“Dying is easy, comedy is tough” were the last words of George Bernard Shaw. Indeed. And that is the reason I’ve decided to dedicate a 3 part blog to Sir Charles Spencer Chaplin, arguably the greatest comedian who ever lived.

I thought it would only be proper if some biographical information were given before I put forth my opinions. Born in a very poor family in London in 1889, Charles spent his child doing a number of petty jobs. His father, a drunkard would just make his condition worse. His mother, who apart from doing some tailoring work, would occasionally sing in the local theater. The big break came when his mother lost her voice during performance and Charlie was sent to perform without preparation. The show was a riot. People hurled money towards the stage. But Charlie’s struggles were to continue for a long time.

After his mother got admitted to a mental institution and half-brother Sidney sent off to sea, Charlie joined the Karno Pantomime where he performed in key roles. One such role, an old drunk, caught the attention of American movie mogul Mack Sennett who immediately asked him to come to his workplace, Keystone studios. On arrival at the studio, Sennett could not believe that the old drunk was impeccably played by this 25 year old. After a lot of opposition by the studio crew, Charlie completed his first movie “Making a living” in 1914 where he plays a bogus reporter.

But the “tramp” was not to be seen until his next short “Kid Auto races at Venice”. This costume actually borrowed from many artists in parts, was the brainchild of Chaplin himself. The short was a huge hit and the tramp would be ruling the world for the next two decades. The audience had now found a new hero and the demand of Chaplin shorts had shot up. To cope up to this, Keystone pressed Chaplin to complete many shorts in a single day, a result of which Chaplin moved on to Essanay studios.

At Essanay, Chaplin got frustrated with the primitive comic sense of the prevalent directors and started to do the direction of his own movies. This not only resulted in some fine short movies but also a growing friction between Chaplin and the studio directors. So once again, Charlie moved on to a new studio, Mutual Films, seeking more independence in his movies. Knowing Chaplin’s audience base, Mutual Films gave him the nod. Chaplin’s skill as a fine director is evident in the short films that were born in this period. This was the period where Chaplin met Edna Purviance who was later to become his lifelong friend.