Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Hollywood party at Fay Wray's, 1930

From New Movie, December 1930

Charlie is 4th from left. His date, Georgia Hale, is on his right holding a cat.
Charlie is in the center holding a little megaphone.

Of course, Charlie's hair is dyed black for the filming of City Lights. Read more about the party here.

Sunday, February 7, 2016


Chaplin's ninth film for Mutual was released February 5th, 1917. The release of the film was delayed for two weeks due to rain, as well as an accident in which Chaplin received several stitches. More about this below.

Plot: Reformed Charlie becomes a policeman and his beat is Easy Street, the toughest street in town.

The film opens with Charlie asleep on the ground outside of the Hope Mission.
According to the Washington Times (Feb. 11, 1917), during the filming of this scene the baby, attracted to Chaplin's mustache, suddenly reached up and tore it off his lip ("and also part of said lip.") In order to go on with filming, Chaplin had to return to his dressing room to apply a replacement. Meanwhile, "the baby held tightly to its new possession and even went to the extent of insisting in a way all its own to taking it home. Here its mother finally secured it and she realized it was a souvenir well worth keeping. That evening she recounted the experience to her husband and showed him the prize." To make a long story short, the "prize" ended up being auctioned off at a charity bazaar for $110.

Charlie is enamored with Edna, the mission's organist.

"Chaplin at first proposed to take the part of the missionary in order that his affair with the beautiful Edna might have a better chance to fructify, but decided that it would be undignified for a clergyman to descend from the pulpit and beat up the irascible [Eric] Campbell." (Reel Life, 1917)
Crew member Dave Allen recalled that "when Charlie wanted anything, he'd yell for it, and the person nearest it would grab it and give it to him. When Charlie started yelling 'Truncheon! Truncheon!' I thought he was calling 'Luncheon' and sent the extras off to eat--it seems in London the cops call a nightstick a truncheon." When Chaplin heard of the mistake, he burst into laughter. (Harry Crocker manuscript via Charlie Chaplin Archives, Taschen 2015)
Filming was delayed when Chaplin injured himself while filming this scene with Eric Campbell: "I pulled a lamp post over on myself,” he explained. “It was necessary to take several stitches and I lost a good deal of blood--I didn’t know I had so much blood. We kept the scene, too. It makes one of those serious little touches, you know.” (The Day Book, Feb. 9, 1917)
Regarding this scene, Chaplin told Sergei Eisenstein in 1930: "You remember the scene in Easy Street where I scatter food from a box to poor children as if they were chickens? You see, I did this because I despise them. I don't like children." (Eisenstein, Notes Of A Film Director, 1959) 
Charlie accidently sits on a hypodermic needle which gives him the superhuman strength to beat up the Easy Street bullies. 
...and save the day.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Day By Day: 1936

Wednesday, February 5th: Modern Times premiered at the Rivoli in New York City.

  • "Charles Chaplin, having come after many delays and reconsiderations to final agreement with himself to regard the picture as completed, bowed motion picture-wise to the world Wednesday night for the first time in five years, in 'Modern Times,' at New York's Rivoli theatre on Broadway, on the occasion of the premiere of his $2,000,000 comedy of slapstick and pantomime. He charged the first-nighters $5.50 [$94 in today's money]." (Motion Picture Herald, Feb. 8th, 1936)

  • "A greater contingent of film notables appeared to have attended than had ever participated in the opening celebration of a motion picture. The guest list included the names of Will H. Hays, Herbert Bayard Swope, Douglas Fairbanks, junior and senior, John Edward Otterson, Adolph Zukor, Nicholas M. Schenck, Sidney R. Kent, Harry M. Warner, Major Albert Warner, Lee Shubert, Alexander Woollcott, Nathan Burkan, Myron Schenck, Sam Katz, Harry M. Goetz, Arthur W. Kelly, Harry D. Buckley, Lillian Hellman, Edward G. Robinson, Tilly Losch, Gloria Swanson, Evelyn Laye, Corinne Griffith, Ginger Rogers, Eddie Cantor and his Parkyakarkus, and Burns and Allen." (Motion Picture Herald, Feb. 8th, 1936)

Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.
Edward G. Robinson

  • "For the first time, Charles Chaplin opened his mouth and made noises on the screen tonight and crowds of tailcoated men and ermine wrapped women were there for the startling event." (Chicago Daily Tribune, Feb. 6th, 1936)
  • "Some openings are different. Last night's start of Charlie Chaplin's 'Modern Times' was one of these. The streets were too slippery for the mounted police to get out, and the walking cops couldn't get toe holds to push the crowds back." (Motion Picture Daily, Feb. 6th, 1936)
  • "In the glare of the lights on Broadway outside thousands pressed to stare at celebrities, seek their autographs, and even feel the texture of the evening gowns as the notables were escorted from their machines into the foyer." (Chicago Daily Tribune, Feb. 6th, 1936)
  • "That short 30 or 40 feet from the center of Broadway to the Rivoli's doors was an adventure for some of Park Avenue's ermine-clad women and high-hatted men. Some made it by elbowing; some dashed through narrow lanes opened by the police. Marcel waves became wind-blown bobs in no time at all."  (Motion Picture Daily, Feb. 6th, 1936)
  • "The demonstration reached a climax shortly before the showing of the picture and a riot call was sent to police headquarters. Earlier, women had been knocked down and policemen swept brusquely aside as autograph seekers pushed into the theater lobby. The entrance to the theater lobby was blocked so completely that the police found it necessary to join hands and force open a narrow path to the street so that men and women with tickets could enter the theater without danger of injury." (New York Times, Feb. 6th, 1936)

  • "Some of the notables were badly disarrayed when they gained their $5.50 seats." (Chicago Daily Tribune, Feb. 6th, 1936)
  • "While more than twenty-five policemen held back the crowds that insistently closed in on arriving first-night celebrities, Mr. Chaplin was reported to be spending a quiet evening 3,000 miles away on the Pacific Coast." (New York Times, Feb. 6th, 1936)
  • "Inside the lobby a microphone had been set up and an announcer related a round-by-round account of the struggle between the police and the crowd. Many of the celebrities were invited to say a few words of greeting in a broadcast over WNEW." (New York Times, Feb. 6th, 1936)
  • "The Rivoli's rather sophisticated first-night audience found the most fun in a mechanical sequence with Mr. Chaplin suffering at the ministrations of a feeding machine. The pie throwing that used to be done by hand now is presented better and faster by a machine." (Motion Picture Herald, Feb. 8th, 1936)

Chaplin Studio production report, Feb. 5th, 1936.

Stay tuned for the next installment of my "Day By Day: 1936" series, where I document one year of Chaplin's life. Want to know what's been going on so far? Click here.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Working with Charlie Chaplin: Marilyn Nash

Chaplin demonstrates a scene for Nash. 

In past installments of this series I included all different points of view on what it was like to work with Chaplin based around a theme, but this time I'm going to focus on just one person and one anecdote.

In Chaplin's 1947 film, Monsieur Verdoux, Nash played the prostitute that Verdoux picks up on a rainy night in order to test a new untraceable poison. Her character's name was "Renée," although we never hear it onscreen and she is only referred to as "The Girl" in the credits. In a 1997 interview with Jeffrey Vance, Nash recounted how Chaplin described her character & the scene to her and then showed her exactly how he wanted her to play it:
He described my character to me very strictly as a girl, a waif in trouble. And that's all he explained to me. It was strictly how I would do this this scene, and there wasn't much dialogue at that time because he hadn't really finished that scene. But he wanted to see what he could get out of me if he just explained what he wanted--like when he's going to kill her--that was the first scene he did with me, the scene with the wine: "You come in, and you stole a typewriter and were put in jail and now you've come here, and I've taken you off the street and I'm going to serve you some wine. And you have a little kitten you picked up off the street. And you haven't eaten and I'm going to serve you food. Now, this is what we're going to do, this is what you're going to say, this is what I'm going to say, and dada-dada-dada-dada" Then he would say, "but I don't want you to do your finger that way, I want it crooked just like that." In other words my finger was out like that, but no. It's not that way, it's this way. Every little teeny, tiny thing he wanted perfection. And maybe that's why he wanted somebody green, so he could mold them without having somebody that's a pro try to mold it his way and then throw in his own personality. 
--Limelight magazine, Spring, 1997 

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Day By Day: 1936

Sunday, February 2nd: On this day in 1936, the New York Times was abuzz with the upcoming world premiere of Modern Times, which was scheduled to take place in just three days. The illustration below accompanied an article entitled "Enter Charles Chaplin, Tardily" which detailed what New Yorkers could expect on opening night:
"United Artists promises to transform night into day around the vicinity of Forty-ninth Street with powerful flood lights. And the police department, which somehow never misses these affairs, will be on hand to keep the crowds from swarming into the street and snarling traffic."

