Among the many treasures held by the Special Collections section of the McPherson Library is this 1931 self-portrait by cinematic genius Charlie Chaplin whose silent and “talkie” masterpieces included City Lights, Modern Times, and The Great Dictator. “Chaplin’s science is humour and his laboratory the world,” the caricaturist Al Hirschfeld observed in The New York Times Magazine in July of 1942.
In 1916 Chaplin was earning an astounding $10,000 a week. He would control every aspect of his filmmaking and formed United Artists studios with Douglas Fairbanks, D.W. Griffith and Canada’s Mary Pickford.
During the Cold War witch hunts of the 1950s the London-born Chaplin’s US entry visa was revoked even though the FBI had found no evidence of treasonous activities. By 1972 he had begun working again in the States and that year, at the Academy Awards, he received a special Oscar—and the longest, loudest ovation in the ceremony’s history.
Sir Charles Chaplin died in Switzerland on Christmas Day, 1977. His self-portrait was donated to the university several years ago—along with a raft of historic documents and artifacts—by local collectors Bruce and Dorothy Brown.
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