Thursday, September 5, 2013

World Tour Revisited: Pelote match in Saint-Jean-De-Luz, September 1931

Charlie and May (third from left) at the pelote match. 
Charlie holding one of the basket-shaped rackets used in the game.

Charlie & May's afternoon at the pelote match began on a sour note. May had been asked to pose that day for Russian painter, Sorine, but Charlie refused to allow her to do it because he thought the dress she chose to wear for the portrait  ("a blue and white checked sun suit, naturally very low-necked") was too revealing:
"But Charlie, Sorine himself asked your permission to paint me, and you gave it. His canvas is already prepared. I can't back out at the last minute."
"That's nothing to me. Besides, we're invited to a pelote match and you're supposed to accompany me."
"I was so happy that Sorine was going to paint my portrait...."
Charlie grew angry. One word led to another, and finally I began to cry.
On our way to the pelote match, it began to rain. I shivered in my sun suit. It didn't offend Charlie for me to show my back to the crowd, but a painter had no right to see it. I arrived with swollen eyes; people remarked that I had already been hit in the face with pelote balls. I was offered an immense basket of flowers. Charlie smiled to hide his bad humor. The game didn't interest him much. Occasionally he made signs and whispered with the most amiable expression, "Smile, people are looking at us," or "Look happy; they're taking our picture."
"Please, Charlie, now that I've obeyed you and presided over the match with you," I said to him as we returned, "let me pose for Sorine for just one little hour!"
"What, you dare to bring up this business again?"
"I am no longer a gamine, Charlie. One doesn't often have the chance to sit for a reputable artist."
"Reputable or not, you aren't going!"
"Look, I've put a bolero on my shoulders."
"Too easy to remove. I won't discuss it any further"
"And it was for a world exposition," I sobbed.
"Exhibition, in my eyes."
 --May Reeves, The Intimate Charlie Chaplin
From my series: World Tour (1931-32) Revisited


  1. Bolero on my shoulders? Hat or shawl? Sounds like such a fun relationship.

    1. Doesn't it? I thought Charlie was pretty unreasonable here. May pranced around in her bathing suit on the beach & there are even pictures where she had her shoulder straps down. Maybe he didn't like the idea of her being alone with another man. Who knows?

      I think the bolero was a shawl.