Sunday, October 23, 2016

Recently discovered photo of Chaplin's mother

This newly found photo of Hannah in a stage costume was first published last year in Taschen's Charlie Chaplin Archives book. Date given is c.1885.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

"Chaplin's Funny Feet Walk Into War Comedy"

Ninety-eight years ago today, Chaplin's satire of WWI was released, Shoulder Arms. The following is an excerpt from a June 1918 article by Grace Kingsley in which she observes Chaplin (and brother Syd) grappling with a title for the film (Charlie considered calling it "Hearts of Fate") and filming a sequence with children (which was, of course, never used). I've included illustrations from the original article (by Harry Barndollar) as well as real photos.

"Chaplin's Funny Feet Walk Into War Comedy"
by Grace Kingsley
Los Angeles Times, June 30th, 1918

"Shoulder Arms," Mr. Chaplin christened his picture the other day after wrinkling a whole hour over the problem, out at the studio, the while the comedian, Brer Sid and the rest of us drank innumerable cups of tea. All the name had to suggest was patriotism and fun, and drama and punch and a few other things like that. Of course the christening wasn't effected without a lot of skirmishing. Sid Chaplin must have his joke, for one thing.
"Call it 'The Bums Of Berlin!'" he suggested.
But Brer Charlie wasn't going to have any low-comedy names, because his bright necklace of laughter is really strung on a stout little thread of seriousness.
The Fat Comedian, who is inclined to be sentimental, suggested it be called "Hearts Of Fate."
"Hearts Of Lettuce," parodied Sid Chaplin.
Why not call It 'Charlie Carries On," suggested the Thin Heavy, which sounded reasonable, too. But the comedian took a reflective munch of his third slice of cake, and a quick gulp of tea, got up and walked into the door of a set, emerged on the other side and triumphantly announced:
"Shoulder Arms!"
"Which you must admit has punch in its sound, suggests either comedy or pathos, and altogether, like the Mother Hubbard wrapper of the senator's speech, "covers everything and touches nothing."

Charlie & Syd in Shoulder Arms

"And now, Sid," said Charlie, "tell the lady the plot."
Sid looked perplexed. "Don't I just wish you could!" laughed Charlie.
As a matter of fact, the plot always thickens slowly as Chaplin proceeds with his pictures. But he's always certain about the theme. That's the vital thing which many comedy makers overlook, according to Charlie--the theme which makes for success in comedy just as much as it does in heavy drama, he declares.
"The story is a sketchy thing," explains Charlie seriously, "really it's just a ...."
But there, we nearly told. ...
Of course, you know Charlie uses a number of children in this production. In fact, these scenes are all finished, and it is here that Charlie has achieved a fairly Barrie-esque whimsicality. But not without much hard labor were the scenes made, with the comedian directing the youngsters every minute.

A school teacher--at $2700 a day! That was Chaplin during the making of these scenes.
"And although I love those kids dearly, and though they were just as clever as they could be--well, I take back all I ever said about school teachers," grinned the comedian.
It seems they all had a great day at Venice last week with the kids taking in all the joys of the Midway under Chaplin's sole supervision, the mommers being specially requested to stay behind. One youngster got stage fright or something during the mad progress of the merry-go-round, and Chaplin had to achieve an athletic rescue; another Chaplin found at the helm of the peanut roaster, where he was trying to persuade the owner to let him run the machine; another had to be forcibly peeled like a plaster off the roller coaster after his fourth round trip; but on the whole Charlie says he thoroughly enjoyed being nursemaid for a day.

One of the youngsters fell and hurt himself a bit. "Actors don't cry," Charlie remonstrated. "Whereupon," he related, all the kids got together and speculated on what might make an actor cry. Finally one of them said, "Well, I'll bet If Charlie fell out of a balloon he'd cry." Which seemed to settle the matter. "And a funny little thing happened when a strange little boy walked up to me and told me timidly that he 'liked me better than he did any of the other Charlies.'"
"I had an awful time getting any of the children to play the Kaiser. They wouldn't even be bribed--they said It would be disloyal to the United States. Finally, how do you think I got one of the youngsters to play tho part? Well, I just told him I'd hit him awfully hard. And he said, 'Well, all right, If you'll promise to hit the Kaiser awful hard, I'll play him.'"

