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Sir Charles Spencer "Charlie" Chaplin KBE (1889 – 1977) was the first world-famous movie star, a respected movie writer, director, editor, producer and composer. He remains one of the most recognizable icons of the silver screen today. He began starring in low budget one-reeler comedies at Keystone Studios in 1914. By the end of the year, he had starred in 35 movies, many of which he directed as well, and was known around the world. By 1916, he would work for the more prestigious Mutual Studios and would be the writer, directer, star, editor, and producer of his own comedy films. In 1919, he co-founded United Artists - one of the major film studios that still operates today. He would continue making entertaining and influential comedies, shifting later to dramatic movies.

He is best known for the character of Charlot or The Tramp, a poor, downtrodden man who nevertheless takes on life with vim and alacrity, defeating the bully/policemen/figure of authority and getting the girl before walking into the sunset.

Outside of films, Chaplin was quite politically active, although this never showed itself in his films until The Great Dictator. A scathing satire of Nazi Germany, the film closes off with a narrative-breaking Author Tract delivered directly to the camera, in which Chaplin touches on many of his Real Life personal beliefs (it is incidentally widely considered to be one of the greatest speeches ever delivered). Accused of being a Communist sympathizer by the United States government after the end of World War II, he fled the country as a refugee in 1952 and lived the remainder of his life in Europe. As a result of his political beliefs, his last film wasn't allowed to be released until 1972, twenty years after it was actually filmed.

Some films he produced include:

Being arguably the first major film comedian, he is responsible for establishing countless comedy tropes.

Tropes invoked by his films and the man himself:

