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1977: Silent film legend Chaplin dies

Charles "Charlie" Spencer Chaplin, the comic genius of silent films, has died aged 88.

The "King of film"', knighted in 1975, died at 0400 today at his Swiss manor at Corsier-sur-Vevey.

His wife Oona, daughter of the late playwright Eugene O'Neill, and seven of their eight children were present.

The couple's eldest daughter, actress Geraldine, was abroad filming in Spain but his son Sidney, the eldest son by the second of his four marriages was at his bedside.

It is understood Sir Charles slipped into a coma last night.

A family spokesman said the actor would be buried in a private family ceremony in two days.

As actor, writer, director, producer, composer and choreographer he left his indelible legacy on 80 films including favourites The Gold Rush, City Lights, and Limelight.

Humble beginnings

From his screen debut in 1914, to his last completed film in 1967, Sir Charles is considered to have helped found the modern film.

He rose from humble beginnings to become one of the highest paid films stars.

Born into poverty in London in 1889 his parents Charles Chaplin, senior, and Hannah Hill were music hall entertainers who separated shortly after his birth.

Sir Chaplin and his half-brother, Sydney, who later became his business manger, ended up in an institute for destitute children.

Performing from the age of five he moved to America in 1910.

There he introduced the world to one of his most revered characters - Little Tramp - in the 1914 film Kid's Auto Races.

The shuffling, cane-twirling figure in over-sized trousers and a black moustache, was born.

By 1920, at the height of his fame worldwide regular cinema attendance, dances, dolls, comic books and toys were created in his image.

A colourful personal life combined with Left wing leanings during the Cold War led to him being virtually expelled from America in 1952.

He was awarded a special Oscar 20 years later but lived out the rest of his life in Switzerland where he died.

In Context
The comedian was buried two days later about a mile from his home in Corsier near Lausanne, Switzerland, in a cemetery overlooking Lake Geneva and the Alps.

International figures from politics, film and the arts, including Sir Laurence Olivier, paid tribute to the comic.

In 2002 confidential Foreign Office papers from 1956 released by the Public Record Office in Britain revealed the comic's knighthood had been delayed because of his "communist" sympathies and worries about his morals.

Charlie Chaplin's body was stolen from his grave and was missing for 11 weeks until recovered in May 1978.

Two men were convicted of the theft and trying to extort money from the Chaplin family.


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