Thursday, February 26, 2015

THE PILGRIM, released February 26th, 1923

This was Chaplin's final film for First National and as usual it has an "escape-from-prison" theme (see The Adventurer, his last film for Mutual, and Police, his last film for Essanay.)

"May be disguised. 30 to 35 years of age. About five feet four inches in height.1 Weight about 125 pounds. Pale face. Black bushy hair sometimes parted in the middle. Small black mustache. Blue eyes. Small hands, large feet. Extremely nervous. Walks with feet turned out."

Charlie (aka "Lefty Lombard" aka "Slippery Elm") grabs the bars at the train station as if they were a cell.  There is a similar joke in The Adventurer where convict Charlie wakes up in a strange bed with bars on the headboard and wearing someone else's striped pajamas.

Syd Chaplin plays two roles in the film: one of the elopers (above) & the brat's father.

"Convict Makes Daring Escape"

After Charlie passes around the collection boxes, he gives a thankful look to one side of the room and an accusatory look to the other side who apparently didn’t give as much.

"The sermon--the sermon!"

Pass the Dutchie on the left hand side.

The brat ("Dinky" Dean Reisner) shoves a piece of flypaper into his father's face.
Reisner said in an interview years later that the fly paper was real.
"I still feel it on my skin. It was awful!" he said.

Syd describes his missing hat to Charlie.

That moment when you realize your missing hat is part of the pudding.

 Charlie transforms himself into a riverboat gambler right in front of the camera.

"Mexico--a new life--peace at last"
 (Nitpicky note: there is no Rio Grande River separating the U.S. and Mexico)

1In real life, Chaplin was closer to 5' 6 1/2."

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Portrait of "scared rabbit" Charlie Chaplin by Edward Steichen, New York, 1931

Steichen remembered Chaplin as "one of the most difficult subjects I have encountered in years of photography. He sat waiting like a scared rabbit. His ears were back as though ready to scamper for cover. He was more tense than a tyro model. Timid isn't the word! The only explanation I have is that Chaplin is accustomed to being alert and on the move in his pictures. He loses himself when he gets into a role, and then seemingly gets self-conscious when he realizes he is going to pose as himself. Many actors and movie people get camera shy." (Hamilton Daily News, September 19, 1931)

Read more about their sessions here and here.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Front and back of La Petite Illustration, May 21, 1927

click to enlarge

"Hollywood's Malibu Beach" by Miguel Covarrubias

This drawing initially appeared in Vanity Fair, August 1933

Chaplin is hard to miss, just look for gray hair and teeth. He's also one of the few in a suit (of course).

For a key to the drawing, click here.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Outtake from THE IDLE CLASS (1921)


This footage was taken from a 1960s TV series called Hollywood & The Stars. The documentary has some other rare footage including a portion of a 1918 screen test with little Dorothy Rosher (later Joan Marsh) for The Bond, as well as clips of Charlie with visitors and rehearsing for City Lights.

See another deleted bowling alley scene from The Idle Class here.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Chaplin & the Oscars

Charlie won three Academy Awards--two honorary and one competitive.

At the first Academy Awards presentations ceremony in 1929, he was given a special award was for “Versatility and genius in writing, acting, directing and producing” his 1928 film, The Circus.

Charlie's Academy Award for The Circus.

Sydney Chaplin jokingly claimed that his father used the Oscar as a doorstop for years, but the pictures below tell a different story.

Chaplin's office at his studio, unknown date. His special Oscar for The Circus is on display on the mantle (in the center). (Photo from Silent Traces by John Bengston)

Charlie at his Beverly Hills home, c. 1945.
 His Oscar is on the bookshelf behind him on the far left.

Chaplin was presented with an Honorary Oscar in 1972 & returned to America after a 20 year absence to accept it in person. He received the longest standing ovation in Oscar history.
His 1952 film Limelight won for Best Original Score in 1973, twenty years after its initial release because the film had not been shown in Los Angeles until that time.

Charlie in Los Angeles holding his Honorary Oscar.

