Charlie Chaplin in a scene from his last silent film, Modern Times, in 1939

Charlie Chaplin
The endearing figure of his Little Tramp was instantly recognizable around the globe and brought laughter to millions. Still is. Still does

Intro: Technology Shaped the Show
21st Century: The Future of Arts

Monday, June 8, 1998
Every few weeks, outside the movie theater in virtually any American town in the late 1910s, stood the life-size cardboard figure of a small tramp — outfitted in tattered, baggy pants, a cutaway coat and vest, impossibly large, worn-out shoes and a battered derby hat — bearing the inscription I AM HERE TODAY. An advertisement for a Charlie Chaplin film was a promise of happiness, of that precious, almost shocking moment when art delivers what life cannot, when experience and delight become synonymous, and our investments yield the fabulous, unmerited bonanza we never get past expecting.

Louis Armstrong
Lucille Ball
The Beatles
Marlon Brando
Coco Chanel
Charlie Chaplin
Le Corbusier
Bob Dylan
T.S. Eliot
Aretha Franklin
Martha Graham
Jim Henson
James Joyce
Pablo Picasso
Rodgers & Hammerstein
Bart Simpson
Frank Sinatra
Steven Spielberg
Igor Stravinsky
Oprah Winfrey

Eighty years later, Chaplin is still here. In a 1995 worldwide survey of film critics, Chaplin was voted the greatest actor in movie history. He was the first, and to date the last, person to control every aspect of the filmmaking process — founding his own studio, United Artists, with Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford and D.W. Griffith, and producing, casting, directing, writing, scoring and editing the movies he starred in. In the first decades of the 20th century, when weekly moviegoing was a national habit, Chaplin more or less invented global recognizability and helped turn an industry into an art. In 1916, his third year in films, his salary of $10,000 a week made him the highest-paid actor — possibly the highest paid person — in the world. By 1920, "Chaplinitis," accompanied by a flood of Chaplin dances, songs, dolls, comic books and cocktails, was rampant. Filmmaker Mack Sennett thought him "just the greatest artist who ever lived." Other early admirers included George Bernard Shaw, Marcel Proust and Sigmund Freud. In 1923 Hart Crane, who wrote a poem about Chaplin, said his pantomime "represents the futile gesture of the poet today." Later, in the 1950s, Chaplin was one of the icons of the Beat Generation. Jack Kerouac went on the road because he too wanted to be a hobo. From 1981 to 1987, IBM used the Tramp as the logo to advertise its venture into personal computers.

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July 6, 1925 Feb. 9, 1931
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