feel and directed his cast to give restrained performances.
In real life, he explained, "men and women try to hide their emotions
rather than seek to express them".
A Woman of Paris
A Woman of Paris premiered in
September 1923 and was acclaimed for its innovative, subtle
approach. The public, however, seemed to have little interest in
Chaplin film without Chaplin, and it was a box office
disappointment. The filmmaker was hurt by this failure – he had
long wanted to produce a dramatic film and was proud of the result –
and soon withdrew
A Woman of Paris
A Woman of Paris from circulation.
The Tramp resorts to eating his boot in a famous scene from The Gold
Chaplin returned to comedy for his next project. Setting his standards
high, he told himself "This next film must be an epic! The
Greatest!" Inspired by a photograph of the 1898 Klondike Gold
Rush, and later the story of the
Donner Party of 1846–47, he made
what Geoffrey Macnab calls "an epic comedy out of grim subject
matter." In The Gold Rush, the Tramp is a lonely prospector
fighting adversity and looking for love. With
Georgia Hale as his new
Chaplin began filming the picture in February 1924.
Its elaborate production, costing almost $1 million, included
location shooting in the Truckee mountains with 600 extras,
extravagant sets, and special effects. The last scene was shot
May 1925 after 15 months of filming.
The Gold Rush
The Gold Rush was the best film he had made. It
opened in August 1925 and became one of the highest-grossing films of
the silent era with a U.S. box-office of $5 million. The comedy
contains some of Chaplin's most famous sequences, such as the Tramp
eating his shoe and the "Dance of the Rolls". Macnab has called
it "the quintessential
Chaplin stated at its
release, "This is the picture that I want to be remembered by".
Lita Grey and The Circus
Lita Grey, whose bitter divorce from
Chaplin caused a scandal
While making The Gold Rush,
Chaplin married for the second time.
Mirroring the circumstances of his first union,
Lita Grey was a
teenage actress, originally set to star in the film, whose surprise
announcement of pregnancy forced
Chaplin into marriage. She was 16 and
he was 35, meaning
Chaplin could have been charged with statutory rape
under California law. He therefore arranged a discreet marriage
in Mexico on 25 November 1924. Their first son, Charles Spencer
Chaplin, Jr., was born on 5 May 1925, followed by Sydney Earl Chaplin
on 30 March 1926.
It was an unhappy marriage, and
Chaplin spent long hours at the studio
to avoid seeing his wife. In November 1926, Grey took the
children and left the family home. A bitter divorce followed, in
which Grey's application – accusing
Chaplin of infidelity, abuse,
and of harbouring "perverted sexual desires" – was leaked to the
Chaplin was reported to be in a state of nervous
breakdown, as the story became headline news and groups formed across
America calling for his films to be banned. Eager to end the case
without further scandal, Chaplin's lawyers agreed to a cash settlement
of $600,000 – the largest awarded by American courts at
that time. His fan base was strong enough to survive the
incident, and it was soon forgotten, but
Chaplin was deeply affected
Before the divorce suit was filed,
Chaplin had begun work on a new
film, The Circus. He built a story around the idea of walking a
tightrope while besieged by monkeys, and turned the Tramp into the
accidental star of a circus. Filming was suspended for 10 months
while he dealt with the divorce scandal, and it was generally a
trouble-ridden production. Finally completed in October 1927, The
Circus was released in January 1928 to a positive reception. At
the 1st Academy Awards,
Chaplin was given a special trophy "For
versatility and genius in acting, writing, directing and producing The
Circus". Despite its success, he permanently associated the film
with the stress of its production;
Chaplin omitted The Circus from his
autobiography, and struggled to work on it when he recorded the score
in his later years.
"I was determined to continue making silent films ... I was a
pantomimist and in that medium I was unique and, without false
modesty, a master."
Chaplin explaining his defiance against sound in the 1930s
By the time The Circus was released, Hollywood had witnessed the
introduction of sound films.
Chaplin was cynical about this new medium
and the technical shortcomings it presented, believing that "talkies"
lacked the artistry of silent films. He was also hesitant to
change the formula that had brought him such success, and feared
that giving the Tramp a voice would limit his international
appeal. He, therefore, rejected the new Hollywood craze and began
work on a new silent film.
Chaplin was nonetheless anxious about this
decision and remained so throughout the film's production.
City Lights (1931), regarded as one of Chaplin's finest works
When filming began at the end of 1928,
Chaplin had been working on the
story for almost a year.
City Lights followed the Tramp's love
for a blind flower girl (played by Virginia Cherrill) and his efforts
to raise money for her sight-saving operation. It was a challenging
production that lasted 21 months, with
Chaplin later confessing
that he "had worked himself into a neurotic state of wanting
perfection". One advantage
Chaplin found in sound technology was
the opportunity to record a musical score for the film, which he
Chaplin finished editing
City Lights in December 1930, by which time
silent films were an anachronism. A preview before an
unsuspecting public audience was not a success, but a showing for
the press produced positive reviews. One journalist wrote, "Nobody in
the world but
Chaplin could have done it. He is the only
person that has that peculiar something called 'audience appeal' in
sufficient quality to defy the popular penchant for movies that
talk." Given its general release in January 1931, City Lights
proved to be a popular and financial success – eventually grossing
over $3 million. The
British Film Institute
British Film Institute cites it as Chaplin's
finest accomplishment, and the critic
James Agee hails the closing
scene as "the greatest piece of acting and the highest moment in
City Lights became Chaplin's personal favourite of
his films and remained so throughout his life.[clarification
Travels, Paulette Goddard, and Modern Times
City Lights had been a success, but
Chaplin was unsure if he could
make another picture without dialogue. He remained convinced that
sound would not work in his films, but was also "obsessed by a
depressing fear of being old-fashioned." In this state of
uncertainty, early in 1931, the comedian decided to take a holiday and
ended up travelling for 16 months.[note 12] He spent months
travelling Western Europe, including extended stays in France and
Switzerland, and spontaneously decided to visit Japan. The day
after he arrived in Japan, Prime Minister
Inukai Tsuyoshi was
assassinated by ultra-nationalists in the May 15 Incident. The group's
original plan had been to provoke a war with the United States by
Chaplin at a welcome reception organised by the prime
minister, but the plan had been foiled due to delayed public
announcement of the event's date.
Modern Times (1936), described by Jérôme Larcher as a "grim
contemplation on the automatization of the individual"
In his autobiography,
Chaplin recalled that on his return to Los
Angeles, "I was confused and without plan, restless and conscious of
an extreme loneliness". He briefly considered retiring and moving to
China. Chaplin's loneliness was relieved when he met 21-year-old
Paulette Goddard in July 1932, and the pair began a
relationship. He was not ready to commit to a film, however, and
focused on writing a serial about his travels (published in Woman's
Home Companion). The trip had been a stimulating experience for
Chaplin, including meetings with several prominent thinkers, and he
became increasingly interested in world affairs. The state of
labour in America troubled him, and he feared that capitalism and
machinery in the workplace would increase unemployment levels. It was
these concerns that stimulated
Chaplin to develop his new film.
Modern Times was announced by
Chaplin as "a satire on certain phases
of our industrial life." Featuring the Tramp and Goddard as they
endure the Great Depression, it took ten and a half months to
Chaplin intended to use spoken dialogue but changed his
mind during rehearsals. Like its predecessor, Modern Times employed
sound effects but almost no speaking. Chaplin's performance of a
gibberish song did, however, give the Tramp a voice for the only time
on film. After recording the music,
Chaplin released Modern Times
in February 1936. It was his first feature in 15 years to adopt
political references and social realism, a factor that attracted
considerable press coverage despite Chaplin's attempts to downplay the
issue. The film earned less at the box-office than his previous
features and received mixed reviews, as some viewers disliked the
politicising. Today, Modern Times is seen by the British Film
Institute as one of Chaplin's "great features," while David
Robinson says it shows the filmmaker at "his unrivalled peak as a
creator of visual comedy."
Following the release of Modern Times,
Chaplin left with Goddard for a
trip to the Far East. The couple had refused to comment on the
nature of their relationship, and it was not known whether they were
married or not. Some time later,
Chaplin revealed that they
married in Canton during this trip. By 1938, the couple had
drifted apart, as both focused heavily on their work, although Goddard
was again his leading lady in his next feature film, The Great
Dictator. She eventually divorced
Chaplin in Mexico in 1942, citing
incompatibility and separation for more than a year.
1939–1952: Controversies and fading popularity
The Great Dictator
Adolf Hitler in
The Great Dictator
The Great Dictator (1940)
The 1940s saw
Chaplin face a series of controversies, both in his work
and in his personal life, which changed his fortunes and severely
affected his popularity in the United States. The first of these was
his growing boldness in expressing his political beliefs. Deeply
disturbed by the surge of militaristic nationalism in 1930s world
Chaplin found that he could not keep these issues out
of his work. Parallels between himself and
Adolf Hitler had been
widely noted: the pair were born four days apart, both had risen from
poverty to world prominence, and Hitler wore the same toothbrush
moustache as Chaplin. It was this physical resemblance that supplied
the plot for Chaplin's next film, The Great Dictator, which directly
satirised Hitler and attacked fascism.
Chaplin spent two years developing the script, and began filming
in September 1939 – six days after Britain declared war on
Germany. He had submitted to using spoken dialogue, partly out of
acceptance that he had no other choice, but also because he recognised
it as a better method for delivering a political message. Making
a comedy about Hitler was seen as highly controversial, but Chaplin's
financial independence allowed him to take the risk. "I was
determined to go ahead," he later wrote, "for Hitler must be laughed
Chaplin replaced the Tramp (while wearing similar
attire) with "A Jewish Barber", a reference to the Nazi party's belief
that he was Jewish.[note 14] In a dual performance, he also
played the dictator "Adenoid Hynkel", who parodied Hitler.
