Ephemerides I A day like today in 1961, the scientist who won a Nobel Prize based on a dream dies

AJN Agency.- December 25 marks the death of the artist Charles Chaplin, who was born on April 16, 1889 in London’s East Lane, Walworth street. His parents were singers and variety actors of Jewish origin who, at the time, achieved reasonable success.

Their father, Charles, had left home to pursue his alcoholic addiction, and their mother, Hannah, was left to support her sons, Sydney and Charles, on her own. She was at the height of her artistic career under the pseudonym Lily Harvey, but her voice was beginning to fail her. In 1894, during a performance at Aldershot, her chirping broke off in the middle of a song. The impresario sent five-year-old Charles on stage, who imitated Lily’s voice, including the final swoon, to the great amusement of the audience. That was her artistic debut.

Failure and lack of money upset Hanna Hill’s mental health, which began to show signs of astray. She and the children went to live at the Lambeth Street Nursing Home. In 1896, Hannah’s condition forced her to be confined in a phrenopathic sanatorium. The following year, she Charlie joined the Eight Lancashire Lads, a group of amateur youth actors who toured the villages. Later she was part of other traveling companies, already professional although very modest. In 1898 her father died, while Charlie Chaplin was already an expert child actor. In 1901, aged twelve, he played the leading role in Jim, the Romance of a Cockney, and four years later he toured with The Painful Predicament of Sherlock Holmes. 1906 was lucky for the young comedian. He began with a contract at Casey Court Circus as one of the first attractions, and ended with another contract for Fred Karno’s celebrated pantomime company, which also featured Stan Laurel.

At nineteen Charlie lived the first of his numerous and intense romances, falling madly in love with the young actress Hetty Kelly. With Fred Karno, the future Charlot had perfected and diversified his remarkable mime resources, and the director included him in the troupe that toured Paris in 1909 and the following year another six-month tour of the United States. It was the time when Mack Sennett achieved great success with his short films of bathers and policemen, based on bullfights, exaggerated gesticulations, sticks and fights with cream pie. Sennett saw the cinematographic possibilities of Chaplin’s more refined and complex mimicry, and when Chaplin made his second tour in 1912 he persuaded him to join his production company, Keystone.

Charlie Chaplin arrived in Hollywood in the spring of 1913, beginning work in November. On February 2, 1914, his first film, Making a Living, was released. In that same year he shot 35 one-reel films (shorts between twelve and sixteen minutes long), written and directed by Sennett, Charles himself or other directors. His characterizations were still only sketches of the naive and sentimental vagabond that would make him famous throughout the world, but as Chaplin played a different job or situation in each one, they would later be baptized as Dancing Charlot, Waiter Charlot, Conquest Charlot, Thief Charlot elegant etc The success was overwhelming, and in 1915 the production company Essanay stole Sennett’s star from him for a contract of $1,500 a week. Fabulous figure for a silent film comedian, who had been earning ten times less in Keystone.

With the Essanay, Chaplin went on to write and direct the fourteen films he made that year. They were already two reels long, a more complicated plot that introduced romantic and melancholic touches to the humorous recipe, and a meticulously structured and rehearsed script. Chaplin was the absolute protagonist (in some in a female role), and in most of them his partner was Edna Purviance. It is worth remembering A Night in the Show, The Champion, The Night Out and above all The Tramp (The Tramp), in which he rounded off the character that would later be known as Charlot. He himself would tell later that he was choosing almost at random -as a real bum would do- the hat, the cane, the wide pants, the narrow jacket and the shoes. The result was the most famous and enduring outfit in movie history.

The celebrity of Chaplin and his character was already universal (the name of Charlot would be given to him in 1915 by the distributor of his films in France), and the successful mime changed production companies again in 1916. With Mutual he would make twelve films in two years, among them The Pawnshop (The lender), Easy Street (The street of peace) and especially The Immigrant (The immigrant), all three with Edna Purviance. In early 1918 the First National hired Charlie Chaplin for a record $1 million a year. It was also the year of the first of his weddings with almost adolescent girls. His marriage to nineteen-year-old supporting actress Mildred Harris, held on October 23, would last until 1920, and the divorce cost Charles $200,000 of his precious dollars.

Also in 1918, he toured to sell war bonds with two other superstars of the day: Mary Pickford (called “America’s Sweetheart”) and acrobatic heartthrob Douglas Fairbanks. With the First National she filmed twelve films between that year and 1922, some as classic in her filmography as A Dog Life and Shoulder Arms. And also what is considered his first masterpiece, in which he chiselled his tragicomic, critical and subtly moving style: The Kid (The boy), with Jackie Coogan, the inevitable Purviance and six reels long. In 1921 he returned to Europe for the first time for the premiere of that film and received a massive reception, while severe European criticism established him as a genius of cinema.

