Saturday, December 18, 2021

Charlie Chaplin

 With Nancy J. Farrier

Photo by Strauss-Peyton Studio
Wikimedia Commons

Charlie Chaplin lived an interesting life, exceling in film and stage. He was born in 1889, in London, England and his childhood was pretty difficult. Charlie’s parents were both performers. His mother had a name on the small stages, and his father was a singer that the audiences enjoyed. They separated when Charlie was two and his mother struggled to make ends meet. Charlie spent two stints in the poor house and on occasion found work acting. 


By the time Charlie reached his teens, his father had died and his mother was committed to a mental asylum. For the next few years, life was very uncertain. His mother was released a time or two, but always had to go back. Charlie and his older half-brother, Sydney, had to fend for themselves. 


Chaplin in Holmes play
Wikimedia Commons

Charlie was in his first production when he was twelve, a smaller part, which led to him acting on stage in different productions of “Sherlock Holmes.” Charlie had inherited acting ability and was very popular with the audiences.


When his “Holmes” acting ended, Chaplin turned to doing comedy routines in a vaudeville act. This gained more notice and he came to America with the Fred Carno Repertoire Company in 1910. He was so popular with American audiences that when the Carno Company returned in 1912, Chaplin was offered his first contract in motion pictures.


Chaplin in Advertisement
Wikimedia Commons

Chaplin started with Keystone Film, earning $150 per week. In a very short time, the audience’s enthusiasm for Chaplin led to him change companies and begin a more lucrative career. Meanwhile, his brother, Sydney, arrived from England and took Charlie’s place with Keystone.


Chaplin poster
Wikimedia Commons
In 1917, Chaplin decided to make his own films. He broke ground for his own studio. His first film was “A Dog’s Life.” Film production slowed as he turned his attention to traveling to help the war effort. In 1918 and 1919 he produced “Shoulder Arms,” “Sunnyside,” and “A Day’s Pleasure.”


Chaplin in "The Kid"
Wikimedia Commons

In 1921, Chaplin made what some refer to as a masterpiece. His film, “The Kid,” first featured child star Jackie Coogan. This film led to him featuring one of the child actresses, Lillita MacMurray, in his 1925 film, “The Gold Rush.” At this time, Lillita was not quite sixteen. Chaplin changed her name to Lita Grey, started an affair with her while filming, and six months later married her when she got pregnant. Their marriage was not a happy one and only lasted about three years.


Lita Grey - Wikimedia Commons

Charlie and Lita’s divorce was sensational even in Hollywood. Lita did her best to smear his reputation and he did suffer some setbacks. Still, he continued to make films that were popular.


Chaplin in "The Great Dictator"
By United Artists 
Public Domain

In the 1940’s, Chaplin suffered a real setback with the rise of Hitler and with Chaplin’s outspoken political views. Some people believed there was a connection between Hitler and Chaplin. They were born four days apart. They had a similar look, including the same type of mustache. The controversy was so fierce that despite Chaplin’s anti-Hitler stance, it spurred him to make the film, “The Great Dictator,”  a comedic parody of Hitler. Both Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt liked the movie. “The Great Dictator” received five Academy Award nominations.


Oona O'Neill
BY Associated Press
Public Domain

When Chaplin was 54, he was introduced to Oona O’Neill, daughter of Eugene O’Neill, the American playwright. Chaplin describes their meeting as the happiest day of his life. Oona was 18, and they married a few months later. They remained married until Chaplin’s death in 1977 on Christmas Day. He and Oona had eight children. 


Charlie Chaplin made so many famous films and won many awards in his time. His final home in Switzerland was opened as a museum in 2016. The National Film Registry has preserved six of Chaplin’s films, those considered to be his best: The Immigrant (1917), The Kid (1921), The Gold Rush (1925), City Lights (1931), Modern Times (1936), and  The Great Dictator (1940).

Statues of Chaplin around the world, located at (left to right) 1. Trenčianske Teplice, Slovakia; 2. Chełmża, Poland; 3. Waterville, Ireland; 4. London, England; 5. Hyderabad, India; 6. Alassio, Italy; 7. Barcelona, Spain; 8. Vevey, Switzerland - Wikimedia Commons


Have you seen any of Chaplin’s films? I remember seeing some as a young girl, but haven’t watched any in years. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Nancy J Farrier is an award-winning author who lives in Southern Arizona in the Sonoran Desert. She loves the Southwest with its interesting historical past. When Nancy isn’t writing, she loves to read, do needlecraft, play with her cats, and spend time with her family. You can read more about Nancy and her books on her website:

A Prayer Quilt Christmas

A Driftwood Cove Novella

Meg Stratton is excited about having her boys for the holidays for the first time in seven years. But her ex-husband sweeps in and takes them with no warning. Wade Palmer knows Meg is trouble waiting to happen with her history of drug use, but he can’t fight his attraction to her. 


When Wade and Meg agree to help an elderly woman with her nonprofit business to the home bound residents, Wade sees Meg’s strength of character, while she longs for the peace and steadiness of his faith. But, when Meg’s former drug dealer comes to town looking for her, and her ex refuses to let her have contact with her boys, what will that stress do to their budding relationship? And how can a small prayer quilt help? 


Her ex-husband took her boys away for the holidays, and she’s lost her heart to celebrate, but he is determined to make this Christmas special for her.


  1. Chaplin was a master at comedic timing. I studied his work a long time ago to learn that. This was a wonderful post!

  2. Thank you for posting! I didn't know (or remember) any of this about him. I might have to find one of his films and check it out.

  3. I don't think I've seen any of his films, I'll have to remedy that. Have a merry Christmas!

  4. I've seen those that are still available. Even a few of the keystone movies.

    1. Thank you for sharing. How fun that you've seen so many.