The Great Dictator
The Great Dictator spent a year in production and was released in
October 1940. The film generated a vast amount of publicity, with
a critic for
The New York Times
The New York Times calling it "the most eagerly awaited
picture of the year", and it was one of the biggest money-makers of
the era. The ending was unpopular, however, and generated
Chaplin concluded the film with a five-minute speech
in which he abandoned his barber character, looked directly into the
camera, and pleaded against war and fascism.[clarification
needed] Charles J. Maland has identified this overt preaching as
triggering a decline in Chaplin's popularity, and writes, "Henceforth,
no movie fan would ever be able to separate the dimension of politics
from [his] star image".[note 15]
The Great Dictator
The Great Dictator received five
Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture, Best Original
Screenplay and Best Actor.
Legal troubles and Oona O'Neill
In the mid-1940s,
Chaplin was involved in a series of trials that
occupied most of his time and significantly affected his public
image. The troubles stemmed from his affair with an aspirant
actress named Joan Barry, with whom he was involved intermittently
between June 1941 and the autumn of 1942. Barry, who displayed
obsessive behaviour and was twice arrested after they separated,[note
16] reappeared the following year and announced that she was pregnant
with Chaplin's child. As
Chaplin denied the claim, Barry filed a
paternity suit against him.
The director of the
Federal Bureau of Investigation
Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), J. Edgar
Hoover, who had long been suspicious of Chaplin's political leanings,
used the opportunity to generate negative publicity about him. As part
of a smear campaign to damage Chaplin's image, the FBI named him
in four indictments related to the Barry case. Most serious of these
was an alleged violation of the Mann Act, which prohibits the
transportation of women across state boundaries for sexual
purposes.[note 17] The historian
Otto Friedrich has called this an
"absurd prosecution" of an "ancient statute", yet if
found guilty, he faced 23 years in jail. Three charges lacked
sufficient evidence to proceed to court, but the
Mann Act trial began
in March 1944.
Chaplin was acquitted two weeks later. The case
was frequently headline news, with
Newsweek calling it the "biggest
public relations scandal since the Fatty Arbuckle murder trial in
Chaplin's fourth wife Oona O'Neill, to whom he was married from 1943
until his death. The couple had eight children.
Barry's child, Carol Ann, was born in October 1944, and the paternity
suit went to court in February 1945. After two arduous trials, in
which the prosecuting lawyer accused him of "moral turpitude",
Chaplin was declared to be the father. Evidence from blood tests which
indicated otherwise were not admissible[note 18], and the judge
Chaplin to pay child support until Carol Ann turned 21. Media
coverage of the paternity suit was influenced by the FBI, as
information was fed to the prominent gossip columnist Hedda Hopper,
Chaplin was portrayed in an overwhelmingly critical light.
The controversy surrounding
Chaplin increased when, two weeks after
the paternity suit was filed, it was announced that he had married his
newest protégée, 18-year-old
Oona O'Neill – daughter of the
American playwright Eugene O'Neill. Chaplin, then 54, had been
introduced to her by a film agent seven months earlier.[note 19] In
Chaplin described meeting O'Neill as "the happiest
event of my life", and claimed to have found "perfect love".
Chaplin's son, Charles Jr., reported that Oona "worshipped" his
father. The couple remained married until Chaplin's death, and
had eight children over 18 years: Geraldine Leigh (b. July 1944),
Michael John (b. March 1946), Josephine Hannah (b. March 1949),
Victoria (b. May 1951), Eugene Anthony (b. August 1953), Jane Cecil
(b. May 1957), Annette Emily (b. December 1959), and Christopher James
(b. July 1962).
Monsieur Verdoux and communist accusations
Monsieur Verdoux (1947), a dark comedy about a serial killer, marked a
significant departure for Chaplin. He was so unpopular at the time of
release that it flopped in the United States.
Chaplin claimed that the Barry trials had "crippled [his]
creativeness", and it was some time before he began working
again. In April 1946, he finally began filming a project that had
been in development since 1942.
Monsieur Verdoux was a black
comedy, the story of a French bank clerk, Verdoux (Chaplin), who loses
his job and begins marrying and murdering wealthy widows to support
his family. Chaplin's inspiration for the project came from Orson
Welles, who wanted him to star in a film about the French serial
killer Henri Désiré Landru.
Chaplin decided that the concept would
"make a wonderful comedy", and paid Welles $5,000 for the
Chaplin again vocalised his political views in Monsieur Verdoux,
criticising capitalism and arguing that the world encourages mass
killing through wars and weapons of mass destruction. Because of
this, the film met with controversy when it was released in April
Chaplin was booed at the premiere, and there were calls for
Monsieur Verdoux was the first
Chaplin release that
failed both critically and commercially in the United States. It
was more successful abroad, and Chaplin's screenplay was
nominated at the Academy Awards. He was proud of the film,
writing in his autobiography, "
Monsieur Verdoux is the cleverest and
most brilliant film I have yet made."
The negative reaction to
Monsieur Verdoux was largely the result of
changes in Chaplin's public image. Along with damage of the Joan
Barry scandal, he was publicly accused of being a communist. His
political activity had heightened during World War II, when he
campaigned for the opening of a Second Front to help the Soviet Union
and supported various Soviet–American friendship groups. He was
also friendly with several suspected communists, and attended
functions given by Soviet diplomats in Los Angeles. In the
political climate of 1940s America, such activities meant
considered, as Larcher writes, "dangerously progressive and
amoral." The FBI wanted him out of the country, and launched
an official investigation in early 1947.[note 20]
Chaplin denied being a communist, instead calling himself a
"peacemonger", but felt the government's effort to suppress the
ideology was an unacceptable infringement of civil liberties.
Unwilling to be quiet about the issue, he openly protested against the
Communist Party members and the activities of the House
Un-American Activities Committee.
Chaplin received a subpoena to
appear before HUAC but was not called to testify. As his
activities were widely reported in the press, and
Cold War fears grew,
questions were raised over his failure to take American
citizenship. Calls were made for him to be deported; in one
extreme and widely published example, Representative John E. Rankin,
who helped establish HUAC, told Congress in June 1947: "[Chaplin's]
very life in Hollywood is detrimental to the moral fabric of America.
[If he is deported] ... his loathsome pictures can be kept from
before the eyes of the American youth. He should be deported and
gotten rid of at once."
Limelight and banning from the United States
Limelight (1952) was a serious and autobiographical film for Chaplin:
his character, Calvero, is an ex music hall star (described in this
image as a "Tramp Comedian") forced to deal with his loss of
Chaplin remained politically active in the years following
the failure of Monsieur Verdoux,[note 21] his next film, about a
forgotten vaudeville comedian and a young ballerina in Edwardian
London, was devoid of political themes. Limelight was heavily
autobiographical, alluding not only to Chaplin's childhood and the
lives of his parents, but also to his loss of popularity in the United
States. The cast included various members of his family,
including his five oldest children and his half-brother, Wheeler
Filming began in November 1951, by which time
Chaplin had spent three
years working on the story.[note 22] He aimed for a more serious
tone than any of his previous films, regularly using the word
"melancholy" when explaining his plans to his co-star Claire
Bloom. Limelight featured a cameo appearance from Buster Keaton,
Chaplin cast as his stage partner in a pantomime scene. This
marked the only time the comedians worked together.
Chaplin decided to hold the world premiere of Limelight in London,
since it was the setting of the film. As he left Los Angeles, he
expressed a premonition that he would not be returning. At New
York, he boarded the RMS Queen Elizabeth with his family on 18
September 1952. The next day, attorney general James P. McGranery
revoked Chaplin's re-entry permit and stated that he would have to
submit to an interview concerning his political views and moral
behaviour in order to re-enter the US. Although McGranery told
the press that he had "a pretty good case against Chaplin", Maland has
concluded, on the basis of the FBI files that were released in the
1980s, that the US government had no real evidence to prevent
Chaplin's re-entry. It is likely that he would have gained entry if he
had applied for it. However, when
Chaplin received a cablegram
informing him of the news, he privately decided to cut his ties with
the United States:
Whether I re-entered that unhappy country or not was of little
consequence to me. I would like to have told them that the sooner I
was rid of that hate-beleaguered atmosphere the better, that I was fed
up of America's insults and moral pomposity...
Because all of his property remained in America,
from saying anything negative about the incident to the press.
The scandal attracted vast attention, but
Chaplin and his film
were warmly received in Europe. In America, the hostility towards
him continued, and, although it received some positive reviews,
Limelight was subjected to a wide-scale boycott. Reflecting on
this, Maland writes that Chaplin's fall, from an "unprecedented" level
of popularity, "may be the most dramatic in the history of stardom in
1953–1977: European years
Switzerland and A King in New York
"I have been the object of lies and propaganda by powerful reactionary
groups who, by their influence and by the aid of America's yellow
press, have created an unhealthy atmosphere in which liberal-minded
individuals can be singled out and persecuted. Under these conditions
I find it virtually impossible to continue my motion-picture work, and
I have therefore given up my residence in the United States."
— Chaplin's press release regarding his decision not to seek
re-entry to the US
Chaplin did not attempt to return to the United States after his
re-entry permit was revoked, and instead sent his wife to settle his
affairs.[note 23] The couple decided to settle in
Switzerland and, in
January 1953, the family moved into their permanent home: Manoir de
Ban, a 14-hectare (35-acre) estate overlooking
Lake Geneva in
Chaplin put his Beverly Hills house
and studio up for sale in March, and surrendered his re-entry permit
in April. The next year, his wife renounced her US citizenship and
became a British citizen.
Chaplin severed the last of his
professional ties with the United States in 1955, when he sold the
remainder of his stock in United Artists, which had been in financial
difficulty since the early 1940s.
