Charlie Chaplin and Orson Welles: Major Contributors to Cinematic History

        There have been many great actors in film history. Many actors have made contributions to cinema; but, to me, the most influential actors are multi-talented. Actors who are also directors, writers, even composers are more appealing, and easier to grow fond of. These multi-faceted actors are the ones whose movies, at least some of them, I find myself collecting. Two actors that come to mind when I think of contributions to the furthering of cinema include Sir Charles Spencer Chaplin, Jr. and George Orson Welles.

        To begin with, Charlie Chaplin is one of the most pioneering individuals in the early beginnings of film. In the early 1900's, Chaplin built his own Hollywood studio and produced many movies of his own. Prior to the development of sound in movies, Chaplin often composed his own music and sound effects to correlate with his humorous celluloid's. For example, The Gold Rush, viewed in class, was written and directed by Charlie in 1925; and he even was the star role as his famous "Little Tramp" shtick. After the introduction to sound dialogue, he starred in one of his most famous pictures, The Great Dictator (1940), where he humorously modeled his character, Adenoid Hynkel, on Adolf Hitler.

        Another great innovator/contributor to cinema history was Orson Welles. Beginning in Broadway, he immediately lit the stage on fire, and then made his way over the airwaves. As well as being a famous actor, he was also a director, screenwriter, and broadcaster. One of Welles' most famous films, Citizen Kane (1941) (also viewed in class) was a major hit, winning an Academy Award for best original script and being nominated for another eight. To add to his famous contributions, Welles scared the world with his famous radio broadcast of "The War of the Worlds." Based on H.G. Wells' famous model, the broadcasted adaptation was a Halloween special in the 1930's and frightened many people into believing that there were actual Martians that were to land on Earth and conquer the human race.

        Many actors have contributed to the development of the still somewhat new cinema, often adding their own twists, and being recognized for their innovations for time to come. Actors like Charlie Chaplin and Orson Welles are a couple of the big-name contributors and will probably be recognized throughout the history of cinema as being innovative in their time. These two men were not only actors, composers, broadcasters, writers and directors, but also esteemed businessmen in the Hollywood aristocracy.

Derrick Bolhofner

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