Editor:Anne V. Coates
Production Designer:Stuart Craig
The film concludes with credits for starring roles, paired with still photographs of the actors and title cards, as follows: Robert Downey Jr.: “Charles Spencer Chaplin accepted his Special Academy Award on his 83rd birthday. A few days later, he left Hollywood and returned to his home in Switzerland. In 1975 Charlie became Sir Charles Chaplin, receiving his knighthood from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace in London. During a motion picture career that spanned 54 years, Charlie made a total of 81 films. Only five were talkies and 67 were completed before his 30th birthday. He was planning new ones to the very end. Charlie died, aged 88, on Christmas Day 1977 at his home in Vevey, surrounded by Oona, their children and grandchildren”; Geraldine Chaplin: “Hannah Chaplin, Charlie’s mother and Geraldine’s grandmother, spent the last seven years of her life in the little house Charlie bought for her close to the Pacific Ocean”; Paul Rhys: “Sydney Chaplin retired to the South of France after World War II, spending part of every summer at his half brother’s home in Switzerland. He died on Charlie’s 76th birthday”; John Thaw: “Fred Karno, the impresario who gave Charlie his first job in vaudeville, went bankrupt in 1926. He died penniless 15 years later”; Moira Kelly: “Hetty Kelly, who was Charlie’s first love, married a politician and died aged 25. Charlie never forgot her and she was the inspiration for many of his screen heroines”; Anthony Hopkins: “George Hayden is a fictional character but Charlie did write ‘My Autobiography,’ published in 1964, on which the film is partly based”; James Woods: “Joseph Scott’s courtroom speech is based on contemporary accounts. ...
The film concludes with credits for starring roles, paired with still photographs of the actors and title cards, as follows: Robert Downey Jr.: “Charles Spencer Chaplin accepted his Special Academy Award on his 83rd birthday. A few days later, he left Hollywood and returned to his home in Switzerland. In 1975 Charlie became Sir Charles Chaplin, receiving his knighthood from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace in London. During a motion picture career that spanned 54 years, Charlie made a total of 81 films. Only five were talkies and 67 were completed before his 30th birthday. He was planning new ones to the very end. Charlie died, aged 88, on Christmas Day 1977 at his home in Vevey, surrounded by Oona, their children and grandchildren”; Geraldine Chaplin: “Hannah Chaplin, Charlie’s mother and Geraldine’s grandmother, spent the last seven years of her life in the little house Charlie bought for her close to the Pacific Ocean”; Paul Rhys: “Sydney Chaplin retired to the South of France after World War II, spending part of every summer at his half brother’s home in Switzerland. He died on Charlie’s 76th birthday”; John Thaw: “Fred Karno, the impresario who gave Charlie his first job in vaudeville, went bankrupt in 1926. He died penniless 15 years later”; Moira Kelly: “Hetty Kelly, who was Charlie’s first love, married a politician and died aged 25. Charlie never forgot her and she was the inspiration for many of his screen heroines”; Anthony Hopkins: “George Hayden is a fictional character but Charlie did write ‘My Autobiography,’ published in 1964, on which the film is partly based”; James Woods: “Joseph Scott’s courtroom speech is based on contemporary accounts. Because the State of California did not allow the blood tests to be used in evidence, the paternity suit came to be regarded as a major miscarriage of justice”; Moira Kelly: “Oona O’Neill Chaplin was 18 when she married Charlie and together they had eight children. After Charlie was barred from the USA, Oona renounced her own American citizenship and spent the rest of her life in Switzerland. She survived Charlie by 14 years and never ceased to mourn him until her own death in September 1991”; Diane Lane: “Paulette Goddard, formerly Levy, the famous star who was Charlie’s third wife, retired from acting in 1966. She and her husband then went to live in Switzerland, not far from Charlie and Oona”: Nancy Travis: “Joan Barry spent much of her remaining life in mental institutions. No one knows where or how she died. Although he was not the father, Charlie was obliged to support Joan’s daughter, Carol Anne, until she was 21”; Kevin Dunn: “J. Edgar Hoover was director of the FBI for almost 50 years. A lifelong bachelor, he used sex secrets gathered illegally by