Manoir de Ban, Chaplin's home in Corsier-sur-Vevey, Switzerland
Chaplin remained a controversial figure throughout the 1950s,
especially after he was awarded the International Peace Prize by the
communist-led World Peace Council, and after his meetings with Zhou
Enlai and Nikita Khrushchev. He began developing his first
European film, A King in New York, in 1954. Casting himself as an
exiled king who seeks asylum in the United States,
several of his recent experiences in the screenplay. His son, Michael,
was cast as a boy whose parents are targeted by the FBI, while
Chaplin's character faces accusations of communism. The political
satire parodied HUAC and attacked elements of 1950s culture –
including consumerism, plastic surgery, and wide-screen cinema.
In a review, the playwright
John Osborne called it Chaplin's "most
bitter" and "most openly personal" film.
Chaplin founded a new production company, Attica, and used Shepperton
Studios for the shooting. Filming in
England proved a difficult
experience, as he was used to his own Hollywood studio and familiar
crew, and no longer had limitless production time. According to
Robinson, this had an effect on the quality of the film. A King
in New York was released in September 1957, and received mixed
Chaplin banned American journalists from its Paris
première and decided not to release the film in the United States.
This severely limited its revenue, although it achieved moderate
commercial success in Europe.
A King in New York
A King in New York was not shown in
America until 1973.
Final works and renewed appreciation
Chaplin with his wife Oona and six of their children in 1961
In the last two decades of his career,
Chaplin concentrated on
re-editing and scoring his old films for re-release, along with
securing their ownership and distribution rights. In an interview
he granted in 1959, the year of his 70th birthday,
Chaplin stated that
there was still "room for the Little Man in the atomic age". The
first of these re-releases was
The Chaplin Revue (1959), which
included new versions of A Dog's Life, Shoulder Arms, and The
In America, the political atmosphere began to change and attention was
once again directed to Chaplin's films instead of his views. In
The New York Times
The New York Times published an editorial stating that "we
do not believe the Republic would be in danger if yesterday's
unforgotten little tramp were allowed to amble down the gangplank of a
steamer or plane in an American port". The same month, Chaplin
was invested with the honorary degree of
Doctor of Letters
Doctor of Letters by the
universities of Oxford and Durham. In November 1963, the Plaza
Theater in New York started a year-long series of Chaplin's films,
Monsieur Verdoux and Limelight, which gained excellent
reviews from American critics. September 1964 saw the release of
Chaplin's memoirs, My Autobiography, which he had been working on
since 1957. The 500-page book, which focused on his early years
and personal life, became a worldwide best-seller, despite criticism
over the lack of information on his film career.
Shortly after the publication of his memoirs,
Chaplin began work on A
Countess from Hong Kong (1967), a romantic comedy based on a script he
had written for
Paulette Goddard in the 1930s. Set on an ocean
liner, it starred
Marlon Brando as an American ambassador and Sophia
Loren as a stowaway found in his cabin. The film differed from
Chaplin's earlier productions in several aspects. It was his first to
Technicolor and the widescreen format, while he concentrated on
directing and appeared on-screen only in a cameo role as a seasick
steward. He also signed a deal with Universal Pictures and
appointed his assistant, Jerome Epstein, as the producer. Chaplin
was paid $600,000 director's fee as well as a percentage of the gross
A Countess from Hong Kong
A Countess from Hong Kong premiered in January 1967, to
unfavourable reviews, and was a box-office failure. Chaplin
was deeply hurt by the negative reaction to the film, which turned out
to be his last.
Chaplin suffered a series of minor strokes in the late 1960s, which
marked the beginning of a slow decline in his health. Despite the
setbacks, he was soon writing a new film script, The Freak, a story of
a winged girl found in South America, which he intended as a starring
vehicle for his daughter, Victoria. His fragile health prevented
the project from being realised. In the early 1970s, Chaplin
concentrated on re-releasing his old films, including The Kid and The
Circus. In 1971, he was made a Commander of the National Order of
Legion of Honour
Legion of Honour at the Cannes Film Festival. The following
year, he was honoured with a special award by the Venice Film
Chaplin (right) receiving his
Honorary Academy Award from Jack Lemmon
in 1972. It was the first time he had been to the United States in 20
In 1972, the
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences offered
Chaplin an Honorary Award, which Robinson sees as a sign that America
"wanted to make amends".
Chaplin was initially hesitant about
accepting but decided to return to the US for the first time in 20
years. The visit attracted a large amount of press coverage and,
Academy Awards gala, he was given a twelve-minute standing
ovation, the longest in the Academy's history. Visibly
Chaplin accepted his award for "the incalculable effect he
has had in making motion pictures the art form of this century".
Chaplin still had plans for future film projects, by the
mid-1970s he was very frail. He experienced several further
strokes, which made it difficult for him to communicate, and he had to
use a wheelchair. His final projects were compiling a
pictorial autobiography, My Life in Pictures (1974) and scoring A
Woman of Paris for re-release in 1976. He also appeared in a
documentary about his life, The Gentleman Tramp (1975), directed by
Richard Patterson. In the 1975 New Year Honours,
awarded a knighthood by Queen Elizabeth II,[note 25] though
he was too weak to kneel and received the honour in his
Chaplin's grave in Corsier-sur-Vevey, Switzerland
By October 1977, Chaplin's health had declined to the point that he
needed constant care. In the early morning of 25 December 1977,
Chaplin died at home after suffering a stroke in his sleep. He
was 88 years old. The funeral, on 27 December, was a small and private
Anglican ceremony, according to his wishes.[note 26]
interred in the
Corsier-sur-Vevey cemetery. Among the film
industry's tributes, director
René Clair wrote, "He was a monument of
the cinema, of all countries and all times ... the most beautiful
gift the cinema made to us." Actor
Bob Hope declared, "We were
lucky to have lived in his time."
On 1 March 1978, Chaplin's coffin was dug up and stolen from its grave
by two unemployed immigrants, Roman Wardas, from Poland, and Gantcho
Ganev, from Bulgaria. The body was held for ransom in an attempt to
extort money from Oona Chaplin. The pair were caught in a large police
operation in May, and Chaplin's coffin was found buried in a field in
the nearby village of Noville. It was re-interred in the Corsier
cemetery surrounded by reinforced concrete.
Chaplin believed his first influence to be his mother, who entertained
him as a child by sitting at the window and mimicking passers-by: "it
was through watching her that I learned not only how to express
emotions with my hands and face, but also how to observe and study
people." Chaplin's early years in music hall allowed him to see
stage comedians at work; he also attended the Christmas pantomimes at
Drury Lane, where he studied the art of clowning through performers
like Dan Leno. Chaplin's years with the
Fred Karno company had a
formative effect on him as an actor and filmmaker. Simon Louvish
writes that the company was his "training ground", and it was
Chaplin learned to vary the pace of his comedy. The
concept of mixing pathos with slapstick was learnt from Karno,[note
27] who also used elements of absurdity that became familiar in
Chaplin's gags. From the film industry,
Chaplin drew upon
the work of the French comedian Max Linder, whose films he greatly
admired. In developing the Tramp costume and persona, he was
likely inspired by the American vaudeville scene, where tramp
characters were common.
A 1922 image of
Chaplin Studios, where all of Chaplin's films
between 1918 and 1952 were produced
Chaplin never spoke more than cursorily about his filmmaking methods,
claiming such a thing would be tantamount to a magician spoiling his
own illusion. Little was known about his working process
throughout his lifetime, but research from film historians –
particularly the findings of
Kevin Brownlow and David Gill that were
presented in the three-part documentary
Unknown Chaplin (1983) – has
since revealed his unique working method.
Until he began making spoken dialogue films with The Great Dictator,
Chaplin never shot from a completed script. Many of his early
films began with only a vague premise – for example "
a health spa" or "
Charlie works in a pawn shop." He then had sets
constructed and worked with his stock company to improvise gags and
"business" using them, almost always working the ideas out on
film. As ideas were accepted and discarded, a narrative structure
would emerge, frequently requiring
Chaplin to reshoot an
already-completed scene that might have otherwise contradicted the
story.[clarification needed] From
A Woman of Paris
A Woman of Paris onward Chaplin
began the filming process with a prepared plot, but Robinson
writes that every film up to Modern Times "went through many
metamorphoses and permutations before the story took its final
Producing films in this manner meant
Chaplin took longer to complete
his pictures than almost any other filmmaker at the time. If he
was out of ideas, he often took a break from the shoot, which could
last for days, while keeping the studio ready for when inspiration
returned. Delaying the process further was Chaplin's rigorous
perfectionism. According to his friend Ivor Montagu, "nothing but
perfection would be right" for the filmmaker. Because he
personally funded his films,
Chaplin was at liberty to strive for this
goal and shoot as many takes as he wished. The number was often
excessive, for instance 53 takes for every finished take in The
Kid. For The Immigrant, a 20 minute-short,
Chaplin shot 40,000
feet of film – enough for a feature-length.
"No other filmmaker ever so completely dominated every aspect of the
work, did every job. If he could have done so,
Chaplin would have
played every role and (as his son Sydney humorously but perceptively
observed) sewn every costume."
Chaplin biographer David Robinson
Describing his working method as "sheer perseverance to the point of
Chaplin would be completely consumed by the production
of a picture. Robinson writes that even in Chaplin's later years,
his work continued "to take precedence over everything and everyone
else." The combination of story improvisation and relentless
perfectionism – which resulted in days of effort and thousands of
feet of film being wasted, all at enormous expense – often proved
Chaplin who, in frustration, would lash out at his actors
Chaplin exercised complete control over his pictures, to the
extent that he would act out the other roles for his cast, expecting
them to imitate him exactly. He personally edited all of his
films, trawling through the large amounts of footage to create the
exact picture he wanted. As a result of his complete
independence, he was identified by the film historian
Andrew Sarris as
one of the first auteur filmmakers.
