Charlie Chaplin is one of my show biz heroes. I've included references to him in my books Scenes for Teens and Monologues for Teens. I feel it's important to honor those pioneers who blazed a trail for us in the early days of film. When Chaplin was the Number 1 movie star in the world, his studio promoted a Charlie Chaplin look-a-like contest. Dozens of fans showed up decked out in their Chaplinesque best. The real Charlie Chaplin showed up too. He entered the contest under a fictitious name. He did it as a joke.
The joke was on Charlie Chaplin! The judges awarded him third place!
This is a well known Hollywood story. It's also true. On the surface, it's funny. On a deeper level, I believe there are several valuable lessons here for actors.
Lesson 1: The experts aren't always right. Those contest judges were film industry professionals. They knew everything in the world about Charlie Chaplin. But they didn't even recognize the guy when he walked through the door.
Lesson 2: Don't let other people's opinion of you define you. Too many good people let negative comments and poor evaluations from alleged authority figures wreak havoc on their own sense of value and self-worth. Academy Award winner Matthew McConaughey said it best. "Don't spend time with anything that antagonizes your character." Good advice.
Lesson 3: Get into action. Get out of your head. Do something. I don't know what result Chaplin expected when he signed up for that contest. But by taking action that day, he created a memorable life event for himself, added something weird and wonderful to his personal mythology, and enhanced his image as a movie star for generations to come.
Think about it. Would anybody care who won that contest today – or even know it existed – if Charlie Chaplin wasn't bold enough, creative enough, and mischievous enough to show up and participate? Probably not.
Show up and participate in your life. Say yes more often than you say no.
Scenes for Teens
Acting Scenes for Kids and Tweens
Monologues for Teens