Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Mystery photo

This photo shows Chaplin and Jinx Falkenburg (right) talking to a mystery couple. Any idea who the man and woman on the left might be? The date is probably circa 1941. I'm not completely convinced that the woman with Charlie is Jinx although it does look like her.


Sunday, June 18, 2017

THE IMMIGRANT, released 100 years ago today

The release date for The Immigrant is often given as June 17th, 1917 but trade publications & newspapers from the era say the 18th. Michael Hayde's recent book on the Mutuals, Chaplin's Vintage Year, also says the 18th, so that's the date I'm going with.

This was Chaplin's second to last film for the Mutual Film Corporation. The day before its release, he signed his first million-dollar contract with First National.


The rocking of the boat for the opening scenes was achieved by attaching a pendulum to the tripod head of the camera.


There is a very similar scene between Bugs Bunny and Christopher Columbus in the 1951 cartoon Hare We Go.
  Chaplin built the dining hall set on rockers so it would tilt back and forth.
These boat rocking tricks had previously been used in Shanghaied (1915)

Charlie sees Edna for the first time when she enters the dining room.

The gun-through-the-leg gag was recycled from The New Janitor (1914).

The immigrants see the Statue Of Liberty for the first time.

The part of the waiter was originally played by Henry Bergman but Chaplin didn't feel he was menacing enough so he replaced him with Eric Campbell and his diabolic eyebrows. 

The story goes that Chaplin did so many takes of Edna eating beans that she became ill.
According to Grace Kingsley, Edna told him: "It’s no use Charlie. I simply can’t swallow another one.'
‘Great Scott!’ retorted Charlie, ‘how am I going to get my gagging over, then?’
‘I give it up,’ replied Edna. ‘If you’d been gagging as much as I have for the past five hours you wouldn’t want to gag any more!’" (L.A. Times, May 20th, 1917)

Chaplin wrote in My Life In Pictures (1974):
"The Immigrant touched me more than any film I've made. I thought the ending had quite a poetic feeling"

Monday, June 12, 2017

Marilyn Monroe, Lita Grey Chaplin, and Charlie Chaplin, Jr at the Henrietta Awards, January 1952

That evening Marilyn was presented with the Best Young Box Office Personality Award.

Charlie, Jr dated Marilyn in the late 1940s when she was still Norma Jean Dougherty.


Thursday, June 8, 2017

Chaplin & his friend, artist Ralph Barton, photographed by Nickolas Muray, NYC, 1927


In a strange series of coincidences, Barton was married from 1923-1926 to Carlotta Monterey, who in 1929 married Eugene O'Neill, who in 1943 became Chaplin's father-in-law.

Nickolas Muray was a close friend of Barton's and often attended what he described as "very lavish parties" at Barton's New York City apartment. Among the guests at one such gathering was Chaplin, recalled Muray:
"And at one party Charlie Chaplin, who was an intimate friend of Ralph’s...arrived and took over. He did double-talk in half a dozen languages....He played a number of instruments—violin, trombone, clarinet, piano, among others." (New Yorker, Feb. 20th 1989)

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Working With Charlie Chaplin: Vol. 8: Paulette Goddard



Chaplin's "Gamine" recalls what she learned at "the greatest school of acting anyone could ever have":
"He told me you can't be clever. If you just be your own self, it comes through more than anything. And then they're kind to you. They love you. One thing I learned from Charlie--I learned many things, but when I was first learning to act he said, 'Baby, don’t be afraid to make a mistake. Because when you make a mistake, they love you.' And they did! I didn't know what I was doing. I was crawling around in circles And he said. "Forget it. Don't criticize. Don't analyze. Be it and if you're wrong, they will love you.' And that's the secret of performance. You cannot be clever. People hate cleverness. They despise it. And irony and--all of it. But if you make a mistake, they say, 'Oh, isn't she real!'

