Thursday, September 3, 2015

Signed photo of Chaplin and boxer Ted Lewis, 1918

Charlie is on a ladder in the tree handing an orange to Lewis. The photo is inscribed to boxing promoter Bert Burrows.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

A Party For Charlie & Oona

Here is home movie footage of a party given for Charlie & Oona by their friends, Walter and Carol Matthau, in Los Angeles in 1972. The footage is silent but includes some nice shots of Charlie, plus some other familiar faces.

Click here:

Excerpt from "Among the Porcupines" by Carol Matthau:
The major social move we made after coming out here to the West Coast to live was to give a party for Charlie Chaplin and Oona. It was 1972 and Charlie was coming back to the United States to be honored, first in New York and then by the Motion Picture Academy with a special Oscar. Gloria was going to give them a party in New York, and we were giving them a party here. Charlie was no longer in the very best of health, so Oona suggested that I make it a luncheon. I asked her for a guest list, so with the exception of a few really close friends of ours, the selection was theirs.
The party went very well, with people who had not seen one another for such a long time getting together again. Charlie and Walter were walking around the garden, and Charlie looked out to a brilliantly bright blue sea with what seemed to be thousands of tiny sailboats floating gracefully.
Charlie gazed out at the sea for a long time and then said to Walter, “Now that really must have cost you fortune.”
Charlie was that way. He saw life in terms of movie sets or scenes or ideas for movies. He loved seeing Lewis Milestone and Groucho Marx and Danny Kaye and Oscar Levant and Frances Goldwyn.
It was the last time Charlie was to be in California.

A couple of still frames:

Charlie & Oona
Charlie & son, Sydney
Martha Raye

Monday, August 31, 2015

In shades in the Sierra Nevada mountains during location filming of THE GOLD RUSH

Chaplin's publicist Jim Tully recalled that "the terrible glare of the sun on snow nearly blinded us at times. It made our skin turn red and blister and caused our eyes to burn through the night." (Pictorial Review, March 1927)

Charlie picks up Doug & Mary at the train station in Pasadena

"The Big Three" in Charlie's new Rolls Royce. Mary puts on a brave face.

After several months traveling in Europe, Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks were back in California. "Although all sizes and varieties of machines were drawn up for the purpose of taking Douglas and Mary back to Hollywood," the Los Angeles Times reported, "Charlie Chaplin, fairly oozing pride in a new blue roadster, literally pushed them into it. Mary, plainly hesitant at risking her life to Charlie's driving, kept remonstrating, 'But Charlie, are you sure you can drive?' The famous comedian, frowning at her lack of faith, merely shoved in the clutch and they were off. At a late hour last night no casualties had been reported, so it is assumed that Charlie can drive."

Safely home at Pickfair

Saturday, August 29, 2015

"Speed, dust, location"

Chaplin gave careful thought to the filming of the final scene in The Circus, as indicated by the following contemporary description, by an unidentified reporter, of Chaplin at work, on location in Glendale, CA, on October 10-11, 1927:
Perspiring men rush about the Chaplin studio. Carpenters, painters, electricians, technical minds, laborers. Charlie must not be held up. A caravan of circus wagons are hitched on behind four huge motor trucks. They start for Cahuenga Pass. A long and hard pull to Glendale. The location is flooded with light. It comes from all directions. The dynamo wagon hums. So the men work through the night.
Daylight breaks. The morning is cold. Cracklings echo from a dozen fires. It is an unusual California crispness. Cars begin to arrive. The roar of exhausts signals their coming. There is an extra loud rumbling. The big blue limousine comes to a stop. The Circus must be finished. Everyone is on time. Now the sun is holding things up. Why doesn’t it hurry and come up over the mountains? It is long shadows the Tramp wants.
Six o’clock and half the morning is wasted. The edge of the circus ring is too dark. It doesn’t look natural. The Tramp refuses to work artificially. Men start to perspire again. Thirty minutes later the soft voice speaks. “Fine! That’s Fine! Let’s shoot!”
Cameras grind. Circus wagons move across the vast stretch of open space. There is a beautiful haze in the background. The horses and the wagon wheels cause clouds of dust. The picture is gorgeous. No artist would be believed should he paint it. Twenty times the scene is taken.
The cameras move in close to the ring. Carefully the operators measure the distance. From the lens to the Tramp. He is alone in the center of the ring.
He rehearses. Then action for camera. Eighty feet. The business is done again. And again! And again! Fifty persons are looking on. All members of the company. There are few eyes that are not moist. Most of them know the story. They knew the meaning of this final “shot."
“How was that?” came inquiring from the Tramp. Fifty heads nodded in affirmation. “Then we’ll take it again; just once more” spoke the man in the baggy pants and derby hat and misfit coat and dreadnought shoes. The sun was getting high. The long shadows became shorter and shorter. “Call it a day,” said the Tramp, “we’ll be here again tomorrow at four.”
Chaplin is then described watching the rushes at three o’clock the following morning:
The little fellow in the big black leather chair was no longer the Tramp. But he was watching him on the screen. Charlie Chaplin was passing judgment. “He should do that much better.” “He doesn’t ring true.” “He has his derby down too far over his eyes.” “They have burned his face up with those reflectors.” A severe critic, this Chaplin. The Tramp doesn’t please him. The stuff must be retaken. A leap from the leather chair. Speed, dust, location.”
(Unknown source, reprinted in Chaplin: His Life & Art by David Robinson)

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Charlie with his Siamese cat, Monkey, 1955

Monkey was a family pet in Hollywood and was flown over when the Chaplins moved to Switzerland in 1952.