Chaplin was nominated for Academy Awards for The Great Dictator (1940) and Monsieur Verdoux (1947) but he was against awards in general. When the New York Film Critics voted him Best Actor for The Great Dictator, he declined the award stating that he did not believe actors should compete against one another and questioned the “process of electioneering” that is “far afield from sound critical appraisal." He was also allegedly hurt that only his work as an actor had been deemed memorable. According to his son Sydney, he sent back one award he had won with a note that said, “I don’t think you are qualified to judge my work."

Michael Jackson visits Oona Chaplin at the Manoir de Ban, June 1988. Michael is holding Charlie’s honorary Oscar and his award for Best Original Score. Oona is holding his award for The Circus. Family friend Rolf Knie is holding Chaplin's BAFTA Fellowship Award which he received in 1976.

Original Chaplin film montage from the 1972 Academy Awards ceremony

This montage is slightly different and perhaps a bit longer than the one seen at the end of the 1992 Chaplin film. It was compiled by Peter Bogdanovich & Richard Patterson, who directed the 1975 documentary, The Gentleman Tramp. The man speaking at the very beginning is Academy president Daniel Taradash.

Charlie must have loved hearing the audience's laughter during these clips.


Note: This footage is extremely copyrighted (©AMPAS) so I'll try to keep it posted as long as possible. Many thanks go to my dear friend Doreen who purchased a copy of the '72 Oscar telecast a few years ago on ebay and kindly shared it with me.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Chaplin & the first Academy Awards ceremony

The ceremony was held on May 16th, 1929, the second anniversary of the founding of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, in the Blossom Room of the Roosevelt Hotel. Although Chaplin was to receive an award, he was not among the 270 in attendance.

William C. DeMille, older brother of Cecil B., was the banquet chairman, and the statuettes were handed out by Academy President Douglas Fairbanks. According to the Academy's "Anniversary and Awards" bulletin of June 3rd, 1929, when the time came to present Chaplin's award, Mr. DeMille said the following:
"A special first award for writing, directing, acting, and producing 'The Circus' goes to Charles Chaplin. I think he is the only one to whom the Academy has or ever will give a first award to one man for writing, directing, acting and producing a picture. It takes us back to the old days. Mr. Chaplin is not here, due to cold feet but he has wired his high appreciation of the honor."*
Chaplin's wire read:
"I want to express to the Academy my deep appreciation for the special honor the Academy judges have conferred upon me. I regret deeply my inability to be present at the anniversary dinner tonight." (Anniversary & Awards Bulletin, 6/3/29)
*This award was recently stolen from the Association Chaplin office in Paris. 

Click each to enlarge. Source

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Chaplin, race car driver Malcolm Campbell, and jockey Steve Donoghue arrive in England, February 19th, 1931

CC, Donoghue, and Campbell, 2/19/31.
One report claimed that Chaplin's tie
"exactly matches the blue of his laughing eyes."
(Manchester Guardian, 2/20/31)

Chaplin, Donoghue,1 and Campbell2 were fellow passengers aboard the Mauretania from New York. Chaplin chose to exit the ship at Plymouth instead of proceeding on to Southhampton in order not to grab the spotlight from Campbell, who was to receive a hero's welcome after breaking the world speed record in Daytona, Florida.

Newsreel footage of their arrival. 

Chaplin was glad to finally leave the ship because he had spent most of the crossing suffering from seasickness & a cold.3 From the minute the boat landed until he arrived at Paddington Station, he was mobbed by thousands of fans who lined the quayside and train platform. Crowds of this size were usually reserved for royalty. Amid shouts of "Good ol' Charlie, there's the lad! & "God bless you, Charlie!" he waved to the crowd and was carried along by their pushing and shoving which felt to him like "an affectionate embrace."4

A press conference was held in Chaplin's suite at the Carlton. He told reporters that he had "four months to spare" and would probably visit "Paris, Madrid, and Berlin." When asked about talking pictures he said, "I may do some work with the talkies but not with my present character." One reported asked if he kept his famous shoes in a safe. Chaplin replied, "No, they just lie around the studio."5

Chaplin looks at London from the roof of the Carlton, 2/19/31
Read more about Chaplin's visit to England and the rest of his world tour here (page down).


