On January 11, 1927, the $16 million assets of Charlie Chaplin were frozen by court receivers following a lawsuit for divorce by his second wife, Lita Grey Chaplin.
The divorce, which was bitter and prolonged, ended the three-year marriage with a $1 million settlement.
Charlie Chaplin, one of the most financially successful stars of early Hollywood, had a unique start in the industry.
He was introduced to the stage at the young age of five, when his mother’s voice cracked during a performance and he was quickly brought on stage to finish the act.
His father passed away when he was a toddler, and after his mother had a nervous breakdown, he and his older half-brother, Sydney, roamed the streets of London collecting pennies in a hat.
Eventually, they ended up in an orphanage and joined a children’s dance troupe called the Eight Lancashire Lads.
At the age of 17, Chaplin began to develop his comedic skills with the help of Fred Karno’s company, where his half-brother had already become a popular comedian.
He quickly made a name for himself in the industry and his bowler hat, out-turned feet, mustache and walking cane became his trademark.
He joined the Keystone company and filmed Making a Living, in which he played a mustachioed villain.
He also started working behind the camera, helping direct his 12th film and directing his 13th, Caught in the Rain, on his own.
In 1915, Chaplin signed on with the Essanay company for $1,250 a week, plus a $10,000 bonus.
The following year, he signed with Mutual for $10,000 a week, plus a $150,000 bonus, under a contract that required him to make 12 films annually but granted him complete creative control over the pictures.
And in 1918, he signed a contract with First National for $1 million for eight films.
Chaplin was a masterful silent film actor and pantomimist who could elicit both laughter and tears from his audiences.
Despite the arrival of sound in movies, he resisted incorporating it into his films.
Indeed, in his first film that featured sound, City Lights in 1931, he only used music. His first true sound film was 1940’s The Great Dictator, in which he mocked fascism.
In 1919, Chaplin founded United Artists Corporation with Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks and director D.W. Griffith.
He married twice more, both times to teenage girls. His fourth wife, Oona O’Neill, was 18 when she married the 54-year-old actor, and she was the daughter of playwright Eugene O’Neill.
Though he had lived in the United States for 42 years, Chaplin never became a U.S. citizen. He was a vocal pacifist and was accused of communist ties, which he denied.
Nevertheless, in 1952, immigration officials prevented him and his wife from re-entering the United States after a foreign tour.
The couple did not return to the United States for 20 years, instead they settled in Switzerland with their eight children.
Chaplin returned to America in 1972 to accept a special Academy Award for “the incalculable effect he has had on making motion pictures the art for and of this century.”
He was knighted as Sir Charles Spencer Chaplin in 1975, and passed away two years later.