Charlie Chaplin

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Charlie Chaplin (1889 - 1977) was the most famous actor in early Hollywood cinema. His principal character was "The Tramp"--a lower class character with a tight coat, oversized pants and shoes, a derby hat, a wooden cane, and his signature square mustache.

Chaplin was one of the most creative personalities in the silent film era. He directed, acted, wrote his stories, and was even known to write his movie scores.

His salary history suggests how rapidly he became world famous. 1914: Keystone, worked for $150 a week

1914-15: Essanay, $1250 a week, plus $10,000 signing bonus

1916-17: Mutual, $10,000 a week, plus $150,000 signing bonus

1917: First National, a million dollar deal -- the first actor ever with such a high price tag.

1919: Founded United Artists with Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks and David Griffith

Although "talkies" (movies with sound) became the dominant mode of moviemaking soon after they were introduced in 1927, Chaplin resisted making a talkie all through the 1930's.

His first sound picture, "The Great Dictator" (1940)was a brave act of defiance against Adolf Hitler and facists everywhere. Chaplin played a fascist dictator, clearly modeled on Hitler; Chaplin also played a Jewish barber cruelly persecuted by the fascists.

Although Chaplin had his major successes in the United States he was born in Britain and retained his British nationality. During the era of McCarthyism, Chaplin was accused of "Un-American activities", and as a result had his residency rights removed.

In 1952, he left the United States and remained a political exile until 1972, when he returned briefly for an award ceremony.

Charlie Chaplin died in 1977.