Chaplin v. Amador
In 1916, Charles Amador, a Mexican actor, changed his name to Charlie Aplin, and copied Charlie Chaplin’s most successful routines, including the iconic trump suit and derby hat. The most blatant of these imitations was a film called, The Road Track, largely copied from Chaplin movie, The Kid Auto-Race. Chaplin sued, and obtained an injunction preventing the showing of films wherein Amador played Aplin.
A long trial ensured. Amador contended that neither Chaplin, nor anyone else, for that matter, is entitled to a monopoly of such a costume, which was used among the natives “even in the time of King Tutankhamen.” The above picture was one of evidence used in Chaplin v. Amador. Finally, on 11th July 1925, nearly a decade after Amador stole the Little Trump, the Superior Court of the State of California decided in favor of Chaplin, stating that the case doesn’t depend on “use of the role, garb and mannerisms, etc.” but on the intent to cause “fraud and deception”.
The Kid Auto-Race was only Chaplin’s second film and was the first appearance of the Little Tramp character. In addition to setting many legal precedents on film and character copyrights, Chaplin v. Amador established the Little Tramp as an original icon. Chaplin would later write of his creation: “I wanted everything to be a contradiction: the pants baggy, the coat tight, the hat small and the shoes large … I added a small mustache, which I reasoned would add age without hiding my expression. I had no idea of the character. The moment I was dressed, the clothes and the makeup made me feel the person he was. I began to know him, and by the time I walked onstage, he was fully born.”