Charlie Chaplin's Family
A Brief Background on Chaplin's Family
His parents, brothers, marriages, children and homes.
Linda Wada - February 2004
Update December 2012
Sydney Chaplin, Charlie Chaplin's son, has died at the age of 82.
Part 1 - Charlie's Ideal Part 2 - Chaplin's WivesPart 3 - Chaplin's Family
Charles Spencer Chaplin Sr.
Charlie wrote in his book that he really never knew his father. Charles Sr. was a London Music Hall singer for many years and even traveled to America and performed in New York. Charlie lived with his father for a short of time during his childhood. Charles Sr. died May 9, 1901, at the age of 37 from illnesses stemming from alcoholism.
Charlie's mother Hannah became a singer in the London Music Halls after marrying Charles Chaplin Sr. in 1885. She had one son Sydney at the time of the marriage.
She appeared under the stage name 'Lily Harley', and for a few short years, the couple made a comfortable living singing at the London Music Halls. It was during this period that Charles Spencer Chaplin, Jr. was born on April 16, 1889.
But the Chaplin marriage ended after Hannah was caught having an affair that resulted in birth of a son fathered by another Music Hall singer Leo Dryden.
Charlie Jr. was too young to know what was going on and would not fully know about his half brother Wheeler Dryden until many years later. Soon after, the Chaplin family's comfortable life came to an end.
Charlie's family - His mother Hannah, top; his father Charles Sr., right; Sydney, center left; and Wheeler Dryden and Charlie in 'Limelight', bottom.
During Charlie's and Sydney's childhood, Hannah suffered from mental illness and had to live under care for many years.
Charlie and Sydney lived in many different homes, schools and workhouses during this time, but the home they remember most was the one at 3 Pownall Terrace. Charlie would visit that location years later. His memories of it can be see in the room Charlie created as his home in 'The Kid'.
Hannah would suffer with mental illness for the rest of her life. Charlie and Sydney loved their mother. They clearly remembered her entertaining them as children and inspired them through their tough childhood. They brought their mother to America in 1921. Charlie purchased a California home for Hannah and had special people to care for her where she lived her last years. She died August 28, 1928.
Charlie Chaplin's Brothers
Sydney Earl Chaplin, (half-brother)
Wheeler Dryden ( half-brother)
Charlie had two half-brothers. Sydney Chaplin grew up with Charlie and was the one person who really knew Chaplin the best. Wheeler Dryden did not get to know his famous brothers until Charlie was well into his film career.
Wheeler tried to contact Charlie but was unsuccessful. Dryden decided to write Edna Purviance instead. The thoughtful and detailed letter is still in the Edna Purviance Collection at BFI Library in London. Edna had to be touched and knew a lot about siblings, since she was very close to her two sisters, Myrtle and Bessie.
The brothers apparently all met up again in the 1920's when Dryden worked in films with Sydney and Charlie Chaplin. Wheeler Dryden played the doctor in 'Limelight'. (pictured above.)
Wheeler had one son name Spencer Dryden. Spencer became famous as the drummer for Jefferson Airplane and was with the group throughout the bands best years. Spencer Dryden was inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996. Spencer died from cancer January 10, 2005.
Sydney Chaplin was Charlie's business manager as well as played roles in the films 'Shoulder Arms', 'Pay Day', 'A Dog's Life' and 'The Pilgram'. Sydney and Charlie were very close and visited each other well into their later years.
Sydney had no children and was married twice. His first wife, Minnie, died, but Sydney remarried a french girl name Gypsy. The couple lived in both America and France, with their last years being in Nice. Both marriages were happy ones for Sydney.
Sydney, 80, died on Charlie's birthday on April 16, 1965. Wheeler Dryden died September 30, 1957.
Charlie Chaplin's Marriages and Children
Charlie Chaplin was married four times and had 11 children between 1919 and 1962. This is a list of the marriages, children and brief information of interest.
Chaplin's First Wife: Mildred Harris
They were married October 23, 1918. The couple had one son Norman Spencer Chaplin born July 7th, 1919. The baby died three days later. The couple divorced April 4, 1921.
Chaplin's Second Wife: Lita Grey
They were married November 26, 1924. They had two sons: Charles Spencer Chaplin, Jr. - born May 5, 1925, and Sydney Earle Chaplin - born March 30th, 1926. The couple divorced on August 25, 1927.
Charlie's Jr. played in 'Limelight' as one of the clowns with his father. In 1960, he wrote the book about his father titled 'My Father, Charlie Chaplin'. Charlie Jr. died on March 20, 1968.
Chaplin's Third Wife - Paulette Goddard
Chaplin and Goddard were married on a trip while traveling near Japan and China in 1936, but the legal papers were ever made public during the time of their marriage. They made two films together 'Modern Times and 'The Great Dictator'. Paulette became a beloved step-mother to Charlie Jr. and Sydney. The couple divorced in June of 1942. It was at this time the marriage was said to have taken place in The Orient six years earlier.
Chaplin's Fourth Wife - Oona O'Neill
They were married June 16, 1943. They had 8 children. (Oona 1942)
Chaplin's Children - Charlie and Oona's Family
Geraldine Leigh Chaplin, born August 1, 1944
Geraldine was an actress known for many roles, but first recognized for her work in 'Dr. Zhivago'. She also played her own grandmother in the 1992 Richard Attenborough film of 'Chaplin'. Her first film appearance was in 'Limelight' with brother Michael and sister Josephine at the beginning of the film.
Michael John Chaplin, born March 7, 1946
Appeared in 'Limelight' with his sisters in the beginning and played the boy 'Rupert Macabee' in 'King of New York'.
Josephine Hannah Chaplin, born March 28, 1949
Victoria Chaplin, born May 19, 1951
Eugene Anthony Chaplin, born August 23, 1953
Jane Cecil Chaplin, born May 23, 1957
Annette Emily Chaplin, born December 3, 1959
Christopher James Chaplin, born July 8, 1962
Charlie Chaplin Homes
Chaplin had many homes during his childhood, but they were either rentals or rooms at workhouses. The one place he remembers as his 'London home' was called 3 Pownall Terrace. He would return to that location during his visits to London, but he had no family home to return to, only the street and building locations he remembered as a child.
Postcard, late 1910's - early 1920's - Edna Purviance Research Collection
Charlie and Sydney Chaplin's other Brother
Linda Wada - January 20, 2005
Editing - Wes Wada
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