Monday, April 1, 2013

World Tour (1931-32) Revisited: May Reeves


On the afternoon of his arrival in Nice, Charlie saw a performance by an Austrian dancer named May Reeves at a casino owned by his host, Frank J. Gould. He was immediately captivated, not only by her beauty, but also by her talent. His brother, Sydney, who lived in Nice and was already acquainted with her, offered to introduce them. Since she was fluent in several languages, she was initially hired to help Carlyle Robinson with Charlie's correspondence, but this job lasted less than a day for she soon became Charlie's constant companion. "She was footloose like myself and we accepted each other at face value," Charlie later remembered in My Autobiography.* "We dined and tangoed and did all the usual froufrou. But propinquity caught me in the meshes of her charm and the inevitable happened: my emotions became involved; and thinking about returning to America, I was not too sure about leaving her behind."

Their relationship lasted until early 1932. Three years later, May published a memoir about her time with Charlie called Charlie Chaplin intime. I find it to be one of the more reliable and informative portraits written about him, mainly because it was written so soon after their time together. It was originally published in French and was not available in English until 2001.** There is no trace of May after her book was published in 1935. Her co-author, novelist Claire Goll, fled Europe to escape the Nazis in 1939. Unfortunately, we do not know what became of May.

Below are three photos of May from Voila magazine (1934) plus a photo with photographer Willy Michel who was famous for posing with his subjects in a photo booth he set up in his studio.




*Charlie makes no mention of May in "A Comedian Sees The World." However thirty years later in My Autobiography he briefly refers to their relationship but doesn't mention her by name. 

**Charlie Chaplin Intime (aka The Intimate Charlie Chaplin) was translated in 2001 by Chaplin scholar Constance Brown Kuriyama. The book was serialized in seven issues of of the French magazine, Voila in 1934All photos on this page (except the Willy Michel photo) were scanned from my own copies of the magazines. 

World Tour Revisited: I follow Chaplin on his 1931-32 world tour.

6 comments:

  1. I am a sucker for photobooth photos - I have a huge collection of them. These are quite nice!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Did she really go out with Sydney too??

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Probably so, but we don't know for sure. Syd told Carlyle Robinson that they had been lovers, but May denied that she was ever involved with him. I'll go into this more in an upcoming post.

      Delete
  3. Well i just finished to read "Charlie Chaplin Intime" and it's very confusing. May Reeves seems very depressed by her relationship with Charlie. Why did she stay with him ? I understand that it's not easy to quit someone when you're living with him but May had several occasions to do it when Charlie send her away. And still, on every pictures i've seen of her, she seems a happy girl, with an honest smile, not the almost suicidal woman like she described herself. Oh well, here are my feelings !

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think May exaggerated her unhappiness. It's well-known that Charlie could be difficult and even cruel at times but some of her claims seem blown out of proportion. Nevertheless, I think her book is one of the most interesting in showing how Charlie was on a day to day basis, even though it's not always pretty!

      Delete
    2. P.S. I'm glad you were finally able to post a comment, Mélanie!

      Delete