Charlie puts Kaiser makeup on one of the children.
There was some debate a few years ago about whether or not this child is Doug, Jr.
 I don't believe that it is. To me, he looks like the child wearing the bowler in the above photos.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Chaplin and Harry Crocker at the Los Angeles Tennis Club, 1933

They are probably watching the Pacific Southwest Tennis Tournament which Chaplin attended every year. This photo was perhaps taken at the same time as this one with Paulette.

If you have an extra $300 burning a hole in your pocket, you can buy the above photo on ebay right now (note: he is not at Wimbledon).

Monday, October 17, 2016

With Katsuji Fukuhara at the Chaplin Studios, c. 1925

Fukuhara was a Japanese immigrant and friend of Chaplin's secretary Toraichi Kono, who hailed from the same area of Hiroshima.


Thursday, October 13, 2016

Day By Day: 1936

Tuesday, October 13th: Paulette Goddard is interviewed in New York.

From her suite at the Ambassador Hotel, Paulette refused to answer any questions about Chaplin or even reveal her age (she's 26) in what she claimed was her very first interview. When asked what she plans to do in NY, she answered "breathe deeply" and read Wells' Anatomy Of Frustration. "Like Hollywood, the frustration part," she said. Given this impromptu trip to New York and rumors of a fight with Chaplin, one can't help but read between the lines of that response.

Oakland Tribune, October 13th, 1936.
 Click here to enlarge.

Day By Day: 1936: An account of one year of Chaplin's life.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Chaplin arrives in New York for the premiere of The Great Dictator, October 12th, 1940

This was Chaplin's first visit to New York in nearly ten years. He arrived at LaGuardia Field via an American Airlines transcontinental flight--his first. He disliked the experience so much that he returned to California by train. He refused to fly again until the early 1950s.

Paulette Goddard did not accompany him to New York but arrived via Mexico, where she had been visiting artist Diego Rivera. Nor did they stay in the same hotel. Charlie took up quarters at the River House with his pal, Tim Durant, while Paulette stayed at the St. Regis. The only appearance they made together was at the film's premiere on the 15th. Following that, Paulette returned to California, and Chaplin stayed on in New York for the next four months "to play." Telling one reporter: "I'm a very tired old man badly in need of rest."

Monday, October 10, 2016

Day By Day: 1936

Saturday, October 10th: Paulette flies to New York

"While Charles Chaplin is cruising on his boat off Catalina writing my new screen play," Paulette told a reporter, "I am taking a three weeks vacation to see the new plays on Broadway before beginning the picture." [L.A. Times, Oct. 11th, 1936] Although she may have originally planned to stay for three weeks she was only away for two.

Day By Day: 1936: An account of one year of Chaplin's life.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Photo of the Chaplin family by Antony Beauchamp, 1952

Perhaps one of the last photos of Chaplin and his family taken at his Beverly Hills home. Beauchamp the son-in-law of Winston Churchill. Colorized photos from this sitting appeared in the September 20th, 1952 issue of Illustrated magazine. See the photos and read more about the sitting here.

Source: eBay

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Day By Day: 1936

Circa early October 1936: Publicity photos of Charlie and Paulette by Max Munn Autrey.

Autrey was the stills photographer for both Modern Times & The Great Dictator. This set gives us some nice views of the grounds of Chaplin's Beverly Hills estate.

Lesser known images from this shoot show Charlie buying tickets to a British Charity Ball
 from a young lady named Maureen Laing: 1

Another photo with Laing appeared in the Los Angeles Times on October 11th, 1936:

Plus photos of Charlie and Paulette talking to Laing's father, 
Capt. Alfred Benson Laing, a Canadian WWI veteran: 2

See more photos here.

1Laing later became a journalist under the name Maureen Dragone and one of the longest-standing members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.
2Many thanks to Kate Guyonvarch of Association Chaplin for identifying Mr. Laing.