his special agents to manipulate powerful people in every walk of American life. Charlie’s FBI file contained more than 1,900 pages”; Deborah Maria Moore: “Lita Grey was Charlie’s second wife. She and their younger son, Sydney Jr., were still living in California when this film was completed. Charles Chaplin Jr. died in 1968”; Maria Pitillo: “Mary Pickford played a leading part in the running of United Artists, competing with Charlie to be the highest earner in Hollywood. ‘America’s Sweetheart’ lived to be 86”; Milla Jovovich: “Mildred Harris was Charlie’s first wife. Her acting career faded after their divorce. Reduced to working in sleazy nightspots, she died an alcoholic at 43”; Penelope Ann Miller: “Edna Purviance was Charlie’s leading lady in more than 30 comedies. When she retired, after failing to make a new career as a dramatic actress, Charlie kept her on the studio payroll for the rest of her life”; Kevin Kline: “Douglas Fairbanks co-founded United Artists with Charlie, Mary Pickford and D. W. Griffith in 1919. Mary divorced him in 1936. Three years later, Doug died in his sleep of a heart attack”; Dan Aykroyd: “Mack Sennett’s reign as the ‘King of Comedy’ ended with the advent of talkies. Almost forgotten, he returned to Hollywood to receive a Special Academy Award in 1937”; Marisa Tomei: “Mabel Normand was involved in a drug and sex scandal surrounding the murder of a Hollywood director in 1922. She never acted again.”
Although the titles state that Mabel Normand never worked again, this is not correct. She made two features for Mack Sennett, The Extra Girl and Suzanna in 1923 (see entries), and five short films for Hal Roach in 1926 and 1927.
End credits include the following statements: "Lambeth Productions wish to express very special gratitude to the late Oona Chaplin and to Pamela Paumler for their invaluable co-operation in making this film possible"; "The Producers also wish to thank: Pamela Paumler and Roy Export for so kindly granting permission to include clips from: 'The Kid,' 'The Gold Rush,' 'The Circus,' 'City Lights,' 'Modern Times,' 'The Great Dictator' (All these films are copyrighted property of Roy Export Company Establishment, Charles Chaplin and 'The Little Tramp' trademark copyright ©1992 Bubbles, Inc. S.A.J.; Beebe Bourne and Bourne Company for kindly granting permission to include Charles Chaplin's original compositions; The Board of Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, for so kindly granting permission to include television footage of the 44th Annual Academy Awards and Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau and Daniel Taradash for kindly agreeing to feature in this footage. (Scenes of the 44th Academy Awards ® presentation are the copyrighted property of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences. 'Academy Awards' ® is a registered trademark and service mark of The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.); The British Film Institute, John E. Allen Collection, Shields Archive, British Movietone News, UCLA Film and Television Archive, Nancy De Antonio and Variety for providing archive material." End credits also include: "Filmed on location in the State of California, the United Kingdom and Switzerland and at Universal City Studios, Raleigh Studios, Disney Studios, U.S., Shepperton Studios, U.K."; "Special Thanks to: City of Fillmore, Bluebell Railway, Movie Trains, Short Line Enterprises, Ltd."
According to a 25 Nov 1992 HR “Rambling Reporter” column, the film’s working title, Charlie, was changed to avoid legal issues with the 1968 film Charly (see entry).
On 14 Nov 1988, Sir Richard Attenborough announced plans to direct a Charlie Chaplin biopic, as part of his $75 million, three-picture deal with Universal Pictures, as reported in the 15 Nov 1988 DV. Having become friendly with Chaplin and his family in the 1970s while vacationing near them in the south of France, as noted in the 26 Jan 1992 LAT, Attenborough received Oona O’Neill Chaplin’s blessing in acquiring film rights to her late husband’s autobiography and footage from his films. A 22 Mar 1992 NYT article stated that the idea for a Chaplin biopic was originally suggested to Attenborough by Diana Hawkins, director of Attenborough’s Marble Arch Productions, after Universal had passed on Attenborough’s proposed Tom Paine biopic. A longtime fan of Chaplin’s, Attenborough recalled seeing The Gold Rush (1925, see entry) at the age of eleven, and credited the silent film star with inspiring his early acting career.
