Sydney Chaplin dies at 82

Tony-winning actor was son of Charlie Chaplin

Sydney Chaplin, Charlie Chaplin’s son and himself a Tony-winning actor who starred on Broadway opposite Judy Holliday in “Bells Are Ringing” and Barbra Streisand in “Funny Girl,” has died at 82.

Chaplin died Tuesday at his home in Rancho Mirage, Calif. He had recently suffered a stroke.

Chaplin appeared in two of his father’s later films, “Limelight” (1952) and “The Countess from Hong Kong” (1967). But he never achieved the success in Hollywood that he enjoyed in New York’s musical theater.

He won his Tony for “Bells Are Ringing,” the 1956 Betty Comden and Adolph Green musical about a telephone answering service operator (Holliday) who falls in love with a customer (Chaplin). His best-remembered show, though, was the 1964 smash “Funny Girl” as Nicky Arnstein, the gambler who woos Streisand in her star-making role as Fanny Brice.

The show brought him another Tony nomination, but he departed in June 1965, citing unspecified differences with producer Ray Stark.

He starred in another Comden-Green musical, 1961’s “Subways Are for Sleeping.”

Although his career never measured up to that of his father, he had little use for those who thought a famous name was a handicap.

“I think anyone who feels his life has been scarred because of the fame of his father is a bore,” he told the AP in 1967.

He was the second son born to Charlie Chaplin’s second wife, Lita Grey. The other son, Charles Chaplin Jr., died in 1968.

Sydney was named for his father’s older half-brother, who helped young Charlie launch his theater career in England. After Charlie became a superstar in the movies, he returned the favor by bringing Syd Chaplin into the business.

Lita Grey was 16 when she married the 35-year-old Chaplin in 1924. Sydney was born two years later and his parents divorced a year after that in a court battle that brought sensational headlines.

He was stationed with the Army in Europe for a time during World War II and later toured with a group entertaining GIs.

Back in Hollywood, with a newfound work ethic because of his war service, he joined a theatrical troupe at the Circle Theater that specialized in classical and avant-garde plays. His father became interested and directed several of them.

His first film role was in his father’s “Limelight,” Charlie Chaplin’s last great film. He had written the role especially for his son, who played a composer who falls in love with a ballet dancer (Claire Bloom) who is befriended by a fading music hall star portrayed by the elder Chaplin.

The younger Chaplin also had a role in 1955’s “Land of the Pharaohs” opposite Joan Collins, with whom he also had a much publicized romance. (He was also romantically linked with Holliday during their onstage collaboration.)

During the years his son was scoring big on Broadway, Charlie Chaplin was unable to see him perform. He was living overseas with his fourth wife, Oona, because American authorities had refused the English-born Chaplin’s re-entry into the United States in 1952 over charges he associated with Communists. The great comedian was finally allowed to return to the U.S. in 1972 to accept a special Oscar.

Chaplin’s father died in 1977 at age 88; his mother died in 1995 at 87.

Several other of Charlie Chaplin’s children also had acting careers, most prominently Geraldine Chaplin, one of his eight children with Oona.

Sydney Chaplin’s survivors include his wife, Margaret, and a son.

— Associated Press

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