Sydney Chaplin and Adoption

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Chaplin, Sir Charles Spencer (Charlie), 1889-1977

Chaplin, Sydney, 1885-1956

British-American Actors

The Chaplin half-brothers started out in variety as children - their parents were in show business - and went on to long and successful careers in America. Sydney was a straight actor and Charlie was a comic actor, director and composer. Charlie became much the more famous of the two and one of the most influential people of the twentieth century; a permanent, major figure in the history of the cinema, as actor, director and composer, as well as a victim of the House Un-American Activities Committee under Senator Joseph McCarthy.

Sydney's father was never part of his life. When Charlie was two their parents separated. Living with their mother, they sank into dire poverty and in 1896 entered the workhouse, where they were put in separate wards. From there the boys were sent to an orphanage and then Sydney joined the Navy, aged 11. The following summer they were reunited with their mother, but poverty soon forced them back to the workhouse. Their mother became mentally ill and was sent to an asylum, and the boys went to live with Charlie's father and their step-mother, both alcoholics. By now Charlie was nine years old. A year later their mother was released from the asylum and the boys went to live with her, seldom seeing Charlie's father again (he died in 1901). From 1901 to 1905 and again from 1909 or 1919 their mother was back in hospital; during these times the boys were in orphanages or fended for themselves on the streets.


Microsoft Encarta 98 Encyclopedia, 1993-97 Dictionary of National Biography "Charlie Chaplin: Actor, Director, Screenwriter." [Includes portrait]. Available at: "The Unofficial Charlie Chaplin WWW Page." [Includes portrait]. Available at: