Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Edna Purviance in her final film Education de Prince (1927)

Edna's last film was made in France and directed by Henri Diamant-Berger. It was shown in Europe but apparently not in America. Sadly, the film has become hard to find but, according to a reputable source, is not lost.

Happy birthday, Edna Purviance (October 21, 1895)

From Picture Show, June 21, 1919:

Some of the information in this article is incorrect, such as Edna's birth year (1895) and how she met Chaplin.
But I did enjoy the interview excerpts. Edna always had a sense of humor.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Chaplin with performers from the Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus, Nogales, AZ, October 1924

Chaplin was in Nogales en route to Guayamas, Mexico to marry Lita Grey. This was their first attempt to get married. When they filed the application they were told that by Mexican law they had to wait 30 days before the marriage could take place. So they returned the following month.

Another photo of Chaplin at the circus here.

SHOULDER ARMS, released October 20th, 1918

This was Chaplin's second film for First National and his most successful up to that time.

Chaplin signs the opening title card and then mimics shooting at the Tramp.
"The Awkward Squad"
Soldier Charlie dreams about home.
Chaplin deleted this "three-on-a-match" sequence when he re-released the film as part of
the Chaplin Revue in 1959. 
Filming this scene was "anything but comfortable" for Chaplin
due to the heat wave in Los Angeles that summer.
Charlie awakens in an abandoned cottage to find Edna, a French girl, tending
to a wound on his hand.
Albert Austin (left) and Henry Bergman each played at least three roles in the film.
 Syd Chaplin (right) portrays both Charlie's army pal and the Kaiser (above).
He can also be seen as the latter in The Bond, a short film Chaplin made
 for the Liberty Bond effort that was released shortly before Shoulder Arms
Charlie helps Edna disguise herself as a German soldier.
Charlie captures the Kaiser, or was it all a dream?

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Monday, October 13, 2014

Press conference for THE GREAT DICTATOR, Waldorf Astoria, New York, October 13, 1940

A dapper little gray-haired man with singularly expressive hands and shoulders and small, beautifully shod feet sat diffidently on the edge of his chair yesterday at the Waldorf, enchanting the press with tales of The Great Dictator.1

When Chaplin first entered the room his "quick blue eyes had an apprehensive look as if he were trying to remember what he must and mustn't say." Chaplin relaxed once he realized the reporters were a sympathetic audience. His fingers stopped playing with the nail heads on the edge of his chair. "His feet grew quiet and his smile more spontaneous and only the beads of perspiration that still rolled down behind his ears were left to mark this experience an ordeal."2

"Making a comedy is the most lugubrious work there is," Chaplin said. "I've been at it almost constantly for two years now, and feel the need for both physical and mental relaxation. He told them that he had several film plans in mind but that he would like to spend the next three months vacationing, mostly in New York, and catching up with the changes that have come over New York since his last prolonged stay ten years before.3

The reason The Great Dictator was shrouded in secrecy was simply "to protect myself," he explained. "I closed the studio and kept the story secret because I didn't want to risk having someone else come out with my stuff ahead of me. That's happened before, even in Hollywood," he said with a smile.

Chaplin said there had been no protests from German or Italian officials. "We've had some crank letters--a few," he said.4

"My picture is a plea for humanity against barbarism. I think a little kindness and humanity are still the most important things in a technical world."5

Waldorf-Astoria, Oct. 13, 1940.
United Artists executive, Maurice Silverstone, is on Chaplin's right. 

"There is pathos and great comedy in all human suffering and tragedy," he asserted. "The secret lies in how you approach it. It must be done with discretion and good taste." Thus he explained how The Gold Rush was based on the tragic trek of the Donner Party in 1846.

Chaplin told the reporters that he believes man's chief asset has always been his ability to laugh, even under tragic circumstances. "It would be a sad moment if we couldn't laugh now," he continued. "I believe there is more promise and sign of victory if we in America can laugh about them (the Nazis). I've always felt that the nation which can laugh is the nearest to being sane."6

1New York PM Daily, October 14, 1940
3New York Times, October 14, 1940.
5New York Sun, October 14, 1940
6New York Times, Oct. 14, 1940

Free screening of THE GOLD RUSH in Minneapolis this weekend, plus a chance to win a free book!

Writer and Chaplin aficionado, Carrie Pomeroy, has written a piece about an upcoming screening of The Gold Rush at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis this weekend. To celebrate, she is giving away a free copy of the book Charlie Chaplin: Interviews. Read Carrie's post and find out more information about the giveaway here:


Sunday, October 12, 2014

Thursday, October 9, 2014

I was honored to be asked to be guest blogger this week on Flicker Alley's "The Archives" blog.
Here's my contribution:


Color photos by Edward Quinn, 1956

Original caption:

"Charlie Chaplin pictured with his daughter Victoria at the Villa Lo Scoglietto. Chaplin had brought his family to the Riviera with the intention of buying a house there. He wanted to escape the noise of a shooting range near his home in Vevey, after the authorities had refused to close it down.
Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, 1956."


Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Random Excerpt

Boston Globe journalist, Mayme Ober Peak, describes a visit with Chaplin at his home:
"I'm sorry to have kept a lady waiting," the comedian smiled on me with the bluest eyes I ever saw in a man's head--eyes that took my measure as they twinkled at me. While retaining a hold on one coat sleeve, I measure back. 
What I saw at this close range was a beautifully gray-crowned head above a sensitive face of high color and nervous features; a figure fine-strung, resilient, lithe, with well-defined curves tightly buttoned in a double-breasted, well-cut suit of gray. His tie was black with Roman stripes, and as usual he wore gray cloth, button-top, patent-leather shoes. 
In appearance, my immaculate host was the opposite of the figure he cuts on the screen. Unmasked, the cinema's clown has nothing in common with its creator. Not a graceful gesture or unconscious pose of the man connects with the world-famous waddling comedy king. I think he is sick to death of that film fool who "throws custard pies in the world's face as a gesture of protest." Soon he expects to do Napoleon Bonaparte, with some of the authentic backgrounds screened in France. Will this mean the turning point, and perhaps loss of the film's comic-pathetic character who comes from nowhere and never gets anywhere, who cloaks himself in mystery even in his pictures? His next production will have the working title "Nowhere."
Autographed photo of Chaplin inscribed to Ms. Peak.
"To Mayme Ober Peake [sic], with best wishes, Charlie Chaplin,
Hollywood 1930."
 (Photo by Homer Peyton)
Once you hear his exquisite speaking voice with its charming English accent; watch the birdlike fluttering of his classical hands, and the elfin movements of his body, you find yourself wishing this glamorous personality would go on the stage and make us believe in fairies again.  
As one of his biographers has aptly put it, your first impression of Charlie Chaplin is of "something very warm and bright and vivid." There is an endearing charm about him that you impulsively respond to. He has that rare gift of concentrating with flattering grace--and apparently keen enjoyment, all his charm and highly intelligent interest upon you and you only. 
Undoubtedly, the bitterness of those sordid years of struggle, during which Charlie's mother lost her reason, corroded Charlie's soul and haunts him still. There can't but be a tinge of sadness to his success. But he does not let you feel this when you meet him in his home, which reflects none of the ostentation his vast income would permit. 
His setting is one of perfect taste and refinement. Although a bachelor's home run by man servants, I immediately sensed its well-ordered harmony and repose. Hereafter, I shall smile when I hear people say, "I feel so sorry for Charlie living all alone in that big house on top of the hill." For he revels in solitude. His nervous make-up positively requires it. "My idea of luxury," the movie millionaire said to me, "is to be absolutely alone until 5 o'clock in the afternoon." ... 
Even when given the rare opportunity, it is impossible to interview Charles Spencer Chaplin, as impossible to pin him to paper. He is too fascinating a conversationalist, too clever a raconteur, too amazing a mimic. You can neither keep him, nor yourself on a question track. Before you know it, he has raced off--you with him, in the direction of some new idea or suggestion. ...
"You baffle me," I told him when I said goodbye. As I went down the hill in the big limousine lined in gray the color of Charlie's shoetops and driven by one of his inscrutable Japanese, I opened the book he had loaned me, "The London Spy," by Thomas Burke, suggesting that I might  find the answer to his personality in a brief paragraph he had marked. This is what I read: 
"Even were he obscure, a mere nobody, without the imposed coloring of "Charlie," and world popularity, he would be a notable subject, for he has that wonderful, impalpable gift of attraction which is the greater part of Mr. Lloyd George's power. You feel his presence in a room and are conscious of something wanting when he departs. He has a rich-hued quality of Alvan in "The Tragic Comedians." You feel he is capable of anything. And when you connect him with 'Charlie' the puzzle grows and you give it up. The ambition that served and guided him for 10 years is satisfied, but it is still unsatisfied. The world has discovered him, but he has not yet found himself. He is the shadow friend of millions throughout the world, and he is lonely--an exile, seeking for something the world cannot give him." 
--Mayme Ober Peak, "Finds Charlie Aged and Frightened: Screen's Foremost Artist Entertains Globe Writer at Beverly Hills Home...," Boston Globe, April 22, 1928

Monday, October 6, 2014

Chaplin at the Palais de la Méditerranée, Nice, April 1931

Photos from Sur La Riviera, April 12, 1931.

Chaplin spent two weeks in Nice during the first part of his 1931-32 world tour. He was the guest of Frank J. Gould (4th from right) and his wife, Florence, who owned the Palais de la Mediterranée, as well as the Majestic Hotel (where Chaplin stayed). Gould was once married to the sister of Charlie's first love, Hetty Kelly.

Caption translates roughly to:
"Chaplin accused by the city of Paris of stealing the towers of Notre Dame
 pleads guilty and begs the indulgence of Henry Torrés prominent civil lawyer."

Charlie, Paulette, and friends at the Brown Derby, 1939

L-R: Reginald Gardiner, Basil Bleck, CC, Lillian Bleck (Sylvia Fairbanks' sister), Paulette Goddard,
Sylvia Fairbanks, Douglas Fairbanks, Alexander Korda, Merle Oberon. 
Paulette with Sylvia and Doug Fairbanks

Note that Paulette is wearing the famous diamond and emerald bracelet that Chaplin supposedly gave to her when she lost the role of Scarlett O'Hara in Gone With The Wind. She must have adored this piece of jewelry because she wore it often (see more photos here). She even wore it in her first scene in the 1939 film The Women (below):

Paulette, Mary Boland ("l'amour, l'amour") and Norma Shearer in The Women.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

SHANGHAIED, released October 4th, 1915

This was Chaplin's eleventh film for Essanay--and one of my personal favorites.

The production of the film was not without problems, however. According to Moving Picture World of September 25th, 1915, the schooner, Vaquero, which Chaplin rented for the film, broke a shaft. The nearest launch to rescue them was five miles away, so the company, which included Edna Purviance, had to spend the night on the stormy sea with no food or water. Two members of the party, Essanay Producer Jesse Robbins & Lou Trimbly (?), took off in a rowboat to get help but nearly drowned when the boat capsized. A wireless station in Venice tried to signal the ship but the vessel was not outfitted with wireless. They semaphored and Chaplin sent back the following message: "Help! We're starving and thirsty." Eventually all were rescued.