Tuesday, January 19, 2016

A brief look at Charlie's new "workshop," which opened this month in 1918

The Chaplin Studios, 1918. (Panorama photo: Silent Traces by John Bengston)

The Chaplin Studios, still located at 1416 N. La Brea in Hollywood, were built on a five acre lemon orchard, a fact that pleased Chaplin. Showing off his brand new studio to reporter Grace Kingsley, he pointed out his "lucky" lemon trees:
See, here's a lemon orchard back of the stage. Think lemons must be my lucky fruit--can't escape 'em--had a lemon orchard back of us at Essanay, and one at the Lone Star--hope they keep the lemons in the orchards, though.1
"A Lemon."

When Chaplin purchased the land for the studio, a 10-room mansion, located at the north end of the property, was part of the deal. But Chaplin did not want to live at his studio. Instead, he told Kingsley, "Brother Sid and Mrs. Sid are going to try it."

Here's a postcard showing Syd outside his residence on the Chaplin Studio property. He lived there for several years.

Chaplin went on:
[There will be] none of the put-out-the-dog-and-let-in-the-cat-and-lock-the-cellar-door stuff for me at my workshop....But see, I've got a beautiful apartment--it's a large corner room, where there are bay windows and odd little dormer windows--this is to be a combination office and reception room, and there's a door I can dodge out of and climb a tree in the lemon orchard if I want to get away from anybody.
(Chaplin's office can be seen at the far right end of the studio in the top panoramic photo)

Charlie escaping from everybody

Kingsley noted that "for exercise and fun," Chaplin liked to "climb all over the skyscraping girders of the new stages."

Chaplin posing atop the scaffolding of the outdoor stage. 

This activity was confirmed in photographs and a letter Syd Chaplin wrote to First National Exhibitor's Circuit, Charlie's distributor, in which he describes seeing his brother lose his balance while doing a stunt high atop the 40-foot steel roof frame of the outdoor stage:

From Moving Picture World (Feb. 2, 1918):
A letter from Sid, the comedian's brother, ...caused no little apprehension on the part of the Circuit's officers. It stated that Charlie, while doing a bit of wire walking on the steel roof frame of the new studio lost his balance and came mighty near canceling his contract by a tumble to the hardwood studio floor, forty feet below. Charlie had gone aloft to get a look over the neighbor's back fences, and while up top was doing a bit of funny business for the benefit of the workmen employed on the floor below. He slipped, but caught himself. Sid says his heart almost quit work. When he found his voice he gave his valuable brother a "calling down" in more senses than one. He adds that he has been sticking closer than a brother ever since and that he finally induced order to keep him out of mischief.

From Moving Picture World, 2/2/1918
Chaplin left his footprints and signature on a cement path at the studio on January 21st, 1918.
Evidently the footprints are still there but the signature and date were taken out and moved to
 Red Skelton's home during the time Skelton owned the studio from 1958-62. 

1Grace Kingsley, "Charlie Chaplin Begins Work In New Studio," Los Angeles Times, January 20th, 1918

4 comments:

  1. Thank you for this post. I didn't know about the other house on the property or the lucky lemons! Thanks for all your hard work. I really enjoy this blog. Marilyn Muehlenberg

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    1. You're quite welcome. Thanks, Marilyn!

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  2. This is such a wonderful round-up of photos of the studio. The postcard of Sydney is wonderful, too!

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  3. Nice to see aspects of the life of Charles Chaplin, thank to share.

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