The article explained that Chaplin would not attend the premiere because he didn't want to battle the New York crowds and be "stared and pointed at as though I were a freak. I will be much happier staying in Hollywood waiting for the news of the film's success or failure. I think and hope it will be the former."1

"Though a rarely interviewed man," the piece went on, "Mr. Chaplin divulged how the idea and title of his film originated.
'I was riding in my car one day and saw a mass of people coming out of a factory, punching time-clocks, and was overwhelmed with the knowledge that the theme note of modern times is mass production, I wondered what would happen to the progress of the mechanical age if one person decided to act like a bull in a china shop--for instance to say 'nuts' to a red light and drive on--or scream at a concert that was boring. I decided it would make a good story to take a little man and make him thumb his nose at all recognized rules and conventions.'"2
Ad from The New York Times, Feb. 2nd, 1936

1The article quotes from Sheilah Graham's interview Chaplin that was published in the Los Angeles Times on 1/27/1936, and featured in my "Day By Day" series here
2"Enter Charles Chaplin, Tardily," New York Times, February 2nd, 1936

Stay tuned for the next installment of my "Day By Day: 1936" series, where I document one year of Chaplin's life. Want to know what's been going on so far? Click here.

Monday, February 1, 2016

With Sophia Loren at a press conference for A COUNTESS FROM HONG KONG, London, November 1965

Day By Day: 1936

Saturday, February 1st: Studio production report: "C.C. did not come to studio. Dub foreign version UA studio 3:50 to 4:30 PM." (initialed by Catherine Hunter). I assume the dubbing was for the few speaking parts in the film, i.e. the factory president, the salesman on the phonograph record, etc.


Meanwhile, people on both coasts were gearing up for the premiere of Chaplin's first film in five years.

New York Times, Feb. 1, 1936
Watch "Mickey's Polo Team" here
 (CC comes in around the 1:52 mark, after Harpo)

Santa Ana Register, Feb. 1, 1936

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Feb. 1, 1936

Motion Picture Daily, Feb. 1, 1936

Motion Picture Daily

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Day By Day: 1936

Well, I have January under my belt and I'm having a great time with this series so far. I think the coming weeks and months will be more interesting with the premiere of Modern Times and Chaplin's trip with Paulette. I created a separate page for the series just to make it a little easier to follow. Of course, you can watch for updates here on the home page as well.

Click here to see a recap of January. 

Friday, January 29, 2016

A portrait of Charlie at his new studio

Chaplin with Grace Kingsley and Gale on the employment office set of A Dog's Life.

In January 1918, journalist Grace Kingsley, along with Los Angeles Times cartoonist "Gale" (aka Edmund Waller "Ted" Gale) visited Chaplin at his new Hollywood studio. The three had met before. In August 1916, Kingsley interviewed him at the Lone Star Studio, where his Mutual films were made. That interview, published in the LA Times,1 also featured cartoons by Gale (I'll post about that one at a later date). Chaplin was comfortable with Kingsley and seemed to open up to her in a way he seldom did with reporters. I've accompanied this post with real photos of the visit as well as Gale's drawings which depict Charlie not only as actor, director, and interviewee, but also as an anchor during the "stormy days" of war.

All quotes and cartoons below are from "Charlie Chaplin Begins Work In His New Studio," by Grace Kingsley, Los Angeles Times, January 20th, 1918.2

Gale's observations of Chaplin

After giving his guests a tour of his studio ("I think I could like this place if I didn't work here," he says), Chaplin answered questions about his future film plans. He tells Kingsley that his pictures henceforth will contain more character study and more story...
"And how will the public like that," inquires Charlie anxiously with his puzzled, quizzical little frown.
"What's your first story?" we ask.  "All about a dog!" grins Charlie pointing to a scrap of a mongrel that has crawled to his feet and is licking his hands....That's all we found out about the picture except that it has an employment bureau in it.3

Posing with a mirror. Kingsley is on the right.

