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 

20 comments:

  1. I was there, among the audience inside the Chaplin Studios, when Jeffrey Vance interviewed Miss NASH. Dinky Dean Riesner was there too. What a great souvenir, nearly 20 years ago! Thanks Bonnie Mac Court and David Totheroh!
    D.

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    1. What a great time that must have been. Wasn't MV shown on the sound stage? I wish there were events like that now.

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    2. Yes, it was. That was so special to see the movie in the very place it was shot 50 years before. MV's blue suit was also on display on the left of the screen.
      I had made the journey from France on the Friday, spent the Chaplin day on the Saturday in Hollywood, then flown back to France on the Sunday. Very exhausting, but so exciting!!
      D.

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  2. I was there as well. I ended up doing sound for the event, as they had the gear, but no one to set it up or operate it. I also played a reporter during the staged recreation of the MV news conference with Stan Taffel playing Chaplin.

    It was truly a magical event.

    Phil

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    1. Wow! I never heard about the recreation of the news conference!

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    2. It was pretty special. Taffel was introduced as Chaplin, he took the podium and started reciting Chaplin's introductory remarks from the MV press conference, there were "reporters" imbedded in the audience and before they knew what was happening the audience was right in the middle of experiencing the grilling that CC underwent almost exactly 50 years to the day earlier.

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    3. Everybody attending that press conference recreation remembers Stan Taffel's part but above all the man who played the part of James W. Fay, the vehement (to say the least) representative of the Catholic War Veterans' paper. I don't know his name. Maybe Phil does.
      D.

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    4. I've just found that James W. Fay was played by George SULLIVAN. I should have checked my LIMELIGHT magazine archives before. Sorry. D.

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  3. Too bad I can't upload a picture here, or I'd show you the printed program (autographed by Marilyn)from that day.
    P.

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    1. You could upload it to a photosharing site and link to it here.

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  4. God, I remember how he positioned her outside up against the building in that low-brim hat and trench coat. It was very Orson Welles-ish. Film noir even! Putting her in that lavish buggy...I thought he stole the idea from GWTW. I loved the dialogue in that carriage with Nash though. He was a very generous actor when it came to her.

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    1. Fun little tidbit, that "low-brim hat and trench coat" was actually Rollie Totheroh's rain gear.

      (another) D.

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  5. I posted a comment here about being at this event, but I don't see it. Did I do something wrong?

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    1. I'm sorry, I never saw it. You can try again.

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  6. Here's a scan of the cover f the MV program.

    http://tinypic.com/r/2m5axok/9

    Phil

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    1. That's so cool, Phil. Thanks for sharing!

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  7. I have the script from the news conference if you'd like to see it.

    Phil

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    1. Was it taken from the "Film Comment" article? I have that.

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    2. I think so, but edited for the reenactment.

      P

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  8. So cool that there are people here who were there!
    Is it me or is that an odd photo of her? At first I thought it was a man in drag. Seriously! It looked like she had a beard until I figured out it was her neck. The eyebrows seem really heavy too...
    I also have a hard time posting here. I can't use my google account at all.
    Thanks for the Dailies Jess!

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