Little Bits of History

The Little Tramp

Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 7, 2011

Charlie Chaplin, The Little Tramp

February 7, 1914: Charlie Chaplin first plays The Little Tramp in the Keystone Studio movie, Kid Auto Races at Venice. Chaplin was hired directly from his vaudeville act and starred in the eleven minute movie about a “baby-cart race.” The Tramp got in the way of the camera ruining the photographer’s shots. He got in the way of the racers, causing confusion. All the action takes place in Venice – California.

Chaplin was born in London in 1889 to two actors. His parents divorced when he was still quite young. His father left Hannah, his mother, and Sidney, his half-brother, along with Charlie to fend for themselves. This they did for a time, but Hannah was eventually institutionalized for a mental illness and the boys were placed in a workhouse while she was away. She improved and was release, but relapsed. Charlie was sent to live with his now alcoholic father and unfriendly stepmother.

Charlie toured with a group of boys called “8 Lancaster Lads” when he was 9-years-old. This was when he first met Stan Laurel of Laurel and Hardy fame. He continued to entertain while growing up and came to the USA in 1912 with the Karno troupe. He liked it so much, he stayed. He was soon hired by Keystone Studios, famous for the slapstick antics of the Keystone Kops. In two months time, Chaplin filmed 8 movies, all silent films. He lamented the innovation of the talkies, but finally did work in the field.

Politically, Chaplin always leaned toward the left. He got into trouble with McCarthy during the era of the red scare. Although he lived in the US from 1914-1952, he always maintained his British citizenship. In 1952, Chaplin left for a vacation abroad and J. Edgar Hoover took the opportunity to block his re-entry into the country. He did come back, victorious, to accept an Academy Award in 1972. Chaplin made 82 films, many of which he both wrote and directed. He died in his sleep in Switzerland on December 25, 1977 at the age of 88.

“Action is more generally understood than words. The lift of an eyebrow, however faint, may convey more than a hundred words. A truly capable actor must possess a thorough grounding in pantomime.”

“I did not have to read books to know that the theme of life is conflict and pain. Instinctively, all my clowning was based on this.”

“Failure is unimportant. It takes courage to make a fool of yourself.”

“I had no idea of the character. But the moment I was dressed, the clothes and the make-up made me feel the person he was. I began to know him, and by the time I walked onto the stage he was fully born.” – all from Charlie Chaplin

Also on this day:
Pluto v. Neptune – In 1979, Pluto moved inside Neptune’s orbit.
Suffragettes – In 1971, the women of Switzerland were finally given the vote.


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