From the Publisher: An Authoritative new biography of the greatest cinematic comedian of all time. Born in London in 1889, Charlie Chaplin grew up in dire poverty. Both his parents were in show business, but his father's flourishing career was cut short by severe alcoholism, and his beloved mother first lost her voice, then lost her mind to syphilis. Even when both his parents were alive, Charlie at age seven was committed to the Hanwell School for Orphans and Destitute Children. It was, he remembered, the most unhappy period of his life. How then did this poor, lonely, and utterly miserable child become such an extraordinary comedian, known and celebrated worldwide? Chaplin cut his teeth as a youngster in British music halls, where he honed his art both as a slapstick comic and in serious theater. But it was America that made him. At the age of twenty-five, he was touring here with a vaudeville troupe when his talents caught the eye of entertainment entrepreneur Mack Sennett of the Keystone Film Studio, who spirited him off to California and signed him to a film contract. Chaplin rapidly because Sennett's star comedian, and as the burgeoning film industry prospered, his fame grew with it. By the age of twenty-eight, Chaplin had become a millionaire andarguably the world's greatest celebrity. Stephen Weissmann traces Chaplin's life and the sources of his genius in fascinating detail, demonstrating how his tragic childhood shaped his personality and his art. Infamous for his politics and his scandalous sex life-both of which Weissman contextualizes and analyze-Chaplin was a much more complex and contradictory character than has hitherto been known. Weissman brilliantly illuminates both the screen legend and the turbulent era through which he lived and worked.