|Charlie & Oona going for a drive, c. 1950s|
One of the first things Charlie did when he became wealthy was to buy a car and acquire a chauffeur. In those days, he had little interest in driving. "I don't drive my car about much. In fact about the only thing I like to do is ramble around."2 Sometimes Charlie had no choice in the matter. When it came time for his first wife, Mildred Harris, to give birth to their son, the chauffeur was not available, so Charlie rushed to the garage and got out the car. He wrapped Mildred in a blanket, placed her in the car, and drove her to the hospital himself.3 In 1930, Harry Lang of Photoplay magazine observed that Charlie "prefers to drive himself and let the chauffeur ride in the backseat."4 Although he had several cars at his disposal, his car of choice was almost always a Ford sedan. Charlie, Jr. said his father kept the same one for years because he was "confused by the strange gadgets on later models."5 In his book, Remembering Charlie, Jerry Epstein recalls riding to work with Charlie during the filming of Limelight: "We spotted Aldrich (Robert Aldrich, assistant director) driving ahead of us in his brand-new Cadillac. Charlie grumbled: 'Look at him driving a Cadillac while I'm driving a small Ford!' 'You can afford a Cadillac," I said, 'Why don't you buy one?' 'But I don't like big cars, I like small ones.' 'Well Bob likes big cars, so leave him alone!' I said."
|Go-karting with Douglas Fairbanks, c. 1919|
|Charlie's international driver's license, which was sold at a Julien's auction earlier this year|
1Los Angeles Times, August 20th, 1916
2New York Herald, September 11th,1921
3Interview with Mildred Harris, 1935, reprinted in Charlie Chaplin: A Centenary Celebration, Peter Haining, ed. Note: Charlie & Mildred's son, Norman Spencer, lived only three days.
4Harry Lang, "No Talkies For Charlie," Photoplay, May 1930
5Charles Chaplin, Jr., My Father, Charlie Chaplin, Random House, 1960