Bryan Forbes was brought on to write a first draft of the script, as announced in a 24 Jan 1990 Var brief. By mid-summer, the script was in final draft, according to a 23 Jul 1990 DV “Just for Variety” brief. William Boyd, Tom Stoppard, and William Goldman were brought in for re-writes, and all received onscreen credit except Stoppard.
Various contemporary sources stated that Attenborough tested seven of the total thirty actors considered for the role of “Charlie Chaplin.” His criteria for a leading man included someone between the ages of thirty and thirty-five, who was small in stature, as he believed the body likeness was more important than the face. Kevin Kline and Dustin Hoffman were among the earliest names mentioned as potential candidates in a 5 Feb 1989 LAT brief. Billy Crystal and Robin Williams were also considered, before Robert Downey, Jr.’s official casting was announced in a 15 Dec 1990 Screen International item. A few months later, a 10 Mar 1991 Parade brief erroneously listed British stage actors Robert Lindsay and Antony Sher as contenders for the role. However, Downey, Jr. had not left the project. The actor remained attached throughout the protracted pre-production period during which he turned down other roles, and made extensive preparations for the film, including training with vaudeville expert Johnny Hutch, and learning to play tennis left-handed. When Chaplin’s daughter, Geraldine Chaplin, who played her grandmother “Hannah Chaplin” in the film, first saw Downey’s screen test, she was reportedly astonished by the resemblance. Inspired by Downey’s close physical match to his subject, Attenborough decided to incorporate clips from Chaplin’s original films.
A 24 Jan 1991 DV brief stated that Pierce Brosnan would play “Douglas Fairbanks, Sr.,” but the role ultimately went to Kevin Kline. Around the same time, Winona Ryder was in talks to play “Oona O’Neill,” and John Goodman was under consideration for the role of “Mack Sennett.” Winona Ryder was also mentioned as a contender for “Paulette Goddard” in the 22 Feb 1991 Screen International, but neither she nor Goodman were cast. Robin Wright and Oliver Platt reportedly received offers to play “Mary Pickford” and “J. Edgar Hoover,” according to the 11 Sep 1991 HR, but neither appeared in the film. Likewise, Kenneth Branagh was mentioned as being in contention for the role of J. Edgar Hoover, in a 30 Aug 1991 Screen International item, but the part eventually went to Kevin Dunn.
Various sources listed a production budget of between $31 million and $37 million. Financing initially came from Universal. However, one month before production was set to begin in Apr 1991, with filming set to take place in London, England, and possibly at Churubusco Studios in Mexico City, Mexico, Universal dropped out of the project, as announced in the 1 Mar 1991 LAT. Filming was delayed until at least May 1991, and the majority of production staff were laid off. Rumors surrounding Universal’s departure mostly cited budgetary concerns, but some sources, including a 20 Dec 1992 LAT article, claimed the studio did not believe Robert Downey, Jr. had sufficient talent or box-office draw. Attenborough, who refused to re-cast his leading man, pleaded with Universal to put the project in turnaround, and the studio agreed. Within days, Carolco’s Mario Kassar expressed interested. Although Carolco was having financial problems, Kassar set out to raise financing from foreign investors. A 14 Mar 1991 DV item announced a deal was being struck between Carolco and Universal, which had already invested $8 million in the project and begun construction on sets in England and Los Angeles, CA. A 7 Aug 1991 DV item announced the shift from Universal to Carolco was nearly complete. Later that month, a 16 Aug 1991 Screen International item confirmed that TriStar Pictures would handle U.S. distribution, and a release date of Nov 1992 was planned.
