Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Virginia Cherrill (April 12th, 1908 - November 14th, 1996)

Virginia, who had no background in acting, was engaged by Charlie to play the blind girl in 1931's City Lights. Besides the fact that she was physically attractive, Charlie also felt that she could "look blind without being offensive." It is well known that Charlie and Virginia didn't get along during filming. During an interview for Unknown Chaplin, Virginia said "I don't know why Charlie didn't like me, I liked him." However she claims in other interviews that the feeling was mutual. I have often wondered if there was something more to Virginia's dislike of him. I get the impression from her interviews that she was offended that they never socialized and that Charlie never invited her to his parties. To me, she seems to resent the fact that Charlie never hit on her. In her final interview, which was conducted by Jeffrey Vance in 1995, she said that people often thought that Charlie was her boyfriend. "Nothing could be further from the truth," she said. "He never made any advances towards me. He saw me as the blind girl. I didn't like Charlie. I resented the fact that he was loyal only to his mother and Edna Purviance, who was a terrible alcoholic" (she goes on to complain that when Rollie Totheroh was old and sick, Charlie did not try to help him).  During this interview, she repeats the phrase "I didn't like Charlie" 3 or 4 times. She also said that she never saw Modern Times (because she "didn't like Charlie") but in an article she wrote for Picturegoer magazine in 1935, she said she couldn't wait to see the film.  She also said in this final interview that she didn't think Charlie deserved the statue that was erected for him in London because "he wasn't loyal to England, he wasn't loyal to the United States. I just don't think he earned that sort of recognition."

10 comments:

  1. Do you know whether the things she said about Rollie was correct or not? Some other people usually said that Chaplin was loyal to his long time collaborators and paid them even after their resignation. It's a bit strange that he did not do the same to Rollie.
    However sometimes I have a sneaking feeling that although they work together for a very long time they were not really very close. Even the article Rollie wrote about Charlie in Peter Haining's book is somewhat bland.

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    1. According to Jerry Epstein's book, Rollie was given $25,000 in severance pay. In the interview with Virginia, she was annoyed that Charlie helped Edna who was an alcoholic but didn't take care of Rollie when he was old and sick. If Charlie helped Edna financially when she was sick, it was only because she asked him for help. Who's to say Charlie wouldn't have also helped Rollie if he had asked him for it?
      I agree with you, I don't think Charlie and Rollie were close friends, their relationship was more of a professional one.

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  2. Thanks for the nice post and for citing my interview with Virginia Cherrill Martini. It brought back happy memories. Believe it or not, friends (and I was fortunate to be one of them) were encouraged to call her "Ginny Martini". The Dickensian in me has to believe with a name like that, she had to be a drinker! However, she told me that she wasn't. According to her, she had one Rob Roy in the afternoon to stimulate her appetite for dinner. In any event, what you write may be true. Perhaps part of her dislike of CC stemmed from the lack of invitaions. However, they were friendly until CC refused her request for a specific donation to help British War Relief. There's a daily production report from THE GREAT DICTATOR documenting that she came to the studio, met with CC, and drove him home one day during the film's production. She was furious at his rejection and never forgave him. (She was an Anglophile and wife of the Earl of Jersey at this time). Ginny was part of the Marion Davies group. All those ladies (Ginny, Eleanor Boardman, et. al) largely became anti-Chaplin after the war for whatever reason. Harry Crocker (a San Simeon fixture) also had an inconsistent and uneasy relationship with CC. Jeffrey Vance

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  3. Thanks so much for your comments, Mr. Vance. When "Ginny" (that was a great story about her name) wrote about Charlie for "Picturegoer" in 1935 (if she actually wrote that, perhaps it was ghostwritten), she seemed to have nothing but pleasant memories of working with him (I liked her story of how Charlie suddenly went vegetarian for a week). Plus the fact that she visited the set of "The Great Dictator". I wonder why Charlie refused her request for a donation? There are photos of him attending a benefit for British War Relief in 1941, so it's not like he was opposed to helping.
    Charlie seemed to have trouble maintaining relationships, and during his problems with the government, old friends snubbed him. As far as Harry Crocker, I've always been curious why he was fired from "City Lights". I would give anything to read his book.

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  4. Re. Rollie - I was privileged to spend some time with Jack and David Totheroh (son and grandson)back in '97 and 2000 and never got the impression that there were any hard feelings regarding Rollie and Charlie. I think Rollie's retirement was comfortable and that he didn't require help from Chaplin. Also he was still working for CC after the move to Switzerland. It was Rollie who prepared the prints we see in Chaplin Review (1959, from second camera negs and outtakes, when new footage was required to replace damaged segments. Jack and David were still involved in Chaplin research and fandom in later years as shown in this article: http://www.sierracollege.edu/ejournals/jsnhb/v1n3/Totheroh.html

    Phil

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    1. Oh thank you for this valuable information.

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  5. Thanks, Phil. Didn't Jack Totheroh die just last year? In the interview with Rollie from 1964, he doesn't seem to have anything too negative to say about Charlie. I know he was hurt that he was barely mentioned in "My Autobiography" but he wasn't as mean-spirited about it as he could have been. I was more surprised to read that he didn't like Henry Bergman.

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  6. He was mentioned, but not much less than other co-workers. I think he just chalked it up with a philosophical "That was Charlie" attitude. Rollie was a kind of "rough and ready" type, I think, and might well have been bothered with a kind of sycophantic behavior.

    Phil

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