Saturday, October 12, 2013

Charlie's pet goat

Chaplin feeding Billie, 1916

During Chaplin's year at Mutual, he had a pet goat named Billie, who "hated everyone on the face of the earth except Charlie."1

Longtime press agent Carlyle Robinson's first encounter with Chaplin was in the yard of the Lone Star Studio where he was playing with the goat:
I saw a young man in the studio yard playing with the company mascot, a goat. The animal would charge at Charlie--Charlie side-stepping the rush in toreador fashion. Then he would grasp the animal by the horns and pin it to the ground."2*
Similarly, Hollywood journalist Grace Kingsley came upon Charlie at the studio practicing golf strokes with Billie, who served as "principal hazard and sometimes caddy."3


Charlie & his pet goat pose with visitors at the Lone Star Studio.
Perhaps knowing how much Charlie hated to be interviewed by the press, Billie saved him from a 1916 interview with Mabel Condon:
A plaintive bleat came through the window. 
"My goat--he's hungry," interpreted Charlie, and we walked forth to greet the goat. It raced at us, a series of brown-and-white leaps until brought to a sudden and violent halt by the limitation of its rope. 
"He's hungry," repeated Charlie, patting the animal affectionately as it stood on its hind legs and imprinted clay hoof marks on the natty dark-blue shoulders of the Chaplin well-fitting suit. 
From a stout man, in a red sweater and the wings of a set, came the remark:
"Hungry? I've fed him bushels of everything all day!"
"So've I," came another voice, as another besweatered individual hove into sight, armed with a hammer and nails.
"But somehow," reflected Charlie, as though puzzling over a wonderful mystery, "he's always hungry."4
Edna Purviance with Billie. (The Sea Gull/Linda Wada)
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1 Photo-Play Journal, August 1917
2 Carlyle Robinson, "The Private Life Of Charlie Chaplin," Liberty, July 1933 (rep. Winter 1972)
*Robinson describes the studio goat as having horns, but Billie doesn't appear to have horns. It had been several years so perhaps he remembered incorrectly.
3 Grace Kingsley, Los Angeles Times, August 1916 (repr. Charlie Chaplin: Interviews
4 Mabel Condon, Picture-Play, Dec. 1916

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