Celebrate Variety115th anniversary, we took to the archives to see how some of Hollywood’s biggest stars first landed in the pages of our magazine. Read the rest of the archives here.
Variety first mentioned Charles Chaplin, as billed, on his stage debut in the United States, before he made any films. In 1910, the British-born artist appeared in a review, “The Wow Wows”, at the Colonial Theater in New York. Critics said the 29-minute show was performed in three scenes, describing Chaplin as “quintessentially English”, in a manner that was “calm and easy” as a group claims to initiate him into a secret society, but they really get revenge on him. Variety said the show dragged on when Chaplin was not on stage, and predicted he will “do anything for America.”
He did more than good. He started in film in 1914, writing, directing, acting, and composing sheet music, as well as producing and editing (although often uncredited in both of these talents).
By 1916 his film success was so great that he was offered $ 10,000 per week ($ 238,000 in today’s economy) to join a new film company. “Although this amount seems almost appalling to a man as a salary,” Variety wrote: “Chaplin doesn’t jump on it”, speculating that he expected to hear the creative terms of the deal, more than the money.
However, the story concludes, he worked for Essanay and “Every week Mr. Chaplin goes to the bank and deposits his cash, remaining the same for his companions as it was in English times there. Not that long ago, when, as a member of Karno’s ‘Bow Wow Wows’, he showed up for rehearsals with no money in his pocket. “
Chaplin created the character of The Tramp, aka The Little Tramp, an optimistic benefactor in ill-fitting clothes, in a 1914 film, “Mabel’s Strange Predicament” and the character has appeared in classics such as “The Gold Rush” and “City Lights.” The Tramp made its last appearance in “Modern Times” (1936), which is essentially a silent film, long after talkie films took over Hollywood.
Among Chaplin’s enduring films are “Le Grand Dictateur”, “Monsieur Verdoux” and “Limelight”; his last film was “A Countess from Hong Kong” from 1967, starring Marlon Brando and Sophia Loren, with Chaplin in a minor role of stage thief.
In 1952, the US government, in the midst of a red scare, called Chaplin an “unsavory figure,” because of his much younger wife and allegations that he was a communist. At a press conference, United States Attorney General James P. McGranery said the filmmaker was “a threat to womanhood.” In 1972, Chaplin (1889-1977) received an honorary Oscar as a belated thank you and apology. His appearance at the awards ceremony marked his first visit to the United States in 20 years, and he received a record-breaking 12-minute standing ovation.
Decades later, most moviegoers are probably unaware of the accusations – but his cinematic work lives on.
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