Nov 14, 2010 0
In January 1914, when Chaplin had been at Keystone for a few months, Mack Sennett asked him to come with some new ideas for gags. It was at this time that Chaplin invented the character of the tramp.
Kid Auto Races At Venice , in which Chaplin’s “Tramp” character makes his debut.
I was in my street clothes and had nothing to do, so I stood where Sennett could see me. He was standing with Mabel, looking into a hotel lobby set, biting the end of a cigar. “We need some gags here,” he said, then turned to me. “Put on comedy make-up. Anything will do.”
I had no idea what make-up to put on. I did not like my get-up as the press reporter. However, 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 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.
I had no idea of the character. But the moment I was dressed, the clothes and the make-up made me feel the person that I was. I began to know him, and by the time I walked on to the stage he was fully born. When I confronted Sennett I assumed the character and strutted about, swinging my cane and parading before him. Gags and comedy ideas went racing through my mind.
The secret of Mark Sennett’s success was his enthusiasm. He stood and giggled until his body began to shake. This encouraged me and I began to explain the character: “You know this fellow is many-sided, a tramp, a gentleman, a poet, a dreamer, a lonely fellow, always hopeful of romance and adventure. He would have you believe he’s a scientist, a musician, a duke, a polo player. However, he is not above picking up cigarette butts or robbing a baby of its candy. And of course, if the occasion warrants it, he will kick a lady in the rear — but only in extreme anger!”
– Charles Chaplin, My Autobiography