1In a typescript draft of Chaplin's travelogue "A Comedian Sees The World" he describes how Donoghue and Campbell would come to his cabin of an evening and tell stories. He recalled that "Steve was a very good storyteller." (Chaplin/Haven, A Comedian Sees The World, Univ. of Missouri Press, 2014)
2As soon as he landed in England, Campbell was informed that he would be knighted. According to David Robinson, Chaplin expected to be knighted during his visit but this didn't happen. Lisa Stein Haven writes that "a press leak from the Prime Minister's office after Chaplin was knighted in 1975 showed that the only reason the honor was withheld in 1931 was due to 'unfavorable publicity generated by the Northcliff press during the First World War'" (ACSTW, 2014)
3San Bernadino Sun, Feb. 20, 1931
4ibid and Chaplin, "A Comedian Sees The World"
5San Bernadino Sun, Feb. 20, 1931. Chaplin was gone much longer than four months. He didn't return to California until June 1932.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Chaplin Studios covered in snow, January 1921

Alf Reeves & others outside the studio. ©Roy Export

Just a side note: We have received about 15" of snow here in KY. This is the most snow a generation of Kentuckians (inc. myself) have ever seen in their lifetime. Some of you who get this kind of thing all the time are probably laughing at that but we just don't see this kind of snowfall in the winter here. In addition to the snow, we are expecting very cold temperatures with lows of -20 (the actual temp).  I'm just hoping my electricity stays on! Everyone stay warm and safe!


British journalists visit United Artists, 1929

Back row (L-R): Henry C. Owen, Lili Damita, Ralph D. Blumenfeld, Joseph Schenck, Camilla Horn, Ronald Colman, Lady Peake, John Barrymore (in costume for Eternal Love), Vilma Banky. Front row: Samuel Goldwyn, William J. Locke, Charles Igglesden, Chaplin, W. J. T. Collins, Alan Pitt Robbins.

Signing the opening title card for SHOULDER ARMS (1918)


Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Criterion edition of LIMELIGHT to be released May 19, 2015

It's nice to see some new special features on this one. Sadly, like their City Lights release, I'm not crazy about the artwork.

I usually dislike colorized photos of Charlie because most of them are horribly done and fake-looking. Plus I don't want to get on my soapbox about how I think it's a travesty to colorize photos by people like Steichen who were masters of b&w photography. That being said, I recently came across the photo below and was immediately struck by how well-done and realistic it was. I think whoever did this did a terrific job, although I'm a little puzzled by the bloodshot eyes.


See the original b&w version here

I'm planning to live tweet TCM's showing of Monsieur Verdoux this morning at 9:15 (EST)--time permitting & how quickly I can type. My Twitter site:

Monday, February 16, 2015

Just popping in here for a second. We have at least a foot of snow on the ground here in central KY. I apologize for lack of posts the last couple of days. We didn't have power for a while yesterday and today I've just spent enjoying the snow (we don't get snows like this around here). To everyone in the path of the storm (and the subzero temps that are supposed to follow it) stay safe and warm!

Sunday, February 15, 2015

A NIGHT OUT, released February 15, 1915

Shot in Niles, CA, this film marks the 100th anniversary of Edna Purviance's first appearance onscreen.

Even though she is adorable in the film, Edna herself didn't think much of her performance:
"...before I began to be a picture artist, I had thought myself gifted with a little more than ordinary intelligence. After the first day in front of the camera, I came to the conclusion that I was the biggest 'boob' on earth.
"Charlie was very patient with me, though, and after my first picture, in which I think I was terrible--'A Night Out,' you know--I began to get used to the work, and although I have had occasional relapses, as Charlie calls them, I am at least 'camera-wise' by now." (Pictures & The Picturegoer, May 6, 1916)

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Three Minutes with Charlie Chaplin

NY Evening World, 8/31/21

From the New York Evening World, August 31, 1921:

