This Day In History

Charlie Chaplin Born

April 16, 1889

On April 16, 1889, future Hollywood legend Charlie Chaplin is born Charles Spencer Chaplin in London, England.

Chaplin, one of the most financially successful stars of early Hollywood, was introduced to the stage when he was five. The son of London music hall entertainers, young Chaplin was watching a show starring his mother when her voice cracked. He was quickly shuffled onto the stage to finish the act.

Chaplin’s father died when Chaplin was a toddler, and when his mother had a nervous breakdown Chaplin and his older half-brother, Sydney, roamed London, where they danced on the streets and collected pennies in a hat. They eventually went to an orphanage and joined the Eight Lancashire Lads, a children’s dance troupe. When Chaplin was 17, he developed his comedic skills with the help of Fred Karno’s company, for which his half-brother had already become a popular comedian. Soon, Chaplin’s bowler hat, out-turned feet, mustache and walking cane became his trademark. He joined the Keystone company and filmed Making a Living, in which he played a mustachioed villain who wore a monocle. It wasn’t long before he also worked on the other side of the camera, helping direct his 12th film and directing his 13th, Caught in the Rain, on his own.

Chaplin refined what would soon become his legacy, the character Charlie the Tramp, and signed on with the Essanay company in 1915 for $1,250 a week, plus a $10,000 bonus–quite a jump from the $175 that Keystone paid him. The next year, he signed with Mutual for $10,000 a week, plus a $150,000 bonus under a contract that required him to make 12 films annually but granted him complete creative control over the pictures. And in 1918, he signed a contract with First National for $1 million for eight films. A masterful silent film actor and pantomimist who could elicit both laughter and tears from his audiences, Chaplin resisted the arrival of sound in movies. Indeed, in his first film that featured sound (City Lights in 1931), he only used music. His first true sound film was 1940’s The Great Dictator, in which he mocked fascism.

Chaplin founded United Artists Corporation in 1919 with Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks and director D.W. Griffith. Chaplin married twice more, both times to teenage girls. His fourth wife, Oona O’Neill, who was 18 when she married the 54-year-old actor, was the daughter of playwright Eugene O’Neill. Though he had lived in the United States for 42 years, Chaplin never became a U.S. citizen. A vocal pacifist, Chaplin was accused of communist ties, which he denied. Nevertheless, in 1952, immigration officials prevented Chaplin and his wife from re-entering the United States after a foreign tour. The couple did not return to the United States for 20 years; instead they settled in Switzerland with their eight children. Chaplin returned to America 1972 to accept a special Academy Award for “the incalculable effect he has had on making motion pictures the art for and of this century.” He was knighted Sir Charles Spencer Chaplin in 1975. He died two years later.

Bob Feller Throws No-Hitter

April 16, 1940

On April 16, 1940, the Cleveland Indians’ Bob Feller pitches his first no-hitter. He went on to throw two more no-hitters in his career; only two other pitchers in baseball history have recorded more no-hitters.

Feller, who grew up playing catch with his father on his family’s farm in Iowa, made his major league debut at just 17 years old with the Cleveland Indians on July 19, 1936. His overpowering fastball quickly established him as a strikeout king. In September of his rookie year, in a game against the Philadelphia Athletics, he struck out 17 batters. On October 2, 1938, in a game against the Detroit Tigers, the “Heater from Van Meter” (Feller was also nicknamed “Rapid Robert”) struck out 18 players and set a major league record for strikeouts in a single, nine-inning game.

On April 16, 1940, Feller threw his first no-hitter, against the Chicago White Sox on opening day at Comiskey Park. The Indians won the game, 1-0. Feller’s no-hitter remains the only one to occur on any opening day in baseball history. He pitched a second no-hitter against the New York Yankees on April 30, 1946, and his third no-hitter came on July 1, 1951, in a game against the Detroit Tigers.

Nolan Ryan holds the record for most no-hitters, with seven. Sandy Koufax had four, while Cy Young and Larry Corcoran, along with Feller, recorded three in their pitching careers.

After the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor during World War II, Feller joined the Navy, the first big-leaguer to enlist in the armed forces. He spent the majority of his time aboard the U.S.S. Alabama in the gunnery department before being discharged in 1945, after missing four seasons of baseball. In 1946, Feller set a big-league record for most strikeouts in a single season, with 348.

After spending his entire career with the Indians, he retired from baseball in 1956, with 266 wins, 162 losses and a total of 2,581 strikeouts. He led the American League in strikeouts seven times and in wins six times. In addition to his three no-hitters, he recorded 12 one-hit games in his career. Feller was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962.

Apollo 16 Departs for Moon

April 16, 1972 

From Cape Canaveral, Florida, Apollo 16, the fifth of six U.S. lunar landing missions, is successfully launched on its 238,000-mile journey to the moon. On April 20, astronauts John W. Young and Charles M. Duke descended to the lunar surface from Apollo 16, which remained in orbit around the moon with a third astronaut, Thomas K. Mattingly, in command. Young and Duke remained on the moon for nearly three days, and spent more than 20 hours exploring the surface of Earth’s only satellite. The two astronauts used the Lunar Rover vehicle to collect more than 200 pounds of rock before returning to Apollo 16 on April 23. Four days later, the three astronauts returned to Earth, safely splashing down in the Pacific Ocean.


David Soul, of Starsky & Hutch, Has the #1 Song on the U.S. Pop Charts

April 16, 1977

On April 16, 1977, David Soul’s smash-hit single “Don’t Give Up On Us Baby” reaches the top of the U.S. pop charts. But the story of a tough-but-sensitive TV detective’s journey to crossover success began a full 10 years earlier. 

Ironside, Cannon, and The Rookies. But long before Starsky & Hutch provided the platform from which he launched his career in pop, David Soul had made another attempt at musical stardom—one of the strangest in pop history.

In 1967, David Soul was an aspiring folk singer with an apparently debilitating problem: his blond and chiseled Scandinavian good looks made it difficult for audiences to focus on his music. And so it was that David Soul became “The Covered Man,” making 25 appearances on The Merv Griffin Show with a guitar in his hands and a black wool ski mask covering his face. No, this was not a comedy act, but it was certainly a brilliant gimmick, and it worked like a charm—until David Soul decided it was safe to doff the ski mask, that is. As it turned out, Griffin and his audience lost all interest in the Covered Man once he become uncovered. Luckily for David Soul, television is an industry that does not discriminate against the beautiful. A talent scout who watched his unmasking on Merv Griffin scooped Soul up and sent him out to California for acting and karate lessons, laying the foundation for the acting success that would allow his musical talent to reemerge some 10 years later and peak on this day in 1977 with a #1 pop single.