Sunday, August 18, 2013

Charlie with Thelma Todd on the set of Naughty Baby, 1928


I have always been curious about the backstory of this photo. I had an email  discussion about it earlier this year with Thelma Todd biographer William Donati who thought it may have been taken on the set of her 1929 film Naughty Baby. He had never seen the film but had seen a poster for it that had a beach scene. Made sense to me. This was confirmed recently when I was glancing through a 1928 copy of Cine-Mundial on archive.org and found the photo with a caption that roughly translates to: "Charles Chaplin with Thelma Todd, the First National blonde, and the directors with the same company, working on "Ritzy Rosie.""Ritzy Rosie" would eventually be released as Naughty Baby. This still did not answer the question of why Charlie was in a bathing suit, but with a little further research I found the following picture of actress Anita Stewart, also dressed in a bathing suit, visiting Thelma's Naughty Baby co-star Jack Mulhall on the same Santa Monica beach location set (note the building in the background is the same). The caption that accompanied the photo stated that the picture was taken during a break from filming "Ritzy Rosie."



There is also the pic I posted not too long ago of Charlie with wrestler Nick Lutze which appears to me to have been taken on the same day (judging from Charlie's hair and bathing suit). Perhaps they were having some sort of swimming party on the set.


As far as the other two men in the photo with Charlie and Thelma. The man on the right is director Mervyn Leroy. The man on the left has elsewhere been identified as Hal Roach but this is up for debate.

14 comments:

  1. Or maybe the set was filmed at a beach where everyone hung out? Not as many closed sets like today.

    I've seen the first image cropped and shown in books and websites to support stories saying they were having an affair in the 30's too and always wondered about it. Thanks for the backstory!

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    1. You're welcome!
      A cropped version is in the Kenneth Lynn book. He claims the photo was taken in 1935, only months before Thelma Todd's death, and that Charlie was cheating on Paulette with her. All of this is a figment of Lynn's overactive imagination. He cites no source for his allegations, not to mention the fact that he clearly had the date wrong. Both Kenneth Lynn and Joyce Milton feel that if Charlie posed with someone in a photo, he was no doubt sleeping with them as well (man or woman). Complete nonsense!

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    2. This is Hal Roach:
      http://media.liveauctiongroup.net/i/8019/9512184_1.jpg?v=8CCCACF4830DC40

      Thanks for this information.

      Phil Posner

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    3. Thanks, Phil. I thought it looked like Hal Roach from other pictures I have seen of him, but Mr. Donati wasn't sure.

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  2. Agreed - thanks for reminding me of where I saw that photo! I would say poor Charlie, unfairly maligned...but...

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    1. Well, yeah, Charlie was definitely no saint, but I think he *was* unfairly maligned in the Lynn and Milton books. It's one thing to criticize him for things he actually did, it's another to just make stuff up.

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  3. Nobody comes off well in that Milton Book. I can't believe I read the entire thing.

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  4. I read Milton's book many years ago and wondered why she had such an ax to grind. Jessica?

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  5. Your guess is as good as mine. She didn't like Charlie's politics (or really Charlie as a person for that matter) which is evident in the book. What kills me is that she had all these wonderful resources at her disposal and instead of writing a responsible biography, she uses them to bash Charlie at every turn. The same with Kenneth Lynn's book. Although it seems Lynn may have been a fan at some point, but perhaps in the course of his research he decided he didn't like him so much. I find both of these books to be very anti-Chaplin and the information in them should be taken with a large grain of salt.

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  6. Agreed. It's always a good idea to stay away from biographers with an agenda :)

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  7. Wonderful photo! I am currently writing a book about Thelma, which will be published in 2015. Does anyone have a high-res copy of this photo that I could possibly use in the book? Also, if anyone has any information that they'd like to share for the book, please feel free to contact me. My blog is www.Michelle-Morgan.blogspot.com thanks!

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  8. I think the fellow on the right is Sydney Chaplin, Charlie's brother. It looks just like him. That is certainly taken at Santa Monica Beach - I recognize the windows - it was a Beach Club right next to the Santa Monica Pier of that day (that Pier would be re-placed quite a few times) - I would have to look back at my files and books to located the name of that beach club..it was seen in a 1917 Harold Lloyd film as well I'm almost positive. The name of the club escapes me right now other than the Santa Monica Beach Club but that might not be the right one for this photos.I am almost 99% sure that is Charlie's brother in this photo however.

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    1. The man on the right is Mervyn Leroy not Sydney Chaplin. Sydney was living in Europe by this time. Thanks for the other info.

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  9. Ok - I did a fast check again to verify - that's the Breakers Beach Club behind them in the three-some photo - it was at 1725 Promenade in SM. Here's a link to a decent photo of it from the SMPL http://digital.smpl.org/cdm/singleitem/collection/smarchive/id/1811/rec/13 - if that link does not work, just go to their site and look for The Breakers Beach Club and look until you find the close up shot of it where it's the only bldg in the photo. The other photos are too far away to get good ID unless you have looked a ton at the many beach clubs through the years that were in the area.

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