Sydney Chaplin, who emerged from the shadow of his famous father,Charlie Chaplin, to carve out a successful stage career that included leading roles opposite Judy Holliday in the musical “Bells Are Ringing,” and Barbra Streisand in “Funny Girl,” died on Tuesday at his home in Rancho Mirage, Calif. He was 82.
His death followed a stroke, Jerry Bodie, a friend, told The Associated Press.
Mr. Chaplin was the younger of two sons his father had with his second wife, the ingénue Lita Grey. After his parents’ divorce in 1927, he was reared by his maternal grandmother and encountered his father only intermittently until he reached adulthood. When Charlie Chaplin wrote “Limelight,” however, he had Sydney in mind for the part of Neville, the young composer who wins the heart of Claire Bloom. Sydney later appeared in his father’s final film, “A Countess from Hong Kong” (1967).
Mr. Chaplin, described as a child as “restless, turbulent, independent” by the magazine Screenland, made his reputation on his own, and on the stage. His performance as the answering-service client whom Holliday’s character falls for in “Bells Are Ringing” earned him a Tony Award for best featured actor in a musical in 1957.
In The New York Times Brooks Atkinson praised him as “an admirable leading man,” noting his “warmth, taste, skill and grace.” These qualities were on display once more in “Funny Girl,” in which his performance was rewarded with a Tony nomination for best actor in a musical in 1964.
Sydney Earle Chaplin, named for his father’s half-brother, was born in Los Angeles. He made a nuisance of himself at several schools before dropping out and trying to enlist in the Army at 17. He failed at that too, but was drafted a year later and served as a bazooka man in Europe with the Third Army under George Patton.
On returning to the United States, he joined with a group of undergraduates at the University of California, Los Angeles, to form the Circle Players, a semiprofessional company named for its commitment to theater in the round. The group attracted national attention for its ambitious productions, the first of them staged in a former funeral parlor. It presented several plays by William Saroyan, including the world premiere of “Sam Ego’s House.”
In the 1950s Mr. Chaplin appeared in several less than memorable films, including “Land of the Pharaohs,” “Abdulla the Great” and “Pillars of the Sky,” a western.
“I wasn’t a leading man,” he told Cue magazine in 1957. “So they slapped a coat of dark greasepaint on me and cast me as an Indian or an Egyptian.”
He did achieve leading-man status on the musical stage, although he had never sung until he auditioned for “Bells Are Ringing.” He later took a starring role in “Subways Are for Sleeping,” also by Betty Comden, Adolph Green and Jule Styne, and in “Funny Girl” he held his own opposite Ms. Streisand as Nicky Arnstein, the gambler who woos Fanny Brice. In the film version of the play, the part went to Omar Sharif. Mr. Chaplin left the show in 1965 after a dispute with the director and spent the next several years making films in Europe.
In the late 1980s he opened a restaurant, Chaplin’s, in Palm Springs, Calif. It closed in the early 1990s.
His first two marriages ended in divorce. His survivors include his wife, Margaret Beebe Chaplin; a son by his first marriage, Stephan; and a granddaughter. The actress Geraldine Chaplin, a daughter of Charlie Chaplin and his fourth wife, Oona, is one of his eight half-siblings.
“I’m no genius,” he told The Daily News in 1957. “I don’t have Dad’s capacity for work. I just want to be a good actor.”