  • A Nazi by Any Other Name: The Great Dictator made a thinly veiled attack on Nazis in 1940 when not only were the Nazis still in power, but America was officially at peace with them.
  • At Arm's Length
  • Badass Moustache: So much so that the only people who get a pass for having a toothbrush moustache these days are people cosplaying as Chaplin, thanks to a certain German dictator giving it Unfortunate Implications.
  • Banister Slide
  • Bittersweet Ending: Very few clear-cut happy endings in Chaplin's work.
  • Brick Joke
  • Bucket Booby Trap
  • Butt Monkey
  • The Chew Toy: The Tramp's role in every single movie.
  • Couldn't Find a Lighter: In Shoulder Arms, Chaplin in the trenches of WWI holds the cigarette over the trench gets a light from a helpful enemy sniper.
  • The Danza: His characters usually have No Name Given, so all the audience can call him is Charlie. Or The Tramp. Or Charlot.
  • Dashingly Dapper Derby
  • Directed by Cast Member Chaplin started out as a player with Mack Sennett's studio before becoming mega-popular and striking out on his own.
  • Dirty Communist: Was accused of being one, and eventually had to leave the country and live in Europe.
    • Somewhat ironic, since his character in Modern Times was also accused of being one.
  • Dogged Nice Guy
  • Doing It for the Art: Chaplin was notorious as being a maddeningly perfectionist filmmaker. For instance, he made his leading lady, Edna Purviance do so many takes eating beans that she was physically ill. To his credit, Chaplin was even rougher on himself; he did his famous boot eating scene in The Gold Rush so many times that he had to go to the hospital afterward.
  • Dumb Muscle: Allowing wily Charlie to defeat him.
  • Ephebophile/May-December Romance: a lifelong attraction to teenage girls; married an 18-year-old when he was 54. They were still married when he died at the age of 88, by which time she was 52.
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep"
  • Evil Elevator: possibly the first filmmaker to use malfunctioning mechanics such as elevators as gags.
  • Good Hair, Evil Hair: The toothbrush mustache was initially associated with him and Oliver Hardy. Then came Hitler...
  • Hall of Mirrors: in The Circus. Maybe the earliest use of this trope?
  • The Heavy, 11 of the 12 Mutual films feature Eric Campbell as an intimidatingly large Big Bad and a comic foil to the tramp's antics
  • Hot Pursuit: The Tramp often crossing paths with the police, resulting in hilarious chase scenes. Police chase scenes of note include ones from The Kid, The Circus, and A Dog's Life.
  • Huge Guy Tiny Guy: Chaplin, who was 5"5" and very thin, would often cast towering strongly built men to create a visual gag.
  • Instant Seduction: In his autobiography, he mentions that a girl staying next to him flirted with him by knocking on the wall a few times. He went to meet her and within three lines, they "engaged nocturnally." Awesome.
  • Kick the Dog: Often the 'dog' is Charlie himself, other times a dog is literally kicked, such as in the short Sunnyside.
  • Knight Fever: Was first proposed for knighthood in 1931, and then in 1956, when it was vetoed because of his marriages to much-younger women, as well as his leftist political views. He was finally created a Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II in 1975, two years before he died.
  • Literal Ass-Kicking: lots of it. The Tramp in particular seems unable to let a good rump go by unkicked.
  • Massive Numbered Siblings: Eleven kids, yo.
  • Missing Episode: Her Friend The Bandit (1914). Notable because while many Silent Films are lost, this Keystone short is the only known Chaplin film for which no copy survives.
  • Meat-O-Vision: In The Gold Rush. An anecdote says that the extra performing in the chicken suit couldn't get The Tramp's distinctive walk just right, and eventually Chaplin had to do it himself.
  • Nice Hat: Just try imagining the tramp without His trademark Bowler hat
  • No Ending: If it wasn't a Bittersweet Ending it was probably this.
  • No Name Given: For almost every character in his movies.
  • Perpetual Poverty: The Tramp, although he occasionally comes into money during the course of a movie. See The Gold Rush.
  • Pint-Sized Powerhouse
  • Playing Against Type: As The Bluebeard Serial Killer in Monsieur Verdoux.
    • Directing Against Type with A Woman Of Paris, in which Charlie took a break from doing slapstick comedies in which he also starred, and instead directed an entirely serious romantic drama in which he had only a brief cameo. The idea was to establish his former comic leading lady Edna Purviance as a dramatic actress. It failed, and Purviance retired from film shortly thereafter.
  • The Pratfall: featured in many of his works.
  • Prima Donna Director: See this anecdote, from Marlon Brando of all people.
  • Production Posse:
    • Eric Campbell played the bad guy in 11 of Chaplin's 12 short films with Mutual and probably would have done more with Chaplin if he hadn't been killed in a car accident in 1917.
    • Edna Purviance made her film debut in in 1915 with A Night Out, Chaplin's second movie after leaving Mack Sennett, and played the Love Interest and/or female lead in almost every picture Chaplin made for the next eight years.
    • Henry Bergman joined Chaplin's company in 1916 and worked with Charlie both onscreen and in production for the next 24 years.
    • Roland Totherot was Charlie's cinematographer for 32 years, 1915-1947 (and got a "photographic consultant" credit for Limelight in 1952).
  • Public Domain Character: The Tramp.
  • Real Life Relative: Chaplin ended up marrying a startling number of the women he co-starred with, divorcing them soon after.
    • Chaplin's son, Michael Chaplin, plays the precocious Rupert Macabee in A King In New York.
    • Chaplin's son, Sydney Chaplin, has an important role in Limelight.
    • Two of Chaplin's best known films - The Great Dictator and Modern Times - star Paulette Goddard, who was either living with him or married to him at the time.
  • Really Gets Around: A bit of a manwhore, let's face it.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Red to Buster Keaton. At least when it came to their characters.
  • Riding Into the Sunset: An ending used in many of his films as the tramp, when at the end he would be seen walking down a street into the sunset, alone or along with the female lead.
  • Romance on the Set: Practically every film he made from 1915 to 1940, with the exception of City Lights.
  • Silence Is Golden: Several silent film greats faded into obscurity with the arrival of talkies, but not Chaplin; he continued to make silent films (City Lights, Modern Times which has very little dialogue) and had success with them. It would take until 1940's The Great Dictator before The Tramp would speak intelligibly.
  • The Shelf of Movie Languishment: Limelight sat on the shelf for two decades due to accusations of his being a communist sympathizer. It was eventually released in 1972.
  • Speaking Simlish: Chaplin's Tramp character never spoke a word until 1936's Modern Times, where he gets a job as a singer. But he's forgotten the words, so he sings complete gibberish instead.
  • Take That: After repeatedly being "accused" of being Jewish, he finally retorted, "I'm afraid I don't have that honor."
  • The Tramp: His basic character archetype.
  • Walking the Earth: The Tramp gets around.
  • Your Costume Needs Work: At the height of his fame, Chaplin entered a Tramp lookalike contest in San Francisco, and lost.
    • Literally true, since Chaplin entered the contest on a whim, sans costume or mustache. The judges knew perfectly well who he was.

Charlie Chaplin Shout Outs in fiction:

  • Batman the Brave And The Bold: In the episode "Emperor Joker!", one of the Joker's mooks is a huge, muscular version of Chaplin.
  • Several Looney Tunes either have caricatures of Chaplin or a character trying to imitate Chaplin (such as Daffy Duck in Hollywood Daffy).
  • Chaplin makes an animated cameo in the silent short Felix in Hollywood.
  • Hanna and Barbera have said that Chaplin was a big influence on the slapstick and mostly wordless comedy in Tom and Jerry. Jerry sometimes displays the same mannerisms as Chaplin.'
  • In the film Benny and Joon, Johnny Depp's character, a silent film enthusiast and Cloudcuckoolander, reenacts the 'bread roll dance' Chaplin does with his forks in The Gold Rush, among a few more of Chaplin's routines and mannerisms.
  • Zombieland briefly features a zombie Chaplin cosplayer once the main characters reach Hollywood.
  • He makes a brief cameo in The Powerpuff Girls episode "Silent Treatment", where the girls get trapped in a silent movie. His appearance is perhaps modeled after his cameo in Felix in Hollywood.