Monday, August 24, 2015

With May Reeves in Juan-les-Pins, summer 1931

Photo courtesy of Stephen Lovegrove

There has been a bit of a debate over whether or not the woman next to Charlie (with her straps down) is May. I believe that it is. Her body shape, her long nose, and her short, dark hair, all resemble May, in my opinion. Plus there are other photos of May with her bathing suit straps hanging down (here and here).

I have not been able to ID the other people in the photo.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Listen to Chaplin, Nigel Bruce, and others in a political roundtable discussion on KFWB, December 1942

"On Wednesday, December 16, 1942, Charlie Chaplin  made one of the most unusual radio broadcasts of his career. His friend Robert Arden asked him to appear on America Looks Abroad, a 45-minute political roundtable talk show not unlike the ones heard on countless cable news networks today. The program aired on KFWB in Los Angeles, owned and operated by Warner Brothers Pictures. Then, as now, KFWB was a major station with a wide broadcast range, but it was unlikely that the  program was heard beyond Southern California."1

Besides Chaplin, the other panelists included Nigel Bruce (who was later cast as Mr. Postant in Limelight), Sir Cedric Hardwicke, Dr. Emil Ludwig, the biographer of Napoleon whom Chaplin met in France in 1931, and Mutiny On The Bounty directer Frank Lloyd.

The somewhat shady & opportunistic Arden met Chaplin in 1941 and became part of his small inner circle of friends. He is mentioned often in Chaplin's FBI file since the two shared what it called "leftist proclivities." Arden was also involved in the Joan Barry scandal. In fact, he may have been the one who suggested introducing Barry to Chaplin in the first place. Two years later in 1943, he was indicted for his participation in Chaplin's alleged violation of the Mann Act (aka conspiring to deny Joan Barry of her civil rights).  Ironically, the infamous incident in which Joan Barry broke into Chaplin's home with a gun occurred one week after this broadcast on December 23rd, 1942.

Arden and Chaplin

More about this broadcast and Arden's relationship with Chaplin can be found in Rob Farr's essay "Chaplin On The Radio--Part II" in Limelight and The Music Hall Tradition.

Now a little about this recording. It is missing the opening introductions & begins with Arden announcing the topic of the day: "The Question of Unity: How much unity do we have to have to bring this war to a successful conclusion?" Chaplin does not talk about his personal life nor his films. He only discusses politics--something he loved to talk about. And at times he gets very passionate about it. He will discuss the "bugaboo about Communism" & during one particularly heated response declares: "I am going to be Communistic." His remarks are often met with applause from the audience. This is a Chaplin most of us have only read about but not heard.

For those who only want to hear the Chaplin parts, the longest ones can be found at :50 & 6:53 (responding to comments by Nigel Bruce), 17:50, 19:20, 27:35, & his final remarks are heard at 41:20. However sprinkled in between these segments are some back and forth exchanges between Chaplin & the other panelists that are certainly worth hearing, if you have time.

1Rob Farr, "Chaplin On The Radio--Part II"

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Rare photos of Chaplin with Rob Wagner & his family

Many thanks to Wagner's great-grandson, Rob Leicester Wagner, for sharing these wonderful photos with me & for giving me permission to post them here.

With Wagner's wife, Florence. Behind them is Tom Harrington,
Chaplin's secretary.
On the set of The Adventurer (1917). At far right is Syd Chaplin. Next to him is Rob Wagner.
In front of Charlie, in white, are Wagner's sons Leicester (left) and Thornton (they are not twins).
Please comment if any of you can ID the other people.
Another on The Adventurer set. Charlie with Leicester (right) and "Thornie."

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

A visit from General Hunter Liggett at the Lone Star Studio, 1917

Liggett also visited the Fox studio and posed with Theda Bera, in costume for Cleopatra.

Chaplin's Music Man

In this great article by Jim Lochner, Meredith Willson describes working with Chaplin on the Oscar-nominated score for The Great Dictator:
“He would have been great at anything—music, law, ballet dancing, or painting—house, sign, or portrait. I got the screen credit for The Great Dictator music score, but the best parts of it were all Charlie’s ideas.” --Meredith Willson

The Making of Taschen's "The Charlie Chaplin Archives"

The release date (according to Amazon) is September 15th.

Monday, August 17, 2015

The Chaplins at the Knie Circus in Vevey, 1964

Attending this circus each October became a Chaplin family tradition beginning in 1953.  In fact, going to this show was one of Charlie's last outings before he died in December 1977.
L-R: Oona, Annette, Jane, CC, Victoria, and Josephine 

Friday, August 14, 2015

Mildred Harris in the Three Stooges film MOVIE MANIACS (1936)

Mildred appears around the 10:00 mark as the leading lady. According to IMDB, this was her last credited film appearance.