Happy 128th Birthday, Charlie Chaplin!

The immortal Charlie Chaplin was born Charles Spencer Chaplin 128 years ago today. There is no official record of his birth, but Chaplin said he was born on East Street in South London. Here are 10 CC Did-You-Knows:

  • Chaplin’s childhood was a difficult one. His alcoholic father was largely absent (and died at 37, when Charlie was just 12), and his mother was committed to a mental asylum when he was 14.
  • For some time, even after becoming very successful, Chaplin continued to live in a cheap hotel room.
  • Chaplin was married four times, with a greater disparity between his age and his wife’s with each new union (12 years, 19 years, 21 years and 37 years). He had 11 children with those four wives; he was 73 years old when his youngest, Charles, was born in 1962.
  • Stan Laurel was once Chaplin’s understudy during their years on the English stage. Later, when they had both emigrated to the United States, they roomed together in a boarding house. No cooking was allowed there, so when Laurel was making dinner on a hot plate, Chaplin played the violin to cover the sound of the frying.
  • Chaplin was the first actor to appear on the cover of Time magazine (the July 6, 1925 issue).
  • Contrary to popular belief, Chaplin’s eyes were a striking shade of blue.
  • Chaplin received no screen credit for his early films for Keystone (it was that studio’s policy not to credit actors); it wasn’t until 1915 that Chaplin finally received a screen credit, when he made his first film for Essanay.
  • In addition to his many other accomplishments, Chaplin was a composer. He wrote more than 500 songs, including the beloved hit “Smile,” and later in life scored some of his early films when they were reissued.
  • In 1947, Chaplin was subpoenaed by—but never appeared before—the House Un-American Activities Committee. He sent HUAC a telegram, reading: “I am not a Communist, neither have I ever joined any political party or organization in my life.” That seems to have satisfied them.
  • Chaplin was a cofounder of United Artists, along with Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks and D. W. Griffith.

Happy birthday, Charlie Chaplin, wherever you may be!

a young Charlie Chaplin

Step by Step with Stan and Ollie

Stan and Laurel at the bottom of the stepsThe comedy shorts of the 1920s and ’30s were a key part of our youth. You didn’t have to turn to TCM to watch movies of that era in those days (good thing, too—since cable TV wasn’t yet in existence). We spent hours viewing Laurel and Hardy and Our Gang comedies, simply because they were often just about the only things on a kid would care to watch.

So when Ms. Cladrite and I paid a visit to Los Angle-eez some years ago, a visit to the concrete steps featured in Stan and Ollie’s The Music Box was high on our list of things to do.

You remember The Music Box—it’s the classic short that finds our boys hired to deliver a piano, and when they arrive at the address, they are faced with an endless cement staircase standing between them and the Silverlake-area house that is the piano’s destination. (If you’ve never seen this short, you can rectify that here.)

Back in the day, the area around those steps was wide open, but it’s quite developed now—you could never achieve the camera angles necessary to shoot a remake of The Music Box. But the steps themselves are still there, and one enterprising soul has undertaken the task of creating a video comprising then-and-now photographs of this memorable location. We enjoyed the video (though it is, perhaps, thorough to a fault), and we think you will, tool