Chaplin (film)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  (Redirected from Chaplin (1992 film))
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Theatrical release poster
Directed byRichard Attenborough
Produced by
Screenplay by
Story byDiana Hawkins
Based on
Music byJohn Barry
CinematographySven Nykvist
Edited byAnne V. Coates
Distributed byGuild Film Distribution (United Kingdom)[1]
TriStar Pictures (United States)
Release date
  • December 18, 1992 (1992-12-18) (United Kingdom)
  • December 25, 1992 (1992-12-25) (United States)
Running time
145 minutes
  • United Kingdom
  • United States
Budget$31 million
Box office$9.5 million

Chaplin is a 1992 biographical comedy-drama film about the life of British comedian Charlie Chaplin. It was produced and directed by Richard Attenborough and stars Robert Downey Jr., Marisa Tomei, Dan Aykroyd, Penelope Ann Miller, and Kevin Kline. It also features Charlie Chaplin's own daughter, Geraldine Chaplin in the role of his mother, Hannah Chaplin.

The film was adapted by William Boyd, Bryan Forbes and William Goldman from Chaplin's 1964 book My Autobiography and the 1985 book Chaplin: His Life and Art by film critic David Robinson. Associate producer Diana Hawkins got a story credit. The original music score was composed by John Barry.[2][3] The film received mixed reviews and was a box office bomb grossing mere $9.5 million against its $31 million budget; however Downey's titular performance garnered critical acclaim, winning him the BAFTA Award for Best Actor and receiving nominations for the Academy Award for Best Actor and Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama.


The film is structured around flashbacks as the elderly Charlie Chaplin (now living in Switzerland) recollects moments from his life during a conversation with fictional character George Hayden, the editor of his autobiography.

Chaplin's recollections begin with his childhood of extreme poverty from which he escapes by immersing himself in the world of the London music halls. After his mother Hannah Chaplin has an attack of nerves on stage during a performance, the four year old Chaplin takes his mother's place on the stage. Hannah retires from performing and is eventually committed to an asylum after developing psychosis. In the years that follow, Chaplin and his brother Sydney gain work with variety show producer Fred Karno, where Chaplin becomes a hit with his comedy drunk act. He begins a relationship with his first love Hetty Kelly; the night before he is due to leave for America he proposes to her but she declines, reasoning she is too young. Chaplin promises to return to England for her when he is a success.

Chaplin is sent to America by Karno and is given a job by Mack Sennett, the most famous comedy producer in Hollywood. While there, he creates his iconic Tramp persona and due to the terrible directorial capabilities of Sennett's girlfriend Mabel Normand, Chaplin is allowed to direct his own movies. Before the year is over, Chaplin directs over 20 movies. After Sydney joins him in America to become his manager, Chaplin decides to break away from Sennett to have complete creative control over his films with the goal of one day owning his own studio. In 1917, Chaplin completes work on The Immigrant which causes some concern over the film's political subject matter and starts a brief romance with actress Edna Purviance.

Years later at an industry party thrown by Douglas Fairbanks, Chaplin meets and begins dating child actress Mildred Harris. Chaplin eventually becomes wealthy and profitable enough to set up his own studio and becomes "the most famous man in the world" all before his thirtieth birthday. Chaplin reveals to Fairbanks that he is to marry Harris as she is pregnant, but later at a party thrown by William Randolph Hearst, the pregnancy is revealed to be a hoax. At the same party, Chaplin has an uncomfortable confrontation with J. Edgar Hoover about actor/directors and their responsibilities with regards to audiences, this confrontation sparks a forty-year-long vendetta and Hoover attempts to ruin Chaplin's reputation.

Chaplin and Mildred separate after Mary Pickford tells Chaplin that Mildred had never been pregnant. During the couple's divorce proceedings, Harris's lawyers attempt to steal Chaplin's movie The Kid, reasoning that it is one of his assets. Chaplin and Sydney flee with the film's footage; finish editing it in a remote hotel in Salt Lake City, Utah; and then smuggle it successfully back to Los Angeles.

The brothers eventually arrange for their mother to join them in America. Chaplin is initially happy to see her but has been away from her for so long that he is unable to cope with her worsening mental illness. In 1921, seeking a break from film-making and his private life, Chaplin returns to England to attend the UK premiere of The Kid. He reunites with Karno and hopes to locate Hetty, but Karno sadly informs him that she died in an influenza epidemic shorty after the war. Chaplin also discovers that although most are happy to see him, his success has meant that the poverty stricken working class British no longer consider him to be one of their own and resent him for not fighting in the war as they did.

