Charles Chaplin, A Groundbreaking Filmmaker and Societal Monstrosity

Oceana Mooney, Editor

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In April of 1889, Charles Chaplin was born, a future pioneer in the art of silent filmmaking. He became to be one of the most influential person to create film ever, and still known today as the shakespeare of film. But, as with any fame, he was faced with accusations, but most seemed to be true.


Born to a Mother, who was an opera performer in London, it is not surprise that Charles Chaplin began to follow in the starlight. Tragically the silent film star lost this influence in his life  at age fourteen, his mother was admitted to a mental asylum. He spent the majority of his teenage life in orphanages alongside his older brother.


Chaplin’s first experience in the limelight was when he was five. Due to his mother’s encouragement, he took on a role at a local theater. Later on, he then joined a clog dancing group because of his mother constantly insisting that he had talent. After his mother was admitted to the asylum, he continued his theatrical work through a local theater company in London. At age sixteen he joined a circus that traveled throughout the US; he wrote and performed comedy sketches.


During the tour, he was discovered by the New York Motion Picture Company. This is where his silent film career began. Switching from different producing company to another, he began writing, producing, and act in his own films. He created films that laid the basis of most slapstick comedy.

This success was accompanied by many scandals in his career. Most of these scandals had to do with having relations with minors while being significantly older. He fathered a child from his step-daughter when she was sixteen. Then at the age of fifty-nine, he married a seventeen year old, this being his third and final marriage. Hollywood seemed to have no issues with this, but they were more infuriated with how he acted on set. He was a perfectionist, and was easily angered.


The biggest scandal, to americans at the time, of all was when he had produced a movie that seemed to promote communism in 1940. The Great Dictator was in the beginnings of WWII, so any promotion of any form of communism instantly rendered the creator a traitor to isolationists in the United States. Charles Chaplin never became a citizen in the US because of this, although he lived there for over twenty years. He was banned after the movie’s creation, and was unable to attend an award show where he was supposed to claim an award.


Although he did contribute to the turning point in movies, he seemed to be an unpleasant person. As a cinema fanatic, this has been a conflicting situation for me, especially with recent scandals such as Woody Allen. Watching films made by these people inherently means that you support that person. Establishing that the support is for the addition to the culture rather than the person themself may be a way out of this situation, but it does not necessarily mean that the money spent on the movies doesn’t go towards support of that person.

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