Entertainers

Charlie Chaplin
1889-1977

English film actor, director, producer, and composer, one of the most creative artists in film history, who first achieved worldwide fame through his performances in silent films. His full name was Sir Charles Spencer Chaplin.

Born in London, as a child Chaplin appeared in music hall and pantomime performances. In 1910 he toured the United States with a pantomime troupe and decided to remain in the country. Chaplin first appeared on the screen in 1914 with the Keystone Film Company of American director Mack Sennett. In Kid Auto Races at Venice (1914), wearing baggy pants, enormous shoes, and a bowler hat and carrying a bamboo cane, he originated his world-famous character, the Tramp. He played this classic role in more than 70 films during his career. He was associated later with the Essanay Film Company, the Mutual Film Company, and the First National Film Company. In 1918 his own studio in Hollywood, California, was completed. During these years Chaplin gradually developed the tramp character from a jaunty, slapstick stereotype into the compassionate human figure that came to be loved by audiences throughout the world. In 1919 he helped found the United Artists Corporation, with which he was associated until 1952. He also composed background music for most of his films.

In the late 1940s and early 1950s Chaplin was criticized for his leftist political views. As a result, he left the United States in 1952 and established permanent residence in Switzerland. In 1972 he briefly returned to the United States to receive several tributes, among them a special Academy Award for his contributions to the film industry. He was knighted in 1975.

Chaplin perfected an individual style of performing, derived from the circus clown and the mime, combining acrobatic elegance, expressive gesture, facial eloquence, and impeccable timing. His portrayal of the little tramp, a universally recognized symbol of indestructible individuality triumphing over adversity and persecution, both human and mechanical, won him critical renown as a tragicomedian

Back to Top

bar.gif (11170 bytes)

Sir Edward William Elgar
1857-1934

The first modern English composer to write important choral and orchestral music.

Elgar was born June 2, 1857, near Worcester. As a young man he filled several musical posts before succeeding his father as organist at Saint George's Roman Catholic Church, Worcester, in 1885. In 1889 he married and resigned his position to devote himself to composing. The 1890 performance of his overture Froissart brought Elgar some recognition, but he did not become well known until 1899, when the Hungarian conductor Hans Richter performed Elgar's Variations on an Original Theme in London. That composition, better known as the Enigma Variations because the central theme is suggested but never overtly stated, is one of his most highly regarded and popular works. The Dreams of Gerontius, based on a poem by the British churchman John Henry Newman, and generally considered Elgar's masterpiece, firmly established the reputation of the composer. Elgar's work, a late example of romanticism, is notable for its wit, lyrical beauty, and distinctive form. Elgar also wrote the cantatas The Black Knight (1893) and Caractacus (1898); the oratorios The Apostles (1903) and The Kingdom (1906); a concerto for violin (1910) and one for cello (1919); and the five popular Pomp and Circumstance marches (1901-7, 1930). His orchestral works include the overture Cockaigne (1902); the symphonic study Falstaff (1913); and two symphonies, in A-flat (1908) and in E-flat (1911).

Back to Top

bar.gif (11170 bytes)