DAY BY DAY:1936: An account of one year of Chaplin's life.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Newsreel footage, April 1927

The following newsreel shows Chaplin, Mrs. James Walker, wife of the Mayor of New York City, and Manhattan Borough President, Julius Miller, riding in a stagecoach around Manhattan promoting "Slippery Gulch," a charity fundraiser. That's Charlie sitting on top of the stagecoach at the beginning, holding a whip and wearing a big hat. There are some nice closeups of him around the 1:14 mark.

Chaplin had been in New York since January of that year, staying at the apartment of his lawyer, Nathan Burkan, while his divorce from Lita Grey was in litigation. Shortly after his arrival he'd had a nervous breakdown and had not been seen in public for a while--hence the following headline:

Greensboro Record, May 22, 1927
"In" should be "Is" in the headline.

Monday, October 3, 2016

THE PAWNSHOP, released October 2nd, 1916

Missed the 100th anniversary yesterday.

This film marked Henry Bergman's debut with Chaplin--an association
that would last for the next 30 years. 

There is a suspenseful moment when Chaplin teeters back and forth on a 10-foot ladder, and then falls and hits the ground in a graceful back somersault. "The audience clearly sees him take the fall," notes Dan Kamin. "There are no stunt doubles, nor does the street upon which he tumbles have pads to cushion his fall."1

Edna's dough becomes a lei (among other things) and her wooden spoon a ukulele. 

After destroying Albert Austin's clock, Chaplin bops him with a hammer, then reveals to the camera that the hammer is made of rubber.

Charlie wreaks havoc when his head gets caught in a double bass. 
Chester Courtney, an old music hall acquaintance who had been given a job at the studio, 
recalled that: "During the filming of The Pawnbroker [sic] he held up the schedule for two weeks while he learned to play all the instruments that his prop man, Scotty Cleethorpes, had provided as dressing for the shop scene, in which they figured as pledged goods. When the end of the fortnight came he gave us an impromptu concert at which he played one tune on each instrument!"2

Eric Campbell plays a thief who tries to rob the place at gunpoint.

But Charlie saves the day (and bows to his audience).
According to Motion Picture Classic (Nov. 1916), Eric "spoiled the scene twice
by rolling outside the lines but Charlie finally whacked him on the camera-
side of his head, with the command to 'die higher up,' and this time
Campbell recorded his swan-song on the film."


1 Kamin, Charlie Chaplin: Artistry In Motion, 2008
2 Chester Courtney, "The Real Charles Chaplin" Film Weekly, Feb. 1931, reprinted in CC: Centennial Celebration, 1989.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Working With Charlie Chaplin, Vol. 7: A WOMAN OF PARIS (1923)

Chaplin's first United Artists release debuted in New York on this day in 1923.


Bess Flowers: "I admired Chaplin so extravagantly. Every morning in my dressing room was one American Beauty rose with a long stem. And the fire was on. He introduced me to Rupert Brooke's poetry. If he couldn't start a scene, he'd go back in the flaps and play the violin until he got an inspiration." 1

Bess Flowers gets unwrapped in the Latin Quarter party scene.

Eddie Sutherland: "Chaplin taught me more than I can say. On A Woman Of Paris I questioned a moment in the picture--I thought it was too much of a coincidence. Edna Purviance has been seduced by the boy, Carl Miller, in reel one, then she meets him again, accidently, in reel five.

'Do you think it's convenient?' asked Charlie.
'Not particularly,' I replied.
'Good,' said Charlie. 'I don't mind coincidence--life is coincidence--but I hate convenience.' 2

Chaplin and assistant director Eddie Sutherland (source: The Charlie Chaplin Archives/Taschen)

Junior Coghlan: "My memory of [Chaplin] at the time was of a friendly but fussy little man who insisted on taking the same scene over and over again. in it Edna Purviance was riding, facing backward, on the tailgate of a horse-drawn wagon with me and two other youngsters sitting beside her with her legs dangling over the rear of the cart. Chaplin with his camera crew followed closely, riding a platform built on the front of an auto.

