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Charlie Chaplin was the Tramp, befriender of small dogs and helpless children. Charlie’s real life beginning wasn’t that much different from the characters he helped and portrayed. His own parents separated when he was one and at the age of five he and his nine year old half brother Sydney found themselves on the streets of London dancing for their food. Their mother was in the midst of a nervous breakdown and their father had just died. In time they found their way into an orphanage and then on the road with a child troupe of dancers.

Eventually the sun began to shine and the brothers got steadier work. Charlie found himself traveling abroad and in December of 1913 he was signed by Max Sennett to make movies for Sennett’s Keystone comedies. In a year’s time Charlie made 35 films and learned he could not only act in his films but that he could also write and direct them himself.

When he moved to Essanay in 1915 he was able to demand and get $1,250 a week and a bonus of $10,000. This up from the $175 he’d earned at Keystone while he learned the craft. It was here at Essanay that the complete transformation of The Tramp came about. In 1916 he moved to Mutual. Now his salary was $10,000 a week with a signing bonus of $150,000. His contract required him to make 12 films a year and for this he was to have complete creative control. Ever moving forward, Charlie went on to First National in 1918. He was to make 8 two-reelers and be paid over $1,000,000. Next he partnered with his friends Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford and D.W. Griffith to open United Artists Corporation. He was now his own boss in every right.

When silent movies came to an end, Charlie ignored it and continued to make silent pictures. Always they were box office hits. Reluctantly he began to make talkies but there often were years between them. He made his last film in 1967, a span of 54 years. In 1972 he was awarded a special Academy Award for “the incalculable effect he has had on making motion pictures the art form of this century.” He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth in 1975.

A List of His Most Memorable Rolls:
The Tramp (1915)
Shoulder Arms (1918)
The Kid (1921)
The Gold Rush (1925)
The Circus (1928*)
City Lights (1931) – Silent
Modern Times (1936) – Silent
The Great Dictator (1940) – Talk

* Special Oscar for versatility & genius (writing, acting, directing & producing)

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