Photo Essays
1. Exile’s Return
2. Chaplin’s Parents
3. Hannah Chaplin’s Femmes Fatales
4. Playing Dress-Up  In The Land of Make Believe
5. Teenage Girls and Fear of Aging
6. Chaplin’s Three Teenage Wives
7. Mildred Harris
8. Lita Grey
9. Oona O’Neill
10. Chaplin’s Father
11. A Royal Lion
12. Vesta Tilley as Bertie
13. Ella Shields as Bertie
14. Making A Living
15. The Lion Comique’s Son: Dressed Like A Bum
16. Monsieur Verdoux as a Lion Comique
17. Calvero as a Lion Comique
18. The Lion Comique’s Son in the Limelight
19. Charlie as a Child
20. The Kid’s Lucky Break
21. Syd Chaplin
22. A Family Album of Theatrical Drunks
23. Chaplin’s Family Romance
24. Edna Purviance
25. Purviance’s Influence on Chaplin’s Character
26. Essanay
27. Chaplinitis
28. Chaplin’s Predecessors
29. Eye Contact: Audience-Performer Intimacy
30. Chaplin the Auteur
31. Chaplin’s Two Autobiographies
32. Going It Alone
33. The Circus
34. Autobiographical Starvation Scenes From The Gold Rush
35. Autobiographical Madness Scenes in Modern Times
36. Two British Music Hall Traditions and Topical Comedy
37. The Great Dictator
38. Fatal Attraction: Joan Barry
39. Monsieur Verdoux: Guillotine or Hatchet Job?
40. Limelight
Chaplin: A Life In Film
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 The Circus


Herald Examiner Collection Los Angeles Public Library

After a twenty-year semi-voluntary political exile from the United States, Charlie Chaplin, perhaps the most brilliant comic artist of the 20th century,  applied for  and received   a temporary     visa which  permitted him to reenter the country briefly in order  to receive    an honorary    Academy Award for lifetime professional achievement.  The aging actor    was  so moved   by his reception that he could barely speak when Jack Lemon presented him with  the   honorary Oscar. Physically  frail and aging, 82-year-old   Chaplin had been burdened with the worry that all of his greatest films were becoming  forgotten and that his public  image in this country had been permanently tarnished by a cynically motivated, FBI-orchestrated,  trumped-up White Slavery case covertly  organized   against him in conjunction with   a concerted behind-the-scenes  political    smear campaign by the right-wing press  during  the Hollywood blacklist era of the early 1950s. The humiliating public scandal    and  the ensuing economic     boycott of his films had  persuaded  him that he was no longer welcome   in  the United States after thirty-eight years of permanent residence (without citizenship). In 1952, he had  relocated  his  impressionable young  children  and still-expanding  family to  the privacy and seclusion  of Switzerland.

But when he finally returned   to  the U.S. for  that honorary Oscar in  1972, he  received  what still remains the longest  standing ovation in the history of the Motion Picture Academy.

Times had changed. The dignified septuagenarian was  now  in his dotage while  the 37th President of the United States—a former HUAC member and  one of the    most outspoken domestic anti-communists of the day at the time of Chaplin’s unceremonious departure--was too deeply immersed in   political hot water  of his own  to comment on Chaplin’s triumphant return. Within a few months he would be attempting to explain a break-in that had recently taken place at Democratic Party headquarters at the Watergate.

The  love fest   atmosphere  that night was  all the more poignant because  Chaplin    was returning to a  Hollywood   he had personally  helped to transform   from   a sleepy suburban  village      into the   media capitol  of the   world.   And he was  also being saluted    by a grateful industry because his   silent film masterpieces  had been seminal    in   elevating   their  mass communications medium  from its  lowly  social   origin  as a  cheap  form of  working class entertainment   into the culturally and intellectually prestigious   art form known today as the cinema.  He was one  of two pioneers  (the other was D.W.Griffith) to  establish incontrovertibly   that  movies  were as  valid  an art form as the other lively arts.

Many   of the actors assembled in the   Dorothy Chandler Pavilion that  night also considered   him  the greatest actor in film history. And none of them  would have doubted  the fact that he   had also pioneered   the fundamentals of modern   film acting technique at the  very earliest  stage of  silent film history. Until Chaplin,     over-the-top, melodramatic   acting styles  from the 19th century Victorian  stage (both comic and dramatic)  dominated   film. The scaled-down,  naturalistic film acting  techniques  he innovated    were  better suited  to the big screen where intimate close-up shots  magnified the projected visual image of the  human face to heights of fifteen feet or more.

Chaplin’s  peers  were also saluting  him  for leaving his indelible  stamp  on 20th century cultural history itself  by writing, producing, directing  and acting   in  four silent film, feature-length   masterpieces--three of which still remain on    the AFI’s all-time one hundred greatest films list.

Hollywood was a hick town and Beverly Hills was a sagebrush wilderness when 25-year-old Charlie first arrived in Los Angeles.

Security Pacific Collection, Los Angeles Public Library

Roy Export

Chaplin   had no  previous  film   acting experience when he came to California. By the end of 1915 he  was the  most famous human being in the entire world. But at the time he first arrived   as a greenhorn  at the gates of  Keystone to try his luck at making a buck in those   “galloping tintypes” of 1913, he  already had under his belt close to twenty years stage experience in British  music hall.   As Charlie’s  birth announcement in an English show business trade paper proudly proclaimed: he  was   “cradled in the profession” by his two actor parents.
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