Saturday, November 3, 2012

May Reeves recalls her first evening with Charlie

Reeves memoir was originally published in 7 installments in
 the French magazine Voila from May-July 1934.  It was published in book form, in French, in 1935.
 An English translation was not available  until 2001. Reeves' book is underrated,
in my opinion, as a window into Charlie's personality.

Charlie met May Reeves (aka Mitzi Muller) in Nice, France in 1931 during his European vacation. She was hired by his press agent Carlyle Robinson to translate fan mail, but only worked one day. When Charlie was introduced to her, he was immediately infatuated. She would spend the next year as his lover and traveling companion.

One of the first things Charlie asked May was “do you tango?” Her reply: “The tango is my trade. I’m an acrobatic dancer."

The following is an excerpt from The Intimate Charlie Chaplin by May Reeves & Claire Goll, translated by Constance Brown Kuriyama (2001) :
[Chaplin & Reeves are dancing at a dinner party given by Frank J. Gould, Charlie’s host during his stay in Nice]
He played another tango. He drew me to him and we danced, temple to temple, eyes firmly fixed. “How sweet you are darling. In America they have no idea what a tango is. I’ve never danced it so well.’…The tango was over, but Chaplin continued to hold me in his arms and cautiously drew me closer. I turned  my head and his kiss brushed my cheek. “The others are waiting” I said. ‘the others, the others?’ he responded in a tone that suggested that he doubted there were any other people in the world.
[Later that evening in Chaplin’s suite] …He questioned me as if he were jealous of all my former life. Between questions he interrupted himself often and asked, ‘Do you like me a little?…just a very little bit?…you are so charming; oh that smile…let me keep holding your hands. Are you afraid, little girl? 
 Meanwhile it had grown late. ‘I must go home’ I said. 
‘No, no’ he pleaded, holding my hands prisoner. ‘Don’t be afraid, I only want to look at you.’
 But this time I couldn’t be persuaded, so he called a taxi for me, and in parting he gave me a sweet, very sweet, almost paternal kiss.
Composite photograph of Charlie and May from "Charlie Chaplin Intime", Voila magazine, July 7th, 1934.


  1. I thought she was hired in the U.S. and traveled over on the ship to be his personal secretary. So, she was living in France and spoke French? How old was she? Thanks!

    1. She was Austrian and spoke several languages. When Charlie met her, she working as a professional dancer at a casino in Nice owned by Frank J, Gould, his host during his stay in the Riviera. Reeves describes herself as being only 18, but she was actually closer to 25. In Kuriyama's introduction to May's book, she states that by exaggerating her youth, May was clearly trying to exploit Charlie's reputation for being attracted to young girls. I agree.

  2. Why the name change? I'm going to be shallow here: so many of his "girlfriends" just don't seem to be all that striking. Maybe they don't photograph well or maybe it's the crazy eyebrows and hair of the day.

    1. Kuriyama was not sure if Mitzi Muller was her real name or an alternate name.

      I don't understand why women in those days only wanted a little line for eyebrows. Charlie seemed to be attracted to dancers and perhaps that was his main attraction to May. According to her memoir, he called her "my little strange face".

  3. Did you notice the acknowledgements in Connie's book?


    1. Yeah, there's some guy named Phil Posner mentioned on the first line :)