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18 Surprising and Revealing Facts About Charlie Chaplin

Updated December 5, 2019 521.3k views19 items

Charlie Chaplin might just be one of the most famous people that ever lived. Young whippersnappers today might not know who he is, but the silent film legend had a career that spanned 75 years. He's like the human Mickey Mouse. An icon, recognizable to millions around the world. But who was Charlie Chaplin, really? Is there any Charlie Chaplin trivia that's not widely known?

Thanks to several Charlie Chaplin biographies and his own My Autobiography, the answer is a resounding yes. He was a fascinating and complicated man - studying Chaplin reveals facts (many less-than-flattering) about Charlie Chaplin that don't appear in the first few paragraphs of his Wikipedia page. Read on for some fascinating Charlie Chaplin trivia.

  • He Made J.D. Salinger Extraordinarily Jealous

    He Made J.D. Salinger Extraord is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list 18 Surprising and Revealing Facts About Charlie Chaplin
    Photo: Associated Press / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Catcher in the Rye scribe J.D. Salinger was not happy that 18-year-old Oona O'Neill (pictured) chose Charlie Chaplin over him. The marriage to Chaplin, especially, set him off. Chaplin was 54 at the time; Salinger was 24. Salinger was so incensed he sent O'Neill ''a scathing, scatological letter describing in disgusting detail his version of the Chaplins' wedding night.''

  • Thieves Dug Up Charlie Chaplin's Grave and Moved His Coffin

    Thieves Dug Up Charlie Chaplin is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list 18 Surprising and Revealing Facts About Charlie Chaplin
    Photo: Philoum / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

    On March 2, 1978, Chaplin's coffin was dug up and reburied in a cornfield by two men looking to extort money from his wife, Oona. Chaplin had only been buried at the cemetery in Corsier-sur-Vevey, Switzerland, for about three months at the time. Police arrested the grave robbers - unemployed refugees from Poland and Bulgaria - a few months later and Chaplin's coffin was returned to its former spot, this time in a vault made of reinforced concrete.

  • He Once Made An Actress Do 342 Takes

    He Once Made An Actress Do 342 is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list 18 Surprising and Revealing Facts About Charlie Chaplin
    Photo: Unknown / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Over the course of two weeks, Chaplin made actress Virginia Cherrill do 342 takes of one sequence in City Lights. It wasn't just about her performance, though that was a factor. Chaplin was also essentially making the story up as he went. As Richard Brody of the New Yorker explains, he "started to shoot in the confidence that the thing - whatever it was - would happen." 

  • People Thought An Actual Time Traveler Attended One Of Chaplin's Premieres

    People Thought An Actual Time  is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list 18 Surprising and Revealing Facts About Charlie Chaplin
    Video: YouTube

    What’s the connection between Charlie Chaplin and time travel? Nothing, really - he was friends with Einstein, if that counts? - but that didn’t stop the Internet from going nuts over the above clip back in 2010. It’s a DVD extra on Chaplin’s The Circus (1928) chronicling the film’s premiere that shows a large woman in black holding a device up to her ear and talking into it. It looks uncannily like she’s using a smartphone, but the clip has since been debunked as actually showing a huge, expensive hearing aid that would have been available to a well-to-do woman in Hollywood at the time.

    Chaplin, who dabbled in sci-fi with his masterpiece Modern Times (1936), would likely have gotten a kick out it.

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