Friday, July 29, 2016

Chaplin delivers a radio broadcast in support of Roosevelt's "Buy Now" campaign, October 24th, 1933

Broadcasting nationally at 7:30pm from Columbia outlet KHJ in Los Angeles, Chaplin appealed to the country to show its support for President Franklin D. Roosevelt's N.R.A. (National Recovery Administration). It had been five years since his last national radio broadcast, so this was the first time many listeners had heard his voice and were "surprised and thrilled at his British accent."

However, in keeping with past radio appearances, he was struck with a severe case of "mike fright" before going on the air. Employees of KHJ said he was the "most nervous person they had ever seen broadcast....he paced the floor muttering over and over, 'Twenty million people' as though the thought of addressing such a vast audience was appalling." He reportedly "consumed half a box of medicated throat discs and several cups of java before going on....Station audiences went fidgety watching [him] perspire."

"[Chaplin] rehearsed his opening joke several times and when the time came for him to deliver it he almost had a spasm. But as the broadcast progressed he warmed to his subject and began striding about and gesticulating. On one occasion he missed the microphone by a fraction of an inch when impulse prompted him to wave an arm."

His 900-word speech began as follows:
When I was notified from Washington to speak in behalf of the N. R. A., I was asked to be serious. So when I am asked to be serious, I shall be serious. Like the young lady at a Jewish ball, when a young gentleman went up to her and said: ‘Excuse me, are you dencing?' she answered: ‘Are you esking” ‘Sure, I'm esking.’ ’Den, I’m dencing.’ So, like the young lady, then I am serious."
He continued...
As you know, the code of the N. R. A. is for reducing the hours of labor, raising the wages to a higher level and increasing the purchasing power of the people. Whether this can be accomplished or not depends upon the patriotism and goodwill of every citizen of this country.

Stressing the necessity of “buying now," he said:
Those who are fortunate enough to have money should spend it. Be like the little boy who was given 10 cents and was asked what he would do with it. He said: ‘I'm going to buy an ice cream soda!' But, said the giver: ‘Wouldn't you like to give it to a missionary to help the savages in Africa?' ‘Sure, but I'll buy an ice cream soda and ask the soda clerk to do that.'
He then referred to the 11,000,000 unemployed:
Naturally this appeal is not made to them. But there are 90,000,000 people in America, myself included, who have means--who have the purchasing power to buy now and can help to put those unemployed back to work. After all, we are not making any sacrifices. On the contrary, it is to our advantage if we buy now, because prices are bound to rise later on. 
Concluding, he said:
In March when all the banks were closed the people cried for action. Now President Roosevelt has given us that action. The Government has given us a program, and now it is our turn for action.  

Boston Globe, October 24th, 1933
Los Angeles Times, October 25th, 1933
Variety, October 1933

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Between takes on the set of THE ADVENTURER, 1917

Other familiar faces include Albert Austin (far right) and Rollie Totheroh (behind the camera). The man on the left looks like someone I should know as well. Fred Goodwins?

Monday, July 25, 2016

Charlie's blindfold cigarette test

This photo shoot was used to advertise Old Gold cigarettes in Judge magazine in 1928.

In the background of the above photos (L-R): Carlyle Robinson (Chaplin's press agent), Harry Crocker, and Henry Bergman.

According to the ad below: "Chaplin was asked to smoke each of the four leading brands, clearing his taste with coffee between smokes. Only one question was asked:  'Which one do you like best?' He chose Old Gold." Sez Charlie: "It was like shooting a scene successfully after a whole series of failures. It just 'clicked' and I named it as my choice. It was Old Gold...It seems Strongheart and Rin-tin-tin are the only motion picture actor stars who don’t smoke them.”

"Not a cough in a carload"

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Going for a swim, French Riviera, 1956

Everyone stay safe in the heat. Charlie has the right idea.

From "Charlie On Holiday," Picture Post, September 1956

Friday, July 22, 2016

Day By Day: 1936

Wednesday, July 22nd: Charlie and Paulette attend a reception honoring Johannes Poulsen, head of the Royal Theater Of Denmark. 

Host Mary Pickford introduced Poulsen to 200 celebrities and civic leaders on the lawn of her home, Pickfair. The Danish director was invited by the California Festival Association to stage an outdoor production of the play Everyman at the Hollywood Bowl that September.

In this grainy photo from the Los Angeles Times (7/23/36), you can see Charlie and Paulette to the right of Mary
 (in white hat). 
L-R: Poulsen, CC, Paulette, Norma Shearer, and Mrs. Poulsen.
Poulsen at left and Jean Hersholt on the right. I apologize for the watermarks.

Day By Day: 1936: A document of one year of Chaplin's life. (Note: Some recent updates to the series are only posted on the series page.)