"I was about to start the picture of Modern Times. I’d been a showgirl and a model and all those things were wrong with me. The way of walking and everything. And I walk in and I’m wearing a Valentina—you know the Russian dressmaker. A plain little dress but so expensive! It cost five hundred dollars then! You know, a day dress. And I had my hair done to be beautiful and eyelashes on and came walking in—the Goddard Walk. I’ve lost it, thank God. I had to….I’ll tell you what he did that absolutely cured me—you see, working with Charlie was the greatest school for acting that anyone could ever, ever have. I mean, he knew it all. But anyway, this day that I walked in he said, “That isn’t it, baby."And he took a bucket of water and threw it on me and that’s how I got my hairstyle in Modern Times. It broke my heart. And I cried and cried and cried. And he said, “Cry, damn it, cry! Camera!” And he called Rolley [sic] Totheroh over, who loved me so much—you could tell by the camera. He’d bring it like a kiss, a caress. And he was just a plain cameraman but such a dear man. And Charlie’d say, “Rolley, get the camera in here! CRY! God damn it, get down on your knees and look up at me!” And tears were running and it was the best shot I ever had! And that’s how my hairstyle came. It was never set after that." (Recorded & transcribed reminiscences of Paulette Goddard, c.1973-74 via Opposite Attraction by Julie Gilbert)
Happy birthday, Paulette.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Chaplin at the volcano

Last month, David Totheroh, grandson of Chaplin's longtime cameraman Rollie Totheroh, visited the Kilauea volcano in Hawaii in hopes of locating the spot where Charlie and his companions took in the volcano in October 1917. He was kind enough to share with me (and you) his findings, as well as a "now" photo.

From David:
While geography changes in relatively drastic ways in volcano country, it is virtually incontrovertible that CC and entourage were pictured at the edge of Halemaumau, a small crater within the much larger Kilauea caldera. A Park Ranger suggested they were probably somewhere near the point that juts into the crater on the far side of the 'now' photo. But unless the 'then' photo was flipped (unlikely), it makes more sense to me, and fits better with the surrounding terrain, that they were in the area of that white patch on the edge of the rim on the closer side of the 'now' pic. In any case, the general public is no longer allowed any closer than the vantage point of my 'now' photo, so sitting at the same place where Charlie sat wasn't possible.
Then:

Honolulu Star-Bulletin, October 27, 1917
L-R: Chaplin, Rob Wagner, Edna Purviance, and Tom Harrington
Now:

Photo courtesy of David Totheroh

Here's another interesting find.

At the time of Chaplin's visit, the Volcano House was the only hotel in the vicinity. The hotel's guest register is available for viewing on the National Park Service website. Below are the register entries for October 14th, 1917. I have included the Park Service's transcription of the text at the bottom. (There were some errors in their transcription which have been corrected, including "Ron" Wagner and Edna "Perrance").

Source: www.nps.gov/havo


"My stay at Hilo was very interesting. The landing stage, the pier, the city, and the hotel were very pleasant.
Tom Harrington, Los Angeles, 14 Oct 1917"

"When one writes his impressions in a public document such as this he is conscious that he is supposed to be original, witty or recondite and thus naturally edits what he really thinks. The most original impression I can record is that the crater in no way suggests hell to me. I cannot conceive of any such terrific beauty in hell. On the other hand the tropical jungle of the moss covered trees & huge ferns suggested the inferno of Dante--as conceived by Dore. Terrifying fire is the hell of fanatics, and was invented by them. Hell to a sensitive person would be the mockery and tragedy of tremendous contrasts. A beautiful woman without a soul is more infernal than an ugly old hag. Thus it is that the gray death that hangs over the tropical beauty of the jungle growth of the volcano--the ghastly quiet, the absence of all life in the midst of such a setting is most dreadfully suggestive of hell--whereas there is a splendor, a magnificent glory to the terrific cosmic forces within the crater that are pretty nearly the antithesis to my definition of hell. A description, like an attempted painting or a photograph, is a hopeless impertinence.
Rob Wagner, Los Angeles"

"You wish me to write my impressions of Hilo. Very good. Here it is. I saw the volcano.
Charlie Chaplin, Los Angeles"

"There are many charms in Hilo other than the Volcano. A maidenly diffidence forbids me suggesting the possessor of them
Edna Purviance
Los Angeles"

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Chaplin in New York Federal Court, May 1927

Chaplin is seen here on the witness stand during the Leo Loeb plagiarism trial in May 1927.

Note how he is sitting with one foot tucked under him. Contemporary accounts describe him sitting this way during testimony. Read more here.  It was also a way he liked to sit.
Healdsburg Tribune, May 23, 1927

Friday, May 19, 2017

How many can you name?

This contest appeared in the De Kalb (Illinois) Chronicle on Feb. 7th, 1916.  The first twenty-five readers who could identify all (or almost all) of the faces (besides Charlie's) received two free tickets to the movie theaters advertised on the page. Sadly the winners, nor the identities of faces, were ever announced.

