Sidney Chaplin

Active - 1914 - 1928  |   Born - Mar 17, 1885 in Johannesburg, South Africa  |   Died - Apr 15, 1965 in Nice, France  |   Genres - Comedy

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Born Sydney Hawkes, Sydney Chaplin was the son of two itinerant British actors, who happened to be touring South Africa when he was born in 1885. One year later, his mother Lily Harley, having divorced her first husband, married music hall entertainer Charles Chaplin. In 1889, Syd's half-brother Charlie was born. After the death of the elder Chaplin, the boys' mother suffered a complete nervous breakdown, leaving Syd and Charlie to fend for themselves in the streets of London. Syd, the stronger of the two, acted as surrogate father for the frail, sensitive Charlie when the boys were trundled off to an orphanage. Having had some experience as a street entertainer, Syd was hired by the Fred Karno comedy troupe in 1905; on his recommendation, brother Charlie was also engaged by Karno, eventually rising to star comedian. When Charlie was signed by Mack Sennett's California-based Keystone studios in 1913, he repaid his brother's many kindnesses by urging Sennett to hire Syd as well. Adopting the character of Gussle, a bumptious would-be aristocrat, Sydney proved to be a popular Keystone comic, though he never achieved Charlie's fame. Abandoning acting in 1916, Sydney became Charlie's business manager, securing lucrative, precedent-setting contracts for his younger brother at Mutual and First National. During this period, he occasionally played supporting roles in Charlie's comedies, notably Shoulder Arms (1918) and A Dog's Life (1919). Encouraged by his friends and family, Sydney returned to performing in 1923, frequently playing roles that called for female impersonation: His best assignment along these lines was the 1925 film version of Charley's Aunt. He also starred as Bruce Bairnsfather's woebegone British Army private Old Bill in the well-received wartime farce The Better 'Ole (1926). After finishing work on the British A Little Bit of Fluff (1928), Sydney retired from the screen permanently, fulfilling his lifelong dream of maintaining residences in both France and Switzerland. Long retired, Sydney Chaplin died in Nice at the age of 80.

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