Tuesday, October 22, 2013

RIP Henry Bergman (February 23, 1868 – October 22, 1946)


Henry Bergman became an indispensable member of Chaplin's stock company in 1916. He adored Charlie and was a loyal and supportive friend and associate for 30 years. Chaplin repaid that loyalty by keeping Henry on his payroll until his death.

In an interview from 1931, Henry remembers how he came to work for Charlie:
I had known Mr. Chaplin personally. We used to be quite friendly at dinners, etc., and when I mentioned to him that I was looking for a job he said, "Why don't you come with me? You can work with me when I start a company of my own." That's the way it was. (Interview with Mayme Ober Peak, Boston Globe, February 22, 1931. I posted a longer excerpt from the interview here.)
Bergman was a versatile actor and would sometimes have multiple roles in one film. During filming, he was known to be just as tireless as Charlie:
For hour on hour on a sweltering August day during Shoulder Arms, Charlie forced the weighty Henry, in a full parade of German arms and uniform and sweating under a full muff (or crepe hair beard) to pursue him, disguised as a tree stump, through a eucalyptus grove. "You great fat hulk," complained the ex­hausted comedian. "Can't I wear you out?" Henry pled fatigue, but told Chaplin he was determined not to give up until Charlie did. (Harry Crocker, "Henry Bergman," Academy Leader, April 1972). 
In the 1920s, Bergman opened a popular Hollywood restaurant called Henry’s (possibly financed, or co-financed, by Chaplin). Henry would often go from table to table talking with customers, with his ever-present cigar dangling from his mouth. Charlie, who was fascinated by the success of the restaurant, was a regular customer. His favorite dishes were the lentil soup and coleslaw.

One of the last photos of Henry was taken on the set of Monsieur Verdoux. He did not have a role in the film and died from a heart attack shortly after shooting had begun.

Cameraman Rollie Totheroh is between Bergman and Chaplin. Associate Director Robert Florey is on the left of Bergman and Charlie’s half-brother Wheeler Dryden is behind Florey. 

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