I wouldn't have come close to winning.

Click on the photo to enlarge or click on this link for a version you can zoom in on.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Red Letter Days

One of the reasons I haven't posted anything new recently is because I have been staying up until the wee hours the last few nights reading Dan Kamin's terrific new book. It's called Charlie Chaplin's Red Letter Days and it reproduces, for the very first time, Fred Goodwins' first-hand accounts of day-to-day life at the Chaplin studio during the Mutual period (& the end of the Essanays). These accounts originally appeared in Red Letter, a British magazine, in 1916, and have been unseen for nearly a century until film historian, and the book's editor, David James, discovered the magazines at the British Library in 2013. If you've followed this blog for any length of time, you know that I live for obscure little tidbits about Chaplin, and this book is chock full of them. It is a wonderful first-hand account of this period of Chaplin's career that we haven't seen any where else. Goodwins' text is accompanied by helpful annotations and commentary by Chaplin expert Dan Kamin.

I haven't finished the book yet but wanted to give you a taste of what to expect. There are some wonderful behind-the-scenes stories about not only the movies but the people, including Edna Purviance learning Cockney rhyming slang, Eric Campbell's preference for things that are small, and Charlie's concern when his beloved pet goat, Billy, gets injured.

The book is a bit on the pricey side, but well worth it.

https://www.amazon.com/Charlie-Chaplins-Red-Letter-Days/dp/1442278080



Charlie, with real mustache, on the cover of ILLUSTRATED magazine, 70 years ago today


Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Food For Thought

During his acceptance speech for the Chaplin Award on Monday night, Robert De Niro said the award's namesake would not be admitted to Donald Trump's U.S.:

“All of us in film – directors, actors, writers, crews, audiences – owe a debt to Charlie Chaplin, an immigrant who probably wouldn’t pass today’s extreme vetting. I hope we’re not keeping out the next Chaplin,” he said.

Read more here:

https://www.theguardian.com/film/2017/may/09/robert-de-niro-charlie-chaplin-donald-trump-us-immigration



Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Chaplin -- "a singer of the first order"



British journalist Kathlyn Hayden describes watching Chaplin burst into song during a break on the set of City Lights:
In the flesh there is little of the pathos about Charlie. He is essentially the comedian. For instance, during one of the usual interminable waits while the electricians were charging the lights Charlie ordered the radio turned on. (It seems he always has a loud speaker on the set--to amuse him during the waits.) The stage was suddenly flooded with the glorious voice of Lawrence Tibbett--a gramophone recording of one of his numbers from 'The Rogue Song.'

Chaplin puts a record on the gramophone.
Behind him are (L-R): Ralph Barton, Virginia Cherrill, Allan Garcia, & Carlyle Robinson.
 At far left in the white coat (partially cut off) might be Granville Redmond.

Instantly Charlie sprang to his feet, struck a theatrical posture, and began to sing the song himself. As he imitated Tibbett he was pricelessly funny, capturing all of the grand opera star's mannerisms.1 But that wasn't all. The Chaplin singing voice is wonderful. The little fellow amazed me with his robustness of his middle register. And when Tibbett took the high notes Charlie was with him! Perhaps I am prejudiced, and I don't profess to be a music critic, but so far as I am concerned there is nothing to between Tibbett and Chaplin--as singers. 
But of course it would never do for the pathetic little tramp of the funny shoes and bowler to burst into song--in character.2 The Chaplin of the films couldn't do such a thing. Yet if only once he might consent to play a different role, I am sure he could win new laurels--as a singer of the first order.  
("A Day With Charlie," Picture Show, April 4th, 1931)


__________________________________________________________________

Note: I'm not sure if the above photos are from the same performance Ms. Hayden witnessed. 

One of Chaplin's favorite "turns" at private gatherings was to imitate opera singers. A couple of his favorites were Feodor Chaliapin and John McCormack. At one such party, Screenland's "Liza" noted that Chaplin sang Mother Machree & When Irish Eyes Are Smiling "in as good an Irish tenor as you can find in Hollywood." (Screenland, January 1941)

Little did they realize in 1931 that Chaplin would "burst into song" in his next film, Modern Times,--and it would be the first time audiences would hear the Tramp's voice.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Discovering Chaplin is on Patreon



You may have noticed the Patreon banner on the blog recently (the big orange one on the right that says "Become a Patron"). So what exactly is "Patreon" and how does it work?