Production notes in AMPAS library files and the 8 Oct 1991 HR production chart stated that principal photography began 14 Oct 1991 in Fillmore, CA, where the Mack Sennett Keystone Studios and Chaplin Studios were built, surrounded by orange groves as the real-life studios had been in 1910s Los Angeles. A 9 Oct 1991 DV “Just for Variety” item stated that the Fillmore sets costs hundreds of thousands to construct. In addition to those sets, production notes listed the following locations in and around Los Angeles: Sand Canyon in Angeles National Forest, which stood in for the hillside surrounding the Hollywood sign; a San Marino home designed by Wallace Neff, the same architect who designed Chaplin’s mansion on Summit Drive in Beverly Hills, which could not be used since it had been renovated; a period tennis court in Beverly Hills; the shuttered Perino’s restaurant; Park Plaza Hotel near MacArthur Park, where an Armistice Day dinner party was filmed; the Queen Mary, docked in Long Beach, which stood in for the Queen Elizabeth, on which Chaplin’s family sailed to Europe in 1952; the Los Angeles Theatre, the construction of which had been partially financed by Chaplin, where the Limelight premiere was filmed; and the Santa Paula train station outside Santa Barbara, CA. Scenes set in Butte, MT, were filmed on the Universal Studios back lot, while a sequence set in Salt Lake City, UT, was shot on the Walt Disney studio lot.
After ten weeks of filming in Los Angeles, cast and crew moved to London on 12 Jan 1992, according to an 11 Dec 1991 HR brief. There, five-year-old Charlie’s stage debut was filmed at Wiltons, London’s “oldest surviving music hall.” Another music hall, Hackney Empire, stood in for itself, and a corridor inside the St. Pancras Hotel doubled as the Cane Hill Asylum where young Charlie had his mother committed. The slum houses where Chaplin grew up were built on land near King’s Cross Station, according to the 22 Mar 1992 NYT, and Smithfield meat market was dressed to look like Covent Garden. After three weeks in London, cast and crew moved to Vevey, Switzerland, where Chaplin’s real-life home, Le Manoir de Ban, stood in for itself. Principal photography ended in Feb 1992, according to a 10 Mar 1992 HR item.
The Los Angeles premiere took place on 4 Dec 1992 at the Los Angeles Theatre, which opened in 1931 with the premiere of Chaplin’s City Lights (see entry). A New Orleans, LA, premiere followed on 21 Dec 1992 at the Canal Place Cinema, according to a Mar 1993 Box item. The event raised money for the Louisiana Council for Music and the Performing Arts, and was attended by Richard Attenborugh .
Critical reception was mixed. The film’s overly ambitious scope, and subsequently rushed pacing, was often criticized, but Robert Downey, Jr. and Geraldine Chaplin’s performances received high praise. Downey won a British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) Award for Best Actor, and received an Academy Award nomination for Actor in a Leading Role. He and Geraldine Chaplin were also nominated for Golden Globe Awards for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama, and Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picure. The film received additional Academy Award nominations for Art Direction and Music (Original Score), and a Golden Globe Award nomination for Best Original Score – Motion Picture.
Chaplin was not a commercial success. After four weeks in release, a 19 Jan 1993 LAT box-office chart listed its cumulative domestic gross as $6.5 million.
As stated in the 13 Sep 1992 LAT, Robert Downey, Jr. recorded an “electro-dance version” of the song “Smile,” which was set to be included in the film’s soundtrack album, to be released in Nov 1992. The original, instrumental version of the song, written by Charlie Chaplin, debuted in Modern Times (1936, see entry).
