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

Jeffrey Vance Collection

The original screen character Chaplin hastily improvised for this first Keystone film derived his immediate inspiration from a specific theatrical genre that Charlie knew like the back of his hand. Bearing a striking resemblance to Ella Shields’ famous stage character (Burlington Bertie), Chaplin’s original film persona also was shirtless, penniless, wore a monocle, sported a cane, pleaded an empty belly and projected the false façade of a man of the world to the world at large. (See Chaplin A Life, Chapter XIV for a frame-by-frame analysis of this sequence in Making A Living.)

Viewed from the historical perspective of the working class comedy traditions of British music hall, both of these gents were tongue-in-cheek send-ups of a down-and-out lion comique stage character.

The world-famous tramp character which Chaplin then proceeded to invent in his very next Keystone film, Kid Auto Races, would evolve gradually (during the next few years) into that same type of homeless and penniless, has-been or would-be comic dandy that Ella Shields had portrayed.

In the sense of their sharing a common theatrical lineage, Bertie and Charlie were “first cousins.” Like fastidious cousin Bertie, Charlie also would carefully hand-select his panetellas on “the Strand”--by scooping up other peoples’ cast-off cigar butts with panache--in films like The Kid and City Lights.

For a very short clip of Chaplin’s first screen appearance strolling, strutting and preening as the little tramp
© 2008 All Essay Rights Reserved.

All images from Chaplin films made from 1918 onwards, Copyright © Roy
Export Company Establishment._Charles Chaplin and the Little Tramp are trademarks and/or
service marks of Bubbles Inc. S.A. and/or Roy Export Company
Establishment, used with permission.

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