Thursday, September 20, 2012

Chaplin & The Circle

In the late 1940s, Chaplin directed a series of plays for the Circle Theater in Los Angeles. The theater was founded by a group of students from UCLA including Charlie’s son Sydney, Jerry Epstein, & actor William Schallert (Charlie Chaplin, Jr. was also a Circle player for a short time).

Chaplin's contributions to Circle productions were uncredited. He never wanted any publicity, although it was hard to keep the secret because so many actors and friends saw him at rehearsals.  He spent countless hours with the actors, rehearsing them until the wee hours of the morning, when finally his wife, Oona, would call to summon him home. Then he would take the tired actors out for wheat cakes and maple syrup. "My fee for directing," Charlie would tell Jerry Epstein, "is thirty-five cents and a cup of black coffee!"

The Circle must have been a haven for Charlie at this time, a place where he could temporarily forget his problems & all the bad publicity he was receiving from the F.B.I. & the House Un-American Activities Committee.  Epstein said that Charlie never mentioned his problems, and they never asked about them. They were just "grateful that he was so generous with his time and talent."

The following photos are from Remembering Charlie by Jerry Epstein:

Charlie directing the first rehearsal of Rain (a play by Somerset Maugham).
Sydney Chaplin is at right wearing a black shirt.

Directing the Albert Camus play, Caligula, Charlie shows the actors how to shake their tablets.
The pillar int he background is from The Great Dictator. According to Epstein, Chaplin was generous with props
from his movies. 

Charlie and Oona congratulate Sydney after a performance at The Circle.


  1. jerry eppstein's book is absolutely wonderful. a few years back i got lucky at winning the centenary edition off ebay.