Saturday, March 8, 2014

Charlie & May Collins at the races, 1921

Bismarck Tribune, May 23, 1921

5 comments:

  1. That is my grandmother! Throughout the latter '80s and '90s, after our father (Collins's son) died, my sister and I were her only descendants (until we started having children). Can't believe she is not mentioned on Wikipedia--I should remedy that actually.

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    1. How interesting!

      She has a Wikipedia page, although I'm not sure how correct any of the information is. I've seen a couple of different dates given for her birth year and this one seems about right. Some sources claim that May was only 14 when she dated Chaplin but I believe she was actually closer to 17 or 18. You may know the real truth.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/May_Collins



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    2. Oh wow, thanks for setting me straight. I don't think that was there yet not that long ago. (Checking, I see that it was created just under two years ago.) She is still not mentioned in the Chaplin article, which I definitely need to remedy.

      That stuff about her birth date is weird. My father is no longer around to ask, but doing research into census records has made it pretty clear you are right. In addition, there is this Photoplay profile which indicates she was 17 in early 1921:

      http://books.google.com/books?id=634NAQAAIAAJ&lpg=RA1-PA74&ots=9sVQs9yrI_&dq=%22may%20collins%22%20%22charlie%20chaplin%22%20engaged&pg=RA1-PA74#v=onepage&q&f=false

      While the two of them never themselves said to reporters that they were engaged, they didn't deny it, and the studio was said to have confirmed their engagement:

      http://books.google.com/books?id=Q8LM2FvSF70C&pg=PT128&lpg=PT128&dq=%22april+12%22+%22may+collins%22+%22charlie+chaplin%22&source=bl&ots=TuI1Ya8ZUh&sig=btdAeg72isxLzJcFHOUaOnB5y88&hl=en&sa=X&ei=SrAwU_rRDOb32QXDxIDABg&ved=0CCgQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=%22april%2012%22%20%22may%20collins%22%20%22charlie%20chaplin%22&f=false

      If you read on there, it seems Charlie treated my Grandma May quite shabbily, which led her to get quite anxious and depressed, to the point that she even tried to lose weight to keep him. A rather sad and humiliating coda to her part of the story, given that she had earlier sounded so confident and very modern about the relationship. This was in an April 17 Los Angeles Times profile. Only the abstract is available for free here:

      http://archive.is/rVm9p

      But I have the PDF and would be happy to mail it to you if you are interested. It provides some interesting insight into the way Charlie liked to spend his leisure/dating time (pretending to be poor, apparently); and as I say, into the very modern ideas about relationships that were swirling around at the dawn of the 1920s (at least among the acting class).

      Of course, had they actually gotten married and stayed together (if she had been his Oona, in other words), I wouldn't exist!

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    3. I would love to read the LA Times article if you don't mind emailing it to me (the address is at the top of the page on the right).
      Charlie was notorious for balking at questions about his relationships (he and Paulette Goddard spent ten years neither confirming nor denying their marital status). The press usually had Charlie engaged if he went out with a woman more than once. Sadly for May, this was not the best time to get involved with Charlie. He was just coming out of a bad marriage and then an intense off and on relationship with another actress, Florence Deshon.

      I wouldn't put much stock in anything you read in Joyce Milton's book, "Tramp." She tends to pull things out of thin air and then present them as "facts," including statements about Chaplin's relationship with your grandmother (i.e. how May went on a diet to try to win him back. She cites no source for this information. Did she just make it up?) Milton disliked Chaplin and skewed facts to trash him at every turn. That being said, Charlie was not always a nice guy in his relationships with the women. He would quickly get bored and start looking elsewhere.

      I did find a nice little piece in PHOTOPLAY from Feb. 1922 which has some information about Charlie and May (as well as the Charlie, May, and Claire Windsor triangle). He says some nice things about her (May) and then denies that he will marry again any time soon.
      http://archive.org/stream/phojun22chic#page/n215/mode/2up

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  2. May has a Wiki page now; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/May_Collins

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