Charlie Chaplin (1889-1977)


Leicester Place WC2, Sculptor John Doubleday, Bronze, 1981

On 4th March 1975 Charlie Chaplin received his long overdue knighthood.  The great actor, director and writer is commemorated with a monument just outside The Prince Charles Cinema.  Here’s our mini-biography taken from London’s Monuments:

Charlie Chaplin was born to theatrical parents, he made his entrance in 1889 in Walworth, London and appeared in music hall as a child.  His family life was unstable and they were forced into the workhouse when their father abandoned them.  Chaplin was always a natural comic and as a teenager found acting work which eventually took him to America.  It was while touring the States in 1913 that Chaplin was spotted by the movie producer Mack Sennett and began his career in comic silent movies.  Chaplin was intelligent and ambitious and within a year he had begun writing and directing his own films – slowing the pace and developing characters.  During this period he made The Tramp (1915), Easy Street (1917) and A Dog’s Life (1918) and became the first movie star to sign a million-dollar contract in 1918.  Chaplin’s success was only matched by his ambition and within a year he had established a film studio with other film stars of the day – United Artists.  Directing and producing his own films, Chaplin was one of the few actors to make a successful transition to talking pictures.  Despite having very little formal education he formed friendships with some of the leading intellectuals of his day including H. G. Wells, Harold Laski and Albert Einstein.  Chaplin was a socialist with strong sympathies for Soviet Russia and made some of the most overtly political films of the period – Modern Times (1936) and the Great Dictator (1938).  During the war he devoted his energies to Soviet war relief and the campaign for the opening of a second front in Europe.  With the rise of anti-communism and the start of the Cold War, Chaplin fell under suspicion by J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI and in 1952 Chaplin’s right to enter the United States was revoked and he became an exile in Europe.  He made several films in Europe – none of which were distributed in the US – and was only allowed back into the country in 1972 to receive an award.  Chaplin died in Switzerland on Christmas Day 1977 having become one of the most successful and controversial figures of the 20th century.  This monument has avoided any political controversy, representing Chaplin in his early days as a loveable tramp with the inscription ‘The comic genius who gave pleasure to so many’.


This is an extract from the latest edition of London’s Monuments, which features all of London’s major public monuments. Available from our website at £2.00 off the RRP (recommended retail price)

This is an extract from the latest edition of London's Monuments, which features all of London's major public monuments. Available from our website at £2.00 of the RRP (recommended retail price)

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