Friday, February 7, 2014

The tools of the trade

"I had no idea what makeup to put on. I did not like my get-up as the press reporter [in Making a Living]. However on the way to the wardrobe I thought I would dress in baggy pants, big shoes, a cane and a derby hat. I wanted everything to be a contradiction: the pants baggy, the coat tight, the hat small and the shoes large. I was undecided whether to look old or young, but remembering Sennett had expected me to be a much older man, I added a small mustache, which I reasoned, would add age without hiding my expression.
I had no idea of the character. But the moment I was dressed, the clothes and the makeup made me feel the person he was. I began to know him, and by the time I walked on stage he was fully born." (Chaplin, My Autobiography, 1964)

Tramp costume, c.1918
Chaplin's bowler hat, cane, and shoes from a 1987 Christie's auction.
Prop mustache worn by Chaplin in The Great Dictator (1940), 
attached to a piece of paper signed and inscribed to Chaplin’s friend, Maurice Bessy:
 To Maurice - thank you for your book - merci! Charlie Chaplin, Sept. 1946.
Rollie Totheroh, Charlie’s cameraman for over 35 years,
 looks pensively at the costume Chaplin wore in 
The Kid (1921).
Photo from 1954.
82-year-old Chaplin holding a cane he used in Modern Times (1936). 

6 comments:

  1. Wow. I'm drooling over those auction items. I would LOVE to have something Charlie actually wore. Sigh....I'm just a poor girl.

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  2. What a wonderful photo of Rollie! He talks in a long interview in the Spring 1972 Film Culture about taking Charlie's Tramp costume to him in Switzerland after he went into exile--I'll bet you've seen it--and how people went nuts at customs when they saw the costume in his bag. I wonder if this was the costume he was talking about? Carrie

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    1. Yes, this is it. The caption on this photo says that Rollie was bringing this costume and other items from the studio, which had recently been sold, to Charlie in Switzerland.

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  3. Jessica,
    First, thanks for this unbelievable blog. All these images are unique. By any chance, do you have this Rollie interview?? to share with us? I'm unable to find this interview anywhere.
    In this interview Rollie also comment about the Charlie first years poverty in America, only one toothbrush and some clothes in his quite empty suitcase, fear to remain penniless, money hidden in empty wood, and etc. Will be very interesting to read this in full. I also share the Robinson's opinion that, the role Totheroh played in the Chaplin's art was quite remarkable. But not clearly recognized. Even by Chaplin himself.

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    1. I do have the Rollie interview. Send me an email (there is a link at the top of the page on the right hand side) and I will be happy to send you a pdf.

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  4. Sweet Jess! I always wanted to learn more about Rollie. I feel like he was one of the few people that stayed with Charlie up until he stopped making his films in America. Rollie did so much for Charlie's work. I remember one of the stories from Monsieur Verdoux where he actually added a hat to to one of the leading ladies because it helped with the shadows in the shot.
    Also, the last photo is striking to me. Since Charlie never wanted to talk about his tramp years during that period of his life I wonder what he is thinking seeing the the bamboo cane for the first time it probably years.

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