Patreon is a site that allows fans to support creators through small monthly payments, you can sign up for as little as one dollar a month --or more! This will help me keep the blog up and running and provide quality content that you won't find anywhere else. You may not realize it but there are costs involved with running this site. Research is one of them. In order to keep my content fresh, but obscure, I need access to sources that are often not cheap.

What does this mean for readers who can't afford to donate money?

Not one thing. My blog will still be free and available to everyone. There will be not be "special" content for paying supporters. Believe me, I understand that times are tough and not everyone can afford to support a Chaplin blog.

Panhandling, Jess? Really?

Trust me. I don't like it either.




Ok, you've convinced me. How do I sign up?

Click here for my Patreon page. If you have questions check out their "FAQ" section. Everything on Patreon is private. I never see any of your personal or financial information. Whether or not you donate money, I am truly grateful for your continued support. And heartfelt thanks to the folks who have already signed up.

Much love,
Jess



Friday, May 5, 2017

Chaplin & steel magnate Charles Schwab, c.1919

This photo was new to me. It is currently up for sale on eBay if you have an extra $600 burning a hole in your pocket.

The back of the photo says: "The King Of The Screen & The King of Steel."


Here's one from my files with Mrs. Schwab posing between them.


Tuesday, May 2, 2017

"A genius if ever there was one."

With Baroness Ravensdale at the Chaplin Studios, Oct. 1926

One of my favorite things to read, and what I spend a great deal of time searching for, are impressions of Chaplin by people who met him or knew him. I recently came upon one such impression, an obscure one, written by Baroness Ravensdale (aka Mary Irene Curzon), who visited Hollywood in the Fall of 1926, and met Chaplin via their mutual friend, Elinor Glyn. The Baroness wrote about her Hollywood experience, including her visits with Chaplin, years later in her 1953 memoir, In Many Rhythms. Here is an excerpt:
The Hollywood rhythm, which I came to next, held a series of motions by which certain of the stars would be known a mile off. My dear friend, Elinor Glyn, opened every door for me in that fantastic, faked world, where everyone on or off the 'set' seemed to have to play a part from dawn to dusk. Charlie Chaplin, with his wife, Lita Grey, gave me a fabulous dinner party, where to my immense bewilderment all the great cinema stars, husbands and wives, sat side by side. Perhaps this was desirable, as some of the unions lasted such a short time that one forgot which was the last wife or husband seen in public. Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford were so regal I felt I should curtsy to them. They spoke only of royalty, of their five days in Russia and of Mussolini, and how he, Douglas Fairbanks, enthused thousands of Italians for Mussolini in a speech he made in public. All this went on whilst he and Mary held hands at the dinner-table.
 Afterwards Charlie showed us his great film, A Woman of Paris, with Edna Purviance as the star. In that film he shot one scene a hundred and one times, and went back finally to the original. When I watched him rehearsing The Circus with Harry Crocker and Merna Kennedy, I saw him shoot one small scene forty-seven times in the afternoon. He interpreted both roles again and again for those two, portraying every emotion and reaction of their pathetic little love scene that only lasted a few moments. I said to him at the end of hours that I could not see that the two actors were much improved by the forty-seventh shot, and that anyhow the audience would be no wiser about this terrific amount of work he put into producing his films. He replied that until his conscience told him a scene was as near perfection as possible, he had to go on, even to seventy times seven. That no doubt accounts for the exquisite artistry in every picture he has ever produced. ...
Wondrous parties were given for me at which Charlie Chaplin did charades, or led a follow-my-leader round the room, pursued by the dance band and a motley of film stars doing every known antic and stunt. Bebe Daniels's beach house was full of gay, carefree stars, the flowerlike Virginia Vallee, Dick Barthelmess, William Powell, Beatrice Lillie, Harry Crocker, the Harold Lloyds, the Gish sisters and many more.