Chaplin did receive help,
notably from his long-time cinematographer Roland Totheroh, brother
Sydney Chaplin, and various assistant directors such as Harry Crocker
and Charles Reisner.
Style and themes
A collection of scenes from The Kid (1921), demonstrating Chaplin's
mixture of slapstick, pathos, and social commentary
While Chaplin's comedic style is broadly defined as slapstick, it
is considered restrained and intelligent, with the film historian
Philip Kemp describing his work as a mix of "deft, balletic physical
comedy and thoughtful, situation-based gags".
from conventional slapstick by slowing the pace and exhausting each
scene of its comic potential, with more focus on developing the
viewer's relationship to the characters. Unlike conventional
slapstick comedies, Robinson states that the comic moments in
Chaplin's films centre on the Tramp's attitude to the things happening
to him: the humour does not come from the Tramp bumping into a tree,
but from his lifting his hat to the tree in apology. Dan Kamin
writes that Chaplin's "quirky mannerisms" and "serious demeanour in
the midst of slapstick action" are other key aspects of his
comedy, while the surreal transformation of objects and the
employment of in-camera trickery are also common features.
Chaplin's silent films typically follow the Tramp's efforts to survive
in a hostile world. The character lives in poverty and is
frequently treated badly, but remains kind and upbeat; defying
his social position, he strives to be seen as a gentleman. As
Chaplin said in 1925, "The whole point of the Little Fellow is that no
matter how down on his ass he is, no matter how well the jackals
succeed in tearing him apart, he's still a man of dignity." The
Tramp defies authority figures and "gives as good as he
gets", leading Robinson and Louvish to see him as a
representative for the underprivileged – an "everyman turned heroic
saviour". Hansmeyer notes that several of Chaplin's films end
with "the homeless and lonely Tramp [walking] optimistically ...
into the sunset ... to continue his journey".
"It is paradoxical that tragedy stimulates the spirit of
ridicule ... ridicule, I suppose, is an attitude of defiance; we
must laugh in the face of our helplessness against the forces of
nature – or go insane."
Chaplin explaining why his comedies often make fun of tragic
The infusion of pathos is a well-known aspect of Chaplin's work,
and Larcher notes his reputation for "[inducing] laughter and
tears". Sentimentality in his films comes from a variety of
sources, with Louvish pinpointing "personal failure, society's
strictures, economic disaster, and the elements." Chaplin
sometimes drew on tragic events when creating his films, as in the
The Gold Rush
The Gold Rush (1925), which was inspired by the fate of the
Donner Party. Constance B. Kuriyama has identified serious
underlying themes in the early comedies, such as greed (The Gold Rush)
and loss (The Kid).
Chaplin also touched on controversial issues:
immigration (The Immigrant, 1917); illegitimacy (The Kid, 1921); and
drug use (Easy Street, 1917). He often explored these topics
ironically, making comedy out of suffering.
Social commentary was a feature of Chaplin's films from early in his
career, as he portrayed the underdog in a sympathetic light and
highlighted the difficulties of the poor. Later, as he developed
a keen interest in economics and felt obliged to publicise his
Chaplin began incorporating overtly political messages
into his films. Modern Times (1936) depicted factory workers in
The Great Dictator
The Great Dictator (1940) parodied
Adolf Hitler and
Benito Mussolini and ended in a speech against nationalism, Monsieur
Verdoux (1947) criticised war and capitalism, and A King in New York
(1957) attacked McCarthyism.
Several of Chaplin's films incorporate autobiographical elements, and
Sigmund Freud believed that
Chaplin "always plays
only himself as he was in his dismal youth". The Kid is thought
to reflect Chaplin's childhood trauma of being sent into an
orphanage, the main characters in Limelight (1952) contain
elements from the lives of his parents, and A King in New York
references Chaplin's experiences of being shunned by the United
States. Many of his sets, especially in street scenes, bear a
strong similarity to Kennington, where he grew up. Stephen M. Weissman
has argued that Chaplin's problematic relationship with his mentally
ill mother was often reflected in his female characters and the
Tramp's desire to save them.
Regarding the structure of Chaplin's films, the scholar Gerald Mast
sees them as consisting of sketches tied together by the same theme
and setting, rather than having a tightly unified storyline.
Visually, his films are simple and economic, with scenes
portrayed as if set on a stage. His approach to filming was
described by the art director Eugène Lourié: "
Chaplin did not think
in 'artistic' images when he was shooting. He believed that action is
the main thing. The camera is there to photograph the actors". In
Chaplin wrote, "Simplicity is best ... pompous
effects slow up action, are boring and unpleasant ... The camera
should not intrude." This approach has prompted criticism, since
the 1940s, for being "old fashioned", while the film scholar
Donald McCaffrey sees it as an indication that
completely understood film as a medium. Kamin, however, comments
that Chaplin's comedic talent would not be enough to remain funny on
screen if he did not have an "ability to conceive and direct scenes
specifically for the film medium".
Chaplin playing the cello in 1915
Chaplin developed a passion for music as a child and taught himself to
play the piano, violin, and cello. He considered the musical
accompaniment of a film to be important, and from
A Woman of
Paris onwards he took an increasing interest in this area. With
the advent of sound technology,
Chaplin began using a synchronised
orchestral soundtrack – composed by himself – for City Lights
(1931). He thereafter composed the scores for all of his films, and
from the late 1950s to his death, he scored all of his silent features
and some of his short films.
Chaplin was not a trained musician, he could not read sheet music
and needed the help of professional composers, such as David Raksin,
Raymond Rasch and Eric James, when creating his scores. Musical
directors were employed to oversee the recording process, such as
Alfred Newman for City Lights. Although some critics have claimed
that credit for his film music should be given to the composers who
worked with him, Raksin – who worked with
Chaplin on Modern Times
– stressed Chaplin's creative position and active participation in
the composing process. This process, which could take months,
would start with
Chaplin describing to the composer(s) exactly what he
wanted and singing or playing tunes he had improvised on the
piano. These tunes were then developed further in a close
collaboration among the composer(s) and Chaplin. According to
film historian Jeffrey Vance, "although he relied upon associates to
arrange varied and complex instrumentation, the musical imperative is
his, and not a note in a
Chaplin musical score was placed there
without his assent."
Chaplin's compositions produced three popular songs. "Smile", composed
originally for Modern Times (1936) and later set to lyrics by John
Turner and Geoffrey Parsons, was a hit for
Nat King Cole
Nat King Cole in 1954.
Chaplin composed "Terry's Theme", which was popularised
by Jimmy Young as "Eternally" (1952). Finally, "This Is My Song",
Petula Clark for
A Countess from Hong Kong
A Countess from Hong Kong (1967),
reached number one on the UK and other European charts. Chaplin
also received his only competitive Oscar for his composition work, as
the Limelight theme won an
Academy Award for Best Original Score in
1973 following the film's re-release.[note 28]
Chaplin as the Tramp in 1915, cinema's "most universal icon"
In 1998, the film critic
Andrew Sarris called
Chaplin "arguably the
single most important artist produced by the cinema, certainly its
most extraordinary performer and probably still its most universal
icon". He is described by the
British Film Institute
British Film Institute as "a
towering figure in world culture", and was included in Time
magazine's list of the "100 Most Important People of the 20th Century"
for the "laughter [he brought] to millions" and because he "more or
less invented global recognizability and helped turn an industry into
The image of the Tramp has become a part of cultural history;
according to Simon Louvish, the character is recognisable to people
who have never seen a
Chaplin film, and in places where his films are
never shown. The critic
Leonard Maltin has written of the
"unique" and "indelible" nature of the Tramp, and argued that no other
comedian matched his "worldwide impact". Praising the character,
Richard Schickel suggests that Chaplin's films with the Tramp contain
the most "eloquent, richly comedic expressions of the human spirit" in
movie history. Memorabilia connected to the character still
fetches large sums in auctions: in 2006 a bowler hat and a bamboo cane
that were part of the Tramp's costume were bought for $140,000 in a
Los Angeles auction.
As a filmmaker,
Chaplin is considered a pioneer and one of the most
influential figures of the early twentieth century. He is often
credited as one of the medium's first artists. Film historian
Mark Cousins has written that
Chaplin "changed not only the imagery of
cinema, but also its sociology and grammar" and claims that Chaplin
was as important to the development of comedy as a genre as D.W.
Griffith was to drama. He was the first to popularise
feature-length comedy and to slow down the pace of action, adding
pathos and subtlety to it. Although his work is mostly
classified as slapstick, Chaplin's drama
A Woman of Paris
A Woman of Paris (1923) was a
major influence on Ernst Lubitsch's film
The Marriage Circle
The Marriage Circle (1924)
and thus played a part in the development of "sophisticated
comedy". According to David Robinson, Chaplin's innovations were
"rapidly assimilated to become part of the common practice of film
craft." Filmmakers who cited
Chaplin as an influence include
Federico Fellini (who called
Chaplin "a sort of Adam, from whom we are
Jacques Tati ("Without him I would never have
made a film"),
René Clair ("He inspired practically every
filmmaker"), Michael Powell, Billy Wilder, Vittorio De
Sica, and Richard Attenborough. Russian filmmaker Andrei
Chaplin as "the only person to have gone down into
cinematic history without any shadow of a doubt. The films he left
behind can never grow old."
Chaplin also strongly influenced the work of later comedians. Marcel
Marceau said he was inspired to become a mime artist after watching
Chaplin, while the actor
Raj Kapoor based his screen persona on
the Tramp. Mark Cousins has also detected Chaplin's comedic style
in the French character
Monsieur Hulot and the Italian character
Totò. In other fields,
Chaplin helped inspire the cartoon
characters Felix the Cat and Mickey Mouse, and was an
influence on the
Dada art movement. As one of the founding
members of United Artists,
Chaplin also had a role in the development
of the film industry.
