Charles Chaplin Biographical Chronology
The following chronological biography, based on that of Wes D. Gehring, draws upon time lines included in these sources: Marcel Martin's Charlie Chaplin (1966), Asplund's Chaplin's Films (1973), Sobel and Francis's Chaplin: Genesis of a Clown (1977), and Lyons's Charles Chaplin: A Guide to References and Resources (1979).
April 16, 1889: Born East Lane, Walworth (London), to music hall performers Charles and Hannah Chaplin.
January 1894: First music hall performance, as unplanned substitute for his mother. By this time Charles Sr. had permanently left home.
June 1896: Young Charles and brother Sydney, with their mother, enter Lambeth Workhouse (for the poor). Within a few weeks the boys will be sent to Hanwell School for Orphans and Destitute Children.
1898: Hannah has a mental breakdown. Charles and Sydney live for a time with Charles Sr. and his mistress. Young Charles first appears with the Lancashire Lads.
December 26, 1900: Young Charles is controversially comic as a cat in a production of Cinderella at the London Hippodrome.
May 13, 1901: Charles Sr. dies.
1901: Hannah enters Cane Hill Asylum; she never will permanently recover her sanity.
1903: Chaplin appears for the first time as Billy in Sherlock Holmes. He will play the part in various productions into 1906.
1906: Chaplin stars in the variety show Casey's Court Circus.
1907: Chaplin begins performing for the Karno Troupe, joining his brother Sydney, who is largely responsible for Charles's placement.
September 1910: Chaplin leaves with a Karno Troupe for a tour of the United States and Canada.
October 3, 1910: He opens in the Karno production The Wow Wows at the Colonial Theatre in New York City.
Spring 1912: Chaplin returns to England with the Karno Troupe.
October 1912: Chaplin leaves with the Karno Troupe for a second tour of the
U.S. and Canada.
May 1913: He accepts an offer from the New York office of Kessel and Bauman, the parent organization for Mack Sennett's Keystone Comedy Company. But his Karno commitment will hold him until November
December 1913: Chaplin arrives at the Keystone Studio in California.
February 2, 1914: His first film, Making a Living, appears. The amazing total of thirty-five films will be made in this first year.
February 7, 1914: His second film, Kid's Auto Race, opens. It marks the first appearance of a semblance of the tramp character.
November 14, 1914: He stars in Tillie's Punctured Romance, generally considered to be the first feature-length comedy.
November 1914: He signs a contract with Essanay Films, where he will make fourteen films in the next year. Essanay will later construct a fifteenth film Triple Trouble (1918), from other Chaplin works.
April 1915: The Tramp, the first Charlie film with real pathos, appears.
February 27, 1916: Chaplin signs contract with Mutual Films, where he will make twelve celebrated short subjects in 1916 and part of 1917.
1916: After Chaplin leaves Essanay, it puts together The Essanay-Chaplin Revue, one of the first Chaplin film anthologies. Innumerable Chaplin cavalcades have since appeared.
January 22, 1917: Easy Street, generally considered his best Mutual film, appears.
June 7, 1917: Chaplin signs contract with First National, for which he will do eight films.
April 1918: A Dog's Life.
October 1918: Shoulder Arms is a critical and commercial success, though its World War I theme is controversial.
October 23, 1918: Chaplin marries Mildred Harris.
1919: With Douglas Fairbanks, D. W. Griffith, and Mary Pickford founds United Artists. But Chaplin will not be free of his First National contract until 1923.
June 1919: Sunnyside.
December 1919: A Day's Pleasure.
November 1920: Divorced by Mildred Harris.
February 1921: The Kid is the first feature he directs.
1921: Chaplin provides his mother with a California home.
September-October 1921: Triumphantly returns to Europe.
September 1921: The Idle Class.
1922: Chaplin's account of his 1921 trip appears as a book, My Trip Abroad.
April 1922: Pay Day.
February 1923: The Pilgrim.
October 1, 1923: Chaplin's first United Artists production -- A Woman of Paris -- opens. Chaplin writes and directs but does not star in this critically
acclaimed excursion into drama.
March 1924: Chaplin marries Lita Grey.
August 16, 1925: The Gold Rush quickly becomes his most acclaimed film.
August 22, 1927: Divorced by Lita Grey. Seemingly every stage of the proceedings has been played out in the newspapers since Grey's original filing for divorce in January.
