The walking stick, the bowler hat, the mustache — these images will forever be associated with comedic actor Charlie Chaplin.
His antics dazzled audiences in the early 20th century, and he is still rightfully considered a Hollywood legend. Here are some fun facts about him.
Chaplin was British; he was born in London on Apr. 16, 1889. His family struggled financially, and his mother was twice committed to a mental asylum. Chaplin began performing at a young age and quickly discovered he had a knack for it.
In 1908, Chaplin signed a contract with Fred Karno’s comedy company after his brother Sydney convinced Karno to give him a chance. Within a year, he was playing starring roles. Four years after joining the company, Chaplin went on a 21-month tour of North America’s vaudeville circuit.
Chaplin’s most famous character, The Tramp, debuted in the 1914 film “Kid Auto Races at Venice.” Audiences loved the plucky little man who did everything he could to persevere against authority figures who were not dazzled by his charms. The Tramp appeared in such movies as “The Gold Rush,” “The Kid,” and “City Lights.” Chaplin retired the character after the 1931 film “Modern Times.”
A notorious perfectionist, Chaplin directed, starred in, and composed the scores for many of his films. He won the 1972 Academy Award for Best Original Score for “Limelight.”
His film work was groundbreaking, and so was one facet of Chaplin’s personal life. In 1943, actress Joan Berry claimed Chaplin was her newborn daughter’s father. He denied it and took a blood test to prove he wasn’t. The test determined Chaplin was not the girl’s father, but a jury still declared that he was and forced him to pay Berry child support. The scandal caused a major blow to Chaplin’s reputation, but it also changed the way paternity tests were conducted.
And his troubles weren’t over yet. In the wake of World War II, Chaplin was accused of being a communist. In September 1952, he returned to his native London for the world premiere of “Limelight.” His re-entry permit to the United States was revoked, and Chaplin decided to cut all ties with the country, causing his popularity with American audiences to plummet. He lived the rest of his life in Switzerland.
Chaplin only returned to the U.S. once, in 1972, to accept an honorary Academy Award. The audience gave him a 12-minute standing ovation, the longest in Oscar history.
Chaplin’s health faded in the final years of his life. He received a knighthood from Queen Elizabeth II in 1975, but was too weak to leave his wheelchair and kneel. He died Dec. 25, 1977, at his home in Corsier-sur-Vevey, Switzerland.
But Chaplin received no rest, even in death — grave robbers took his body and held it for ransom for more than two months. When the remains were recovered, they were reburied in reinforced concrete.
(H/T: Mental Floss)