Charlie Chaplin, Charlie, Sherlock Holmes discussed on BBC World Service


At a small bowler hat. That Trump character made millions of people love and turn Charlie Chaplin into a household name. And in his day the highest paid entertainer in the world. But what lay behind Charlie Chaplin's extraordinary success who is the man behind the cinema icon. I'm Bridget KENDALL. And in this forum from the BBC World Service. We're going to explore the world of Charlie Chaplin the films that made him famous. The people who helped him become a star and the hidden debts and contradictions of the slapstick humor. I'm joined by three chaplain. Experts pulled on the editor of the Charlie Chaplin archives and many other books on historic films. Dona corn Haber associate professor at the university of Texas at Austin, and author of Charlie Chaplin director and film historian, Ellen Cheshire, contributing author of the Charlie Chaplin archives. Welcome to all three of you. And let's start with where Charlie Chaplin came from as far as we know he was born in London in eighteen eighty nine to parents were both music hall entertainers, and he recalls in his memoirs that he I found himself onstage at an early age to cover his ailing mother at the age of five I made my first appearance on stage. Mother usually brought me to the theater at night in preference to leaving the alone in rented rooms, she was playing the canteen at Aldershot, a grubby mean theater catering mostly to soldiers, they were rowdy lot in wanted little excuse to deride and ridicule. I remember standing in the wings when mother's voice cracked once. More the audience began to laugh and to make catcalls until mother was obliged to walk off the stage. When she came into the wings. She was very upset and argued with the stage manager who having seen me performed before mother's friends said something about letting me go on in her place and in the turmoil. I remember him leading me by the hand. And after a few explanatory was the audience leaving me on stage alone. And before a glare footlights and faces in smoke. I started to sing accompanied by the orchestra which fiddled about until it found my key. It was a well known song called Jack Jones. I was quite at home. I talked to the audience danced and did several imitations. And when my mother came onto the stage to carry me off, a presence, evoked, tremendous applause. That's night was my first appearance and mother's last. That's sort of early. Start wasn't so unusual for the children of actors and performers in the late nineteenth century. Buster Keaton chaplains, fellow comedian began performing with his parents in the three kitchens, the age of just three but chaplains early family life is a bit patchy to say, the least his father was not around and the key figures in his childhood where his mother Hannah and his elder half brother, Sydney. So an tell us about his mother Hannah. Yes. So his mother Harriet was a singer dancer who performed under the stage name of lily Harley, but as you heard in that extract, she was often ill and increasingly so a throughout Charlie's childhood. She was in and out of the infirmaries. And when she wasn't working Kelly money was very tight. It was a complete deprivation for the two boys and hustle. They found themselves in the work houses. And then at some point she was admitted to cane hill mental asylum, which was very tragic for the young Charlie who wants his brother had gone to see in the navy was left alone with his mother tried to combine school and looking after. So this young boy had to fend for himself in order to survive, and as a teenager, he signed up with a theatrical agent and find himself working alongside to actors noted for that portrayal of Sherlock, Holmes. Tell us who they were and how how they helped chaplain Allen he was about fourteen when he signed up with the agency and within only a few months, he managed to scare part as you say in Charlotte combs, and he was caused as Billy the page boy for forty week tests. This is a magnificent break for him. He done some stage work earlier with the eight Lancashire lads o'clock dancing troupe. But this is his fast acting roles, and he was going to earn the grand some of. Of two pounds ten shillings a week. So, you know, huge tan for chaplain family's finances. So he was caused by Mr A h Saint spree who was taking on the role of Sherlock Holmes in the tower and then in London with William Gillette about the next couple of years pretty steady earner for them. And then his first big break comes when he's seventeen job with an entertainment troupe called Fred Connors speechless comedians, which he secured through his older brother, Sydney and pull this is when his career as an entertainer really took off. Yes. Well, Sydney, become one of the leading comedians had CONNER was even writing sketches and he arranged for chaplain to audition for Fred Connor. And from the beginning, Charlie was brilliant. He was living and adding things to pulse of the sketches that previously had no laughs. So he was a great asset for college and very soon became a lead comedian of his own and had his own troupe. And this troop. Went off to American toward America. Criss cross across North America in Canada, and he became famous as this liberated. Oh, man that first s tour with the Fred Connor troop was followed by a second US two in one thousand nine hundred twelve thirteen and as you say Charlie was beginning to impress people. Because the story goes that a telegram arrived addressed to the tour manager with the following question. Is there a man named Chapman in your company or something like that stop if so will he communicate with castle and Bauman twenty four long acre building Broadway. Stop apparently at first Charlie Chaplin thought lawyers must be trying to get in touch with him because a relative had died. But in fact, the telegram was on behalf of the leading US film. Production company called keystone who wanted to offer him a contract donor. What did they offer Charlie? And why one of the major players at keystone was about to leave to start his own motion picture company and ahead of keystone and impresario by the name of Mack Sennett. I was looking for a replacement and he had seen chaplain stage act and thought he would make a good addition to his company Senate as styled himself as America's king of comedy. He was a man of many abilities as actor writer director producer. But probably his greatest skill was his eye for comic talent, many of the most popular cummick actors of the silent era were hired to work in films by Senate chaplain was undoubtedly has his greatest discovery for his part chaplain was actually rather disappointed that the telegram was not about an inheritance from some distant relative to be an actor with the CARNOT company with one of the most prestigious jobs, first stage comedian in that era and chaplain didn't have all that much respect for the comic films than being made in the states. He had seen some keystone films, and he considered them beneath his talents. But the money was too good to pass up. He's done offer chaplain one hundred and fifty. Dollars a week. It's about four thousand dollars per week in today's figures, this is more than twice what he was making with CARNOT chaplain thought he would work in motion pictures for a year or two and then build up an even bigger fan base that would allow him to return to his work on stage at an even higher salary. He was a stage performer at hard at this point. And he never intended to stay in motion pictures, but he took the offer. Well, this was as we now inert suspected, very important moment. The moment in one thousand fourteen when Charlie Chaplin moved from the world of stage and into the world of the move. Is it turned out it wasn't that easy to make the adjustment. He wasn't an immediate success as his boss at the keystone studio, Maxine Senate later recalled..

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