Sir Charles Spencer Chaplin, KBE (1889-1977), the first ever international star in the history of film, was born in London. Starting early in the entertainment world, Chaplin had a working life that spanned over 70 years. In 1910, the 21-year-old Chaplin went to the United States where he toured with a drama troupe and his talent was soon discovered by Keystone Film Company. After making his first film appearance in 1914, Chaplin gained fame rapidly with his image of a tramp. In a short time, he assumed the roles of scriptwriter, director, actor, producer and composer, mastering all areas of filmmaking. In 1919, together with D.W. Griffith, Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks, the heavyweights in the early cinematic age, Chaplin formed United Artists in order to maintain the autonomy of independent filmmakers and to contend with the Hollywood studios which were growing bigger and bigger. With his acmic sense of humour and cinematic skills, he combined romantic love as well as social and political criticisms to make immortal classics such as The Gold Rush (1925), City Lights (1931), Modern Times (1936) and The Great Dictator (1940). Proficient at scriptwriting, directing, acting and even composing, Charles Chaplin might very well be the most successful filmmaker in the silent film era.
Born into a vaudeville family in 1895, Buster Keaton began performing with his parents at the age of three. Nicknamed "The Great Stone Face", the comedian had been doing dangerous feats since childhood and built up consummate acrobatic skills. He was introduced into the film industry when Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle discovered his talent. After partnering with Arbuckle for some time, Keaton turned independent and wrote for, directed and acted in his own films from 1920 to 1928. He made 30 short and feature-length comedies during this period, Sherlock Jr. (1924), Our Hospitality (1923) and The General (1926) were some of the classics. Keaton's films are not renowned for the depiction of emotions, but are spectaculars of stunts and special images with comic effects. In order to create astounding effect on the screen, he performed most of the feats in person and risked his life to fight enormous machines such as train or steamboat, or natural phenomena such as tornado or flood. The awe-inspiring action scenes, coupled with his stoic, deadpan expression, were hilarious and made him one of the greatest stuntsters in history.
Harold Lloyd ranks alongside Charles Chaplin and Buster Keaton as one of the most popular and influential comedians of the silent film era. Born in 1893, Lloyd started early in acting when he was a child. He entered the film industry in 1913, and had made over 200 movies until 1947. On the silver screen, he was always a neighbourhood boy wearing glasses. Such an image of an ordinary person made the daredevil physical feats he performed even more hair-raising. Some of his representative works are Safety Last! (1923), The Freshman (1925) and The Kid Brother (1927).
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