Gerald Mast has written that although UA never
became a major company like
MGM or Paramount Pictures, the idea that
directors could produce their own films was "years ahead of its
In the 21st century, several of Chaplin's films are still regarded as
classics and among the greatest ever made. The 2012 Sight & Sound
poll, which compiles "top ten" ballots from film critics and directors
to determine each group's most acclaimed films, saw
City Lights rank
among the critics' top 50, Modern Times inside the top 100, and The
Great Dictator and
The Gold Rush
The Gold Rush placed in the top 250. The top
100 films as voted on by directors included Modern Times at number 22,
City Lights at number 30, and
The Gold Rush
The Gold Rush at number 91. Every
one of Chaplin's features received a vote. In 2007, the American
Film Institute named
City Lights the 11th greatest American film of
all time, while
The Gold Rush
The Gold Rush and Modern Times again ranked in the top
100. Books about
Chaplin continue to be published regularly, and
he is a popular subject for media scholars and film
archivists.[clarification needed] Many of Chaplin's film have had
DVD and Blu-Ray release.
Commemoration and tributes
Chaplin's final home,
Manoir de Ban
Manoir de Ban in Corsier-sur-Vevey, Switzerland,
has been converted into a museum named "Chaplin's World". It opened on
17 April 2016 after 15 years of development, and is described by
Reuters as "an interactive museum showcasing the life and works of
Charlie Chaplin". On the 128th anniversary of his birth, a
record-setting 662 people dressed as the Tramp in an event organised
by the museum. Previously, the Museum of the Moving Image in
London held a permanent display on Chaplin, and hosted a dedicated
exhibition to his life and career in 1988. The
London Film Museum
hosted an exhibition called
Chaplin – The Great Londoner,
from 2010 until 2013.
In London, a statue of
Chaplin as the Tramp, sculpted by John
Doubleday and unveiled in 1981, is located in Leicester Square.
The city also includes a road named after him in central London,
Chaplin Walk", which is the location of the BFI IMAX.
There are nine blue plaques memorialising
Chaplin in London,
Hampshire, and Yorkshire. The Swiss town of
Vevey named a park in
his honour in 1980 and erected a statue there in 1982. In 2011,
two large murals depicting
Chaplin on two 14-storey buildings were
also unveiled in Vevey.
Chaplin has also been honoured by the
Irish town of Waterville, where he spent several summers with his
family in the 1960s. A statue was erected in 1998; since 2011,
the town has been host to the annual
Chaplin Comedy Film
Festival, which was founded to celebrate Chaplin's legacy and to
showcase new comic talent.
In other tributes, a minor planet,
3623 Chaplin – discovered by
Lyudmila Karachkina in 1981 – is named after
Chaplin. Throughout the 1980s, the Tramp image was used by
advertise their personal computers. Chaplin's 100th birthday
anniversary in 1989 was marked with several events around the
world,[note 29] and on 15 April 2011, a day before his 122nd birthday,
Google celebrated him with a special
Google Doodle video on its global
and other country-wide homepages. Many countries, spanning six
continents, have honoured
Chaplin with a postal stamp.
Chaplin's legacy is managed on behalf of his children by the Chaplin
office, located in Paris. The office represents Association Chaplin,
founded by some of his children "to protect the name, image and moral
rights" to his body of work, Roy Export SAS, which owns the copyright
to most of his films made after 1918, and Bubbles Incorporated S.A.,
which owns the copyrights to his image and name. Their central
archive is held at the archives of Montreux,
Switzerland and scanned
versions of its contents, including 83,630 images, 118 scripts, 976
manuscripts, 7,756 letters, and thousands of other documents, are
available for research purposes at the
Chaplin Research Centre at the
Cineteca di Bologna. The photographic archive, which includes
approximately 10,000 photographs from Chaplin's life and career, is
kept at the Musée de l'Elysée in Lausanne, Switzerland. The
British Film Institute
British Film Institute has also established the Charles Chaplin
Research Foundation, and the first international Charles Chaplin
Conference was held in
London in July 2005.
Chaplin around the world, located at (left to right) 1.
Trenčianske Teplice, Slovakia; 2. Chełmża, Poland; 3. Waterville,
Ireland; 4. London, United Kingdom; 5. Hyderabad, India; 6. Alassio,
Italy; 7. Barcelona, Spain; 8. Vevey, Switzerland
Chaplin is the subject of a biographical film,
Chaplin (1992) directed
by Richard Attenborough, and starring
Robert Downey Jr.
Robert Downey Jr. in the title
role. He is also a character in the period drama film The Cat's
Meow (2001), played by Eddie Izzard, and in the made-for-television
The Scarlett O'Hara War (1980), played by Clive
Revill. A television series about Chaplin's childhood, Young
Charlie Chaplin, ran on
PBS in 1989, and was nominated for an Emmy
Award for Outstanding Children's Program.
Chaplin's life has also been the subject of several stage productions.
Little Tramp and Chaplin, were produced in the early
1990s. In 2006, Thomas Meehan and Christopher Curtis created another
musical, Limelight: The Story of
Charlie Chaplin, which was first
performed at the
La Jolla Playhouse
La Jolla Playhouse in San Diego in 2010. It was
adapted for Broadway two years later, re-titled
Chaplin – A
Chaplin was portrayed by Robert McClure in both
productions. In 2013, two plays about
Chaplin premiered in Finland:
Chaplin at the Svenska Teatern, and Kulkuri (The Tramp) at the
Tampere Workers' Theatre.
Chaplin has also been characterised in literary fiction. He is the
protagonist of Robert Coover's short story "
Charlie in the House of
Rue" (1980; reprinted in Coover's 1987 collection A Night at the
Movies), and of Glen David Gold's Sunnyside (2009), a historical novel
set in the First World War period. A day in Chaplin's life in
1909 is dramatised in the chapter entitled "Modern Times" in Alan
Moore's Jerusalem (2016), a novel set in the author's home town of
Awards and recognition
Chaplin's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, located at 6755
Hollywood Boulevard. Although the project started in 1958, Chaplin
only received his star in 1970 because of his political views.
Chaplin received many awards and honours, especially later in life. In
the 1975 New Year Honours, he was appointed a Knight Commander of the
Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (KBE). He was also
Doctor of Letters
Doctor of Letters degrees by the University of Oxford
and the University of Durham in 1962. In 1965, he and Ingmar
Bergman were joint winners of the Erasmus Prize and, in 1971, he
was appointed a Commander of the National Order of the Legion of
Honour by the French government.
From the film industry,
Chaplin received a special
Golden Lion at the
Venice Film Festival
Venice Film Festival in 1972, and a Lifetime Achievement Award
from the Lincoln Center Film Society the same year. The latter has
since been presented annually to filmmakers as The
Chaplin was given a star on the
Hollywood Walk of Fame
Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1972, having
been previously excluded because of his political beliefs.
Chaplin received three Academy Awards: an Honorary Award for
"versatility and genius in acting, writing, directing, and producing
The Circus" in 1929, a second Honorary Award for "the
incalculable effect he has had in making motion pictures the art form
of this century" in 1972, and a Best Score award in 1973 for
Limelight (shared with Ray Rasch and Larry Russell). He was
further nominated in the Best Actor, Best Original Screenplay, and
Best Picture (as producer) categories for The Great Dictator, and
received another Best Original Screenplay nomination for Monsieur
Verdoux. In 1976,
Chaplin was made a Fellow of the British
Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA).
Six of Chaplin's films have been selected for preservation in the
National Film Registry
National Film Registry by the United States Library of Congress: The
Immigrant (1917), The Kid (1921),
The Gold Rush
The Gold Rush (1925), City Lights
(1931), Modern Times (1936), and
The Great Dictator
The Great Dictator (1940).
The Kid (1921)
A Woman of Paris
A Woman of Paris (1923)
The Gold Rush
The Gold Rush (1925)
The Circus (1928)
City Lights (1931)
Modern Times (1936)
The Great Dictator
The Great Dictator (1940)
Monsieur Verdoux (1947)
A King in New York
A King in New York (1957)
A Countess from Hong Kong
A Countess from Hong Kong (1967)
Silent film portal
MI5 investigation in 1952 was unable to find any record of
Chaplin biographer David Robinson notes that it is
not surprising that his parents failed to register the birth: "It was
easy enough, particularly for music hall artists, constantly moving
(if they were lucky) from one town to another, to put off and
eventually forget this kind of formality; at that time the penalties
were not strict or efficiently enforced." In 2011 a letter sent to
Chaplin in the 1970s came to light which claimed that he had been born
in a Gypsy caravan at
Black Patch Park
Black Patch Park in Smethwick, Staffordshire.
Chaplin's son Michael has suggested that the information must have
been significant to his father in order for him to retain the
letter. Regarding the date of his birth,
Chaplin believed it to be
16 April, but an announcement in the 11 May 1889 edition of The Magnet
stated it as the 15th.
^ Sydney was born when
Hannah Chaplin was 19. The identity of his
biological father is not known for sure, but Hannah claimed it was a
^ Hannah became ill in May 1896, and was admitted to hospital.
Southwark Council ruled that it was necessary to send the children to
a workhouse "owing to the absence of their father and the destitution
and illness of their mother".
^ According to Chaplin, Hannah had been booed off stage, and the
manager chose him – as he was standing in the wings – to go on as
her replacement. He remembered confidently entertaining the crowd, and
receiving laughter and applause.
The Eight Lancashire Lads were still touring until 1908; the exact
Chaplin left the group is unverified, but based on research, A.
J. Marriot believes it was in December 1900.
William Gillette co-wrote the Sherlock Holmes play with Arthur Conan
Doyle, and had been starring in it since its New York opening in 1899.