"In fairness it was a tough scene to photograph. In a case like this distance and speed must be maintained to perfection if the actors are to be properly framed and in focus.  We began rehearsing this simulated French countryside scene around 9:00 A.M. and it was 2:30 P.M. before Chaplin approved a finished take. Naturally, we kids were in pain from hunger by then but Charlie wouldn't break for lunch until he was completely satisfied. That could never happen today as the teacher would have braved the Chaplin wrath at the proper lunch hour." 3

Edna and Junior Coghlan

Adolphe Menjou: "A scene that I'll never forget is one in which I had to embrace Edna Purviance. Chaplin wanted us to tell a great deal in that kiss. There was to be passion and yet no indication on my part that I was in love with Marie. On the other hand, she was to show that the kiss was not repulsive and yet that she was unhappy. It was like engraving the Constitution on the head of a pin—much to be told in a very confined space. Well, we kissed and we kissed. And what a pleasure it was to begin with—kissing this beautiful creature time after time. I thought it a delightful way to make a living. But after a while it got to be very hard work. Chaplin would look at me and shake his head as though I were the most amateurish osculator he had ever seen. Then he would show me how to kiss her. Then I would kiss her again, and again he would shake his head. I must have kissed her 150 times. I never got so sick and tired of kissing a beautiful girl in my life. By the time we got that scene in the can I was completely disillusioned about my qualifications as a Don Juan." 4

With Adolphe Menjou

Edna Purviance (via Alma Whitaker): "Edna says that during the making of the play Charlie would say, 'Now if this happened to you in real life, what would you do?' She would answer conscientiously and then be told to go ahead and do it.

"Never mind keeping your face to the camera," said Charlie, "your emotions will be seen and felt through any part of your body at any angle, if you act well." This, said Edna, gave one such a wide scope, left one free to be so natural. 5

Chaplin directs Edna (left) and Betty Morrissey.


1Anthony Slide, Silent Players, 2010
2Kevin Brownlow, The Parade's Gone By, 1968
3Junior Coghlan, They Still Call Me Junior, 1993
4Adolphe Menjou, It Took Nine Tailors, 1948
5"The New Edna Purviance," Alma Whitaker, Los Angeles Times, October 21st, 1923

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

90 years ago today: A fire destroyed the set of The Circus

The studio production report for September 28th, 1926 read: "Were shooting scenes in entrance to dressing rooms on enclosed stage. Fire broke out and whole interior of stage was burned--burning sets, props, etc."

It was Chaplin himself who first noticed the blaze while walking from the main circus set to the dressing room set where flames were already licking the canvas walls of the tent. "Chaplin, shouting the alarm, converted his entrance into a hasty exit. Miss [Merna] Kennedy and other members of the company also fled from the stage as the flames bit into the flimsy canvas and rolled toward the upper beams. As they ran, the skylight cracked from the heat and sent showers of glass falling around them."1

While firemen battled the blaze, cameraman Rollie Totheroh shot 250 feet of film which reportedly shows Chaplin "dashing about in his bathrobe among firemen, flames, and drenching water."2 Evidently this film is no longer in existence, however  a stills photographer captured shots of a distraught-looking Chaplin, still in costume, gazing at the burned-out circus set (below). Totheroh's film of the catastrophe was shown in theaters as pre-publicity for The Circus.

Film stills exist of Chaplin wearing the same checkered robe he is wearing above, in a dressing room scene with Henry Bergman that was never used in the film.

The fire caused $40,000 worth of damage and may have been started by a short circuit in the Klieg lights.3 The studio was put back into partial operation while the circus set was rebuilt. In the meantime, Chaplin came up with scenes that could be filmed elsewhere, including a scene with Merna strolling down Sunset Blvd en route to a cafe, as well as a scene inside the cafe. But neither were used in the final film.

The crew of The Circus pose next to a "No Smoking On Stage" sign following the fire.

More photos here.

1Los Angeles Times, September 29, 1926. Some reports state that the glass skylights were broken by the firemen in an attempt to contain the fire.
2Motion Picture, January 1927
3L.A. Times 9/29/26; Film Daily 9/30/26