Hollywood Renegade & Founding Member of The Society of Independent Motion
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
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.
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
"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
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
"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.