He had come to
London in 1905 to appear in a new play, Clarice. Its
reception was poor, and Gillette decided to add an "after-piece"
called The Painful Predicament of Sherlock Holmes. This short play was
Chaplin originally came to
London to appear in. After three
nights, Gillette chose to close Clarice and replace it with Sherlock
Chaplin had so pleased Gillette with his performance in The
Painful Predicament that he was kept on as Billy for the full
Chaplin attempted to be a "Jewish comedian", but the act was poorly
received and he performed it only once.
^ Robinson notes that "this was not strictly true: the character was
to take a year or more to evolve its full dimensions and even then –
which was its particular strength – it would evolve during the whole
rest of his career".
^ After leaving Essanay,
Chaplin found himself engaged in a legal
battle with the company that lasted until 1922. It began when Essanay
extended his last film for them,
Burlesque on Carmen, from a
two-reeler to a feature film (by adding out-takes and new scenes with
Leo White) without his consent.
Chaplin applied for an injunction to
prevent its distribution, but the case was dismissed in court. In a
counter-claim, Essanay alleged that
Chaplin had broken his contract by
not producing the agreed number of films and sued him for $500,000 in
damages. In addition, the company compiled another film, Triple
Trouble (1918), from various unused
Chaplin scenes and new material
shot by White.
^ The British embassy made a statement saying: "[Chaplin] is of as
much use to Great Britain now making big money and subscribing to war
loans as he would be in the trenches."
^ In her memoirs,
Lita Grey later claimed that many of her complaints
were "cleverly, shockingly enlarged upon or distorted" by her
Chaplin left the United States on 31 January 1931, and returned on
10 June 1932.
Chaplin later said that if he had known the extent of the Nazi
Party's actions he would not have made the film; "Had I known the
actual horrors of the German concentration camps, I could not have
made The Great Dictator; I could not have made fun of the homicidal
insanity of the Nazis."
^ Speculation about Chaplin's racial origin existed from the earliest
days of his fame, and it was often reported that he was a Jew.
Research has uncovered no evidence of this, and when a reporter asked
in 1915 if it was true,
Chaplin responded, "I have not that good
fortune." The Nazi Party believed that he was Jewish and banned The
Gold Rush on this basis.
Chaplin responded by playing a Jew in The
Great Dictator and announced, "I did this film for the Jews of the
^ Nevertheless, both
Winston Churchill and President Roosevelt liked
the film, which they saw at private screenings before its release.
Roosevelt subsequently invited
Chaplin to read the film's final speech
over the radio during his January 1941 inauguration, with the speech
becoming a "hit" of the celebration.
Chaplin was often invited to
other patriotic functions to read the speech to audiences during the
years of the war.
^ In December 1942, Barry broke into Chaplin's home with a handgun and
threatened suicide while holding him at gunpoint. This lasted until
the next morning, when
Chaplin was able to get the gun from her. Barry
broke into Chaplin's home a second time later that month, and he had
her arrested. She was then prosecuted for vagrancy in January 1943 –
Barry had been unable to pay her hotel bills, and was found wandering
the streets of Beverly Hills after taking an overdose of
^ According to the prosecutor,
Chaplin had violated the act when he
paid for Barry's trip to New York in October 1942, when he was also
visiting the city. Both
Chaplin and Barry agreed that they had met
there briefly, and according to Barry, they had sexual
Chaplin claimed that the last time he was intimate
with Barry was May 1942.
^ Carol Ann's blood group was B, Barry's was A, and Chaplin's was O.
In California at this time, blood tests were not accepted as evidence
in legal trials.
Chaplin and O'Neill met on 30 October 1942 and married on 16 June
1943 in Carpinteria, California.
Eugene O'Neill disowned his
daughter as a result.
Chaplin had already attracted the attention of the FBI long before
the 1940s, the first mention of him in their files being from 1922. J.
Edgar Hoover first requested that a Security Index Card be filed for
Chaplin in September 1946, but the Los Angeles office was slow to
react and only began active investigation the next spring. The
FBI also requested and received help from MI5, particularly on
investigating the false claims that
Chaplin had not been born in
England but in France or Eastern Europe, and that his real name was
Israel Thornstein. The
MI5 found no evidence of
Chaplin being involved
^ In November 1947,
Pablo Picasso to hold a
demonstration outside the US embassy in Paris to protest the
deportation proceedings of Hanns Eisler, and in December, he took part
in a petition asking for the deportation process to be dropped. In
Chaplin supported the unsuccessful presidential campaign of
Henry Wallace; and in 1949 he supported two peace conferences and
signed a petition protesting the Peekskill incident.
^ Limelight was conceived as a novel, which
Chaplin wrote but never
intended for publication.
^ Before leaving America,
Chaplin had ensured that Oona had access to
^ Robinson speculates that
Switzerland was probably chosen because it
"was likely to be the most advantageous from a financial point of
^ The honour had already been proposed in 1931 and 1956, but was
vetoed after a Foreign Office report raised concerns over Chaplin's
political views and private life. They feared the act would damage the
reputation of the
British honours system and relations with the United
^ Despite asking for an Anglican funeral,
Chaplin appeared to be
agnostic. In his autobiography he wrote, "I am not religious in the
dogmatic sense ... I neither believe nor disbelieve in
anything ... My faith is in the unknown, in all that we do not
understand by reason; I believe that ... in the realm of the
unknown there is an infinite power for good."
^ Stan Laurel, Chaplin's co-performer at the company, remembered that
Karno's sketches regularly inserted "a bit of sentiment right in the
middle of a funny music hall turn."
^ Although the film had originally been released in 1952, it did not
play for one week in Los Angeles because of its boycott, and thus did
not meet the criterion for nomination until it was re-released in
^ On his birthday, 16 April,
City Lights was screened at a gala at the
Dominion Theatre in London, the site of its British premiere in
1931. In Hollywood, a screening of a restored version of How to
Make Movies was held at his former studio, and in Japan, he was
honoured with a musical tribute. Retrospectives of his work were
presented that year at The National Film Theatre in London, the
Munich Stadtmuseum and the
Museum of Modern Art
Museum of Modern Art in New York,
which also dedicated a gallery exhibition, Chaplin: A Centennial
Celebration, to him.
^ a b Cousins, p. 72; Kemp, pp. 8, 22; Gunning, p. 41;
Sarris, p. 139; Hansmeyer, p. 3.
^ a b Robinson, p. 10.
^ Whitehead, Tom (17 February 2012). "
MI5 Files: Was
Chaplin Really a
Frenchman and Called Thornstein?". The Telegraph. Archived from the
original on 24 April 2012. Retrieved 11 April 2012.
Chaplin Was 'Born into a Midland Gipsy Family'". Express
and Star. 18 February 2011. Archived from the original on 22 February
2012. Retrieved 17 February 2012.
^ Robinson, p. xxiv.
^ Robinson, pp. 3–4, 19.
^ a b Robinson, p. 3.
^ Robinson, pp. 5–7.
^ Weissman & (2009), p. 10.
^ Robinson, pp. 9–10, 12.
^ Robinson, p. 13.
^ Robinson, p. 15.
^ Robinson, p. xv.
^ Robinson, p. 16.
^ Robinson, p. 19.
^ Chaplin, p. 29.
^ Robinson, pp. 24–26.
^ Chaplin, p. 10.
^ Weissman & (2009), pp. 49–50.
^ Chaplin, pp. 15, 33.
^ a b Robinson, p. 27.
^ Robinson, p. 36.
^ Robinson, p. 40.
^ Weissman (2009), p. 6; Chaplin, pp. 71–74; Robinson,
^ Robinson, p. 41.
^ Chaplin, p. 88; Robinson, pp. 55–56.
^ Robinson, p. 17; Chaplin, p. 18.
^ Chaplin, p. 41.
^ Marriot, p. 4.
^ Marriot, p. 213.
^ Chaplin, p. 44.
^ Louvish, p. 19.
^ Robinson, p. 39.
^ Chaplin, p. 76.
^ Robinson, pp. 44–46.
^ Marriot, pp. 42–44; Robinson, pp. 46–47; Louvish,
^ Robinson, pp. 45, 49–51, 53, 58.
^ Robinson, pp. 59–60.
^ Chaplin, p. 89.
^ Marriot, p. 217.
^ Robinson, p. 63.
^ Robinson, pp. 63–64.
^ Marriot, p. 71.
^ Robinson, pp. 64–68; Chaplin, p. 94.
^ Robinson, p. 68; Marriot, pp. 81–84.
^ Robinson, p. 71; Kamin, p. 12; Marriot, p. 85.
^ Robinson, p. 76.
^ Robinson, pp. 76–77.
^ Marriot, pp. 103, 109.
^ Marriot, pp. 126–128; Robinson, pp. 84–85.
^ Robinson, p. 88.
^ Robinson, pp. 91–92.
^ Robinson, p. 82; Brownlow, p. 98.
^ Robinson, p. 95.
^ Chaplin, pp. 133–134; Robinson, p. 96.
^ Robinson, p. 102.
^ Chaplin, pp. 138–139.
^ Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis Community Development Project.
"Consumer Price Index (estimate) 1800–". Federal Reserve Bank of
Minneapolis. Retrieved January 2, 2018.
^ Robinson, p. 103; Chaplin, p. 139.
^ Robinson, p. 107.
^ Chaplin, p. 141.
^ Robinson, p. 108.
^ Robinson, p. 110.
^ Chaplin, p. 145.
^ Robinson, p. 114.
^ a b c d Robinson, p. 113.
^ Robinson, p. 120.
^ Robinson, p. 121.
^ Robinson, p. 123.
^ Maland & (1989), p. 5.
^ Kamin, p. xi.
^ Chaplin, p. 153.
^ Robinson, p. 125; Maland (1989), pp. 8–9.
^ Robinson, pp. 127–128.
^ Robinson, p. 131.
^ Robinson, p. 135.
^ Robinson, pp. 138–139.
