Thursday, September 18, 2014

Chaplin signs the car of world automobile tourist, Nell Wanderwell, 1923

Photo property of Roy Export SAS/

Throwback Thursday

In this post from my "World Tour Revisited" series, Chaplin attends a bullfight in San Sebastian, Spain. This piece has been updated with a new tidbit I uncovered recently (i.e. Harry d'Arrast's description of Chaplin being presented with an ear from one of the dead bulls).

Click the link or the screenshot below.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Charlie & Oona aboard the Queen Elizabeth heading to England, September 19, 1952

L-R: Pianist Arthur Rubinstein, lyricist/playwright Adolph Green, Aniela Rubinstein, CC, Oona
L-R: CC, Harry Crocker (who was traveling with the Chaplins), Adolph Green, Oona
Charlie, Oona, and their family sailed from New York on this day in 1952.  On their second day at sea, Chaplin had just finished having lunch with Arthur Rubinstein and Adolph Green when Harry Crocker, his publicist, received a telegram stating that his reentry permit had been revoked. According to Green's son, the above photos were taken that very night.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Chaplin & "Dinky" Dean Reisner, c. 1922

More photos with Dinky at Chaplin's home here. Reisner describes this photo shoot (+ more photos) here.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

A Comedian In New York (1925), Part VII: Louise Brooks

Much has been written here and elsewhere about Chaplin's romance with Louise. However, the best source for information about their relationship, Louise wrote herself in her 1966 Film Culture article, "Charlie Chaplin Remembered" (read here). I would prefer not to rehash every detail from Brooks' article for this piece but present the basics of their relationship along with a few other tidbits. 

El Paso Herald, Oct. 15, 1925 

Chaplin met 18-year-old Follies showgirl and future silent film icon Louise Brooks at a cocktail party hosted by Walter Wanger shortly after his arrival in New York in August 1925.1 They were soon seen everywhere together--often double-dating with Louise's best friend in the Follies, Peggy Fears, and Chaplin's pal & assistant director, Harry d'Arrast. They went to nightclubs such as the Montmartre and the Lido, and to plays including The Cradle Snatchers (featuring a young Humphrey Bogart) and Outside Looking In (starring James Cagney), which Chaplin had already seen twice.

In late August, Fears was left without an escort when d'Arrast returned to Hollywood. He was replaced by A.C. Blumenthal, "the tiny film financier."2 At this time, Chaplin also left his room at the Ritz and installed himself, and Louise, in a suite at the Ambassador. However, according to Louise, most of their evenings were spent in Blumenthal's penthouse (also at the Ambassador).
Blumie played the piano, Peggy sang, I danced, and Charlie returned to reality--the world of his creative imagination. He recalled his youth with comic pantomimes. He acted out countless scenes for countless films. And he did imitations of everybody. Isadora Duncan danced in a storm of toilet paper. John Barrymore picked his nose and brooded over Hamlet's soliloquy. A Follies girl swished across the room, and I began to cry while Charlie denied absolutely the he was imitating me. Nevertheless, as he patted my hand, I determined to abandon that silly walk forthwith.3
NYC, August 1925
For the Film Culture article, Louise was discreet in writing of her time with Chaplin, but to friends she was more explicit:
Privately, she told a few close friends of one entire weekend the foursome spent in Blumie's suite, ordering up all their meals and rarely even bothering to get dressed...Afraid of contracting certain diseases, Chaplin had studied the matter and was firmly convinced that iodine was a reliable VD preventative. Normally he employed only a small local application, but one night at the Ambassador he was inspired to paint the entire sum of his private parts with iodine and come running with a bright red erection toward the squealing Peggy and Louise.4

Fitchburg Sentinel, Sept. 30, 1925

Louise also spoke candidly about Chaplin after his death in 1977. Below is an excerpt from Louise Brooks by Barry Paris:
"I had an affair with him for two happy summer months," she told Kenneth Tynan. "He was...a sophisticated lover." Chaplin's sexuality and creativity were dynamically intertwined, she thought. By day, he was in constant motion. At night, he required no booze or drugs to facilitate lovemaking or to induce the deep sleep of a child...The complexities of the man bordered on the perverse. "He adored his mother's madness," Louise claimed, "and credits her with giving him his comic viewpoint."
She also paid eloquent tribute to Chaplin's ethical character, even during the Lita Grey divorce. "The truth is that he existed on a plane above pride, jealousy, or hate," she said. "I never heard him say a snide thing about anyone. He lived totally without fear."
"He knew," she continued," that Lita Grey and her family were living in his house in Beverly Hills, planning to ruin him, yet he was radiantly carefree--happy with the success of The Gold Rush and with the admirers who swarmed around him. Not that he exacted adoration. Even during our affair, he knew that I didn't admire him in the romantic sense, and he didn't mind at all. 
"Which brings me to one of the dirtiest lies he allowed to be told about him--that he was mean with money. People forget that Chaplin was the only star ever to keep his ex-leading lady [Edna Purviance] on his payroll for life, and the only producer to pay his employees their full salaries even when he wasn't in production."

