Prior to becoming a famous silent film star, Charlie Chaplin arrived in America from London in 1910, touring with the Karno American company as a vaudeville actor for seventy-five dollars a week. He became good friends with one of the fifteen people in the troupe: “a handsome young Texan” that couldn’t decide if he wanted to perform on a trapeze or become a prize fighter. Chaplin would put on gloves every morning for friendly bouts with the Texan, and in discussions at lunch and other outings, both of them came up with an idea for making money.

“Very soon we were talking ourselves into leaving show business and going into partnership, raising hogs.
Between us we had two thousand dollars and a dream of making a fortune; we planned to buy land for fifty cents an acre in Arkansas, two thousand acres to start with, and spend the rest buying hogs and improving the land. If all went well, we had it figured out that with the compound birth of hogs, averaging a litter of five a year, we could in five years make a hundred thousand dollars apiece.”

Charlie Chaplin at a young age, taken from page 125 of Charles Chaplin: My Autobiography.

“Traveling on the train, we would look out of the window and see hog farms and go into paroxysms of excitement. We ate, slept and dreamed hogs. But for buying a book on scientific hog-raising I might have given up show business and become a hog farmer, but that book, which graphically described the technique of castrating hogs, cooled my ardor and I soon forgot the enterprise.”

When I read this the first time, it struck me as very surprising and funny. This is Charlie Chaplin, one of the greatest entertainers of all time. Right before he began to find fame, he was thinking about going in a completely different direction. I like to imagine him reading the scientific hog-raising book with lots of excitement, only to have his facial expression slowly change to horror and disappointment. The whole world thanks the unknown author that wrote the book. 

Source: Chaplin, Charles. Charles Chaplin: My Autobiography. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1964.

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