Chaplin, the Baroness, and Harry Crocker
❝At Charlie Chaplin's house one day he had just returned from the set with all his makeup on – a mass of us played baseball. Never have I seen such lovely bodies in such scanty bathing dresses, rushing round the lawn. Charlie Chaplin was always a mixture of utter enchantment, brilliancy, wit and humour, suddenly becoming very argumentative and serious over the control of mind over matter, or some such profundity — a genius if ever there was one. In discussing once with Fritz Kreisler, the great violinist, Charlie Chaplin's rudeness in keeping the Duke of Connaught waiting, he said to me, 'Yes, I know, but first in life is love, then after its tragedies, laughter, and we must bow to him whatever his faults, forgiving him that.' He then added a most significant remark on Russia, There you have a wild beast over the walls, and we only fight amongst ourselves, instead of producing a united front.' His words are as true today.
Marion Davies gave me a big dinner, when all the stars afterwards had to take a name out of a hat and act the part. Lita Grey had to play Mary Pickford, Sam Goldwyn Mr. Randolph Hearst, Marion Davies Mae Murray, and Lilian Gish with Jack Gilbert, Rudolph and Mimi out of La Bohéme. Jack Gilbert had also to act Ethel Barrymore.
I was intensely amused also at Elinor Glyn's party for me; a certain word crept in in the replies, 'So-and-so is going with So-and-so.' That meant on pain of death you asked So-and-so together, and sat them together; otherwise the evening was a shambles of jealousy.
Many of these people were simple and unostentatious, in spite of their vast fortunes. Tom Mix amongst his horses, showing me his ranch, was the simple cowboy again, though he had a super green car a mile long. He and I and Charlie Chaplin had a fierce argument on Patriotism, one night. Charlie had none, Mix had it strongly. Charlie contended England had done nothing for him. America had made him. Why should he have gone back and fought for England in the First World War? He added that he would certainly have been shot in the back, running away from a trench! It was better to make people laugh and forget their tears with his films. I murmured that Fritz Kreisler had fought in Austria and been wounded in the arm — it had no effect.
--Baroness Mary Irene Curzon Ravensdale, In Many Rhythms, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1953

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Chaplin's Choice

Ever wonder what Chaplin thought of other actors or directors? Which films did he enjoy? Here is a non-comprehensive list of people and films he admired, with comments by Chaplin where I could find them. Please feel free to add to the list in the comments, preferably with sources.

Many thanks my friends Dominique Dugros, Lucy Jaffe, and Doreen Feeney for their help in putting this compilation together.

Actors/Actresses

Fred Astaire: "This Top Hat man exudes personality." (New York Times, Feb. 16, 1936)

Lucille Ball: "He enjoyed Lucille Ball...thought her very funny & extremely talented." (Jerry Epstein, Remembering Charlie)

Lucille Ball poses as Chaplin in 1962

Fanny Brice: "Fanny Brice is a wonder as a comedian." (New York Herald, Sept. 11, 1921)

Mae Busch: "The best actress on the screen." (Motion Picture, Nov. 1924)

Mae Busch
Marion Davies "One evening at the Fairbankses' they ran a Marion Davies film, When Knighthood Was In Flower. To my surprise she was quite a comedienne, with charm and appeal, and would have been a star in her own right without the cyclonic Hearst publicity." (Charles Chaplin, My Autobiography)

Benny Hill: After receiving the Charlie Chaplin International Award for Comedy in 1991, Hill was invited, along with his longtime producer/director Dennis Kirkland, to Chaplin's home in Vevey where he was given a tour of the Manoir by Charlie's son, Eugene. Kirkland recalls the story in his biography of Hill:
After lunch he took us into the house to his father's sitting room and
his father's study, where Benny, thrilled to bits, was invited to sit in
Charlie Chaplin's chair. He was in heaven.
Then Eugene took us to a little room with a TV set and a video recorder and
showed us a row of videotapes on a shelf. They were all of Benny Hill
shows.
'My father used to sit here and watch you all the time. He thought you were
the greatest,' Eugene told Benny.

I had never seen Benny quiet so overwhelmed. He could not believe what he
was seeing and hearing. There were tears in his eyes.

Benny Hill as his character Fred Scuttle

Bob Hope: Chaplin to Hope after they were introduced by Hope's Cat & The Canary co-star, Paulette Goddard, at Santa Anita Race Track: "Young man, I've been watching the rushes of The Cat & The Canary every night. I want you to know that you're one of the best timers of comedy I have ever seen." (Joe Morella, Paulette: The Adventurous Life Of Paulette Goddard)

Al Jolson: "[Chaplin] thought that seeing Jolson live was the highest theatrical experience of his life. 'It was electrifying how he moved the audience,' Charlie said. 'When he came down the ramp and bent on his knees and sang 'My Mammy' it sent shivers down your back." (Jerry Epstein, Remembering Charlie)