Chaplin and Brooks parted ways in early October when he returned to Hollywood. In a letter to Kevin Brownlow in 1966, Louise wrote: "When our joyful summer ended, he didn't give me a fur from Jaeckel or a bangle from Cartier so that I could flash them around, saying, 'Look what I got from Chaplin.' The day after he left town, I got a nice check in the mail signed, 'Charlie.'5 And then I didn't even write him a thank-you note. Damn me."6

Chaplin & Brooks never saw each other again.

Cortland Standard, Nov. 4, 1925

1The exact date of their meeting is unknown. Chaplin arrived in New York on August 3rd & he was already acquainted with Louise when he introduced her to Edna Purviance, who was in the city on her way to Paris to make a film, sometime between August 17-22. (Barry Paris, Louise Brooks
2Brooks, "Charlie Chaplin Remembered". Fears and Blumenthal married in 1927.
4Barry Paris, Louise Brooks,
5The amount of the check was $2500
6Paris, Louise Brooks

Friday, September 12, 2014

Outtake from A KING IN NEW YORK (1957)

British actress & singer Shani Wallis performs in this deleted scene from A King In New York.

Charlie wrote the music, lyrics, and, judging from the photos below, had a hand in the choreography as well.

A couple more rarely-seen Strauss-Peyton poses from 1921

Swedish Nordisk Konst postcard. Collection of Phil Posner.

I believe these are from the same sitting as the other Strauss-Peyton photo I posted earlier this week.
Charlie is just wearing a different suit.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Footage comparison between The Chaplin Revue and Russian version of THE PILGRIM

This is worth a look if you have time. It's interesting to see the different takes and angles used in the Russian version.
Click the youtube icon for a detailed explanation of the footage.

Thinking of the folks in New York today--a city that was long a favorite with Chaplin.  He first arrived there from England in 1910 with the Fred Karno Company, and would return twice more with the troupe before he signed his contract with Keystone in 1913. After he became famous in films, Chaplin made the trip from Los Angeles to New York (or vice versa) approximately 14 times between the years 1916 & 1952.* The city often becoming a refuge from the personal and professional pressures of Hollywood.

Two years ago, I posted an excerpt from Lillian Ross' excellent Moments With Chaplin in which she describes accompanying Chaplin during one of his marathon walks around the city.

To read the excerpt, click here:

or click the screenshot:

*CC's NYC visits between 1916 & 1952 (approx.):

1916, 1920, 1921 (2), 1923, 1925, 1927, 1931, 1940, 1947, 1950 (2), 1951, 1952

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Autographed portrait, 1922

Photo by Strauss-Peyton, 1921.

This particular pose is new to me. A similar photo was included in Chaplin's autobiography but his hands are outside of his pockets.

Charlie’s Motion Picture Employee I.D. Card

Christie's South Kensington Auction Catalog, 1987

According to the lot description, the back of the card states the following information:
Issued by: Central Identification Station, Age: 53, Height: 5-6, Weight: 140, Hair: gray, Eyes: blue, Date issued: 6-11-42, with fingerprints taken from his left & right index finger.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Random Excerpt

In honor of Merna Kennedy, who was born on this day in 1908.

From "Merna Approves Charlie" by Katherine Lipke, Los Angeles Times, May 16, 1926:
Merna Kennedy--17--with radiant red hair and green eyes. Lita Grey Chaplin's chum is now Charlie Chaplin's leading lady in "The Circus." 
A girl, boyish and nonchalant--yet constantly flushing with an undercurrent of feminine feeling. She would probably just as soon call Charlie Chaplin "You egg" during a scene as not. Yet she is breathless in her admiration for his direction and technique. 
When Charlie Chaplin chose Merna Kennedy from her place as comedienne in "All For You,"1 everyone was surprised. Everyone but Merna! To the rest she was just a little girl with a charming smile, vivid hair and dancing feet. 
But Merna to herself is a girl who has been handed many things by life and who is growing to expect many things. This opportunity with Chaplin is splendid but a girl to whom no one ever said "No," who has never met disappointment, how can she judge how great an opportunity it is....
But Merna, with her gay bubbles of enthusiasm, with her eyes untouched by any problem, just stammers prettily that Charlie is such fun--that it is great to work with him--she has never been so happy--she wants to be in pictures always--and then repeats that Charlie is such fun.
She is full of stories about him. How he is constantly impersonating some one or other, many times herself. How at the end of some such impromptu entertainment she gets up and mimics Charlie while directing, revealing all the funny mannerisms of which he is unconscious. And Charlie at the end laughs and protests that he can't look as bad as that. 
She explains how he grew brutal the other day on the set and told her many unpleasant things about herself. She hesitated between anger and tears, and when tears won out he rushed her to the camera and she discovered that this lachrymose display was what he had been working for.2
She tells of Charlie Chaplin--the playboy, who takes Lita, Merna and Harry Crocker (also in "The Circus") to the beach to plan out the picture and then they all go swimming instead and come back tired and laughing, with the picture still in the background. 
These are not things about Charlie Chaplin which have impressed his new leading lady. His laughter and his companionability. She talks constantly of Lita and Charlie as if the comedian, like Lita and herself, were 17 in years and inclination. 
When Charlie planned a test for her for “The Circus" she wasn't excited or  self-conscious.
It was something to get over with before signing the contract. It did not occur to her that she might not be the right screen type. 
Charlie grew saucily impertinent with her while the camera was grinding out the test. She snapped back at him with flippant good humor without self-consciousness. Something to be done and she was doing it. Not a crisis to be feared! Life has never introduced Merna Kennedy to a crisis. 