Back in America, Hoover is beginning to investigate Chaplin's private life, suspecting that he may be a member of the Communist Party, and Chaplin is forced to consider the implications the introduction of "talkies" may have on his film-making career. Despite the arrival of sound pictures drawing nearer, Chaplin vows never to make a talkie featuring the Tramp.

In 1925, Chaplin makes The Gold Rush and marries bit part actress Lita Grey, with whom he goes on to have two children, however Chaplin later confides to George that he always thought of her as a "total bitch" and dedicates no more than five lines to her in the finished autobiography. Years pass and although Chaplin finds a new wife in Paulette Goddard he feels a sense of guilt and sympathy to the millions of Americans who have recently been made unemployed due to the Wall Street Crash (Chaplin avoided losing all of his money in The Great Depression by selling most of his shares the year before). Chaplin decides to address the issue in his next movie Modern Times (the final movie to feature The Tramp) but his complete dedication to getting the movie finished puts excessive strain on his home life and eventually results in the breakup of his marriage.

At an industry party Chaplin causes a minor scandal when he refuses to shake hands with a visiting member of the Nazi party. Fairbanks (with his health in great decline) comments that Chaplin looks a lot like Adolf Hitler, providing Chaplin with inspiration for his next movie in their final encounter before Fairbanks' death in 1939. Chaplin's film satirizing the Nazis The Great Dictator is a huge hit throughout the world but Hoover tries to portray the film as a work of anti-American propaganda.

Chaplin settles down with and marries Oona O'Neill, an actress who looks identical to his first love Hetty Kelly and the woman with whom he will spend the remainder of his life. However Chaplin is hit with another scandal when it is alleged that he is father to the child of his former lover Joan Barry and despite a blood test proving that the child is not his, Chaplin is ordered to provide financial support for the child. His reputation severely damaged, Chaplin stays out of the public eye for over seven years until re-emerging to produce a new film Limelight.

In 1952, during the height of McCarthyism scandal, Chaplin leaves America with Oona on a visit to Britain, but subsequently finds out that the U.S. Attorney General has revoked Chaplin's permit to re-enter the United States.

In 1972, ten years after Chaplin and George complete his autobiography, Chaplin is invited back to America in order to receive a special Honorary Award at the Academy Awards. Though Chaplin is initially still resentful at being exiled from the country and fearful that no one will remember him, the audience happily rejoices upon seeing his classic film clips. Chaplin stands on the stage and is moved to tears when the audience provide him with the Oscar's longest standing ovation.



Although Richard Attenborough wanted Robert Downey Jr. for the part of Chaplin, studio executives wanted Robin Williams or Billy Crystal for the role.[4][5] Jim Carrey was also considered.[6]


Critical reception[edit]

The film received mixed reviews, lauded for its high production values, but many critics dismissed it as an overly glossy biopic.[7] Although the film was criticized for taking dramatic license with some aspects of Chaplin's life, Downey's performance as Chaplin won universal acclaim. Attenborough was sufficiently confident in Downey's performance to include historical footage of Chaplin himself at the end of the film.

According to the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, 59% of critics have given Chaplin a positive review based on 51 reviews, with an average rating of 5.73/10. The website's critics consensus reads, "Chaplin boasts a terrific performance from Robert Downey, Jr. in the title role, but it isn't enough to overcome a formulaic biopic that pales in comparison to its subject's classic films."[8] At Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 47 out of 100 based on 22 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[9] Vincent Canby of The New York Times lauded Downey's performance, and deemed the film "extremely appreciative".[10] Todd McCarthy of Variety remarked that Chaplin's life was too grand to properly capture in a film, criticizing the screenplay, but praised the casting and the film's first hour.[11]

Roger Ebert of The Chicago Sun-Times gave the film two stars, dubbing the film, "a disappointing, misguided movie that has all of the parts in place to be a much better one", but praised Downey and the production values.[12] Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times felt Attenborough's filmmaking and Chaplin's life were ill-suited to each other, but said of Downey, "Lithe and lively and looking remarkably like the younger Chaplin, Downey does more than master the man’s celebrated duck walk and easy grace. In one of those acts of will and creativity that actors come up with when you least expect it, Downey becomes Chaplin, re-creating his character and his chilly soul so precisely that even the comedian’s daughter Geraldine, a featured player here, was both impressed and unnerved."[13]