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Mildred Harris (November 29, 1901-July 20, 1944)

Mildred was Chaplin's first wife and the mother of his first-born child, Norman Spencer (aka "The Little Mouse") who died three days after his birth. Charlie and Mildred were married in 1918 and divorced two years later. A successful actress, she appeared in 135 films between 1912 & 1944, although many of her final appearances were uncredited. She died of pneumonia following surgery on July 20th, 1944 at the young age of 42. Charlie sent a spray of orchids, roses, and gladioli to the funeral.1 This is touching since Mildred wore orchids, her favorite flower, on her wedding day.2

In 1927, Mildred wrote the following about her former husband:
I came to know him as a strange brooding spirit, haunted by good, and, perhaps, sometimes bad impulses or temptations, inspirations and fears, all pulling in different ways and giving him no rest. ("Mildred Harris' Own Story," Syracuse Journal, Feb. 1927)

1Charles Chaplin, Jr, My Father, Charlie Chaplin (1960)/New York Times, July 25th, 1944
2Mildred Harris, "The Private Life Of Chaplin," March 21, 1936

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Chaplin wins plagiarism suit, November 1939

Given all the headlines about plagiarism today, I thought this was a timely story. In 1939, Chaplin won a federal suit brought against him by attorney Michael Kustoff, who claimed Chaplin had lifted the plot of Modern Times from his autobiography, Against Gray Walls.

Chaplin at the federal building following his victory in court.

Kustoff served as his own attorney and questioned Chaplin on the witness stand. Read the full story, plus some of the testimony, here:

Los Angeles Times, November 19, 1939

Monday, July 18, 2016

Truman Capote proofread "My Autobiography." It didn't go well.

Capote, Oona, and Charlie at the Manoir

When Chaplin was writing his autobiography he asked Capote, a Swiss neighbor, to read it and tell him what he thought of it. Capote agreed. "So I went to work on it. In pencil," he told Carol Matthau, Oona's best friend. "And I took it down to him. We started to talk about it and Charlie threw me out. 'Get the fuck out of here,' he said. I wanted you to read it. I wanted you to enjoy it. I don't need your opinion." 1 Among Capote's criticisms was that he didn't like the title "My Autobiography." Chaplin's response: “What’s so good about Breakfast At Tiffany’s? That’s the silliest title I’ve ever heard!” Privately, Chaplin liked to imitate Capote's speech when commenting on the autobiography: "That'th not a thententh. It'th not a thententh, and it never will be a thententh." 3

The story goes that best friends Oona, Carol Matthau, and Gloria Vanderbilt were the inspiration for Holly Golightly in Capote's "Breakfast at Tiffany's."

1Matthau, Among The Porcupines, 1992
2Epstein, Remembering Charlie, 1989
3Saroyan, Trio, 1985

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Jean Harlow in CITY LIGHTS

Although Jean is not in the final film, you can see her in this posed still from the nightclub scene (far left in the top photo). She and her mother were hired to be extras in this scene. According to his press agent, Carlyle Robinson, Chaplin was evidently quite taken with the blonde bombshell:
While City Lights was in the making, Charlie became interested in a young woman, an extra. The peculiar color of her hair attracted him. She was provocatively alluring. 
At the same table at which this extra girl was seated was an older woman. I learned they were mother and daughter. He instructed me to have the older woman promoted! She should play the bit of the indignant matron who sits upon the burning cigar in that sequence. It was only when he discovered that the woman had her hair cut in a boyish bob that he changed his mind. 
At the time I made a note that the name of the mother and daughter was Pope*--a Mrs. Pope and Jean Pope. Later I discovered that the girl had blossomed forth--in Hell's Angels - as Jean Harlow! The mother was now Mrs. Marino Bello. (Carlyle Robinson, "The Private Life Of Charlie Chaplin," Liberty, Winter 1972)
*Instead of Pope, Robinson may have meant Poe, Jean's mother's middle name. 

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

"Mr. Chaplin's Daily Program"

A peak at Charlie's daily schedule from Motion Picture Magazine, May 1918.

Charlie "flies around like a bee in a bottle" and "works like lightning until 3 A.M. when everyone is used up." But he is also chauffeured around in his "machine" to fancy nightclubs and restaurants.

Click to enlarge

Monday, July 11, 2016

Charlie and Gloria "give them something to talk about."

The photos in this post were taken by Katherine Hungerford, a photographer who spent 1922-23 in Hollywood taking pictures of movie stars for a lecture. In 1949, she wrote a book about her experience called Early Hollywood Crazy Quilt. The following is an excerpt from her book in which she describes taking these photos of Charlie & Gloria:
I stopped for lunch at Armstrong & Carleton, a popular movie star restaurant rendezvous. I had just started to order when Charlie Chaplin and Gloria Swanson came in and sat down at a table near my own. I could hardly taste my own food as I waited for them to finish their lunch. Then I boldly went over, introduced myself and showed them some of the pictures I had taken, especially of Mary and Doug. They seemed interested and enjoyed looking at the pictures.
Then I followed through with the punch line, ‘‘May I please have a picture of you two? ” And just to complicate things I had to ask them to go with me across the street where the sun was good, as I could only take snapshots. They were very obliging and followed me.
On the way over Gloria whispered to Charlie, “I don’t know whether it is wise for us to pose together.”
Charlie replied, “Oh, let’s give them something new to talk about.”   
Gloria had just returned from Paris with a new wardrobe costing $10,000. On the day I photographed her, she wore one of her new dresses, a lovely navy blue crepe and with this a small flower hat made of a lighter shade of blue flowers, which was most becoming. She had dainty feet and small hands. I had my black and white silk parasol with me for the California sun could be very hot at times, so I asked Gloria if she would like to hold the parasol. After taking her alone, I snapped a few of her with Charlie, but he was cutting up so, she could not keep a straight face. Nearby I saw a young boy leaning against his bicycle gaping at the performance, and I asked him to lend me the bike. Charlie took my parasol and got on the bicycle and I took some snaps like that. He acted like a youngster. By that time a large crowd had gathered and we all had lots of fun. I could hardly hold the camera still I was laughing so hard at Charlie’s antics. 
I finally said trying to sound most business-like, “Mr. Chaplin, you must remember I’m not taking moving pictures.”
Later on, I astonished Charlie’s publicity director by showing him these pictures. “How in the world did you manage to get them? ” he asked. “Charlie hardly ever poses for anyone.”
But I knew the secret lay in treating him like a person and not an actor. 

