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Charlie Chaplin’s Most Famous Character is 100 Years Old Today — Watch His First Appearance
February 7, 2014
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Charlie Chaplin in The Gold Rush. (Photo: AFP/AFP/Getty Images)

Charlie Chaplin’s iconic “Little Tramp” first hit screens 100 years ago today.

The character — known for his mismatched, ill-fitting formal attire, bowler hat, small moustache and cane — made its debut in 1914’s Kid Auto Races at Venice, which stars Chaplin as a bumbling spectator interfering with a news crew's attempt to film a soapbox car race. You can watch the entire short here:

Chaplin's Tramp was an instant hit with audiences, who responded as much to the physical comedy as they did to the commentary the character offered about class conflict and social mobility. Chaplin described his character as someone who "wears an air of romantic hunger, forever seeking romance, but his feet won't let him.”

The character went on to appear in dozens of short films and features — including the incredibly popular films The Kid and The Gold Rush — until it was retired in 1936’s Modern Times

For more on the Tramp's legacy, see this feature from The Progressive and this overview by The New Yorker's Richard Brody.


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