The Tramp’s First Appearance

By | Feb 7, 2017

Whenever anyone speaks of Charlie Chaplin, the image that will come to mind is his signature character, the Little Tramp. Chaplin himself called him The Little Fellow. The character rarely was referred to by any name onscreen.

The Little Tramp was first seen by the public when Keystone released the comedy short Kid Auto Races at Venice on February 7, 1914. This was actually the second time Chaplin played the character. The first filmed production was Mabel’s Strange Predicament, which was released two days later on February 9th.

It’s not hard to picture the character. He wore a pair of baggy pants, tight coat, a derby hat, large shoes and had a small mustache. Chaplin said in his autobiography, “… on the way to the wardrobe I thought I would dress in baggy pants, big shoes, a cane and a derby hat. I wanted everything to be a contradiction: the pants baggy, the coat tight, the hat small and the shoes large. I was undecided whether to look old or young, but remembering Sennett had expected me to be a much older man, I added a small moustache, which I reasoned, would add age without hiding my expression.”

The Little Tramp soon became a very popular character. Chaplin made 34 short films in 1914 with Keystone, before moving to Essanay Studio in 1915 and Mutual in 1916. Chaplin would assume control of his productions in 1918. There were only a few productions during the Silent Era that Chaplin played characters other than the Little Tramp.

Perhaps the best film to feature the Little Tramp was the 1925 film The Gold Rush. It was in that film that the classic scene of the starving man, during the Yukon Gold Rush, carved and ate an old boot.

In 1981, IBM acquired the rights for the Little Tramp from the Chaplin family to used the character in a series of ads for their new personal computer. The idea was that even Charlie the common man could use a computer.


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