Peter Lorre: "There is much of the born poet in Peter Lorre. His is a fresh and original talent. He is endowed with such intuitive, emotional and imaginative powers that he impresses me as one of the greatest character actors. I look forward to seeing him make a genuine contribution to the art of acting on the screen." (Motion Picture, June 1936)

Mary Pickford: "I once asked Charlie who was his favorite screen actress. 'I think Mary Pickford," he answered unhesitatingly." (Sam Goldwyn, St. Louis Star, Feb. 14, 1924)

Films/Directors

Ingmar Bergman: "After meeting Ingmar Bergman in Sweden [in 1964], Charlie gave an interview to the Herald Tribune, and said he never missed an Ingmar Bergman film." (Epstein)

With Ingmar Bergman

Luis Bunuel: "Bunuel remembered other visits to Chaplin's home. Several times he screened Un Chien Andalou: the first time Kono, who was running the projector, fainted away when he saw the opening scene of a razor blade slicing an eye. Years later Bunuel delighted to learn from Carlos Saura* that according to Geraldine Chaplin her father used to frighten the children by describing scenes from Bunuel's films." (David Robinson, Chaplin: His Life & Art) *Saura is the father of Geraldine's son, Shane Saura Chaplin.

A PLACE IN THE SUN (Dir. George Stevens, 1951): The story goes that Chaplin attended an advanced screening of the film and afterward told director George Stevens that it was "the greatest movie ever made about America." I couldn't find an actual source for this quote. However in Remembering Charlie, Jerry Epstein recalled seeing the film with Chaplin and that he enjoyed it.

Elizabeth Taylor & Montgomery Clift in A Place In The Sun

BARRY LYNDON (Dir. Stanley Kubrick, 1976): One of the last two films Chaplin ever saw (the other was Rocky). As he watched the film, he commented, "Beautiful...beautiful." (Epstein)

BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN (Dir. Sergei Eisenstein, 1925): Eisenstein recalled that Chaplin's first words of greeting when they met by Chaplin's tennis court in 1930: "Just saw Potemkin again. You know, in five years it hasn't aged a bit; still the same." (Chaplin & American Culture, Charles Maland)

THE BELLBOY (Dir. Jerry Lewis, 1960): During a visit to Chaplin's home, Lewis requested a copy of Modern Times to show his children on Sundays, Chaplin complied but with one provision: That Lewis send him a copy of The Bellboy, which was his favorite of Lewis' films. (Peter Bogdanovich, Who The Hell's In It)

DR. STRANGELOVE (Dir. Stanley Kubrick, 1964): In an interview with Francis Wyndham in 1964, Chaplin said he hated most American films but was enthusiastic about Dr. Strangelove and did "an hilarious impression of George C. Scott squirming in the war room." The film's other star, Peter Sellers, was also briefly considered for the role of Hudson in Chaplin's last film, A Countess From Hong Kong.

George C. Scott in Dr. Strangelove

D.W. Griffith: "The teacher of us all." (Francis Bordat, Chaplin Cineaste)

IVAN THE TERRIBLE (Dir. Sergei Eisenstein, 1944) "The Acme of all historical pictures. Eisenstein dealt with history poetically--an excellent way of dealing with it." (My Autobiography)

M (Dir. Fritz Lang, 1931): Chaplin confessed to star Peter Lorre at the Brown Derby that he had seen the film three times. (Stephen Youngkin, The Lost One: The Life Of Peter Lorre)

Peter Lorre in M

MORTAL CLAY (Dir. Victor Sjöström, 1922) "A most beautifully prepared and executed work of art, an inspiration to all lovers of beauty and a vehicle that should elevate the whole standard of motion pictures." (Moving Picture World, Nov. 17, 1923)

ROCKY (Dir. Sylvester Stallone, 1976): "As he watched, he kept murmuring, 'Excellent...excellent.'" (Epstein)

Carl Weathers & Sylvester Stallone in Rocky

SALVATION HUNTERS: (Dir. Josef Von Sternberg, 1925): Chaplin considered the film to be one of the greatest ever made. (Photoplay, August 1925)

THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES (Dir. William Wyler, 1946): "The most significant picture to come out of Hollywood in years--significant not only for what the film itself accomplishes but also for the encouragement the film's success will give to other producers [to make daring and out-of-the-ordinary films]." (New York Times, April 13, 1947)

MORNING GLORY (Dir. Lowell Sherman, 1933): "Splendid." (New York Times, Feb. 16, 1936)

L-R: Adolphe Menjou, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr, & Katharine Hepburn in Morning Glory

REMEMBRANCE (Dir. Rupert Hughes, 1922): "The most human picture ever put on the screen." (Motion Picture News, Sept. 20th, 1922)

Carlos Saura: "You are a poet." Chaplin to Saura in a telegram after having seen Ana Y Los Lobos with daughter, Geraldine (who was the star of the film). (Claudine Monteil, Les Amants Des Temps Modernes, based on an interview by the author with Geraldine).

