Charlie Chaplin was a superstar of silent comedies and one of the great icons of 20th-century film. Charlie Chaplin had a rotten childhood but got an early start in the entertainment business, performing as a child on the vaudeville stage. He went to Hollywood in 1914 and began acting in silent comedies for Mack Sennett. He was a natural, and by 1915 he had gained control of most aspects of his films, in which he usually appeared as a character called simply "The Little Tramp": a lovably shabby dreamer with a brushy mustache, bowler hat and cane. Chaplin was one of the founders of United Artists Studios (along with actors Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford and director D.W. Griffith) and was one of the first movie makers to have complete control over his features. His best-known films include The Gold Rush (1925), City Lights (1931), and Modern Times (1936, with Paulette Goddard, his wife at the time). Famously outspoken and sympathetic to communism, Charlie Chaplin left the United States in 1952 because of McCarthy-era political pressure. He settled in Switzerland, where he and his wife Oona raised eight children, including the future actress Geraldine Chaplin. In 1972 he returned to the United States to accept a special Oscar, and in 1975 he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II.
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