Already in 1919 Chaplin, Pickford and Fairbanks, together with director David W. Griffith (undoubtedly another film genius) had established the independent production company United Artists, but Chaplin did not work for it until his contract with First National ended. In 1923, with his own production company, a solid personal fortune and a sumptuous mansion in Beverly Hills, he finally felt free to develop his creativity without ties. That year he directed, without acting, the excellent A Woman of Paris, with his admired Edna and Adolphe Menjou. The multifaceted creator was already thirty-five years old, and on November 24, 1924 he married the very young actress Lolita McMurray (or Lita Grey) in Mexico, only sixteen years old. The union lasted until 1927 and Chaplin obtained from her her first two children (Charles Spencer and Sydney Earle) and paid a million dollars to divorce her Lolita.

At that time he began the great final trilogy of the character of Charlot, filming The Gold Rush (The Gold Rush) in 1925, of which in 1942 he made a sound version narrated by his voice and with his own music. Already in 1927, the first sound film, The Jazz Singer, with Al Jolson, was released, but Chaplin remained faithful to silent films when in 1928 he made The circus (The circus), a film that he himself considered less successful than those that made up the trilogy. , despite being a magnificent comedy film. For this film he received his first Academy Award in 1929. Two years later he released City Lights, a paradigm of the tenderness and desolation of his cinematographic alter ego, including sound scenes and music. of Chaplin.

In 1932 he made a new and extensive trip to Europe, where at a reception he met the French actress Paulette Goddard. Together they continued the itinerary of what became a world tour, and the following year Paulette would be his partner in the last film of the trilogy: Modern Times (Modern Times), an acid parable about industrial machinery and the miseries of capitalism. .

When the war broke out and the German invasion of Europe, Chaplin filmed, in 1940, The Great Dictator (The great dictator), a funny and fierce parody of Nazi-fascism, in which the actor doubled as a Charlot transformed into a Jewish hairdresser and a mythomaniac and paranoid Hitler who announced Chaplin’s willingness to embody new roles, without a bowler hat or big shoes. He was accompanied by Goddard, whose character was named after Charles’s mother (Hannah), who died in 1928. Chaplin and Paulette distanced themselves in 1941 and shortly after the filmmaker was involved in a process for the paternity of the actress’s daughter. Joan Barry, called Carol Ann. Sentenced in April 1942 for violation of the Mann Law, he had to take charge of supporting the girl. The scandal did not prevent him from marrying, at fifty-four, the daughter of the famous playwright Eugene O’Neill, a beautiful eighteen-year-old named Oona, who would remain by his side for the rest of his life.

After filming Monsieur Verdoux in 1947, Charles Chaplin fell under the wave of McCarthyism that targeted Hollywood intellectuals and artists. The social criticism that exuded his work, probably added to his Jewish origin and the fact that he was a foreigner (he was never naturalized), led him to appear in 1949 before the inquisitional Committee for Anti-American Activities. The following year, as he and his family traveled through Europe, immigration authorities were ordered to detain him upon his return. Chaplin decided never to return and settled in a luxurious residence in Corsier-sur-Vevey, on the placid shore of the Swiss Lake of Léman, opposite Geneva. Oona was in charge of liquidating his economic and professional affairs in the United States.

England offered his prodigal son a place to continue his work. In 1952 he shot in London Limelight, a magnificent and sentimental recollection of his days as a traveling comic, and two years later he received the International Peace Prize. His resentment against the United States was reflected in A King in New York (A King in New York), a 1957 film whose ups and downs do not hide the corrosive Chaplinian humor. The great filmmaker was already a patriarchal and vitalist old man who began writing his memoirs in 1959. At the age of seventy-eight he was the father of his eighth child with Oona, Christopher, born in 1962, and in 1964 his autobiography was published in London, Story of my life.

Already in his eighties, Chaplin still had the courage and energy to write and shoot one last film, A Countess from Hong Kong (The Countess of Hong Kong, 1966). Despite having two luxury leads such as Sofía Loren and Marlon Brando, and the director himself in the minor role of a waiter, the film was not successful and perhaps did not deserve it. Chaplin’s master hand retained a certain elegance, but the subject matter was trivial and the style clearly anachronistic. The old creator must have warned him, because he did not insist again.

Charles Chaplin lived for another decade in his refuge in Vevey, surrounded by his children and accompanied by the loyal Oona. In 1972 he agreed to a brief triumphant return to Hollywood, to receive an Oscar for his entire body of work. In 1976 Richard Patterson shot The Gentleman Tramp (El vagabond gentleman), inspired by his autobiography, which included family scenes in Vevey filmed by the cinematographer, the Spanish Néstor Almendros. Another Spaniard, the filmmaker Carlos Saura, married Geraldine, Oona’s daughter who was more consistent with her father’s profession. He died at the age of eighty-eight, on Christmas Day 1977. He left a total of 79 films filmed in more than fifty years of activity as an actor and director. In almost all of them he was also the author of the script, and of the dialogue and music in the sound films. In addition to those already mentioned, it is worth adding Carmen (1916), based on Merimée’s novel; The Vagabond (The tramp), 1916; A Day’s Pleasure (A day of spree), 1919; Pay Day (Payday), 1922, and The Pilgrim (The pilgrim), 1923, among the most appreciated by critics and celebrated by the public.

Ephemerides I A day like today in 1961, the scientist who won a Nobel Prize based on a dream dies