|Chaplin with his attorney Jerry Giesler, at the Los Angeles Federal Building, |
March 21, 1944
Chaplin arrived at the courthouse at 9:15am wearing a "navy blue double-breasted suit, gleaming black shoes, a plain blue polka-dot tie with knot askew, and a gray Homburg hat." The first day of the trial* was devoted to jury selection. Chaplin sat in a red leather swivel chair at the defense table and "drummed nervously on a table top with his well-manicured fingers and occasionally blew his nose." Chaplin recalled in My Autobiography that when they entered the court room, his attorney, Jerry Giesler, parked him in a chair and then circled the room. "It seemed everyone's party but mine," he remembered. Two prospective jurors were excused when they admitted they might be prejudiced because Chaplin is a British subject.
"At one point, Chaplin, whose only prior lapse from stolidity had been the execution of a tap dance under the table with his tiny, black-shoed feet, began sketching, pursing his mouth into a whistle while doing so. Deft detective work by the gentlemen of the press, who were convinced he was sketching prospective juror No. 2, the girl with the droopy mouth and long black hair, revealed the sketch to be an arched bridge over a river, across which a steam locomotive was chugging its way." Chaplin later remembered that his attorney told him not to doodle because the press would get hold of it, analyze it, and draw all sorts of conclusions from it. Charlie said that the sketch of the bridge and train was something he used to draw as a child.
|Charlie doodling in court (with his natural left hand)|
|The end result|
Then something odd happened: "After calling the roll of fifty-six prospective jurors, twenty-eight of them women, Judge J.F.T. O'Connor read the indictment, pronouncing Miss Berry's first name as 'Jo-ahn.' Later, Federal prosecutor Charles H. Carr told the judge, without further explanation, 'I respectfully suggest that Miss Barry may not be in the category of a complaining witness." Judge O'Connor said, 'All right, I'll just refer to her as Joan Berry.'
By the end of the first day, seven men and five women were seated tentatively as jurors.
|Charlie signs autographs (with his right hand) outside the Federal Building, March 21, 1944|
*Chaplin was charged with violation of the Mann Act which is basically transporting a woman across state lines for immoral purposes. In Oct. 1942, Chaplin had paid for a train ticket to New York for Joan Barry. The indictment contained two counts: one for the ticket to New York and one for the return ticket.
New York Times, March 22, 1944
Chicago Daily Tribune, March 22, 1944
Charles Chaplin, My Autobiography, 1964
Read the complete story of Chaplin's Mann Act trial "as it happened" here.