Sydney Chaplin, an actor who experienced his greatest success on stage, earning a Tony Award for starring in the late 1950s musical "Bells Are Ringing," died Tuesday. He was 82.
FOR THE RECORD:
Sydney Chaplin obituary: The obituary of actor Sydney Chaplin in Friday's Section A said he attended the local Black Fox Military Academy. The school was called the Black-Foxe Military Institute. —



Chaplin, the oldest surviving child of film legend Charlie Chaplin, died at his Rancho Mirage home of complications following a stroke, said Jerry Bodie, a longtime friend.

He was the second son of Charlie Chaplin and his second wife, Lita Grey, an ingenue who married the movie giant when she was 16 and he was 35. Their marriage ended when Sydney was a year old in a sensational divorce that made headlines.

Sydney Chaplin regularly recalled that he was a veteran of World War II before he really came to know his work-obsessed father.

"He was a strange man," Chaplin told People magazine in 1989. "He had great difficulty expressing his feelings to me, which was odd because he expressed emotion on screen so marvelously."

Discharged from the Army, and relatively aimless, Chaplin was persuaded by a friend to try acting. In 1946, he co-founded the Circle Theater in Los Angeles that developed a reputation for quality productions.

His father eventually directed Chaplin in several stage projects.

"Once my father saw I was taking this acting stuff seriously, he gave me my first movie job, as the young composer in 'Limelight,' " a 1952 film, Sydney told People.

"He simply called me one day and said, 'I've written a new picture and I've written a role for you,' " Chaplin said in 2003 in the Detroit Free Press.

Sydney Chaplin also appeared in "A Countess From Hong Kong," the 1967 film that was his father's last as a director.

On Broadway, Sydney Chaplin broke through in 1956 in the hit Broadway show "Bells Are Ringing" after actress Judy Holliday invited him to try out. She said "that Betty Comden, Adolph Green and Jule Styne had written a musical for her, and they all thought I'd be perfect for the male lead," Chaplin later said of "Bells."

He recalled auditioning as many as 15 times before landing the part of Jeff Moss, who falls in love with the switchboard operator, played by Holliday.

His other major Broadway success came in the original production of "Funny Girl" opposite Barbra Streisand. He played the gambler boyfriend Nick Arnstein to Streisand's Fanny Brice.

Both actors received Tony nominations for their performances in the musical -- the last of his five roles on Broadway -- but they feuded, and he left the show.

After Omar Sharif was cast as Arnstein in the 1968 film version of "Funny Girl," Chaplin said he found himself curiously undisappointed.

He realized that he "never had the burning desire for recognition and respect that had driven my father," he said in 2003 in the Detroit Free Press. "But then I never had to dance on the streets of London for pennies to stay alive," as his father once did.

Sydney Earl Chaplin was born March 30, 1926, in a Beverly Hills mansion and was named for his father's older half-brother, Sydney, who helped launch Charlie's career.