Hollywood Renegades Archive

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Charles Chaplin

Hollywood Renegade & Founding Member of The Society of Independent Motion Picture Producers


As writer, director and principle actor, Charlie Chaplin demonstrated an unparalleled degree of cinematic control that allowed him to infuse his movies with inventive dramatic structure and inimitable comedic signature. Chaplin is without equal among other writer-director-actors in terms of longevity and success.

As one of the movies' most richly talented filmmakers and creator of one of film's most indelible images, Chaplin is perhaps the most biographied figure in Hollywood history. Praise for his comic genius, however, obscures his cunning as film produceróthe role which enabled him to sustain his versatile talents and cement the cultural endurance of his on-screen Tramp persona. Chaplin's influence as comedic force and cultural icon have overshadowed one of his most triumphant roles as independent filmmaker.

Chalie Chaplin as " the Tramp" in 1922.

As counterpoint to the whimsy of the Little Tramp, Chaplin served as his own financer and studio owner in charge of not only his filmmaking, but marketing and distribution. The unlikely combination of business skill and creative vision, in many ways, made Chaplin the forbearer of the creative Hollywood producer. Chaplin identifies both sides of his personality as a product of his childhood.

"When I was a little boy, the last thing I dreamed of was being a comedian," he said of his predilection for finances, "The only thing I really dreamed about was being rich. We were so poor that wealth seemed to me the summit."

Of his acting talent, he concluded later in his life, "I have never studied acting, but as a boy I was fortunate in living in an era of great actors, and I acquired an extension of their knowledge and experience." Chaplin's acting ability, far more expansive than the slapstick that made him a household name, was venerated by the illustrious John Barrymore in a well-known, albeit undocumented, Hollywood anecdote. When a movie director praised Barrymore as the world's greatest actor, Barrymore who died shortly thereafter in 1942 deflected the honor: "There are only two great actorsóCharles Chaplin and Orson Welles."

 

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SOURCES:

"When I was a little boy": McCabe, Charlie Chaplin, p. 15.
"I have never studied acting": Chaplin, My Autobiography, p. 259.
"There are only two great actors--Charles Chaplin and Orson Welles." The statement is attributed to John Barrymore (who himself was frequently recognized as his generation's greatest film actor). Welles and Bogdanovich, This Is Orson Welles, p. 35.

See Bibliography.

 

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