Monday, March 30, 2015

The birth of Chaplin's second son was making headlines 89 years ago

Happy birthday, Sydney (March 30, 1926)

Logansport Pharos Tribune, March 31, 1926

Los Angeles Times, April 2, 1926.

Arthur "Sonny" Kelly was the brother of Hetty Kelly.
 Milt Gross worked as a gagman on The Circus. Read more here.

Mary & Doug refer to Charlie, Jr. as "Spencer" (his middle name). In another article below, Lita calls him Spencer. This seems to have been a name that just didn't stick. See also this interview with Chaplin from 1925.

Lita with her boys, Charlie, Jr. (left) and Sydney

Los Angeles Times, April 1, 1926
According to the above, if the baby were a girl, Charlie said her name would have been Cecilia,
 but that's not what Lita says. Keep reading...

Rhinelander Daily News, April 2, 1926
Father and sons. Sydney is the one with the curls.

Oakland Tribune, April 23, 1926

Following her divorce from Chaplin, Lita began calling Sydney "Tommy," after her paternal grandfather, Thomas McMurray. She admitted in her second book, Wife Of The Life Of The Party, that this was due to her dislike of the elder Sydney whom she claimed had made a pass at her while she was married to Charlie.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Dodge Brothers Radio Hour

Back Row: Albin Kesley Schoepf (Dodge Bros. rep.), Douglas Fairbanks & Joseph Schenck, president of UA.
Front Row: Dolores Del Rio, John Barrymore, CC, D.W. Griffith & Norma Talmadge.

On March 29th, 1928, six of United Artists' biggest stars gathered behind locked doors in Douglas Fairbanks' studio bungalow to do a nationwide broadcast on the Dodge Brothers Radio Hour. The show would be heard not only in people's homes but also in movie theaters in a 55-city hookup. Radio had fast become a popular form of entertainment by the late 1920s and was the movies' only competition. Mixing the two was a controversial move:
R.F. Woodhull, president of the Motion Picture Theater Owners of America, protested that broadcasting the voices of favorite screen stars during normal show times would sharply reduce attendance. In fact, MGM, Paramount and First National had all been approached by the radio people and had passed on the project. Only Joseph M. Schenck, president of United Artists, was willing to take the risk. In the face of Woodhull's protestations, Schenck could only respond that all the contracts had been signed and the broadcast had to go on.1

On the program that evening were Douglas Fairbanks, who gave a speech on exercise and self-confidence & also served as master of ceremonies, Dolores Del Rio sang the title song to her forthcoming film "Ramona," Norma Talmadge discussed women's fashions, D.W. Griffith read an essay about love,  John Barrymore, not surprisingly, presented a soliloquy from Hamlet, and Chaplin told "characteristic stories."2 Paul Whiteman's Orchestra performed a number of tunes and Dodge Brothers president, Edward Wilmer, spoke for ten minutes, much to the chagrin of the audience, about the company's latest "Standard Six" model. Mary Pickford was originally on the bill but was forced to back out due to the death of her mother. Gloria Swanson was also asked to participate but declined saying that she felt her audience would prefer to see her rather than hear her.

Ad from Capital Times, Madison, WI

Douglas Fairbanks introduced "Charles Chaplin" as "the hardest working man I know." Audibly nervous, Chaplin spoke to the audience: "Ladies and gentlemen, in thanking my good friend, Douglas, I admire the spirit in which he remains modest about himself while extolling the achievements of others." Chaplin then told several "humorous" stories. Including one about how he was once complimented by a lady who thought he was Harold Lloyd. Another was about a cake, and one story he attributed to Ed Wynn. He closed by saying "I  must now get behind the screen, where I am more eloquent than here." His performance brought mixed reviews. The Syracuse Journal was pleasantly surprised by the "heavy, masterful tones, with an unmistakeable English accent." The Chicago Tribune noted that "he had a nice little voice" although it was "a bit nervous and hesitating at times." The reviews in Variety weren't so kind. "Abel" wrote: "Rather see Charlie in makeup than hear Charles from now on" Chaplin was not only the "only star to stutter," but the stories he told had been heard before. After the broadcast, Chaplin remarked that he nearly died from "mike fright" & was worried as to how had done.

