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In honor of a silver screen legend

By ZHANG KUN in Shanghai | China Daily | Updated: 2018-06-16 04:53
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Chaplin started his career as one of the Eight Lancashire Lads, a troupe of clog dancing boys, in London when he was just 9 years old. His parents, who were both performers, later succumbed to alcoholism and mental illness. This was when Charlie and his brother were sent to an orphanage. In 1908, Chaplin started working for Fred Karno, a manager of a preeminent British pantomime company who eventually brought him to the US. In 1913, Chaplin accepted a lucrative offer to join the Keystone Film Company.

The Englishman began his film career in the costume that would later make him famous. Throughout the years, Chaplin constantly refined the character, introducing romance and tenderness to his story.

In 1917, Chaplin built his own studio where he was able to take control of every aspect in the production process, from the use of the props to the movements.

According to Tatyana Franck, director of the Musee de l'Elysee and the curator of the exhibition, Chaplin's acting repertoire hit a new level of virtuosity in films such as The Gold Rush, The Circus and City Lights. Meanwhile, the movies that followed, Modern Times and The Great Dictator, showcased the artist's profound reflections of current events.

In the 1950s, Chaplin was forced to leave the United States after facing accusations of sympathizing with the Communists. He then moved to Switzerland where he lived with his fourth wife Oona O'Neill and their eight children until he died in 1977. During these two decades, his movies continued to be screened in China even though most Western films were banned.

"His movies provided a rare glimpse of the Western world for Chinese audiences at that time," said Tang about why Chaplin was so well-loved in China.

Today, Chaplin is remembered as "the founder of modern comedy and one of the most influential performing artists and film directors of the 20th century", according to Franck.

The Charles Chaplin photographic archive was entrusted to the Musee de l'Elysee, one of the world's leading museums dedicated to photographic works, in January 2011 by the Chaplin Association and Roy Export SAS. The archive contains some 20,000 negatives, prints and original albums that document Chaplin's career and private life.

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