The cinema's most celebrated comedian-director, Charlie Chaplin, achieved worldwide fame with his "Little Tramp" character. As director, producer, writer, and interpreter of numerous comic movies, he made a major contribution to the establishment of film comedy as an art form. Raised in London slums, Chaplin began his career as a music hall performer.
While touring the United States in 1913, Chaplin was persuaded by Mack Sennett to direct for Sennett's Keystone Studio. That led to Chaplin's first slapstick, Making a Living, in 1914. In Kid Auto Races at Venice, the same year, he originated the gentleman tramp--with twirling cane, bowler, tight jacket, and baggy pants--that was to become his trademark.
During the next four years, Chaplin built a worldwide reputation with an output of shorts for Essanay, Mutual, and First National studios. He continued with his Little Tramp character through many silent films but abandoned it in The Great Dictator (1940), his first sound film. Although Chaplin was loved and respected throughout the world for his talent, his personal life garnered him negative publicity in the United States. Among the events coloring his image were four marriages, a 1944 paternity suit, and his refusal to accept U.S. citizenship. He was denied reentry into the country in 1953 after being accused of Communist sympathies. He then settled in Switzerland.