STELLA DALLAS (Dir. Henry King, 1925): "I must congratulate [Samuel Goldwyn] on STELLA DALLAS. A friend of mine, seeing it the third time, enjoyed it as much as I did, seeing it the first time. It's a great triumph for you and the members of the cast. The direction is splendid, and undoubtedly the finest thing Henry King has ever done. May it bring you the success you deserve." (Moving Picture World, Jan. 23, 1926)).

Belle Bennett as Stella Dallas

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Yes, I Can See Now

I've always wondered when Charlie started wearing glasses. I figured it was at least the early 1920s since Lita Grey recalled Chaplin wearing glasses the first time she was alone with him in Truckee during the filming of The Gold Rush. However the following clipping puts the date much earlier, during his vacation in Honolulu in 1917. I don't know if Charlie was getting his first-ever pair of glasses or just a new pair. I also didn't know that Edna wore glasses.

Hawaiian Gazette, October 19, 1917

Journalist Egon Erwin Kisch noted during a visit to the Chaplin Studios in 1929 that Chaplin was so farsighted that he couldn't see to sign his own name. But Chaplin must have struggled with seeing at a distance as well judging from photos of him wearing glasses at spectator events such as a wrestling match and a kabuki performance (below).

Charlie with Sydney & Kono at the Kabuki-za Theater in Tokyo, 1932.
(Photo: Charlie Chaplin In Japan by Ono Hiroyuki)

One of my favorite "glasses" stories regarding Chaplin is when he testified during the Leo Loeb trial in 1927 & struggled to read a document that one of the lawyers handed him. (Loeb sued Chaplin claiming that he stole the idea for Shoulder Arms from his book, "The Rookie."):
Hays handed Chaplin a synopsis of "The Rookie" and asked him to look at the first scene. "Chaplin scrutinized the paper with expressions of exaggerated concentration which brought general laughter. He shrugged with a pathetic gesture of frustration and the spectators rocked in their seats."
"I'm afraid I can't read it," he apologized to Hays, "I forgot to bring my glasses."
Nathan Burkan offered up his glasses and Chaplin "tried them on his nose and then stared blankly at the paper. His expression and pantomime of his inability to see brought more laughter in which Judge Bondy joined."
Judge Bondy leaned over the bench and proffered Chaplin the judicial spectacles. The actor took them with a bow, tried them frontwards, backwards, as a monocle with the extra glass riding over one ear, and then as a magnifying glass.
"I can read!" he cried with a happy smile and the crowd cheered. (New York Times, May 11, 1927)
See more pics of bespectacled Charlie here.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Happy Birthday, Charlie!


On his 70th birthday, Chaplin had a message that I think is still timely today:


Manchester Guardian, April 16, 1959

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Chaplin & the Battle of Petroushka

"Long years of practice at dodging custard pies and various other missiles stood Charlie Chaplin in good stead Sunday night at the Petroushka Cafe, in Hollywood, when two men attempted to 'beat up' the famous film comedian." 1
Late Sunday night, January 20th, 1924, Chaplin, actress Mary Miles Minter, screenwriter Carey Wilson and his wife, Nancy Everett, entered the exclusive Café Petroushka on Hollywood Blvd for a quiet dinner.

Mary Miles Minter

A little after midnight,  C.C. Julian, president of the Julian Petroleum Corporation, arrived with a large party consisting of his brother, his secretary, and two women: actress Peggy Browne and her friend, none other than Chaplin's ex-wife, Mildred Harris. Browne and Harris had joined the party earlier in the evening at the Montmartre, which was just down the street, and followed the group to Petroushka. Browne said later that she and Mildred were "unescorted." 2

Chaplin saw the group walk in but did not see his ex-wife. "I didn't know Miss Harris was in the cafe...I noticed the party when it entered, however. One of the men was acting very rudely; he kicked over a floor lamp and cursed loudly."3

