Charlie Chaplin

Charlie Chaplin

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 controversy.

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.

In 1919, 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 (1923), 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 (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, which include Monsieur Verdoux (1947), Limelight (1952), A King in New York (1957), and 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 RushCity LightsModern Times, and The Great Dictator often ranked on industry lists of the greatest films of all time.

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Chaplin appeared in 36 films for Keystone Studios, all produced by Mack Sennett. Except where noted, all films were one reel in length.

Release date Title Credited as Notes
Composer Producer Writer Director Role
2 February 1914 Making a Living Slicker
7 February 1914 Kid Auto Races at Venice Tramp Released on a split-reel (i.e. two films on one reel) with an education film, Olives and Trees
9 February 1914 Mabel’s Strange Predicament Tramp Filmed before but released after Kid Auto Races at Venice, hence it was in this film that the Tramp costume was first used.
19 February 1914 A Thief Catcher A Policeman Print discovered in 2010
28 February 1914 Between Showers Masher
2 March 1914 A Film Johnnie The Film Johnnie
9 March 1914 Tango Tangles Tipsy Dancer
16 March 1914 His Favourite Pastime Drinker
26 March 1914 Cruel, Cruel Love Lord Helpus
4 April 1914 The Star Boarder The Star boarder
18 April 1914 Mabel at the Wheel Villain Two reels
20 April 1914 Twenty Minutes of Love Yes Yes Pickpocket
27 April 1914 Caught in a Cabaret Waiter Two reels
Co-writer: Mabel Normand
4 May 1914 Caught in the Rain Yes Yes Tipsy Hotel Guest
7 May 1914 A Busy Day Yes Yes Wife Released on a split-reel with an educational short, The Morning Papers
1 June 1914 The Fatal Mallet Suitor
4 June 1914 Her Friend the Bandit Yes Yes Bandit A lost film. The only known Chaplin lost film.
Co-director: Mabel Normand
11 June 1914 The Knockout Referee Two reels
13 June 1914 Mabel’s Busy Day Tipsy Nuisance
20 June 1914 Mabel’s Married Life Yes Yes Mabel’s Husband Co-writer: Mabel Normand
9 July 1914 Laughing Gas Yes Yes Dentist’s Assistant
1 August 1914 The Property Man Yes Yes The Property Man Two reels
10 August 1914 The Face on the Bar Room Floor Yes Yes Artist Based on the poem by Hugh Antoine d’Arcy
13 August 1914 Recreation Yes Yes Tramp Released as a split-reel with a travel short, The Yosemite
27 August 1914 The Masquerader Yes Yes Film Actor
31 August 1914 His New Profession Yes Yes Charlie
7 September 1914 The Rounders Yes Yes Reveller
24 September 1914 The New Janitor Yes Yes Janitor
10 October 1914 Those Love Pangs Yes Yes Masher
26 October 1914 Dough and Dynamite Yes Yes Waiter Two reels
Co-writer: Mack Sennett
29 October 1914 Gentlemen of Nerve Yes Yes Impecunious Track Enthusiast
7 November 1914 His Musical Career Yes Yes Piano Mover
9 November 1914 His Trysting Place Yes Yes Husband Two reels
14 November 1914 Tillie’s Punctured Romance Charlie, a City Slicker Six reels
From the play, Tillie’s Nightmare, by A. Baldwin Sloane and Edgar Smith
5 December 1914 Getting Acquainted Yes Yes Spouse
7 December 1914 His Prehistoric Past Yes Yes Weakchin Two reels

Essanay

Chaplin wrote, directed, and starred in 15 films for the Essanay Film Manufacturing Company, all produced by Jesse T. Robbins. Except where noted all films are two-reelers.

Release date Title Credited as Notes
Composer Producer Writer Director Role
1 February 1915 His New Job Yes Yes Film Extra
15 February 1915 A Night Out Yes Yes Reveller debut of Edna Purviance
11 March 1915 The Champion Yes Yes Aspiring Pugilist
18 March 1915 In the Park Yes Yes Charlie One reel
1 April 1915 A Jitney Elopement Yes Yes Suitor, the Fake Count
11 April 1915 The Tramp Yes Yes The Tramp
29 April 1915 By the Sea Yes Yes Stroller One reel
21 June 1915 Work Yes Yes Decorator’s Apprentice
12 July 1915 A Woman Yes Yes Charlie / “The Woman”
9 August 1915 The Bank Yes Yes Janitor
4 October 1915 Shanghaied Yes Yes Charlie
20 November 1915 A Night in the Show Yes Yes Mr. Pest and Mr. Rowdy
18 December 1915 A Burlesque on Carmen Yes Yes Darn Hosiery Re-issued on 22 April 1916, as an unauthorised four-reeler with new footage shot and assembled by Leo White
27 May 1916 Police Yes Yes Ex-Convict
11 August 1918 Triple Trouble Yes Yes Janitor Compilation assembled by Leo White with scenes from Police and an unfinished short, Life, along with new material shot by White. Chaplin includes this production in the filmography of his autobiography.

