Charlie Chaplin is one of the most recognizable movie stars from the silent era; he directed over 70 movies and starred in over 80. But what was his first movie?
In 1914, Chaplin starred in the movie “Making a Living” as a lovable tramp (Chaplin played a tramp in almost all of his movies). The movie was written and directed by Henry Lehrman.
Chaplin’s character was named Edgar English, this was rare for a Chaplin film, in which almost every other character he played was nameless or just named Charlie.
In this movie Chaplin sported a top hat and a large moustache; it wasn’t until his next movie that his iconic look was introduced. Chaplin went on record, stating that the best of his performance had been left out of the final cut of the film. Lehrman stated in a later interview that he had mishandled the film on purpose to spite Chaplin.
This is also one of the only films that had both Chaplin and the Keystone Kops in it. Chaplin actually got his start at Keystone when Mack Sennett hired him to do silent movies, before this Charlie was working in a vaudeville act. In 1913, Chaplin arrived in Los Angeles which was home to the Keystone Studio. Sennett did not use Chaplin right away, however, stating that the 24-year-old looked too young, so Chaplin spent the better part of the year learning about filmmaking.
The first movie that Chaplin ever directed was named “Caught in the Rain” and it debuted on May 4, 1914. It was met with acclaim.
After this Chaplin directed almost every short he starred in, he said that this was the most exciting time in his career. Even though he was still working for Keystone, his films were a much slower version of comedy which drew in a large fan base for Chaplin.
In his first feature-length film named “Tillie’s Punctured Romance”, Chaplin played a supporting role, while the lead was a female by the name of Marie Dressler.
This film was a huge success and brought in even more fame for Chaplin. When the end of the year grew closer, Chaplin went to Sennett to negotiate his new contract.
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Chaplin asked Sennet to pay him $1,000 a week. Sennett laughed, thinking paying anyone an amount that big was absurd. Keystone was eventually folded into the Triangle Film Corporation as an autonomous production unit. It was in 1917 when Sennett gave up the Keystone trademark and started his own company.