Award Category Nominee Outcome
Academy Awards Best Actor Robert Downey Jr. Nominated
Best Original Score John Barry Nominated
Best Art Direction Stuart Craig
Chris A. Butler
BAFTA Awards Best Actor Robert Downey Jr. Won
Best Costume Design John Mollo
Ellen Mirojnick
Best Makeup and Hair Wally Schneiderman
Jill Rockow
John Caglione Jr.
Best Production Design Stuart Craig Nominated
Golden Globe Awards Best Original Score John Barry Nominated
Best Actor – Drama Robert Downey Jr. Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Geraldine Chaplin Nominated
Moscow International Film Festival Golden St. George Richard Attenborough Nominated[14]

Home media[edit]

The film was released on VHS and LaserDisc in 1993 and later on DVD in 1997, and on LaserDisc by Live Home Video on July 5, 1998. A 15th-anniversary edition was released by Lions Gate Entertainment (who obtained the distribution rights to the film in the interim under license from the copyright holder, StudioCanal) in 2008. The anniversary edition contained extensive interviews with the producers, and included several minutes of home-movie footage shot on Chaplin's yacht. The box for this DVD mistakenly lists the film's running time as 135 minutes, although it retains the 143-minute length of the original theatrical release.[15]

The 15th Anniversary Edition was later released on Blu-ray on February 15, 2011.


The soundtrack to Chaplin was released on December 15, 1992.

Track listing
1."Chaplin - Main Theme"John Barry3:06
2."Early Days in London"John Barry4:18
3."Charlie Proposes"John Barry3:01
4."To California / The Cutting Room"John Barry3:45
5."Discovering the Tramp / The Wedding Chase"John Barry4:01
6."Chaplin's Studio Opening"John Barry1:58
7."Salt Lake City Episode"John Barry2:11
8."The Roll Dance"John Barry2:34
9."News of Hetty's Death / Smile"John Barry3:42
10."From London to L.A."John Barry3:21
11."Joan Barry Trouble / Oona Arrives"John Barry2:15
12."Remembering Hetty"John Barry2:57
13."Smile"Charles Chaplin2:06
14."The Roll Dance"John Barry1:47
15."Chaplin - Main Theme / Smile"John Barry4:46
16."Smile (Performed by Robert Downey Jr.)"John Barry3:38
Total length:49:26[16]


  1. ^
  2. ^ "Channeling Chaplin : It is the role of Robert Downey Jr.'s career--and he believes the Little Tramp is with him". Los Angeles Times. December 20, 1992. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved June 22, 2019.
  3. ^ Diamond, Jamie (December 20, 1992). "FILM; Robert Downey Jr. Is Chaplin (on Screen) and a Child (Off)". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved June 22, 2019.
  4. ^ Skipper, Ben (August 12, 2014). "The Nearly Roles Of Robin Williams: Joker, Hagrid, The Shining, Riddler". International Business Times. Retrieved August 14, 2015.
  5. ^ Evans, Bradford (March 31, 2011). "The Lost Roles of Robin Williams". Splitsider. Archived from the original on April 24, 2016. Retrieved March 28, 2016.
  6. ^ Evans, Bradford (March 17, 2011). "The Lost Roles of Jim Carrey". Splitsider. Archived from the original on August 8, 2015. Retrieved August 10, 2015.
  7. ^ "Chaplin (1992) : Film". DigiGuide. Dismissed on its release by many critics as a typically fluffy paean to Chaplin ... this sumptuous biopic may have a touch too much gloss, but it's anything but bland.
  8. ^ "Chaplin (1992)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Retrieved May 23, 2019.
  9. ^ "Chaplin Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved May 23, 2019.
  10. ^ Canby, Vincent (December 25, 1992). "Review/Film; Robert Downey Jr. in Charlie Chaplin Life Story" – via
  11. ^ McCarthy, Todd (December 7, 1992). "Chaplin".
  12. ^ Ebert, Roger. "Chaplin movie review & film summary (1993)".
  13. ^ "MOVIE REVIEWS : A Reverential 'Chaplin': Send in the Clown : Stately Pace at Odds With Subject's Slapstick Comedy". Los Angeles Times. December 25, 1992.
  14. ^ "18th Moscow International Film Festival (1993)". MIFF. Archived from the original on April 3, 2014. Retrieved March 10, 2013.
  15. ^ "Combustible Celluloid film review - Chaplin (1992), Richard Attenborough, Robert Downey Jr., Moira Kelly, dvd review". October 8, 2008. Retrieved September 7, 2010.
  16. ^ Chaplin Soundtrack TheOST. Retrieved December 30, 2013

External links[edit]