Charlie Chaplin

Peter Ackroyd
Charlie Chaplin

‘A haunting biography captures the brilliance and the blemishes of a comic who fought his way from poverty to worldwide fame.
His method, filtering the life through the prism of his novelist’s imagination, plunges you, in unsettling fashion, right into the subject’s own experience.
His assessment of the films is perceptive. His analysis of the Tramp – the “little fellow”, Chaplin’s greatest creation – is brilliant and unsparing.
Ackroyd sees all of this with clarity; he summons up all of the pity and the terror of Chaplin’s life; above all, perhaps, he sees how close to insanity Chaplin was. Chilling, wonderful stuff.’ Simon Callow, The Guardian

He was the very first icon of the silver screen, and is one of the most recognisable faces in Hollywood, even a hundred years on from his first film. But what of the man behind the moustache? The director holding the camera as well as acting in front of it?

Peter Ackroyd’s new biography turns the spotlight on Chaplin’s life as well as his work, from his humble theatrical beginnings in music halls to winning an honorary Academy Award. Everything is here, from the glamour of his golden age to the murky scandals of the 1940s and eventual exile to Switzerland. This masterful biography (circa 90,000 words) offers fresh revelations about one of the most familiar faces of the last century, in his day the most famous man on the planet, and brings the Little Tramp into vivid colour.

‘Ackroyd offers a compact, engrossing, intelligent, resifting of the available evidence. Like many geniuses, Chaplin gave joy to millions and hell to a few close to him. Ackroyd leaves us to decide which matters more.’ The Sunday Times

‘Chaplin’s rise makes an enthralling story, and it’s one perfectly suited to Peter Ackroyd’s prodigious and idiosyncratic talents… In this admirably concise and evocative biography Ackroyd ackowledges Chaplin’s many human failings, while at the same time giving us a vivid sense of what made the man a genius.’ The Telegraph

‘Ackroyd, a key London chronicler defines his subject as “a great cockney visionary who was, for some years, the most famous man on Earth”. Chaplin was a child of London poverty and performer of genius who became an obsessive husband and director – and an icon. This biography is like the wedge the Little Tramp liberates from beneath a docked ocean liner in Modern Times: it starts a thing of unstoppable momentum.’ Monocle

‘The book is a mesmerising account of the incendiary brilliance that propelled a man from the humblest origins to cultural immortality.’ Harrods Magazine

‘Quietly enthralling … Ackroyd’s coolly perceptive literary style and equally devastatingly effective observations suggest that he doesn’t care a fig about pleasing geeks or fans or anyone else.’ The New York Times Book Review

‘Ackroyd brings a novelist’s as well as a biographer’s eye to the story of a man who ‘seemed to epitomise the human condition itself, flawed and frail and funny.’ The Independent

‘[A] fine biography … The luxury of a short book about a vast life cannot be overestimated.’ Financial Times

‘Detailed yet breezy, full of sharp insights into Chaplin’s public and private personas … Expect plenty of interest in this fine biography.’ Booklist

‘In his typically elegant and measured prose, prize-winning biographer Ackroyd brilliantly brings Chaplin to life … Ackroyd’s book introduces the Little Tramp in such a charming and candid fashion that it will drive movie buffs to watch Chaplin on screen once again.’ Publishers Weekly

‘Ackroyd rewards his readers with a tale fit for a Chaplin film, featuring humor, tragedy and a poignant fade-out.’ Associated Press


  • Chatto & Windus UK
  • Nan A Talese Books USA
  • Atticus Russia
  • Font Forlag Norway
  • ISBN Italy
  • Editions Philippe Rey France
  • Zysk Poland
  • Sluntse Bulgaria
  • Edhasa World Spanish
  • Teodolito Portugal
  • Agra Greece
  • Alfa Turkey

TV Film option sold to BBC Drama

Material: finished copies (248pp)