British comic actor and filmmaker Sir Charles Spencer “Charlie” Chaplin was born. He rose to fame in the silent era. Chaplin became a worldwide icon through his screen persona “the Tramp” and is considered one of the most important figures of the film industry.
Raised in London, Chaplin’s childhood was defined by poverty and hardship. Chaplin began performing from a young age, touring music halls and later working as a stage actor and comedian. Chaplin was scouted by the film industry, and made his first appearances in 1914 with Keystone Studios. He soon developed the Tramp persona and formed a large fan base.
Chaplin directed his films from an early stage, and continued to hone his craft as he moved to the Essanay, Mutual, and First National corporations. In 1919, Chaplin co-founded the distribution company United Artists, giving him complete control over his films.
His first feature-length picture was The Kid (1921), followed by A Woman of Paris (1923), The Gold Rush (1925), and The Circus (1928). He refused to move to sound films in the 1930s, instead producing City Lights (1931) and Modern Times (1936) without dialogue.
Chaplin became increasingly political and his next film, The Great Dictator (1940), satirized Adolf Hitler. The 1940s was a decade marked with controversy for Chaplin, and his popularity declined rapidly. An FBI investigation was opened on Chaplin, and he was eventually forced to leave the United States and settle in Switzerland.
He abandoned the Tramp for his later films, which include Monsieur Verdoux (1947), Limelight (1952), A King in New York (1957), and A Countess From Hong Kong (1967).
Chaplin wrote, directed, produced, edited, scored, and starred in most of his films. Many contain social and political themes, as well as autobiographical elements.