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On this day in movie history, February 26, 1916 Mutual signs Charlie Chaplin

A poster for Mutual's Chaplin Specials
Public Domain

It was on this day February 26, 1916, Mutual Films signed Charlie Chaplin to a contract for a salary of $670,000 per year. At 26 years old, Chaplin, became the highest paid entertainer – and one of the highest paid people in the world.. Shocking the public, this was widely covered in the press..

John R. Freuler, the studio President, explained, "We can afford to pay Mr. Chaplin this large sum annually because the public wants Chaplin and will pay for him."

Mutual gave Chaplin his own Los Angeles studio to work in (which opened in March 1916) and allowed him total freedom to make twelve two-reel films during this twelve-month period, stipulating, however, that he release a two-reel film every four weeks, He managed to achieve this handily. These elaborate two-reelers included: The Floorwalker, The Fireman, The Vagabond, One A.M. and The Count

With the new year, however, Chaplin began to demand more time. Over the first ten months of 1917 he made only four more films for Mutual Easy Street, The Cure, The Immigrant and The Adventurer.

Chaplin subsequently recognized this period of film-making as the most inventive and liberating of his career although he had concerns that the films produced were increasingly formulaic during the length of his contract. With their careful construction, these films are considered by Chaplin scholars to be among his finest work.

Charlie Chaplin moved on to found United Artists in 1919 with Mary Pickford, D. W. Griffith, and Douglas Fairbanks.
In 1919, Mutual Film Corporation ceased production. Like many other companies established at this time, Mutual was eventually absorbed by larger corporations, in this case Film Booking Offices of America and later RKO Radio Pictures.

Later in life, Chaplin referred to his Mutual years as the happiest period of his career.

With the exception of the Chaplin films, most of the Mutual shorts and feature dramas are lost to time and decomposition

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