Mutual

Chaplin wrote, produced, directed, and starred in 12 films for the Mutual Film Corporation, which formed Lone Star Studios solely for Chaplin’s films. All of the Mutual releases are two reels in length. In 1932, Amadee J. Van Beuren of Van Beuren Studios purchased Chaplin’s Mutual comedies for $10,000 each, added music by Gene Rodemich and Winston Sharples and sound effects, and re-released them through RKO Radio Pictures.

Release date Title Credited as Notes
Composer Producer Writer Director Role
15 May 1916 The Floorwalker Yes Yes Yes Impecunious Customer Co-writer: Vincent Bryan
12 June 1916 The Fireman Yes Yes Yes Fireman Co-writer: Vincent Bryan
10 July 1916 The Vagabond Yes Yes Yes Street Musician Co-writer: Vincent Bryan
7 August 1916 One A.M. Yes Yes Yes Drunk
4 September 1916 The Count Yes Yes Yes Tailor’s Apprentice
2 October 1916 The Pawnshop Yes Yes Yes Pawnbroker’s Assistant
13 November 1916 Behind the Screen Yes Yes Yes Property Man’s Assistant
4 December 1916 The Rink Yes Yes Yes Waiter and Skating Enthusiast
22 January 1917 Easy Street Yes Yes Yes Vagabond recruited to Police Force
16 April 1917 The Cure Yes Yes Yes Alcoholic Gentleman at Spa
17 June 1917 The Immigrant Yes Yes Yes Immigrant Added to the National Film Registry in 1998
22 October 1917 The Adventurer Yes Yes Yes Escaped Convict

First National

Chaplin wrote, produced, directed, and starred in 9 films for his own production company between 1918 and 1923. These films were distributed by First National.

Release date Title Credited as Notes
Composer Producer Writer Director Role
14 April 1918 A Dog’s Life Yes Yes Yes Yes Tramp Three reels
Score composed for compilation, The Chaplin Revue
29 September 1918 The Bond Yes Yes Yes Tramp Half-reel. Co stars brother Sydney Chaplin
20 October 1918 Shoulder Arms Yes Yes Yes Yes Recruit Three reels
Score composed for compilation, The Chaplin Revue
15 May 1919 Sunnyside Yes Yes Yes Yes Farm Handyman Three reels
Score composed for 1974 re-release
15 December 1919 A Day’s Pleasure Yes Yes Yes Yes Father Two reels. First film with Jackie Coogan, future star of “The Kid”
Score composed for 1973 re-release
6 February 1921 The Kid Yes Yes Yes Yes Tramp Six reels
Score composed for 1971 re-release
Added to the National Film Registry in 2011.
25 September 1921 The Idle Class Yes Yes Yes Yes Tramp / Husband Two reels
Score composed for 1971 re-release
2 April 1922 Pay Day Yes Yes Yes Yes Laborer Two reels
Score composed for 1972 re-release
26 February 1923 The Pilgrim Yes Yes Yes Yes Escaped Convict Four reels
Score composed for compilation, The Chaplin Revue

United Artists

Chaplin began releasing his films through United Artists in 1923. From this point on all of his films were of feature length. He produced, directed, and wrote these eight films and starred in all but the first. Beginning with City Lights Chaplin wrote the musical scores for his films as well.

Release date Title Credited as Notes
Composer Producer Writer Director Role
26 September 1923 A Woman of Paris Yes Yes Yes Yes Porter Chaplin has a small cameo role
Score composed for 1976 re-issue
26 June 1925 The Gold Rush Yes Yes Yes Yes Lone Prospector Score composed for 1942 re-issue
Added to the National Film Registry in 1992
6 January 1928 The Circus Yes Yes Yes Yes Tramp Score composed for 1970 re-issue Selected in the National Film Registry in 2002
30 January 1931 City Lights Yes Yes Yes Yes Tramp Added to the National Film Registry in 1991
5 February 1936 Modern Times Yes Yes Yes Yes A factory worker Added to the National Film Registry in 1989
15 October 1940 The Great Dictator Yes Yes Yes Yes Adenoid Hynkel / The Barber Added to the National Film Registry in 1997
Nominated – Academy Award for Best Actor
Nominated – Academy Award for Best Picture
Nominated – Academy Award for Best Writing.
11 April 1947 Monsieur Verdoux Yes Yes Yes Yes Monsieur Henri Verdoux Based on an idea by Orson Welles
Nominated – Academy Award for Best Writing (Original Screenplay)
16 October 1952 Limelight Yes Yes Yes Yes Calvero Pulled from American screens shortly after its release when Chaplin became a political exile from the United States
Academy Award for Best Music (Scoring) (Awarded in 1973 when the film became first eligible for Academy Award consideration via Los Angeles screenings.)