Kingsley goes on to describe watching Chaplin rehearse the cast:
Just here in trooped a motley bunch of actors, and Charlie went to work. 
"And now," said Chaplin after an hour's hard rehearsal of the gang, "and now I think a little rehearsal will do us good." 
That's characteristic of the patience and hard work of the comedian, who really leads a double life--that of both actor and director. For Charlie Chaplin, the comedian with the Midas touch of comedy which has the power to turn the meanest "prop" into golden laughter, works like a whirlwind and notes every detail of both makeup and action on the part of his actors, and goes through every smallest part himself to show them. Why, he even dresses them sometimes when they don't get on their make-ups to suit him. 

The only prop in this scene, which was held in an employment agency, was a box filled with sawdust, the purpose of which was obvious. But Charlie didn't let the frayed-out-old-actory person use it for that. "Just flick your cigarette ashes in it--so" he prompted, and then he went through the part in a manner that showed him the artist he is, for the part was only a bit, yet you smiled and you laughed  and cried at the same time he did it. 
"This isn't a rehearse--this is the original hearse," exclaimed one of the actors as he stepped out of the strenuous scene, mopping his brow. 
Charlie's comedy seems entirely spontaneous--that's its wonderful charm. But beneath it all he has the mathematics of merriment, the logarithms of laughter, at his fingers' ends. 

Gale sketches Chaplin's interview with Kingsley

The result:


1"Beneath The Mask: Witty, Wistful, Serious Is The Real Charlie Chaplin," by Grace Kingsley, Los Angeles Times, August 20th, 1916
2Kingsley's 1918 article is also quoted in my piece from January 19th about Chaplin's new studio. Click here.
3The film is A Dog's Life, released April 14th, 1918.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Guéthary, France, 1931

When Chaplin was in Biarritz on his 1931 world tour, he attended a tennis match in Guéthary featuring three well-known French tennis champions: Henri Cochet, René LaCoste, and Martin Plaa. At the end of the game, the audience asked for a match between Chaplin and the champions. May Reeves, who was also in attendance, recalled that since he knew he was sure to lose, Chaplin decided to make a joke of it: "He slipped deliberately, ran after balls out of bounds, turned several times around himself and gesticulated so comically with his racket that the audience couldn't help splitting their sides. This was one of the most successful and original matches the champions ever played."

See more photos here.

At far left is Martin Plaa and next to CC in white, holding a racket, is Henri Cochet
With Henri Cochet. www.paysbasque1900.com

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Day By Day: 1936

Monday, January 27th: In this interview with Sheilah Graham, published 80-years ago today in the Los Angeles Times, Chaplin reveals that his next film will be a talkie, that he is tired of being the "forgotten man of the movies," and why he would "rather not go" to the upcoming New York premiere of Modern Times on February 5th (his reasons are interesting).

Sadly, Ms. Graham reveals to her readers the entire plot of the Modern Times, including the ending.

Los Angeles Times, January 27, 1936

Monday, January 25, 2016

Day By Day: 1936

Saturday, January 25th: A colorized photo of Chaplin (with brown eyes!) appeared on the cover of the British fan magazine, Picturegoer.

Featured inside was a two-page spread on Modern Times, Chaplin's "eagerly awaited production." (I'm sorry some of the captions are blurry)

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Day By Day: 1936

Friday, January 24th: Chaplin and Paulette Goddard attend the opening of Col. de Basil's Ballet Russes at the Philharmonic Auditorium in Los Angeles.

Chaplin looks at the Ballet Russes program. See it here.

It's well-known that Chaplin had a lifelong affection for ballet. According to his son, Charlie, Jr.: "Every time a ballet troupe came to town Dad would take in the performance, not once but several times. He knew the stories, the music, and all the parts by heart." He also incorporated ballet into a number of his films. But perhaps his greatest tribute to his love of ballet was his 1952 film, Limelight. It's not commonly known but the origins of the Limelight story can be traced back to projects he intended for Paulette in the late 1930s. One story involved a male dancer named Tamerlain and a female dancer (Paulette) who befriends him. He also toyed with the idea of making a film with a circus or vaudeville theme. In a story called The Passion Of Vaudeville, Chaplin plays an aging clown and Paulette plays his younger protégée. They marry but she eventually falls in love with a handsome younger artist. Sound familiar?

You can read more about these projects and how they evolved into Limelight in Charlie Chaplin: Footlights with The World of Limelight by David Robinson.  It's a fascinating story.