^ Robinson, pp. 141, 219.
^ Neibaur, p. 23; Chaplin, p. 165; Robinson, pp. 140,
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^ Maland & (1989), p. 20.
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Weissman, Stephen M. (2009). Chaplin: A Life. London: JR Books.
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History. Los Angeles, CA: B L Press.
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Chaplin's World Museum at the Manoir de Ban, Switzerland
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Chaplinesque, My Life and Hard Times
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Twenty Minutes of Love
Caught in the Rain
A Busy Day
Her Friend the Bandit
Mabel's Married Life
The Face on the Bar Room Floor
His New Profession
The Property Man
The New Janitor
Those Love Pangs
Dough and Dynamite
Gentlemen of Nerve
His Musical Career
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A Night Out
In the Park
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By the Sea
A Night in the Show
Burlesque on Carmen
Mutual Film Corp
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A Dog's Life
A Day's Pleasure
The Idle Class
A Woman of Paris
The Gold Rush
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A King in New York
A Countess from Hong Kong
Charlie Chaplin's parents
Charles Chaplin, Sr.
Hannah Chaplin's children
Sydney J. Chaplin
George Wheeler Dryden
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Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe
Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe (1862-63)
A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte
A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte (1886)
Mont Sainte-Victoir (1887)
The Starry Night
The Starry Night (1889)
Ubu Roi (1896)
Verklärte Nacht (1899)
Le bonheur de vivre
Le bonheur de vivre (1905-1906)
Les Demoiselles d'Avignon
Les Demoiselles d'Avignon (1907)
The Firebird (1910)
Afternoon of a Faun (1912)
Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2
Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2 (1912)
The Rite of Spring
The Rite of Spring (1913)
In Search of Lost Time
In Search of Lost Time (1913–1927)
The Metamorphosis (1915)
Black Square (1915)
The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari
The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)
Six Characters in Search of an Author (1921)
The Waste Land
The Waste Land (1922)
The Magic Mountain
The Magic Mountain (1924)
Battleship Potemkin (1925)
The Sun Also Rises
The Sun Also Rises (1926)
The Threepenny Opera
The Threepenny Opera (1928)
The Sound and the Fury
The Sound and the Fury (1929)
Un Chien Andalou
Un Chien Andalou (1929)
Villa Savoye (1931)
The Blue Lotus
The Blue Lotus (1936)
Waiting for Godot
Waiting for Godot (1953)
E. M. Forster
Ford Madox Ford
D. H. Lawrence
Filippo Tommaso Marinetti
Guy de Maupassant
Katherine Anne Porter
W. H. Auden
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Rainer Maria Rilke
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W. B. Yeats
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Willem de Kooning
Theo van Doesburg
Vincent van Gogh
Ernst Ludwig Kirchner
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec
Josef Matthias Hauer
George Bernard Shaw
John Millington Synge
Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz
Anton Giulio Bragaglia
Carl Theodor Dreyer
Robert J. Flaherty
F. W. Murnau
Georg Wilhelm Pabst
Josef von Sternberg
Clotilde von Derp
Ruth St. Denis
Pier Luigi Nervi
Edward Durell Stone
Ludwig Mies van der Rohe
Frank Lloyd Wright
Der Blaue Reiter
Fourth dimension in art
Fourth dimension in literature
List of art movements
List of avant-garde artists
List of modernist poets
Second Viennese School
Academy Award for Best Original Score
Louis Silvers (1934)
Max Steiner (1935)
Leo F. Forbstein
Leo F. Forbstein (1936)
Charles Previn (1937)
Erich Wolfgang Korngold/Alfred Newman (1938)
Herbert Stothart/Richard Hageman, W. Franke Harling, John Leipold, Leo
Leigh Harline, Paul J. Smith, Ned Washington/Alfred Newman (1940)
Frank Churchill and
Oliver Wallace (1941)
Ray Heindorf and
Heinz Roemheld (1942)
Ray Heindorf (1943)
Morris Stoloff and
Carmen Dragon (1944)
Georgie Stoll (1945)
Morris Stoloff (1946)
Miklós Rózsa/Alfred Newman (1947)
Johnny Green and
Roger Edens (1948)
Roger Edens and
Lennie Hayton (1949)
Adolph Deutsch and
Roger Edens (1950)
Johnny Green and Saul
Dimitri Tiomkin/Alfred Newman (1952)
Bronisław Kaper/Alfred Newman (1953)
Adolph Deutsch and Saul
Alfred Newman/Robert Russell Bennett, Jay Blackton and Adolph Deutsch
Victor Young/Alfred Newman and
Ken Darby (1956)
Malcolm Arnold (1957)
Dimitri Tiomkin/Andre Previn (1958)
Miklós Rózsa/Andre Previn and
Ken Darby (1959)
Morris Stoloff and Harry Sukman (1960)
Henry Mancini/Saul Chaplin, Johnny Green,
Sid Ramin and Irwin Kostal
Ray Heindorf (1962)
John Addison/Andre Previn (1963)
Richard M. Sherman
Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman/Andre Previn (1964)
Irwin Kostal (1965)
Ken Thorne (1966)
Elmer Bernstein/Alfred Newman and
Ken Darby (1967)
Johnny Green (1968)
Lennie Hayton and
Lionel Newman (1969)
The Beatles (John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison
and Ringo Starr) (1970)
John Williams (1971)
Raymond Rasch and Larry Russell/
Ralph Burns (1972)
Marvin Hamlisch (1973)
Nino Rota and Carmine Coppola/
Nelson Riddle (1974)
Leonard Rosenman (1975)
Leonard Rosenman (1976)
Jonathan Tunick (1977)
Joe Renzetti (1978)
Ralph Burns (1979)
Michael Gore (1980)
Henry Mancini and
Leslie Bricusse (1982)
Bill Conti/Michel Legrand,
Alan and Marilyn Bergman (1983)
Maurice Jarre/Prince (1984)
John Barry (1985)
Herbie Hancock (1986)
David Byrne and
Cong Su (1987)
Dave Grusin (1988)
Alan Menken (1989)
John Barry (1990)
Alan Menken (1991)
Alan Menken (1992)
John Williams (1993)
Hans Zimmer (1994)
Luis Enríquez Bacalov/
Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz (1995)
Rachel Portman (1996)
Anne Dudley (1997)
Stephen Warbeck (1998)
John Corigliano (1999)
Tan Dun (2000)
Howard Shore (2001)
Elliot Goldenthal (2002)
Howard Shore (2003)
Jan A. P. Kaczmarek
Jan A. P. Kaczmarek (2004)
Gustavo Santaolalla (2005)
Gustavo Santaolalla (2006)
Dario Marianelli (2007)
A. R. Rahman
A. R. Rahman (2008)
Michael Giacchino (2009)
Trent Reznor and
Atticus Ross (2010)
Ludovic Bource (2011)
Mychael Danna (2012)
Steven Price (2013)
Alexandre Desplat (2014)
Ennio Morricone (2015)
Justin Hurwitz (2016)
Alexandre Desplat (2017)
Academy Honorary Award
Warner Bros. /
Walt Disney (1932)
Shirley Temple (1934)
D. W. Griffith
D. W. Griffith (1935)
The March of Time
The March of Time /
W. Howard Greene and
Harold Rosson (1936)
Edgar Bergen /
W. Howard Greene /
Museum of Modern Art
Museum of Modern Art Film Library /
Mack Sennett (1937)
J. Arthur Ball /
Walt Disney /
Deanna Durbin and
Mickey Rooney /
Gordon Jennings, Jan Domela, Devereaux Jennings, Irmin Roberts, Art
Smith, Farciot Edouart, Loyal Griggs, Loren L. Ryder, Harry D. Mills,
Louis Mesenkop, Walter Oberst /
Oliver T. Marsh and Allen Davey /
Harry Warner (1938)
Douglas Fairbanks /
Judy Garland /
William Cameron Menzies / Motion
Picture Relief Fund (Jean Hersholt, Ralph Morgan, Ralph Block, Conrad
Technicolor Company (1939)
Bob Hope /
Nathan Levinson (1940)
Walt Disney, William Garity, John N. A. Hawkins, and the RCA
Manufacturing Company /
Leopold Stokowski and his associates / Rey
Scott / British Ministry of Information (1941)
Charles Boyer /
Noël Coward /
George Pal (1943)
Bob Hope /
Margaret O'Brien (1944)
Republic Studio, Daniel J. Bloomberg, and the Republic Studio Sound
Walter Wanger / The House I Live In / Peggy Ann Garner
Harold Russell /
Laurence Olivier /
Ernst Lubitsch / Claude Jarman Jr.
James Baskett / Thomas Armat, William Nicholas Selig, Albert E. Smith,
George Kirke Spoor
George Kirke Spoor /
Bill and Coo / Shoeshine (1947)
Walter Wanger /
Monsieur Vincent /
Sid Grauman /
Adolph Zukor (1948)
Jean Hersholt /
Fred Astaire /
Cecil B. DeMille
Cecil B. DeMille / The Bicycle Thief
Louis B. Mayer
Louis B. Mayer /
George Murphy /
The Walls of Malapaga (1950)
Gene Kelly /
Merian C. Cooper
Merian C. Cooper /
Bob Hope /
Harold Lloyd / George Mitchell / Joseph
M. Schenck /
Forbidden Games (1952)
Fox Film Corporation / Bell & Howell Company / Joseph
Breen / Pete Smith (1953)
Bausch & Lomb Optical Company /
Danny Kaye / Kemp Niver / Greta
Jon Whiteley /
Vincent Winter / Gate of Hell (1954)
Samurai I: Musashi Miyamoto (1955)
Eddie Cantor (1956)
Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers
Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers / Gilbert M.
