Thursday, November 29, 2012

Milt Gross

Thanks to Trish for identifying the man in this photo, which was included in my post about the Five Non-Charlies from yesterday. His name is Milt Gross, a comic book artist from the early 20th century. But he also had a Charlie Chaplin connection. Gross evidently worked with Charlie as a gagman on The Circus. In the comments section of my post, Trish included an interesting article about Gross, which mentions his work on The Circus, as well as his resemblance to Charlie (which is more noticeable in the photo below). But best of all, it includes a great little anecdote about Gross, sitting incognito behind a plant, watching Charlie read aloud from his book, Nize Baby:
"[Cartoonist] Bob Dunn remembered that Gross looked remarkably like Chaplin, and he idolized the famous actor. “Milt told me he ‘got’ what Chaplin was doing,” Dunn once wrote. “He understood the subtleties that the little tramp character used so effectively. Nize Baby, Milton’s book of wild Jewish dialect, was a literary blockbuster of 1926-27. The young author was invited out to Hollywood under contract to Carl Laemmle. On his first time alone, with no Laemmle press agent to steer him here or there, Milt went to a little table in the corner of the annex, behind a potted plant. On the other side of the rubber aspidistra was Charlie Chaplin with a party of six. Chaplin had his guest belly-laughing their head off. How? He was reading Nize Baby to them, giving the Bronx dialect a reading worthy of an Oscar. Milt said it was his ‘Life’s Greatest Moment.’"


  1. It's usually said that Chaplin did not hire gagman. So do you think that it's not correct?

  2. Charlie did occasionally consult with other people on story ideas & gags. I doubt Gross' contribution was anything substantial, especially since we have not heard more about it from people who have had access to the production records, i.e David Robinson, etc..

    1. Thank you. It's also said in Robinson's book that he had story conferences with some collaborators, but this is the only time I hear that Chaplin hired somebody specifically as a gagman.

    2. Vincent Bryan and Maverick Terrill worked as scenario writers/gagmen under Chaplin during the Mutual period.

  3. Thanks for the shout-out, Jess! Hmmm...I'd like to read Nize Baby myself.

    You've shared so much valuable, fascinating knowledge about Chaplin, so it's nice to be able to reciprocate, even just a bit. ;)

    Keep up the stellar work!

  4. Excellent story. Many thanks to Jess and Trish.