When we say “Charlie Chaplin,” what do you think of? Baggy pants, a cane, a mustache, and a bowler hat? You’re not the only one!
The English comic actor Charles Spencer Chaplin rose to fame during the era of the silent movie. Besides being an actor and an inimitable comedian, Chaplin was a film director, composer, and musician; a man of many, many talents. But few people, with the exception of the most dedicated fans, have seen Chaplin out of his famous get-up.
Chaplin was born on April 16, 1889, and lived until the 1970s when he passed away at the ripe old age of 88. His acting career, believe it or not, started in Victorian London at the tail end of the 19th century. He was born into hardship and was sent to a workhouse twice, to earn money for the family, before the age of 9.
“I was hardly aware of a crisis because we lived in a continual crisis,” Chaplin revealed in his autobiography of 1964. “Being a boy,” he continued, “I dismissed our troubles with gracious forgetfulness.”
With all the forgetting power of boyhood, the young Chaplin’s desire to perform outweighed adversity. He toured London’s music halls, found work as a stage actor, and, proving his prowess, was signed to the Fred Karno company at the tender age of 19. The company took him to America.
Collectively, Chaplin’s glittering career spanned an extraordinary 75 years.
"I am what I am: an individual, unique and different, with a lineal history of ancestral promptings and urgings; a history of dreams, desires, and of special experiences, all of which I am the sum total.” – Charlie Chaplin #qotdhttps://www.charliechaplin.com/en/quotes
Posted by Charlie Chaplin (Official) on Tuesday, November 20, 2018
So, given his extensive resume, why is it that we largely remember Chaplin as a funny-looking man with a cane and a comedy mustache? Well, because Chaplin cleverly devised a comic persona early on in his career, and the persona ended up becoming his trademark.
Chaplin’s most renowned and most repeated character performance was known as “The Tramp.” The actor, wishing to maximize visual humor on the screen, dressed himself in a pair of baggy pants, oversized shoes, a frock coat, and a bowler hat. He wore a stick-on mustache and walked with a cane, which could conveniently also be used as a stage prop.
“The Tramp” was born, and boy, did audiences love it!
People grew to recognize Chaplin via his most beloved character to the extent, however, that few people ever saw the man behind the mask. But did you know that behind the garb there stood a man of truly stunning, handsome good looks? With luscious hair, beautifully smooth skin, piercing eyes, and a somewhat doleful expression, Chaplin was a heartbreaker!
Chaplin, who went by the professional name “Charlie Chaplin” throughout the duration of his career, always mixed slapstick with pathos in his best roles. Perhaps this is why the face behind the characters, the face that his loved ones knew so well, managed to look a little cheeky and yet wistfully handsome at the very same time.
The talented actor gifted levity to the American film industry in the very toughest of times; Chaplin saw audiences through the First World War and The Great Depression by bringing joy and laughter to the masses. “We must laugh in the face of our helplessness against the forces of nature,” Chaplin once famously addressed, “or go insane.”
Chaplin certainly left his mark, and now we know: the man behind “The Tramp” wasn’t a derelict after all, but a heartbreakingly handsome actor who will be forever missed.