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May 29, 2012 > From lonely tramp to legendary star

From lonely tramp to legendary star

By Mauricio Segura

He was a comedian, actor, producer, writer, director, musical composer, co-founder of United Artists Pictures, and one of the first superstars of American film. After almost 80 years since retiring his iconic character of a lonely tramp, it is still one of the best recognized film characters of all time, worldwide. And his slapstick comedy influenced generations of notable comedians from The Three Stooges, French mime Marcel Marceau, and Milton Berle to Dick Van Dyke, Rowan Atkinson, and Jim Carrey.

Born in London in 1889, Charles Spencer Chaplin was destined for stardom. First taking the stage at the age of five as a fill-in for his mother, Charlie instantly developed a love for entertaining. He toured America in a Vaudeville show in 1910, but it wasn't until his second trip to the states in 1914 that he discovered the art of film making. From that moment on, a star was born that still shines brightly over the Hollywood sky.

Charlie went on to make 86 films, 73 of which he directed from 1914 - 1967. Unlike most of his contemporaries, his transition from silent film to the "talkies" in 1931 was quite successful. However, the talkies did end his lonely tramp character, as Charlie reasoned that it was such a staple of the silent film era, it wouldn't have the same impact if the character was given a voice.

At the height of the silent film era, Charlie, aged 26, was a worldwide film star making over $600,000 a year, an incredible sum which made him one of the richest men in the world. Unfortunately, his personal life never shared the same success as his public life. He married four times, the longest lasting 34 years to Oona, the daughter of playwright Eugene O'Neill, and fathered 12 children. After a lifetime of making people smile, Charlie Chaplin passed away in his sleep at the age of 88 on Christmas Eve 1977.

Now, each year his legacy is celebrated during Chaplin Days in Niles. "He was only here for a few months while filming for Essanay Studios," explains Stanley Mason of Fremont. "He made about seven movies during that time, including 'The Tramp,' which ends with Charlie's little tramp character famously walking away down Niles Canyon Road. He also shared a small cottage, which I think still stands, with his then leading lady Edna Purviance." Mason continues, "In retrospect, his time here wasn't the highlight of his career, but it forever put Niles on the map of Hollywood movie nostalgia. It's a beautiful place. To walk here is to step back in time. And to know that people like Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Broncho Billy, and others spent time and filmed movies here, makes it that much more special."

Chaplin Days will be held the weekend of June 2 and 3 with both days featuring look-a-like contests, great food, penny carnival games, and much more. Every person who dresses as Charlie or any other nostalgic Hollywood star will get a special prize. Two quarters will pay for the entrance into the Essanay Silent Film Museum throughout the day to watch one of the six movies Charlie filmed in Niles, with a special showing of one of his most famous silent films, "The Kid" on Saturday night for $5. Another highlight, co-sponsored by the Laurel and Hardy Film Appreciation Society, will be the Pie Fight of the Century at 4 p.m. on Sunday.

There will be so much to do and see, this is a can't miss event for the entire family. It has been going strong for over 50 years, and is guaranteed to leave you with what Charlie dedicated his life to giving - a smile.

Charlie Chaplin Days
Saturday, June 2 and Sunday, June 3
11 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.
Niles Boulevard
Old Town Niles, Fremont
(510) 494-1411
www.niles.org


Charlie Chaplin Days
Main Activities on Niles Blvd between F & I Streets
11:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.
Co-sponsored by Niles Main Street Association and Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum


Activities both Saturday & Sunday

Charlie Chaplin film shorts at Edison Theater
37417 Niles Blvd., Fremont, (Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum)
One- and two-reel movies filmed in Niles in 1915!
Movie Tickets 50c (suggested donation)
Popcorn and snacks are available

Movie Schedule:
11:30 a.m. "A Night Out" 50¢
12:30 p.m. "The Champion" 50¢
1:30 p.m. "In The Park" 50¢
1:45 p.m. "The Movies Go West" 50¢
2:30 p.m. "The Jitney Elopement" 50¢
3:30 p.m. "The Tramp" 50¢
4 p.m. (Saturday only) "When the Movies Came From Niles" $2
7:30 p.m. (Saturday only) "The Kid" $5 - limited seating, advance ticket purchase at www.niles.org advised


Charlies all around town: on display in stores, wandering around town and even riding the steam train! (featuring Al Proietti, our "Niles Chaplin") See train schedule at www.niles.org

Penny Carnival Games: Bean Bag Toss, High Striker


Sunday, June 3rd Only
Lookalike Contest
2 p.m. Come dressed up like him or another movie star and win a prize!
Google's Chaplin Doodle was released on the Google website April 16, 2011 to celebrate Chaplin's birthday - we will share it again this year right before the contest.

A Salute to Slapstick
Pie Fight of the Century
4 p.m. Smash a pie for a good cause!
Pies to throw - $3/$5
Proceeds go toward the silent film being created in Niles by the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum. More information can be found at www.indiegogo.com/nilesfilm. Co-sponsored by the Laurel & Hardy Film Appreciation Society - Sons of the Desert - Midnight Patrol tent and Niles Pie Company!

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