You’ve probably seen this in every fun-fact page out there: “Charlie Chaplin entered a Charlie Chaplin lookalike contest and lost”. Some are even more specific, claiming that Chaplin got second or third place.
So, is this true? Did Charlie Chaplin enter and lost a competition of his likeness? Well, we’ve decided to look into it for all of you useless info junkies out the results are quite interesting.
Here’s what we found: (the article continues after the ad)
There are indeed references in newspapers throughout the world that Charlie Chaplin did enter a Charlie Chaplin impersonation competition and lost. The first appearance was in the “To-day’s Gossip” section of the Sheffield Evening Telegraph, published on 01 July 1920:
And then the news started spreading throughout the world. Here’s the same story published in Singapore’s The Straits Times, dated 10 August 1920:
Another one from New Zealand’s Poverty Bay Herald, dated 25 August 1920:
Yet another one in the “Men and Women of To-day” section of the Dundee Courier, dated 27 September 1920:
And another one from the Albany Advertiser, dated 23 March 1921:
I’m pretty sure that if you search even more archive databases, you’ll find the same article published on more newspapers.
THE BIG PROBLEM
The big problem with this article is that’s basically the same concept copied again and again: Mary Pickford told Lady Desborough who told it Lord Desborough who told it to someone who told it to the press. We don’t even know if Mary Pickford actually told this story as the original article published on Sheffield Evening Telegraph doesn’t even mention Mary Pickford. Perhaps her name was used later on to lend credibility as she was known to be a friend of Charlie Chaplin at the time.
Moreover, besides this article, there is no other source referring to this competition. Even on the book My Father, Charlie Chaplin, Charlie Chaplin Jr. doesn’t mention anything about any impersonation contest even though the book is full of trivia.
The truth is that he might have. I mean, there are after all, articles published on newspapers. However, given that there is no other reference, I personally, think that this is a myth that was published on a British newspaper and then copied without any actual source by several other newspapers as it was a nice gossip (remember that Charlie Chaplin was a favorite actor at the time).
But you never know! And because we are not 100% sure, we’ll put this under the “plausible” category.
If you like what you read, then you will definitely love this one: Myth Or Fact: Did Ninja Actually Wear All-Black Costumes?
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Main Article Photo: J. W. Sandison / Whatcom Museum of History and Art, Bellingham, Washington
Photoshop: I’m A Useless Info Junkie
Sources: The British Newspaper Archive | The British Newspaper Archive | NewspaperSG | Papers Past | Trove | Did Charlie Chaplin lose a Charlie Chaplin look-alike contest? | My Father, Charlie Chaplin