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CHARLIE CHAPLIN

(1889-1977)
pre-reading tasks
1.– What is a comedian?
2.– Name a famous Spanish comedian.
3.– What colour clothes did Charlie Chaplin wear?
4.–Were his films funny or sad?

charlie chaplin (1889-1977)


Sir Charles Spencer Chaplin was born in London on April 16, 1889. He became
very famous playing the part of a humorous tramp in early silent films.
‘Talkies’ (films with sound) started being made at the end of the 1920’s. He did
not appear in these films as often as he had done in the silent movies. His
popularity, however, remained high because his early films were recognised as
classics.
His parents were Charles and Hannah Chaplin. Because they were music-hall
performers, he first appeared on the stage at the age of eight. His father died
soon after and his mother spent a lot of time in mental institutions. As a
result, Charlie Chaplin spent most of his childhood in boarding schools and
orphanages. He occasionally found work in the theatre and sometimes even
slept in the streets.
His older half-brother found him work with the Fred Karno Theatre Company
when he was seventeen. He remained with the company until 1913 when Mack
Sennett, a movie producer, saw him act in New York and offered to give him
work in the movies. He made his first film in December 1913 and never again
returned to the theatre.
Chaplin’s films were very successful from the start. There was so much demand
for them that he made two movies a week during his early career. His salary
went up astronomically from $150 a week in 1913 to $10,000 a week in 1916. He
was soon allowed to direct his own films.
The character that made Chaplain famous appeared for the first time in his
second film, Kid Auto Races at Venice. That character was the famous tramp
who wore a derby hat, tight frock coat, baggy trousers and out-sized shoes. He
had a moustache and carried a cane. The tramp appeared in many of
Chaplin’s subsequent films such as The Tramp, Easy Street, Modern Times and
The Great Dictator. The Great Dictator was the first ‘talkie’ Chaplin made. It was
made in 1940 and criticised fascist dictators like Mussolini and Hitler.
Though his professional life was a great success, Chaplin’s personal life was
often difficult. He married four times. After the Second World War, he had tax
problems in the United States and was attacked by conservative politicians for
being pro-Communist. In 1952, he left the United States for political reasons
and went with his family to live in Switzerland. He only returned to the United
States twenty years later to receive a special award from the Academy of
Motion Pictures, Arts and Sciences. In 1975, Queen Elizabeth II awarded him a
knighthood and he became Sir Charlie Chaplin. He died in Corsier-sur-Vevey,
Switzerland on Christmas day 1977.

match the phrases


Match the phrases in column A with the dates in column B:
A B
a.– ‘Talkies’ started to be made in 1897
b.– Charlie Chaplin first appeared in the theatre until 1913
c.– He worked for the Karno Theatre Company in the late 1920’s
d.– He and his family went to live in Switzerland in 1940
e.– The Great Dictator was made in 1952

t r u e o r fa l s e
Decide whether the following statements are True or False according to the text:
a.– You can hear Chaplin’s voice in his early films.
b.– Chaplin’s early films were not very successful.
c.– Charlie Chaplin’s mother died before his father did.
d.– The tramp character’s shoes were too small.
e.– Chaplin never went back to the United States after 1970.
CHARLIE CHAPLIN
(1889-1977)
write some questions
Write four questions about Charlie Chaplin’s life.
Example: Where was he born?

i n pa i r s
Ask your partner the questions you wrote for exercise 3. He/she will ask you his/her
questions. Be prepared to answer them. You can look at the text if you need to.

write a short biography


Write a short biography of your favourite film actor or a famous person you know
about. Try to use some of the expressions in the box below:

from the start for the first time subsequent until soon after then

discussion
Discussion (in pairs). Ask your partner about the person he/she has written about.
Find out as much as you can. Your partner will ask you about the person you have
written about:
“Who did you write about?” … “Freehand Heir ”…“ Who’s he?” … A football player.”
answer key
1.–
‘Talkies’ started to be made in the late 1920’s
Charlie Chaplin first appeared in the theatre in 1897
He worked for the Karno Theatre Company until 1913
He and his family went to live in Switzerland in 1952
The Great Dictator was made in 1940
2.–
a) F, b) F, c) F, d) F, e) F
3.–
Possible questions:
When was he born?
When did he make his first film?
Where did he die? etc.
(Teacher should go around monitoring that students are using the subject/verb
inversion to formulate simple questions correctly. Help if necessary. This is a warmer
for the last exercise in this activity file, so it’s useful if students get it right here.)
4.–
(In pairs). Students ask each other the questions about Chaplin they wrote in ex. 3.
5.–
Writing. (Teacher should monitor students as they write their texts. No more than 2
paragraphs. He/she should concentrate on the correct use of time expressions and
offer alternatives if necessary.)
6.–
(in pairs). Students ask each other questions about the actor or famous person they
wrote about in ex. 5. Hopefully, the questions written in ex. 3 will help them formulate
the questions correctly.