The broadcast also had its share of technical problems. There were complaints of static due to bad weather. A number of theater owners claimed that the entire program was inaudible because of it.
However the biggest problem was the reaction of the audience, especially at the Fifth Avenue Playhouse in New York where patrons booed, hissed, stamped their feet, and yelled "take it off!" until theater managers were forced to comply. Some theaters tried to show newsreels and silent comedies during the broadcast but it didn't help. Numerous patrons left the theater in disgust. Others demanded that the theater bring back the regular feature. The overall consensus was that the broadcast was a flop. As Variety succinctly put it: "Movie stars should be screened not heard."

Following the show, Chaplin hosted a "buffet supper" at his home. "Having received from Dodge Brothers a $5000 check for five minutes' talk, Chaplin felt he could afford to entertain Wall Street right royally which he did until three o'clock in the morning. Fifty people attended the supper, featured by a speech by the comedian on "Capital and Labor" that sent Otto Kahn into convulsions of laughter!"3

This was not Chaplin's first radio broadcast. In 1923, he appeared on WOR in New Jersey to promote A Woman Of Paris. Nor would it be his last. During his 1931-32 world tour, he made a speech over the radio from the Orange Hotel in Soerabaja. In 1933, he gave a broadcast in support of Roosevelt's "Buy Now" campaign, and in 1952, he was interviewed on the BBC Radio. Read more about Chaplin's radio appearances here.

1Rob Farr, "Screened But Not Heard, The Big Broadcast Of 1928," 2000
2New York Times, March 30th, 1928
3Mayme Peak, Boston Globe, April 11, 1928

Other sources:

Chicago Tribune, March 30, 1928
Decatur Daily Review, March 30, 1928
Film Daily, April 1, 1928
Syracuse Journal, April 1, 1928
Variety, April 4, 1928

Farr, Rob, "Screened But Not Heard, The Big Broadcast Of 1928," 2000
Crafton, Donald, The Talkies: American Cinema's Transition to Sound, 1926-1931, 1999

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Chaplin on the steps of the Pergamon Altar at the Pergamon Museum in Berlin, March 1931

Another picture here.

Chaplin was especially impressed by the painted bust of Nefertiti at the museum (In fact, he told Carlyle Robinson that he could easily fall love with it). He at once ordered a facsimile of it for his home by the artist who had created a copy for the museum in Munich.

Read more about Chaplin's visit to Berlin during his 1931 world tour here (page down halfway).

Friday, March 27, 2015

Chaplin & Gene Tierney at a party at Marion Davies' home, c.1951

Tierney was probably best-known for portraying the title character in Laura (1944), a film whose score (and famous title song) was composed by David Raksin, who was Chaplin's musical assistant on Modern Times (1936)

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Charlie & Doug visit Mary on the set of How Could You, Jean, 1918

Here are a couple more

Color photo, c.1940s

This photo is currently up for auction on ebay (it's actually a slide unfortunately). I'd never seen it before but it appears to have been taken at the same time as this b&w photo that I have

It's interesting to see that his sweater is brown because I have always thought that the sweater he was wearing in the b&w photo was the same blue cardigan that he wore on the cover of this Illustrated magazine in 1947 (it even looks like the same shirt underneath) but evidently not. It looks like the same type of sweater but just a different color. Unless it's one of those things like the dress fiasco where it looks brown to one person and blue to someone else.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Chaplin with Russian director Grigori Alexandrov and his wife, actress Lyubov Orlova