January 1928: The Circus is a great, though often neglected, Chaplin feature.
August 28, 1928: Hannah Chaplin dies.
May 16, 1929: At the first Academy Award ceremony, Chaplin is honored with a special Oscar "for versatility and genius in writing, acting, directing and producing The Circus."
February 1931: City Lights finds Chaplin defying the sound era with this critical and commercial success. There is a second triumphant return to England, which eventually takes him around the world.
June 1932: Chaplin returns to the United States.
1935: Chaplin secretly marries Paulette Goddard, though mystery still surrounds the event.
February 5, 1936: Modern Times is released: Chaplin successfully defies sound once again.
March-April 1936: Chaplin and Goddard visit the Far East.
March 16, 1936: The Screenwriters and Actors Guild awards Chaplin outstanding actor honors.
October 15, 1940: The Great Dictator sees Chaplin enter the sound era with a controversial parody of Hitler. It grosses more than any previous film by the comedian.
December 30, 1940: The New York Film Critics vote Chaplin the best actor of the year award. Chaplin declines the honor.
April 18, 1942: The Gold Rush is reissued with soundtrack and some very short deletions. Chaplin's spoken narration replaces titles.
May 1942: Chaplin, as a last-minute substitute for former ambassador to the Soviet Union Joseph E. Davies, gives a Second Front speech at an American Committee for Russian War Relief rally in San Francisco.
Summer 1942: Divorced by Paulette Goddard in Mexico.
July 22, 1942: Gives Second Front speech, via telephone, to a Madison Square Garden rally sponsored by the CIO.
December 1942: The Joan Barry scandals begin, with damaging new twists periodically occurring through the spring of 1945.
June 16, 1943: Chaplin Marries Oona O'Neill.
April 11, 1947: The controversial Monsieur Verdoux opens.
April 12, 1947: Chaplin is the victim of a witch-hunting press conference, save for support of James Agee.
1950: Successful revival of City Lights surprises Chaplin's critics. Life magazine calls the 1931 production the best picture of 1950.
September 1952: Chaplin and family leave New York by ship, bound for Europe. Chaplin will show his young family the English haunts of his youth. While at sea, Chaplin, still a British subject, has his U.S. reentry permit cancelled. If the comedian decides to return, he will have to face more witch-hunting questions on politics and morality before any possible reentry.
October 23, 1952: Limelight will be Chaplin's last great film. Several conservative groups all but negate its American movie theater engagements.
1952: Limelight makes the New York Times annual "Ten Best" list.
January 1953: Chaplin purchases an estate, the Manoir de Ban, in the village of Corsair in Switzerland. This will be his last home.
March 1953: The Foreign Language Press Film Critics poll selects Limelight as its best film.
September 12, 1957: A King in New York provides Chaplin's last starring role.
September 1959: A Chaplin Revue is compiled from A Dog's Life, Shoulder Arms, and The Pilgrim, with an added soundtrack.
September 1964: My Autobiography is published.
April 16, 1965: Brother Sydney Chaplin dies.
1965: Chaplin's oldest child by Oona, Geraldine, becomes a film star in her own right with the release of Doctor Zhivago.
November 1966: A Countess from Hong Kong is Chaplin's final film.
April 10, 1972: Chaplin is awarded a special honorary Oscar "for the incalculable effect he has had in making motion pictures the art form of this century."
September 3, 1972: The Venice Film Festival awards Chaplin its Golden Lion statuette.
March 27, 1973: Chaplin wins an Oscar (with Raymond Rasch and Larry Russell) for Best Original Dramatic Score for 1972, from Limelight. The 1952 film was eligible for belated consideration because a Los Angeles theater had never previously shown the film -- an Academy rule.
1974: My Life in Pictures, Chaplin's final book, comes out.
March 4, 1975: Chaplin is knighted by Elizabeth 11, Queen of England.
1976: Chaplin composes music for the soundtrack of his 1923 production A Woman of Paris.
December 25, 1977: Chaplin dies at his estate in Switzerland.
April 16, 1981: On what would have been Chaplin's ninety-second birthday, a larger-than-life statue of the comedian as Charlie is unveiled in London's Leicester Square, the heartland of the capital's cinemas. The statue stands just a few yards from one of William Shakespeare.
Text retyped by David A. Gerstein