1All For You was a musical comedy in which Merna had a leading dance role. At the suggestion of his wife, and Merna's close friend, Lita Grey, Chaplin attended a performance at Mason Opera House in Los Angeles. (Screenland, July 1926). He was impressed with her but nothing was said to Merna until some time after that when the musical's run in Los Angeles was complete & she was offered a contract to go on tour with the show. Her mother asked Chaplin if he thought she should do it. He said, "no," that if Merna could pass a screen test he would give her an opportunity. Chaplin also changed the spelling of her name from Myrna to Merna. (San Bernadino County Sun, March 3, 1926)

2Chaplin used the same technique on Claire Bloom for the emotional "I'm walking" scene in Limelight (1952).

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Singapore, 1936

L-R: Mrs. Julius Fisher, CC, Paulette, Joe Fisher, Alta Goddard, Julius Fisher.
The Fishers were head of the Amalgamated Theaters, Ltd. in Singapore.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Chaplin arrives in Cherbourg en route to England, September 1921

A mob of reporters and cameramen came aboard to interview Chaplin and bombarded him with questions in both French (which he didn't understand) and English.

Charlie recalled the deluge of questions in My Trip Abroad (1922):
"Are you visiting in London?"
"Why did you come over?"
"Did you bring your make-up?"
"Are you going to make pictures over here?"
Then from Frenchmen :
"Will I visit France?"
"Am I going to Russia?"
I try to answer them all.
"Will you visit Ireland?"
"I don't expect to do so."
"What do you think of the Irish question?"
"It requires too much thought."
"Are you a Bolshevik?"
"I am an artist, not a politician."
"Why do you want to visit Russia?"
"Because I am interested in any new idea."
"What do you think of Lenin?"
"I think him a very remarkable man."
"Because he is expressing a new idea."
"Do you believe in Bolshevism?"
"I am not a politician."
Others ask me to give them a message to France. A message to London. What have I to say to the people of Manchester? Will I meet Bernard Shaw? Will I meet H. G. Wells? Is it true that I am going to be knighted? How would I solve the unemployment problem? ...
I am rescued by my secretaries, who insist that I go to my cabin and lie down. Anything the newspaper men have to ask they will answer for me. I am dragged away bewildered.

THE COUNT, released September 4th, 1916

Chaplin struggled with this film from the beginning. He built a set, as he often did, "with not an idea in my head."1 His first cry for help went out to his brother, who was in New York at the time. How much Charlie counted on him for brainstorming gags and scenario possibilities is evident in their correspondence when Syd was away. The following is from Lisa Stein Haven's Syd Chaplin: A Biography:
Wiring him at the Hotel Bonta in New York City, July 31, while he would have been filming The Count, Charlie pleaded: "Have you any suggestions for scenes? Have dining room and ballroom. I am playing a count but an imposter to win an heiress but cannot get story straight. Wire me some gags if possible. Playing in Chaplin make-up in fancy dress ball." Charlie's problems with this story continued, however, causing him to film the mostly one-man-show One A.M. in the meantime. By August, the situation was so dire that Charlie's butler and Man Friday, Tom Harrington, wired Sydney again:
"Charlie is very depressed condition for past two weeks. Doesn't seem able to get mind around to his story. He wishes nearly every other day that you were here...Think it very important for his future success for you to drop everything in New York and come here immediately at least three or four weeks. Charlie hasn't been sick but whenever he gets into difficult situation, which doesn't work out satisfactorily, he always wishes Syd were here."
Five days later Charlie wired his brother himself: "The last two pictures have given me great worry and I need you here to help me. Drop everything and arrange to be in Los Angeles by August 12 to help me in directing next picture. Wire answer immediately."
Why was Sydney tormenting his brother this way?  It seems Sydney felt "used" by Mutual and that they weren't paying him what he thought he was worth. A settlement seems to have been reached because Sydney eventually returned to California.2

According to an August 1916 interview with Grace Kingsley, Charlie's main struggle appears to have been with the ballroom sequence: "And as for these gray hairs"--indicating those about his temple over his right ear--"I got them all the other day trying to be funny in a ballroom scene. I think any comedian who started out to be funny in a ballroom would have his career blighted at the outset." 3

1 Charles Chaplin,  My Autobiography, The Bodley Head, 1964
2 Lisa K. Stein, Syd Chaplin: A Biography, McFarland, 2011
3 Grace Kingsley, "Beneath The Mask: Witty, Wistful, Serious Is The Real Charlie Chaplin," Los Angeles Sunday Times, August 20th, 1916