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Charlie Chaplin

One hundred years ago, at the pinnacle of his career in the guise of his best-known character ‘the Little Tramp’, Charlie Chaplin was the most famous person in the world.
Born in 1889, Chaplin was raised in poverty in London. The child of actors —one alcoholic, the other mentally unstable— he first discovered his talent as a performer at age five. Stepping in for his ill mother on the vaudeville stage, he sang a popular song amidst a shower of coins from an appreciative audience. In 1908, Chaplin was picked up by Fred Karno Repertoire Company to perform as a drunk in a sketch. Karno had a big influence on Chaplin as it was he who placed emphasis on pathos in clowning.
Chaplin was invited to tour with the company to the US in 1910.
Chaplin did not like Keystone’s pictures, but he realised their publicity value. His first film with them, Making a Living, was a flop. He played his character too aggressively and argued with the director Henry Lehman, resulting in most of his scenes being cut. In 1913, Chaplin was asked by a desperate Sennett to bring comedy to a film entitled Mabel’s Strange Predicament.
Chaplin threw on what he called “a contradiction” of clothing: enormous shoes and trousers, a small Derby hat, and, to age him, a tiny moustache. He returned to the set to perform, and the crew laughed so much that Chaplin knew he had hit on something. In his subsequent film, Kid Auto Races at Venice (1914), his immortal screen alter ego, the Little Tramp, really took off.