British productions

In 1952, while travelling to England to attend the première of his film, Limelight, Chaplin learned that his American re-entry permit was rescinded. As a result his last two films were made in England.

Release date Title Credited as Notes
Composer Producer Writer Director Role
12 September 1957 A King in New York Yes Yes Yes Yes King Shahdov Last starring role. An Attica-Archway production
Not released in the United States until 1972
5 January 1967 A Countess from Hong Kong Yes Yes Yes An Old Steward A Universal Production in Panavisionand Technicolor
Produced by Jerome Epstein
Chaplin has a small cameo role

Other film appearances

In addition to his official 82 films, Chaplin has several unfinished productions in his body of work. He made several cameo appearances as himself and was featured in several compilation films.

Uncompleted and unreleased films

Year(s) Title Credited as Notes
Composer Producer Writer Director Role
1915–1916 Life Yes Yes Yes Uncompleted, although parts were used in The Essanay-Chaplin Revue (see below)
1918 How to Make Movies Yes Yes Yes Himself Never assembled, although parts were used in The Chaplin Revue (see below)
Reconstructed in 1981 by Kevin Brownlow and David Gill
(untitled film) Yes Yes Yes Himself A charity film co-starring Harry Lauder
1919 The Professor Yes Yes Yes Professor Bosco Slated as a two-reeler, but never issued
c.1922 Nice and Friendly Yes Yes Yes Tramp Improvised sketch
1926 A Woman of the Sea Yes Completed but never released
Chaplin had the negative burned on 24 June 1933, making it lost
1933 All at Sea Himself An 11-minute home film shot by Alistair Cooke onboard Chaplin’s boat, Panacea, and featuring Cooke with Chaplin and Paulette Goddard
1966–1975 The Freak Yes A production planned for Chaplin’s daughter, Victoria

Compilations

Many Chaplin-unauthorized compilations of his Keystone, Essanay and Mutual films were released in the years following his departure from those companies. This is not an exhaustive list but does contain the most notable and widely released examples. Eventually Chaplin re-edited and scored his First National shorts for reissue in 1959 and 1975.

Release date Title Credited as Notes
Composer Producer Writer Director Role
31 March 1915 Introducing Charlie Chaplin Promo film intended for exhibitors to show as a prologue to Chaplin films
23 September 1916 The Essanay-Chaplin Revue Yes Yes Ex-convict Compiled by Leo White from portions of Police and Lifewith new material directed by White
1916 Zepped A 7-minute reel of this WWIpropaganda short, was discovered in 2009, with a second in 2011. The first copy was bought on eBay and later put up for auction, but the only bid failed to reach the reserve price.
May 1918 Chase Me Charlie Yes Yes A seven-reel montage of Essanay films, edited by Langford Reed. Released in England.
Circa 1920 Charlie Butts In Yes Yes Essentially a one-reel version of the second Essanay short, A Night Out, incorporating alternate takes and footage of Chaplin conducting a band at Mer Island
1938 The Charlie Chaplin Carnival Yes Yes Yes Yes Property Man’s Assistant / Tailor’s Apprentice / Fireman / Street Musician Compiled from Behind the ScreenThe CountThe Fireman, and The Vagabond, with additional music and added sound effects
1938 The Charlie Chaplin Calvacade Yes Yes Yes Yes Drunk / Waiter and Skating Enthusiast / Pawnbroker’s Assistant / Impecunious Customer Compiled from One A.M.The RinkThe Pawnshop, and The Floorwalker, with additional music and added sound effects
1938 The Charlie Chaplin Festival Yes Yes Yes Yes Immigrant / The Derelict / The Inebriate / The Convict Compiled from The AdventurerThe CureEasy Street and The Immigrant, with additional music and added sound effects
25 September 1959 The Chaplin Revue Yes Yes Yes Yes Tramp / Recruit / Escaped Convict / Himself Compiled from A Dog’s LifeShoulder ArmsThe Pilgrim, and How to Make Movies
1975 The Gentleman Tramp A compilation documentary featuring new scenes of Chaplin at his home in Switzerland

Cameos

In addition to his own productions of A Woman of Paris (1923) and A Countess from Hong Kong (1967), Chaplin made cameo appearances as himself in the following films:

Year Title Notes
1915 His Regeneration Charles Chaplin – Customer (uncredited)
1921 The Nut Chaplin’s footage does not appear in surviving prints, although one sequence that does survive features an unknown actor in Chaplin’s tramp persona
1923 Souls for Sale Shown on the set of A Woman of Paris
Hollywood Lost film
1928 Show People Added to the National Film Registry in 2003
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