charlie chaplin, born on april 16, 1889, is 121 years old in heaven today! chaplin died in switzerland in 1977 - he was 88 years old and the world's greatest comic genius. but comedy and film making aside, chaplin was an incredibly controversial political figure here in the united states- at least during the very cold war years of the late 40's and 50's.
his leftist politics were so anathema to the u.s. government that he was denied reentry to the united states in 1952 - after traveling to england for the premier of limelight. in 1953 chaplin vowed that he would never return to the united states! a vow that lasted until 1972, when he briefly returned the state to collect a special oscar at the academy awards. his appearance set a record for the longest standing ovation ever given a performer (5 minutes) in the academy's history!
three years later, in 1975, he was finally knighted by the queen. chaplin was first proposed for knighthood in 1931 - and again in 1956. but the british foreign office vetoed the proposal because of his communist sympathies and (im)moral behavior (his pair of marriage to 16 year old girls). sir charlie chaplin had by then become a living legend - and father of 8 children with his wife oona (the daughter of playwright eugene o'neill).
politics (and morals) aside, chapin was a great performer. his immortal character, the little tramp, has become a worldwide cultural icon. his comedies aren't just classics, but great films - in and of themselves! i'm huge fan of his work. over the years i've read many a chaplin biography. most recently, last year i read stephen weissman's "chaplin: a life" - an interesting psychological take on the impact of chaplin's impoverished childhood on his films.
last, but not least, despite loving his classic tramp comedies... my all time favorite chaplin film is undoubtedly the dark comedy, "monsieur verdoux" - narrowly edging out "the gold rush" for that honor :D
happy birthday in heaven sir charlie chaplin!