In 1963 Vevey, Switzerland, aged silent film star Charlie Chaplin discusses his autobiography with editor George Hayden, who encourages Chaplin to include more intimate details in the book. Charlie recalls his childhood in Aldershot, England: at a music hall, in 1894, a young Charlie takes over for his anxious mother, Hannah, when she is booed off the stage. Charlie, a natural performer, amuses the crowd with his mother’s song and dance routine. Back home in their squalid apartment, Hannah serves Charlie and his older half-brother, Sydney, fish heads for dinner, and dreams of the day when her “ship comes in.” Hannah fails to pay the rent, and is ridiculed by the neighbors for being mentally ill. Against her will, Sydney and Charlie are taken to a workhouse. A year later, Sydney has been sent away to work on a ship, but Charlie is allowed to return home, as Hannah has obtained work as a seamstress. However, her mental illness worsens, and Charlie has her committed to an insane asylum. As a teenager, he joins up with his brother, Sydney, who is working for theater impresario Fred Karno. Charlie performs a slapstick act, and Karno hires him to perform at the Hackney Empire music hall in London. There, Charlie pretends to be a drunk interrupting the show. His act is met with uproarious laughter. In the dressing room, he becomes smitten with a showgirl named Hetty Kelly. Soon, Karno arranges for Charlie to perform in America. Before he leaves, Charlie asks Hetty to marry him, but she declines on the basis that she is only sixteen and hardly knows him. Charlie travels to Butte, Montana, in 1913. There, he ...
In 1963 Vevey, Switzerland, aged silent film star Charlie Chaplin discusses his autobiography with editor George Hayden, who encourages Chaplin to include more intimate details in the book. Charlie recalls his childhood in Aldershot, England: at a music hall, in 1894, a young Charlie takes over for his anxious mother, Hannah, when she is booed off the stage. Charlie, a natural performer, amuses the crowd with his mother’s song and dance routine. Back home in their squalid apartment, Hannah serves Charlie and his older half-brother, Sydney, fish heads for dinner, and dreams of the day when her “ship comes in.” Hannah fails to pay the rent, and is ridiculed by the neighbors for being mentally ill. Against her will, Sydney and Charlie are taken to a workhouse. A year later, Sydney has been sent away to work on a ship, but Charlie is allowed to return home, as Hannah has obtained work as a seamstress. However, her mental illness worsens, and Charlie has her committed to an insane asylum. As a teenager, he joins up with his brother, Sydney, who is working for theater impresario Fred Karno. Charlie performs a slapstick act, and Karno hires him to perform at the Hackney Empire music hall in London. There, Charlie pretends to be a drunk interrupting the show. His act is met with uproarious laughter. In the dressing room, he becomes smitten with a showgirl named Hetty Kelly. Soon, Karno arranges for Charlie to perform in America. Before he leaves, Charlie asks Hetty to marry him, but she declines on the basis that she is only sixteen and hardly knows him. Charlie travels to Butte, Montana, in 1913. There, he is introduced to silent films at a nickelodeon. Fascinated by the art form, Charlie stays to watch the films repeat. He receives a telegram from film producer Mack Sennett, offering him a job that pays $150 per week. Thrilled, Charlie takes a train to the Mack Sennett Keystone Studio in Los Angeles, California. He quickly becomes Sennett’s most popular performer, and develops “The Tramp,” a bumbling vagrant character with a signature moustache, bowler hat, and cane. Charlie works tirelessly, writing and directing his own films as well as starring in others. After directing twenty films in one year, Charlie leaves Sennett to partner with “Bronco Billy” Anderson, a Western actor turned producer. He meets secretary Edna Purviance, and casts her as the leading lady in his next film. Tensions arise between Charlie and his brother, Sydney, who now works as Charlie’s manager, over Charlie’s latest film, The Immigrant, in which the Tramp kicks an immigration officer’s behind. Charlie stands by his right to ridicule people in positions of power. His popularity continues to grow, and he develops a close friendship with actor Douglas Fairbanks, who throws lavish parties at his Hollywood mansion. At one of those parties, Charlie meets Mildred Harris, a beautiful but simple-minded sixteen-year-old. Although Douglas’s mistress, actress Mary Pickford, warns that Mildred is “jailbait,” Charlie is not put off by her age. In 1918, at the age of twenty-nine, Charlie establishes his own studio on La Brea Avenue in Hollywood. He is forced to marry Mildred when he learns she is pregnant, although he later hears that Mildred faked the pregnancy. At