Monday, November 19, 2012

With sister-in-law Minnie Chaplin on the set of CITY LIGHTS

This photo is from David Robinson's Charlie Chaplin: Comic Genius & incorrectly identifies the woman as Edna Purviance. Except for the hair, I never really thought this woman looked like Edna, plus Edna had very little contact with Charlie during this time, so it's unlikely she would have been visiting him at the studio. Thanks to Linda Wada and Lisa Stein Haven for their help in identifying Minnie, who was the first wife Sydney Chaplin.


  1. Thanks, Jess! There was a debate on facebook a few days ago, and my feeling was that this does NOT look like Edna. (I'm delighted that I was correct.) ;-)

  2. According to Lisa K. Stein's book, there is no proof that Sydney ever married Minnie Gilbert.

    When they arrived in Canada, on September 19, 1914, they were quarantined for mysterious reasons as so-called facts vary. Minnie was listed as single. Years later, Sydney said that he was all alone in 1914 during the quarantine, failing to mention Minnie completely. He even said that it would have been very unpleasant without the fun nurse.

    Some sources say that they were married in 1912. In a 1920 Moving Picture World magazine, they said that they had been married for 12 years. It would mean that they were married in 1908, possibly in February.

    There is no doubt that they were together, but there is no official document, as far as I know, that proves that Sydney ever married Minnie. Just some people who say this and that.

    Sydney Chaplin and his long-term girlfriend, Minnie Gilbert, would be more accurate, I believe.

    Unless, of course, the documents were destroyed. There is that possibility, but I see it as unlikely.

    1. Thanks, I've read Lisa's book. Syd may not have been legally married to his second wife, Gypsy, either. Nevertheless, Minnie (and Gypsy) took his last name and lived with him as husband and wife. It's very similar to the case of Charlie and Paulette Goddard. There is no evidence of their marriage or divorce either. Perhaps in all of these cases a ceremony was performed but it wasn't "official," or they lived together long enough for it to be considered a "common law" marriage (I don't know if these were recognized back then). However, if we're splitting hairs, it's possible she wasn't technically his wife, but Syd considered her to be. And I don't have a problem referring to her that way.

  3. While it is true that, technically, they might not have been recognized as husband and wife, when you do live with someone for nearly 30 years, I would be okay with saying that they were married. I just wanted to clarify a few things. I knew that you knew about the documents because you did mention that in some other posts.

    Despite the spelling mistakes, I do like Lisa K. Stein's book, although, in it, if I recall correctly, she does mention that Sydney preferred to be called Sydney and not Syd, while on the book cover, she wrote Syd. A friend of his even got into an argument with someone else because of this. I find that a bit stupid, but maybe this is just me.

    Your blog is still a gold mine, by the way.

    1. Thank you.

      It was Syd's half-brother, Wheeler Dryden, who once chastised R.J. Minney over using the name Syd in an article he wrote for a magazine. Since you read the book I'm sure you know that Minney was one of Syd's closest friends and confidantes so it wasn't a dealbreaker that Minney referred to him by his nickname. In a letter included in David Robinson's bio, Charlie addresses his brother as "my dear Sid." Sydney was often billed as "Syd" in film posters and promotional materials as well. He may have preferred his full first name but he was more often than not called Syd. I read somewhere once that Charlie preferred to be called Charles as well but few people refer to him that way.