By Marguerite Mooers Marshall
Charlie Chaplin, the playboy of the movies, Charlie of the funny feet, the trained mustache, the incredible headgear, handles a three-minute interview with all the care he does NOT bestow on custard pies and cops. Charlie is ever so polite about it, but nevertheless he acts as if he thought The Evening World’s hot weather test in mental speed were a bomb of some sort that might go off in his hands. When I saw the brown-eyed [sic], debonair, soft-voiced little comedian in the theatre lobby just after the rehearsal of the next release of his friend Mary Pickford and just before the showing of the newest picture of his friend Douglas Fairbanks, he leaned against the wall for support, wiggled his fingers nervously and took his full three minutes to answer the fifteen questions I had prepared.
Gains on Schedule, but Parries Most Thrusts.
It was exactly 17 minutes past 1 when I asked:
Q. No. 1—What is it that makes you so funny?
Charlie Chaplin (grinning bashfully, so that he showed most of his very
white and even teeth, and looking off into space, somewhere over my left
shoulder)—I don’t know—ask the kids.
Q. No. 2—Ought movie salaries to go down?
Charlie Chaplin (straightening his drooping shoulders, an indignant
inflection in the soft voice)—Certainly not!
Q. No. 3—Is the Bolshevik Government going to last in Russia?
Charlie Chaplin—I do not know.
Q. No. 4—Why don’t you want to marry again?
Charlie Chaplin (who was recently quoted as saying that he didn’t, but
who seems to have changed his mind—girls, here’s your chance!)—Who says
that I don’t? Quoting me to that effect was a mistake. I certainly do want
to marry again, very much!
Q. No. 5—What sort of woman do you like best?
Charlie Chaplin (again grinning embarrassedly and tying his fingers into
bow knots)—Now, that’s hard to answer; I really couldn’t say; I couldn’t
even tell whether she’s blond or brunette; I couldn’t answer that.
Q. No. 6—Are you in favor of an Irish republic?
Charlie Chaplin (determinedly playing safe)—I prefer to be discreet and
not commit myself.
The first minute was gone and we were one answer ahead of the average
called for by the time schedule.
Slows Down His Answers, but Holds to Schedule.
Q. No. 7—Should women smoke cigarettes?
Charlie Chaplin (hesitating, lips moving nervously, then smiling
diplomatically)—That depends on the woman.
Q. No. 8—Do you believe in national censorship of the movies?
Charlie Chaplin (repeating the question to gain time and thinking hard)
—Do I believe in national censorship? Yes—if it’s intelligent.
Q. No. 9—What do you do with all your money?
Charlie Chaplin (the hundred candle-power grin again turned on)—Pay my
taxes—and spend some now and then.
Q. No. 10—What should the Government do to help the unemployed?
Charlie Chaplin (who takes a decidedly serious, non-facetious interest
to labor and social problems)—They should do a great deal—so much that I
couldn’t begin to cover the subject even if I took the whole time you allow
for the interview.
The second minute was up and we had lost our one-answer lead owing to
the comedian’s habit of stopping to think before he spoke.
Finishes Exactly on Time and Seems Glad It’s Over.
Q. No. 11—What is the easiest way to make people laugh?
Charlie Chaplin (with modest hesitation, although you’d think him
qualified to answer this one)—Make them happy, I guess—but somebody else
could answer that question a good deal better than I.
Q. No. 12—If you were not a movie star, what would you like to be?
Charlie Chaplin (with a quiet chuckle)—Night watchman.
Q. No. 13—How many custard pies have you ruined since the beginning of
your career—a million?
Charlie Chaplin—Oh, not as many as that. Say a thousand!
Q. No. 14—What is your candid opinion of the Volstead act?
Charlie Chaplin (the laugh in his eyes, as well as on his lips, and
looking me straight in the face for almost the first time during the
interview)—Of the Volstead act? You must excuse me—I don’t use such
Q. No. 15—When are you going to play Hamlet?
Charlie Chaplin (although this role is said to be his dearest ambition)
—I’d rather read it. What I really want in my future work is to do as I
please—to follow my own whim!
The interview and the three minutes were over. Charlie seemed glad the
bomb had not exploded!

Friday, February 13, 2015

Very short clip of Charlie and his date, Georgia Hale, at the Hollywood premiere of Hell's Angels, May 1930


The film starred Jean Harlow (who appeared as an extra in City Lights which CC was making at the time. Her footage was later cut but photos still exist of her appearance). See footage of other stars at the premiere, such as Dolores Del Rio and Buster Keaton, here. Of course, Charlie is the only one who doesn't stop and talk.