a party celebrating the end of World War I, Charlie butts heads with J. Edgar Hoover, who lectures on the influential power of film and preaches against immigration. Charlie’s workaholism intensifies, and Mildred complains that he ignores her. When they agree to divorce, Mildred hires predatory lawyers who attempt to seize Charlie’s first full-length feature, The Kid, which is still in post-production. Charlie takes the film canisters and escapes California with Sydney and his wife, Minnie, and cinematographer Rollie Totheroh. They finish editing while hiding out in Salt Lake City, Utah. In 1920, Hannah Chaplin comes to live in California. Although initially happy to reunite with his mother, Charlie is disturbed by her disconnection from reality and her habit of grinding things up in her hands. He flees to London, where he reunites with Fred Karno. Charlie is saddened to learn that Hetty Kelly died during the 1918 flu epidemic, and disappointed that his celebrity has driven a wedge between him and the masses. J. Edgar Hoover, now a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) operative, begins questioning Charlie’s acquaintances regarding Charlie’s alleged “Communist” activities. Douglas Fairbanks warns Charlie to be careful, and worries that the new talking pictures will end the reign of silent stars. Charlie argues that “talkies” will never catch on, and refuses to adapt his performance style, certain that the Tramp will be ruined if his speaking voice were heard. Charlie marries another underage actress, Lita Grey. They have two children in quick succession, but, as usual, the marriage suffers when Charlie is drawn into work. He makes the film The Gold Rush. After divorcing Lita, he meets Paulette Levy, a twenty-one-year-old actress with a quick wit. They are married during the Great Depression of the 1930s. Charlie is disturbed by the poverty he sees all around him, and decides to make a film he calls Modern Times, about machinery replacing manpower in the work force. Then, disgusted by reports about anti-Semitic Nazi German Chancellor, Adolf Hitler, who looks strikingly similar to his Tramp character, Charlie sets out to make The Great Dictator, a film that ridicules and debunks fascism. The film marks Charlie’s first all-talking picture, and includes an impassioned speech that promotes his brand of humanism. Sydney disapproves of the politically charged film, even though, as Charlie reminds him, Sydney’s father was Jewish. The film provides J. Edgar Hoover further ammunition against Charlie as a secret Communist. When Charlie is unable to prioritize her over his work, Paulette divorces him. However, unlike his former ex-wives, she agrees to a modest divorce settlement, and they remain friends. An FBI operative is sent to spy on Charlie around the same time that he meets Joan Barry, an erratic actress who claims she is pregnant with Charlie’s child after a brief love affair. Meanwhile, Charlie has fallen in love with teenaged debutante Oona O’Neill. When Joan Barry’s lawyers demand $150,000 for her unborn child, Charlie adamantly denies paternity and demands a blood test. Eager to smear his reputation, J. Edgar Hoover supports Joan Barry’s efforts to sue Charlie. In court, Barry’s lawyers accuse Charlie of being a Communist and a sexual predator who preys on teenaged girls, and newspaper headlines report the scandalous allegations. Although the blood test determines that Charlie is not the father of Barry’s child, the judge rules it inadmissible. Charlie is ordered to pay Barry $75 per week. Seven years later, at the premiere of his film, Limelight, Charlie is pestered by reporters, who demand to know if he is a Communist sympathizer, and whether or not he expects to be questioned at the upcoming McCarthy hearings. Oona suggests a trip overseas, and she and Charlie take their children to England for a vacation. However, when they are set to return, Charlie’s re-entry visa is revoked, and he is not allowed back into the U.S. In 1972 Switzerland, where his family has lived in exile for nearly twenty years, Charlie dreams a conversation with his book editor, George Hayden, in which Charlie laments that, as a “clown,” he only had one chance to tell a particular kind of story in the right way, but he missed it. He says he was always second-rate, and George asks why Charlie does not write about that. Charlie dismisses it as unimportant, saying he cheered people up, and that is “not bad.” Oona awakens Charlie and tells him he must decide whether or not he will travel to California, where he has been invited to accept an honorary Academy Award for his lasting influence on motion pictures. In Los Angeles, as a feeble, eighty-two-year-old Charlie waits to give his speech on the darkened stage, clips from his body of work play, and he tears up as he watches them.
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