Alexadrov and his wife visited the Chaplins in Vevey in 1953. Charlie & Grigori had first met in Hollywood in 1930 when the latter was working as an assistant to Sergei Eisenstein.1 They had not seen each other since. Orlova had never met Chaplin and, according to Jerry Epstein, who was also a guest that evening, she was in complete awe:
All through dinner, Mrs. Alexandrov kept looking at Charlie with stars in her eyes. 'Oh, maestro!' she exclaimed in her thick accent. 'You don't know how you are loved by the Russian people.' Charlie nodded modestly as she continued ecstatically. He didn't like gushing.
As we adjourned to the sitting room, Mrs. Alexandrov noticed some of Charlie's music resting on the piano. 'Oh, maestro!' she cried once again. 'It would be such an honor if you would let me have a sheet of your music for the Moscow Museum.' Charlie quickly took the music away and put it to one side. Then as we walked further into the room, she noticed some loose pages from one of his scripts, with notations on the side. She picked one up and held it close to her bosom. 'Oh, maestro!' she proclaimed emotionally, 'if this could be presented to the Leningrad Museum it would be preserved forever!' 
Oona, CC, and Orlova . Charlie is holding sheet music for Limelight.
Suddenly Charlie stormed out of the room and signaled me to follow him. As he was going up the stairs, he said, 'Get rid of those damned Communists. They're all the same. They'll take everything that's not nailed to the floor!' And this was from a man who Americans accused of having Communist sympathies! Poor Mr. and Mrs. Alexandrov. They didn't know what hit them. I had to drive them to the railway station and apologize that the "maestro" was suddenly taken ill.2
L-R: Jerry Epstein, Orlova, "The Maestro," and Oona.
 Photo by Alexandrov. Source: Remembering Charlie/Epstein

It appears this visit, if it actually went as Epstein described, didn't have a lasting effect on Chaplin's relationship with the couple. There are photos of a subsequent visit with the Chaplins around 1960. They also sent Charlie a birthday telegram in 1956.

Birthday telegram from the Alexadrovs, 1956. From Chaplin's MI5 file.

1Chaplin remembered in his autobiography that Eisenstein and Alexandrov would come to his house and "play very bad tennis on my court. At least, Alexandrov did." They also spent time at Catalina Island. One story goes that while rowing in a boat off Catalina one day, Chaplin and Alexandrov were singing the Russian folk song, "Stenka Razin" which has the line "Volga, Volga, Mother Volga." Chaplin jokingly suggested that he thought "Volga, Volga" would be a good title for a film. In 1937, Alexandrov directed a film with that very name, starring his wife. (

2Jerry Epstein, Remembering Charlie, Doubleday, 1989.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Chaplin with Lord & Lady Mountbatten and others at Pickfair, 1922

Buffalo Evening News, October 26, 1922

This photo was taken during the filming of Nice & Friendly (1922), a film Chaplin made as a wedding gift for the Mountbattens. The Neilsons, Pells, and Mr. Thompson also appear in the film. Another photo (here) taken the same day shows Charlie and the Mountbattens mowing the lawn.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Spring Is Here

"Spring Song" (Limelight, 1952)

Charlie's handwritten notes for "Spring Song" with slightly different lyrics:

Limelight: Project Chaplin No. 1 / ©Roy Export SAS

Spring is here
Birds are calling
Wagging their tails for love

Flies are flying
Skunks are crawling
Wagging their tails for love

It's in the air
It's everywhere
The sun, below and above
Fish are swimming
Stingers stinging
Wagging their tails for love

Wales [sic] are churning
Worms are squirming
Wagging their tails for love

What is this thing
On which I sing
That makes us all bewitch
What is this thing
That comes in spring
That gives us all the itch

Oh it's love, it's love
love love love love love love....

