Thursday, August 25, 2016

Moments With Chaplin

Lillian Ross, a longtime writer for the New Yorker magazine, met Charlie and Oona at a Hollywood party in 1948.* She remained a close family friend until Charlie's death in 1977. The following is an excerpt from her book Moments With Chaplin (1978):
Some of the moments I remember from Vevey had the atmosphere of something staged, real though they were. 
Charlie Chaplin heading for the tennis court, wearing white flannel trousers and a tennis shirt with a collar--a white cable knit sweater dashingly slung over his back, the sleeves tied in front. 
Charlie Chaplin playing tennis, racquet in his left hand, running for every ball, not liking to lose, and showing his dissatisfaction every time he lost a point, giving his all to the game, in total concentration, and never, never losing track of the score....
Charlie Chaplin sharing a bowl of peanuts  with three-year-old Annette. Chaplin's face would be down over the bowl, and he would be glaring in top performance, leaving no doubt as to who would get the last peanut. 

Charlie Chaplin in a long terry-cloth robe, his pure-white hair disheveled, leading a visitor at eight o'clock on a late-summer morning down his lawn to his swimming pool, all the white looking whiter in contrast to the shadows cast by the trees on the smooth green lawn.
Charlie Chaplin at the pool, saying, "I go up and down the pool once then out. I keep the water warm. It's not easy to go from a warm bed into a cold pool. I like it as long as it's warm."
Poolside at the Manoir.
L-R: Rex Harrison, CC (in white robe), Jerry Epstein, and Kay Kendall.
 Charlie Chaplin sitting in front of a big fire in the fireplace of his living room for a quick drink before dinner.  Gin-and-tonic usually. "I look forward to that one drink at night," he would say....
Charlie Chaplin comforting Victoria, at the age of eleven, after she had seen "Limelight" for the first time. ("I couldn't help crying at the end, when you died," Victoria said to her father. "Oh, my dear," Chaplin said, on the verge of tears himself. "Oh, my dear. That's sweet. So sweet.")
With the author.
 Charlie Chaplin at the piano in his living room, playing music he had composed for his pictures, humming along with his own playing, while his face expressed every emotion experienced by everybody in each picture, and simultaneously talking: "I can't play anybody's music but my own. I never took a lesson. I never even saw a piano up close until I was twenty-one. As soon as I touched the piano, I could play. The same with the violin."
Charlie Chaplin, at five o'clock in the morning, heading quietly for his study, to work alone on his autobiography, as he did every morning (In 1962, on an afternoon in early September, I sat with him on his terrace as he read parts of his book manuscript to me, the tortoiseshell-rimmed glasses a bit down on his nose, his reading dramatic to the point of melodrama, his devotion to his subject unself-conscious and complete. "I use Fowler's 'The King's English' as my guide," he told me during a breather. "I do all my own editing. I'm very particular. I like to see a clean page, with no erasures. I'm entirely self-taught.")

*Ross is still alive and in 2008 interviewed Charlie's grandson, James Thiérrée. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Ninety years ago today, Chaplin and the rest of Hollywood (& the world) were stunned by the death of Rudolph Valentino

Chaplin arriving at the service for Valentino in Hollywood

Valentino died in New York City from peritonitis on August 23rd, 1926, only a few weeks after the premiere of his film The Son Of The Shiek.

Upon hearing the news, Chaplin sent the following telegram to Valentino's manager, George Ullman:

via Valentino Forever

Following an initial service in New York, Valentino's body was transported to Los Angeles by train and another service was held for him in Hollywood on September 7th. Chaplin suspended production of his film, The Circus, so he could attend the memorial.

Memorial service for Valentino. Chaplin is third from left.

The death of Rudolph Valentino is one of the greatest tragedies that has occurred in the history of the motion-picture industry. As an actor he achieved fame & distinction; as a friend he commanded love and admiration.
We of the film industry, through his death, lose a very dear friend, a man of great charm and kindliness.
--Chaplin's statement about the death of Valentino, Los Angeles Times, August 24th, 1926

Monday, August 22, 2016

Twelve-year-old violin prodigy, Yehudi Menuhin, visits the Chaplin Studios, 1928

Chaplin and Menuhin on the City Lights set.

Menuhin's father, Moshe, recalled the visit in his autobiography The Menuhin Saga (1984):
Yehudi's recital at the Shrine Auditorium [on December 17th, 1928], which brought him new acclaim, was attended by Jascha Heifetz and many other celebrities, including Charlie Chaplin. Chaplin invited Yehudi, [his teacher, Louis] Persinger, and me to spend a day with him at his studios in Hollywood. Chaplin cancelled all his work that day, declared a holiday for his employees, and then, on our arrival, gave us a personal tour and a private performance, complete with the famous Chaplin moustache, cane, hat and walk. But he also showed us his serious, philosophical side. It was a fascinating experience. This was on the day of our departure, and I began to get agitated about the possibility that we might miss our train. Yehudi and Persinger thought it was absurd to suggest giving up a minute of Charlie Chaplin to wait in a railway station. Chaplin himself would not let us leave until the very last moment. Then his chauffeur whisked us and our baggage to the railway station at top speed. Twice we were stopped by police. We barely made it to our train.

Almost twenty years later, in December 1947, Menuhin filmed a performance at the Chaplin Studios called Concert Magic. It is supposedly one of the first-ever concert films. The following are a few clips from the film showing some of the different background sets (None looked immediately familiar to me but feel free to comment if you recognize something):

Menuhin plays Bach - Praeludium Partita

Nicolo Paganini

Bach's "Erbarme Dich" with Eula Beal

Mendelssohn violin concerto

Friday, August 19, 2016

DAY BY DAY: 1936

No, I haven't forgotten about this series. August 1936 was a very slow month for Chaplin but things pick up toward the end of the month and into September. I apologize for not posting the following on its anniversary.