"Broncho Billy" Anderson /
Charles Brackett /
B. B. Kahane (1957)
Maurice Chevalier (1958)
Buster Keaton /
Lee de Forest
Lee de Forest (1959)
Gary Cooper /
Stan Laurel /
Hayley Mills (1960)
William L. Hendricks / Fred L. Metzler /
Jerome Robbins (1961)
William J. Tuttle
William J. Tuttle (1964)
Bob Hope (1965)
Yakima Canutt /
Y. Frank Freeman
Y. Frank Freeman (1966)
Arthur Freed (1967)
John Chambers /
Onna White (1968)
Cary Grant (1969)
Lillian Gish /
Orson Welles (1970)
Charles S. Boren /
Edward G. Robinson
Edward G. Robinson (1972)
Henri Langlois /
Groucho Marx (1973)
Howard Hawks /
Jean Renoir (1974)
Mary Pickford (1975)
Margaret Booth (1977)
Walter Lantz /
Laurence Olivier /
King Vidor / Museum of Modern Art
Department of Film (1978)
Hal Elias /
Alec Guinness (1979)
Henry Fonda (1980)
Barbara Stanwyck (1981)
Mickey Rooney (1982)
Hal Roach (1983)
James Stewart /
National Endowment for the Arts
National Endowment for the Arts (1984)
Paul Newman /
Alex North (1985)
Ralph Bellamy (1986)
Kodak Company /
National Film Board of Canada
National Film Board of Canada (1988)
Akira Kurosawa (1989)
Sophia Loren /
Myrna Loy (1990)
Satyajit Ray (1991)
Federico Fellini (1992)
Deborah Kerr (1993)
Michelangelo Antonioni (1994)
Kirk Douglas /
Chuck Jones (1995)
Michael Kidd (1996)
Stanley Donen (1997)
Elia Kazan (1998)
Andrzej Wajda (1999)
Jack Cardiff /
Ernest Lehman (2000)
Sidney Poitier /
Robert Redford (2001)
Peter O'Toole (2002)
Blake Edwards (2003)
Sidney Lumet (2004)
Robert Altman (2005)
Ennio Morricone (2006)
Robert F. Boyle (2007)
Lauren Bacall /
Roger Corman /
Gordon Willis (2009)
Kevin Brownlow /
Jean-Luc Godard /
Eli Wallach (2010)
James Earl Jones
James Earl Jones / Dick Smith (2011)
D. A. Pennebaker
D. A. Pennebaker /
Hal Needham /
George Stevens Jr.
George Stevens Jr. (2012)
Angela Lansbury /
Steve Martin /
Piero Tosi (2013)
Jean-Claude Carrière /
Hayao Miyazaki /
Maureen O'Hara (2014)
Spike Lee /
Gena Rowlands (2015)
Jackie Chan /
Lynn Stalmaster /
Anne V. Coates / Frederick Wiseman
Charles Burnett /
Owen Roizman /
Donald Sutherland / Agnès Varda
BAFTA Fellowship recipients
Alfred Hitchcock (1971)
Freddie Young (1972)
Grace Wyndham Goldie (1973)
David Lean (1974)
Jacques Cousteau (1975)
Laurence Olivier (1976)
Denis Forman (1977)
Fred Zinnemann (1978)
Lew Grade (1979)
Huw Wheldon (1979)
David Attenborough (1980)
John Huston (1980)
Abel Gance (1981)
Michael Powell &
Emeric Pressburger (1981)
Andrzej Wajda (1982)
Richard Attenborough (1983)
Hugh Greene (1984)
Sam Spiegel (1984)
Jeremy Isaacs (1985)
Steven Spielberg (1986)
Federico Fellini (1987)
Ingmar Bergman (1988)
Alec Guinness (1989)
Paul Fox (1990)
Louis Malle (1991)
John Gielgud (1992)
David Plowright (1992)
Sydney Samuelson (1993)
Colin Young (1993)
Michael Grade (1994)
Billy Wilder (1995)
Jeanne Moreau (1996)
Ronald Neame (1996)
John Schlesinger (1996)
Maggie Smith (1996)
Woody Allen (1997)
Steven Bochco (1997)
Julie Christie (1997)
Oswald Morris (1997)
Harold Pinter (1997)
David Rose (1997)
Sean Connery (1998)
Bill Cotton (1998)
Eric Morecambe &
Ernie Wise (1999)
Elizabeth Taylor (1999)
Michael Caine (2000)
Stanley Kubrick (2000)
Peter Bazalgette (2000)
Albert Finney (2001)
John Thaw (2001)
Judi Dench (2001)
Warren Beatty (2002)
Merchant Ivory Productions (2002)
Andrew Davies (2002)
John Mills (2002)
Saul Zaentz (2003)
David Jason (2003)
John Boorman (2004)
Roger Graef (2004)
John Barry (2005)
David Frost (2005)
David Puttnam (2006)
Ken Loach (2006)
Anne V. Coates (2007)
Richard Curtis (2007)
Will Wright (2007)
Anthony Hopkins (2008)
Bruce Forsyth (2008)
Dawn French &
Jennifer Saunders (2009)
Terry Gilliam (2009)
Nolan Bushnell (2009)
Vanessa Redgrave (2010)
Shigeru Miyamoto (2010)
Melvyn Bragg (2010)
Christopher Lee (2011)
Peter Molyneux (2011)
Trevor McDonald (2011)
Martin Scorsese (2012)
Rolf Harris (2012)
Alan Parker (2013)
Gabe Newell (2013)
Michael Palin (2013)
Helen Mirren (2014)
Rockstar Games (2014)
Julie Walters (2014)
Mike Leigh (2015)
David Braben (2015)
Jon Snow (2015)
Sidney Poitier (2016)
John Carmack (2016)
Ray Galton & Alan Simpson (2016)
Mel Brooks (2017)
Joanna Lumley (2017)
Ridley Scott (2018)
Film Society of Lincoln Center
Film Society of Lincoln Center Gala Tribute Honorees
Fred Astaire (1973)
Alfred Hitchcock (1974)
Joanne Woodward and
Paul Newman (1975)
George Cukor (1978)
Bob Hope (1979)
John Huston (1980)
Barbara Stanwyck (1981)
Billy Wilder (1982)
Laurence Olivier (1983)
Claudette Colbert (1984)
Federico Fellini (1985)
Elizabeth Taylor (1986)
Alec Guinness (1987)
Yves Montand (1988)
Bette Davis (1989)
James Stewart (1990)
Audrey Hepburn (1991)
Gregory Peck (1992)
Jack Lemmon (1993)
Robert Altman (1994)
Shirley MacLaine (1995)
Clint Eastwood (1996)
Sean Connery (1997)
Martin Scorsese (1998)
Mike Nichols (1999)
Al Pacino (2000)
Jane Fonda (2001)
Francis Ford Coppola
Francis Ford Coppola (2002)
Susan Sarandon (2003)
Michael Caine (2004)
Dustin Hoffman (2005)
Jessica Lange (2006)
Diane Keaton (2007)
Meryl Streep (2008)
Tom Hanks (2009)
Michael Douglas (2010)
Sidney Poitier (2011)
Catherine Deneuve (2012)
Barbra Streisand (2013)
Rob Reiner (2014)
Robert Redford (2015)
Morgan Freeman (2016)
Robert De Niro
Robert De Niro (2017)
Helen Mirren (2018)
New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actor
Charles Laughton (1935)
Walter Huston (1936)
Paul Muni (1937)
James Cagney (1938)
James Stewart (1939)
Gary Cooper (1941)
James Cagney (1942)
Paul Lukas (1943)
Barry Fitzgerald (1944)
Ray Milland (1945)
Laurence Olivier (1946)
William Powell (1947)
Laurence Olivier (1948)
Broderick Crawford (1949)
Gregory Peck (1950)
Arthur Kennedy (1951)
Ralph Richardson (1952)
Burt Lancaster (1953)
Marlon Brando (1954)
Ernest Borgnine (1955)
Kirk Douglas (1956)
Alec Guinness (1957)
David Niven (1958)
James Stewart (1959)
Burt Lancaster (1960)
Maximilian Schell (1961)
No award (1962)
Albert Finney (1963)
Rex Harrison (1964)
Oskar Werner (1965)
Paul Scofield (1966)
Rod Steiger (1967)
Alan Arkin (1968)
Jon Voight (1969)
George C. Scott
George C. Scott (1970)
Gene Hackman (1971)
Laurence Olivier (1972)
Marlon Brando (1973)
Jack Nicholson (1974)
Jack Nicholson (1975)
Robert De Niro
Robert De Niro (1976)
John Gielgud (1977)
Jon Voight (1978)
Dustin Hoffman (1979)
Robert De Niro
Robert De Niro (1980)
Burt Lancaster (1981)
Ben Kingsley (1982)
Robert Duvall (1983)
Steve Martin (1984)
Jack Nicholson (1985)
Bob Hoskins (1986)
Jack Nicholson (1987)
Jeremy Irons (1988)
Daniel Day-Lewis (1989)
Robert De Niro
Robert De Niro (1990)
Anthony Hopkins (1991)
Denzel Washington (1992)
David Thewlis (1993)
Paul Newman (1994)
Nicolas Cage (1995)
Geoffrey Rush (1996)
Peter Fonda (1997)
Nick Nolte (1998)
Richard Farnsworth (1999)
Tom Hanks (2000)
Tom Wilkinson (2001)
Daniel Day-Lewis (2002)
Bill Murray (2003)
Paul Giamatti (2004)
Heath Ledger (2005)
Forest Whitaker (2006)
Daniel Day-Lewis (2007)
Sean Penn (2008)
George Clooney (2009)
Colin Firth (2010)
Brad Pitt (2011)
Daniel Day-Lewis (2012)
Robert Redford (2013)
Timothy Spall (2014)
Michael Keaton (2015)
Casey Affleck (2016)
Timothée Chalamet (2017)
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