A life in pictures: Charlie Chaplin

BY Anna Walker

1st Jan 2015 Celebrities

Charlie Chaplin's 75 year career was marked by both brilliance and controversy. These 13 rarely seen photos show the private side of the cinematic legend.

1. A rare colour photo of the Tramp


The character of the Tramp, perhaps one of the most recognisable in all cinema, was actually created by accident! Chaplin was dressing himself for his role in a short film named Mabel's Strange Predicament and the character formed itself before his eyes.

Speaking about his creation, Chaplin recalled, "I had no idea of the character. But the moment I was dressed, the clothes and the make-up made me feel the person he was. I began to know him, and by the time I walked onto the stage he was fully born."

When the silent era faded and Chaplin transitioned into the talkies, he refused to make any films where the Little Tramp spoke. Audiences did hear the voice of the Tramp, just once, in the closing shot of City Lights, where he delivers a gibberish song. 


2. Relaxing with his third wife Paulette Goddard

These two stars secretly married in China in June 1936 and would act together in two films—The Great Dictator and Modern Times, eventually divorcing in 1942.

They first met on a weekend cruise on the President of United Artists' yacht, where Chaplin convinced Goddard to dye her hair from platinum blonde back to her natural brunette shade. 


3. Meeting Helen Keller

This unlikely duo met in 1919 on the set of Sunnyside. Keller spoke to Chaplin by placing her hands over his lips.

The author had previously watched two of Chaplin's films with the assistance of her teacher Anne Sullivan, who described what was happening using sign language in the palm of Keller's hand. 


4. Marrying Oona O'Neill

Oona O'Neill was just 18 when she married Chaplin, who was then 54. Despite their unconventional pairing, Chaplin described what he had found with his fourth and final wife as "perfect love" and "the happiest event of my life". 

Over 18 years the couple had eight children together and remained married until Chaplin's death in 1977 when he was 88.


5. With seven of his children 

Charlie Chaplin had a big family with 11 children in total, and many of his descendants have followed his footsteps into the entertainment industry.

His granddaughter Oona Castilla Chaplin, for example, has recently starred in Sherlock, Game of Thrones, The Hour and The Crimson Field.


6. Meeting Mahatma Gandhi

Charlie Chaplin with Gandhi
Image via Life

Gandhi and Chaplin were both in London during the Indian leader's only visit to England and met where he was staying, at the house of Dr Katial in Beckton Road, Canning Town.

It was a time of increased political interest for the actor, who was in London to promote his latest film City Lights. While in the country he met other great thinkers including George Bernard Shaw, Ramsay MacDonald, H.G. Wells and Winston Churchill.

Despite being a brief meeting, this photo made the front page in national papers the next day. 


7. Rolling on the floor laughing on the set of Limelight

At the time of Limelight's release Chaplin was barred from the United States as an alleged Communist sympathiser. This meant the film was ignored by many theatres and was released amidst something of a public controversy. 

Despite this, City Lights did earn Chaplin the only Oscar he ever won, for Best Original Dramatic Score along with his collaborators Raymond Rasch and Larry Russell. 


8. Sharing a joke with Marlon Brando

Charlie Chaplin Marlon Brando
Image via Life

This shot was taken on the set of Countess from Hong Kong, the last film that Chaplin wrote, directed, produced and scored.

His cameo as a ship steward marked his final screen appearance. 


9. Meeting Albert Einstein 

The silent star threw a dinner party for scientist Albert Einstein in order to introduce him to his friends, including newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst.

The occasion was not a success as Einstein was unwilling to explain his theories to the guests and the group largely failed to hit it off. 


10. Playing tennis doubles in 1923

Left to right Chaplin is photographed playing with professional player Bill Tilden, actor Douglas Fairbanks Senior and writer Manuel Alonso.

Video footage suggests the comic had quite a mean serve:


11. Sharing secrets with Sophia Loren 

Charlie Chaplin Sophia Loren
Image via Life

Sophia Loren was such a fan of Chaplin that along with Marlon Brando she agreed to star in A Countess from Hong Kong without even having read the script. 


12. Playing with a Tramp doll

Chaplin plays with a miniature version of his most famous character. 


13. On the beach with Oona and two of their daughters

Charlie Chaplin beach family
Image via Life

Chaplin's career spanned an incredible 75 years and he was still working in the year before his death in 1977, aged 88.