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Monday, March 16, 2015

Essanay representative Jess Robbins, Syd Chaplin, and Charlie at the Majestic Studios, 1915

Syd Chaplin in Gussle's Wayward Path (1915)

The character of Gussle was created by Syd and is a version of Archibald Binks the character he (& Charlie) played in a number of Fred Karno productions (including Skating). Despite claims that the character was based on his brother's Little Tramp persona, Gussle was really the opposite of the Tramp. As Syd's biographer Lisa Stein Haven notes: "He was obviously bourgeois middle class, a homeowner, employed, and with a wife and sometimes a dog, although no children. The British might refer to the character as a fop--a sort of pretentious and pompous individual who wears the adornments of affluence in such a way as to show their particular hilarity and who attempts to behave with an upper-class decorum that is not so much ill-fitting but employed with a sense of rogue entitlement that results in violence, insult and outright thoughtlessness." (Syd Chaplin: A Biography, pg. 48-49)  Syd made roughly a dozen movies as Gussle during his year with Keystone. This film is noteworthy for being Syd's first stint as co-director (along with Charles Avery). You'll also see a familiar face or two including Phyllis Allen who plays Gussle's wife.

Happy birthday, Syd.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

According to a Hearst employee's diary, Charlie fondled the "It Girl" & nude statues

The following is a diary entry from Hayes Perkins, an "eccentric vagabond," who was an employee of William Randolph Hearst's San Simeon estate for ten years & kept a diary of the goings on there. This excerpt from the diary was published in a book called Hearst & Marion: The Santa Monica Connection by Taylor Coffman. As Coffman points out, Perkins' diary entries should be taken with a large grain of salt. Is if fact? Is it fiction? Who knows? That being said. The following entry is from February 10th, 1929:
When people get too much money what they get for it is likely to be bad for them. So it is here, for this Hollywood crowd runs to the sensual side of life rather than the spiritual. No regard for the marriage tie, let alone the virtue of a boy or girl. . . .

 All convention is laid aside, from what I see. Broad minded, they call it, but flattened out would express the situation better. I saw Charlie Chaplin and Clara Bow playing out on the tennis court during an interlude in the game. Chaplin wore whites, but Clara was clad in a tiny lappet [garment] less than the naked Shillook women on the [White] Nile wear, with two tinier brassieres, or covers for each shapely breast. Charlie had hold of both of them, being behind her. All the froth and bubble of Hollywood were interested spectators, giving advice in the best and latest movements in cohabiting. They didn’t actually do it [have sex], but wriggled round for ten minutes, much to the delight of the creme-de-la-creme of Hollywood. I’d get ten years if Hearst knew I wrote this, even in my diary. He has just obtained an eight-year sentence for a chap named [Frederic] Girnau in Los Angeles for saying a good deal less [about Clara Bow] than this [an event of 1931, not 1929]. Doubtless Girnau told the truth, but like me he couldn’t prove it.1
Here's one last tidbit from the same February 1929 diary entry:
There are 265 marble statues in the nude in the marvelous gardens here [an extreme exaggeration]. This is Jim Crowe’s count, for Jim cares for them. For the greater part they are images of women whose limbs and breasts are shapely and seductive. Chaplin caressed the breasts of one of these.
“Come on! Put a little more pep into it! Show some life, some interest!”2

1Perkins is referring to Frederic Girnau, who was charged with criminal libel and sent to prison for publishing outrageous lies about Clara Bow.

2Charlie did enjoy frolicking with the statues at San Simeon. Here's proof.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Chaplin with Spanish screenwriter/director Edgar Neville on the set of City Lights, 1929

When Neville came to Hollywood from Madrid in 1929, he quickly became part of Chaplin's inner circle and spent a great deal of time on the set of City Lights. He even had a small part in the film as a policeman which was later cut.

Photos © Roy Export SAS.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Roscoe Arbuckle visits the Lone Star Studio, 1916

Judging from the costumes, Chaplin was filming Behind The Screen. Henry Bergman is between Chaplin and Arbuckle. Eric Campbell is at left. Everyone appears to be checking out Arbuckle's fancy car.

Photo from Chaplin's Schatten by Fritz Hirzel (1982), credited to MOMA, NYC.
 Courtesy of Dominique Dugros.