Sunday, July 10, 2016


Chaplin's third Mutual film was released 100 years ago today.

A classic Chaplin entrance showing only his familiar feet.
We get to see a lot of Chaplin's left-handed fiddle playing in this film.
Edna, the Gypsy Drudge
His crazed violin playing for Edna causes him to fall into the tub. A precursor to the final scene in Limelight.
An artist, played by Lloyd Bacon, takes an interest in Edna. Bacon went on to become a successful director.
Among his credits are the Busby Berkeley musicals 42nd Street and Footlight Parade.
"Goodby, little girl" or is it?

Chester Courtney, a fellow comedian with the Fred Karno troupe, who was employed by Chaplin at the time, recalled watching the final scene (above) being filmed: "Both Chaplin & Edna were in tears, and, as he took his last farewell, lifted his narrow, pathetic shoulders in a wistful gesture of resignation and sloped away towards the evening light, there was not a tearless eye among the 20 persons who watched spellbound."

The story goes that Chaplin filmed an alternate ending to The Vagabond in which Charlie attempts suicide by throwing himself into the river. He is rescued by a homely maiden (played by Phyllis Allen) but plunges back into the water after one look at her face. It is up for debate whether or not this footage exists, or ever existed. However, two contemporary trade magazines described this second ending: A pre-release blurb in the June 24, 1916 issue of Reel Life (a Mutual publicity magazine) and in an apparent review in the July 29, 1916 issue of the New York Clipper. Both describe Chaplin's suicide attempt being thwarted by a "buxom country maiden" (Phyllis Allen) who had befriended him.* Reel Life goes further and describes Allen's character as a farm woman whom Charlie has been flirting with in order to get such things as free eggs. That's why, when he attempts suicide, she jumps in to rescue him. There is a brief scene in the final film where Charlie gets some eggs from a farm woman but we don't see her face. Here is a screenshot:

Below is a real shot of Phyllis from behind (from The Rounders).

I don't think the farm woman is Phyllis because her hair is lighter and she just seems smaller to me. But I could be wrong. Nevertheless, Phyllis does appear in the movie at the end (at least I think it's her). She is the other woman (below, second from left) who arrives in the car with Charlotte Mineau. I haven't watched the Mutuals in a while but I don't recall seeing Phyllis in any of the other films so it's interesting that Chaplin cast her in this one.

The Chaplin Archive, ed. by Paul Duncan
Chaplin's Vintage Year by Michael Hayde
Chaplin: His Life & Art by David Robinson

Saturday, July 9, 2016

LAUGHING GAS + "Charlot Has A Toothache"

Laughing Gas
Released July 9th, 1914
Written and directed by Charles Chaplin

Charlie portrays a dental assistant who winds up impersonating his boss, Dr. Pain.  This film may have been inspired by a Fred Karno sketch called, "The Dentist." Although Chaplin did not appear in the sketch, he was likely familiar with it. He revisits dental humor again forty-three years later in A King In New York.

Chaplin himself hated going to the dentist & toothaches frightened him. May Reeves remembered hearing "prolonged howls" coming from their bathroom in France in 1931. When she went to see what was the matter, Charlie was standing in front of the mirror moaning and holding his cheek."Undoubtedly," wrote May, "he was rehearsing for a film entitled Charlot Has A Toothache." His moaning and pain-induced facial expressions were so comic that they made her laugh and thus he began to laugh as well. In the end, Charlie was only afraid that he might have a toothache.1

Years later, Oona Chaplin recalled a visit to the dentist office in Lausanne. This time there was no laughter:
When he was getting on we thought we should take Charlie to the dentist...And we went to Lausanne and got Charlie into the dentist's surgery and promised him nothing would hurt. The girl was so nice and gentle and she examined his mouth and said, 'Oh dear, your teeth are packed with tartar.' And she gave a prod and he'd had enough. He got the girl's prong, threw it on the floor, and said, 'My teeth are perfectly packed with tartar and they're going to stay that way.' And he never went back.2

1May Reeves, The Intimate Charlie Chaplin
2Patrice Chaplin, Hidden Star