The Early Years of Charlie Chaplin
Charlie Chaplin’s career has been described, critiqued, and scrutinized. There are book-length studies on Chaplin’s music hall career, his career at Keystone Studios and the Mutual Studios. Somehow, his tenure with First National, however, has been largely neglected, even though it was during this several-year contractual time period that Chaplin built and occupied his own studio for the first time, that he attempted and succeeded in filming a comedy feature (The Kid) and that he helped to set up United Artists, an organization that protected the salaries and creative freedom of actors in Hollywood. This period in Chaplin’s story is especially interesting because such landmark moments are accompanied by Chaplin’s first marriage and divorce, the death of his first child, his friendship with French silent film comedian Max Linder , World War I and the role he would play in it, and the production and release of several unsuccessful films that marked Chaplin’s first creative blockage - one that threatened his future career.
This book discusses the transitional periods just before and after the First National contract, as well as the all-important period satisfying it. Archival evidence provides most of the support for the book’s assertions, from the Chaplin archive (property of Roy Export, digitised by Cineteca di Bologna, Italy), and the personal archives of other individuals or institutions discussed. Rare photos illustrate the story.