Mildred Harris

Russian actor Nicholas Dunaew, who was seated at an adjoining table, recalled what happened next: "Mr. Julian brushed roughly against Mr. Chaplin. Mr. Chaplin said: 'Please be careful there are ladies present.' Mr. Julian replied: 'Who are you telling to be careful?' and then struck Mr. Chaplin across the face. Mr. Chaplin got up and struck back knocking Julian down. When Mr. Julian stood up and squared off I hit him on the jaw and knocked him down again as other members of his party were getting into the fight." 4

"Mr. Chaplin  behaved in a thoroughly gentlemanly manner, "said Nat Arlock, manager of Café Petroushka. "His party was quiet and inoffensive. I could ask for no guests more cultured. I saw the entire proceedings and I am embarrassed that it should have occurred in my place which is a genteel establishment. I do not allow liquor in the rooms or rowdies.

"Mr. Chaplin was listening to the music," Arlock explained. "He is very fond of Russian music. Zamulenko, the Moscow violinist was playing...Mr. Julian was the instigator of the trouble.  Prior to striking Mr. Chaplin he had knocked over a projecting light. During the fight, a cello was broken." Arlock said that Mr Julian had given him a check to pay for dinner and all the damages, even though Julian would later claim that he wasn't present at the cafe at the time of the fight. However employees and other witnesses, including members of Julian's own party, identified him as the man who attacked Chaplin.5

Several newspapers reported that Chaplin received a black eye or a bloodied face in the brawl, but witnesses say he "escaped without a scratch." 

Pittsburgh Press, Mar. 2, 1924
Mildred Harris, who fled with her friend, Peggy Browne, during the uproar, later expressed regret over the incident. "Poor Charlie, I do hope that my presence there will not be misunderstood. I did not know Charlie was there and I am sure he didn't see me.

"Charlie and I are perfectly good friends. Reports that the trouble started through a quarrel over me are preposterous. As a matter of fact I personally was not with Julian. I merely happened to be with my girlfriend who was a member of the party. Charlie is very sensitive. I sympathize with him deeply in this affair because I know how dreadful it all must be to him." 7

According to Browne, Julian had been stewing about Chaplin from the moment he arrived at Petroushka. "All during the party, Julian made scathing remarks about Mr. Chaplin. Miss Harris urged him to discontinue his uncomplimentary utterances and when he refused a moment before the trouble started, she left the table. As soon as I saw something was going to happen I became so frightened I ran down the stairs to get away. I didn't see any blows struck." 8

Chaplin had initially wanted to press charges against Julian but later changed his mind. "I have nothing  more to say about the unpleasant affair. I shall forget it." 9

"I'm not a fighter," Chaplin said, "not a braggart of fistic prowess as has been reported. I have always endeavored to conduct myself  as a gentleman, and appeal to the press and public that my part in the affair was forced on me, and I did only what any red-blooded man would have done had he been in my place." 10


Photoplay, April 1924

I thought some of the headlines about this incident were a hoot. Here are a few:

Trenton Times, Jan. 27, 1924

Kansas City Star, Jan. 23, 1924
The last part is hard to read. Its says:
 "C.C. Julian Denies He Struck Blow That Messed Up Charlie's Countenance--
Actor Fears For Films' Future."
Tennessean, Feb. 8th, 1924
Trenton Times, Jan. 23, 1924
San Bernardino Sun, Jan. 22, 1924
Pittsburgh Press, March 2, 1924
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1San Bernardino Sun, Jan. 22, 1924
2Pittsburgh Press, March 2, 1924
3Los Angeles Times, Jan. 22, 1924
4Los Angeles Times, Jan. 24, 1924. Note: There were several reports that Jascha Heifetz was also seated at the adjoining table with Dunaew but Heifetz later claimed that he was not at the restaurant that night, and was shocked to hear that Chaplin had been in a fight. "He is not that sort of fellow, unless he was attacked. Of course a man will defend himself when attacked and Chaplin no doubt did that. I have no doubt that he gave a good account of himself, for I know him very well. But I did not see the fracas and I never heard of a scrap in that club before." (Portland Oregonian, Jan. 28, 1924)
5Los Angeles Times, Jan. 23, 1924
6San Bernardino Sun, Jan. 22, 1924
7Pittsburgh Press, March 2, 1924
8ibid
9Los Angeles Times, Jan. 24, 1924
10Los Angeles Times, Jan. 23, 1924