Monday, August 17th: Charlie and Paulette attend a concert by conductor Leopold Stokowski at the Hollywood Bowl.

Behind them are King Vidor and Betty Hill (hidden by Charlie).
Close up of above photo.

Evidently the crowd was so large that Charlie and Paulette had to schlep to the Bowl from another street instead of being dropped off in their car at the front door (gasp): 

Los Angeles Times, August 23rd, 1936

Coming up: Chaplin wires his studio for sound, and makes an announcement about another film project. 

DAY BY DAY: 1936: A chronicle of one year of Chaplin's life.  

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Australian opera singer, Dame Nellie Melba, visits Chaplin, March 1918

Melba is on Charlie's left, on his other side is Lady Susan FitzClarence. Source.

Melba described the meeting in her memoir, Melodies and Memories (1926):
I had long had a great desire to meet Charlie Chaplin, and as soon as we arrived at Los Angeles, on my long-delayed journey home, I set out for his studio in company with Lady Susan Fitzclarence (now Lady Susan Birch), my great friend.
No celebrity whom I have ever met so completely falsified my preconceived notions of them as Charlie Chaplin. He was then at the pinnacle of his fame as a comedian--a pinnacle which he still occupies in solitary state. But how little the world knew of the real man who was hidden behind the mask of humour!
I had expected, first of all, to meet an ugly, grotesque figure. Instead there advanced towards me a smiling, handsome, young man, small, but perfectly made, with flashing eyes and beautiful teeth. He was dressed quietly and well, and he spoke in a low musical voice that seemed to belong more to an English public schoolboy than to a knockabout comedian.
But it was not the superficial Charlie Chaplin that most surprised me, but the character of the man as revealed by his conversation. Instead of a brilliant clown, I found myself face to face with a philosopher, with a serious, almost melancholy attitude to life.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Sunday, August 14, 2016

A Midsummer Night's Dream

Charlie & Paulette attend the opening of Max Reinhardt’s stage production of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Hollywood Bowl, September 1934.* Chaplin's friend and, later, biographer, R.J. Minney, is on his right. It was reported at the time that Chaplin was approached by Reinhardt to appear in the production, either in the role of Bottom or Puck. 

*Reinhardt directed a film version of the play the next year.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Rare footage of Chaplin's Trick Film Sequence with Sir Albert and Lady Naylor-Leyland, 1923

This rarity was posted on the Chaplin Official Facebook page today. A small portion of this footage appears in the documentary The Gentleman Tramp, but the rest of it I'd never seen before--and it's quite long. This was early 1923, so I assume the set and the door is from A Woman Of Paris but they don't look familiar to me. The Naylor-Leylands were on their honeymoon. Chaplin evidently gave the bride a movie camera as a gift (see article below).

San Francisco Chronicle, May 4th, 1923

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Charlie and Paulette speak in a clip from HOLLYWOOD ON PARADE (1933)


Frankie Darro, posing as a telegram delivery boy, makes a delivery to Chaplin. While Charlie signs for it, Paulette says to Darro, "you have makeup on." Toward the end, Charlie can be heard asking for the telegram and Darro tells him, "there's nothing in there"

Monday, August 8, 2016

Chaplin in ads for Wolf & Bean suits

The following ads appeared in the Los Angeles Times in 1916. According to the first ad, Chaplin wore a Wolf & Bean dress suit "throughout the entire two reels" of One A.M., which premiered 100 years ago this week (August 7th). The second ad shows "the world's greatest comedian" as readers have perhaps never seen him--in Full Dress. Says Mr. Chaplin: "I appreciate the fact that my Formal Attire is correct in every detail."

Sunday, August 7, 2016

ONE A.M., released 100 years ago today

"Charlie Chaplin said that if any man could appear absolutely alone and hold attention for two full reels, he believed he could do it," wrote Alexia Durant of Photoplayer's Weekly.1 And that's exactly what Chaplin accomplished in his fourth release for the Mutual Film Corporation. Except for a brief appearance at the beginning by Albert Austin, the film is a complete solo performance.

Chaplin plays a wealthy drunk who arrives home in the wee hours and tries to go to bed. "One A.M. was unusual for me," he later wrote, "it was a solo act which took place in a very restricted space: an exercise in mime and technical virtuosity, with no plot or secondary characters. I arrive home drunk early one morning to find everything in the house against me."2

It was an experiment he never repeated. Not only was the film the least popular of the Mutuals but Chaplin himself never thought too highly of it. According to biographer Theodore Huff, he was said to have summed up One A.M. with the remark: “One more film like that and it will be goodbye Charlie.” 

1July 15, 1916
2Chaplin, My Life In Pictures, 1974

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Farewell reception for Chaplin & Kono hosted by the Japanese Society of Los Angeles, January 9th, 1931

Held at the Hamanoya Restaurant in Little Tokyo,* this gathering (I assume) was a sendoff for Chaplin & his assistant, Kono, who were leaving a world tour in less than a month.

Photo courtesy of Gretchen Mittwer. Mittwer's grandfather, Julius, was a distributor for United Artists in Japan (under the black arrow near the right). Chaplin is under the white arrow near the center. Kono is two down from Chaplin on the right.

Actor George Kuwa presents Charlie and Kono with gifts on behalf of the Asahi Shimbun newspaper.
(Source: Charles Chaplin In Japan by Ono Hiroyuki)