The Chaplin Brother
Sydney Chaplin, Charlie Chaplin’s elder half brother, was born four years earlier than him and shared their mother but different fathers.
Sydney put his own acting career on hold to act as Charlie’s business manager, helping negotiate his contracts with Mack Sennett, Fred Karno and Essanay company.
Early Life and Education
Sydney Chaplin (commonly referred to as Syd, 1885-1965) was Charlie’s elder half-brother and served as something of an advisor during their difficult upbringing. Additionally, Syd was a talented comedy performer in his own right who created several successful “Gussle” comedies with Mack Sennett.
Charlie first turned to Fred Karno for help getting an audition with his company where he eventually made an impression as one of their productions, playing an impaired character who became popularly known.
Chaplin may have had the face of an angel, but his life was anything but. He made his living through theater work, even marrying 16 year old Lita Grey before their marriage unraveled into an ugly divorce that made front page headlines.
Sydney was an expert mimic with an eccentric sense of fun who thrived both on stage and screen. Capable of embodying various characters, Sydney excelled at portraying different personas though he did not possess his father’s talent for comedy.
In 1916 he temporarily suspended his acting career to serve as business manager to Charlie. Under his tutelage Charlie secured a million dollar contract which was the largest film star contract at that time.
Rob McClure makes an enthralling Chaplin in Chaplin The Musical on Broadway’s newcomers stage, while Jenn Colella makes an exquisite Hedda Hopper that represents the yellow press hounding stars at that time. Her rendition of All Falls Down makes this part of the musical memorable!
Achievement and Honors
Chaplin turned his observations and anxieties into hilarious comedy throughout his life, providing audiences with a window into the working class world and its issues of poverty, unemployment, inequality and machinery’s dominion.
Chaplin signed with Essanay Film Company after leaving Sennett in 1913, where he further refined his craft and created over 30 films that added depth and emotion to his renowned Keystone slapstick routines.
Chaplin had complete artistic control of his work throughout his long career and was able to craft films that appealed to both mainstream audiences and art houses alike. In 1952, he received an honorary Oscar for making motion pictures an art form of this century; later that same year, another was bestowed.
Syd Chaplin had an endearing and amusing personality which perfectly reflected his stage and film persona. An accomplished mimic, he also had a flair for entertaining audiences.
He co-starred with his father in the film Limelight and had a brief role as Kaiser Wilhelm in Shoulder Arms (1918).
He was known for his elegance but also had an incredible talent onstage and could generate laughter with seemingly effortless performances. Additionally, he was an excellent raconteur, boasting an endless supply of anecdotes about good living among rich friends while imbibing startling amounts of whiskey to fuel his humor. Additionally, he enjoyed golf and fine wines; was generous host and loyal friend of Oona and her eight children.
Charlie was the sole member of his family to find success in the entertainment industry. Over his lifetime, he amassed roughly $100 million, which is roughly equivalent to $400 million today.
At an early age, he began touring music halls with the Eight Lancashire Lads clog dancing group. Later, he found success as a comedian when he signed with Fred Karno’s comedy company. Soon thereafter he could work at Keystone Film Company and became popular for wearing his trademark bowler hat and cane!
Sydney Chaplin was an entertainer who found success in the entertainment industry through acting, writing and directing his own films. Additionally, he co-founded United Artists distribution company as well.