Friday, February 5, 2016

Day By Day: 1936

Wednesday, February 5th: Modern Times premiered at the Rivoli in New York City.


  • "Charles Chaplin, having come after many delays and reconsiderations to final agreement with himself to regard the picture as completed, bowed motion picture-wise to the world Wednesday night for the first time in five years, in 'Modern Times,' at New York's Rivoli theatre on Broadway, on the occasion of the premiere of his $2,000,000 comedy of slapstick and pantomime. He charged the first-nighters $5.50 [$94 in today's money]." (Motion Picture Herald, Feb. 8th, 1936)
  • "A greater contingent of film notables appeared to have attended than had ever participated in the opening celebration of a motion picture. The guest list included the names of Will H. Hays, Herbert Bayard Swope, Douglas Fairbanks, junior and senior, John Edward Otterson, Adolph Zukor, Nicholas M. Schenck, Sidney R. Kent, Harry M. Warner, Major Albert Warner, Lee Shubert, Alexander Woollcott, Nathan Burkan, Myron Schenck, Sam Katz, Harry M. Goetz, Arthur W. Kelly, Harry D. Buckley, Lillian Hellman, Edward G. Robinson, Tilly Losch, Gloria Swanson, Evelyn Laye, Corinne Griffith, Ginger Rogers, Eddie Cantor and his Parkyakarkus, and Burns and Allen." (Motion Picture Herald, Feb. 8th, 1936)

Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.
Edward G. Robinson

  • "For the first time, Charles Chaplin opened his mouth and made noises on the screen tonight and crowds of tailcoated men and ermine wrapped women were there for the startling event." (Chicago Daily Tribune, Feb. 6th, 1936)
  • "Some openings are different. Last night's start of Charlie Chaplin's 'Modern Times' was one of these. The streets were too slippery for the mounted police to get out, and the walking cops couldn't get toe holds to push the crowds back." (Motion Picture Daily, Feb. 6th, 1936)
  • "In the glare of the lights on Broadway outside thousands pressed to stare at celebrities, seek their autographs, and even feel the texture of the evening gowns as the notables were escorted from their machines into the foyer." (Chicago Daily Tribune, Feb. 6th, 1936)
  • "That short 30 or 40 feet from the center of Broadway to the Rivoli's doors was an adventure for some of Park Avenue's ermine-clad women and high-hatted men. Some made it by elbowing; some dashed through narrow lanes opened by the police. Marcel waves became wind-blown bobs in no time at all."  (Motion Picture Daily, Feb. 6th, 1936)
  • "The demonstration reached a climax shortly before the showing of the picture and a riot call was sent to police headquarters. Earlier, women had been knocked down and policemen swept brusquely aside as autograph seekers pushed into the theater lobby. The entrance to the theater lobby was blocked so completely that the police found it necessary to join hands and force open a narrow path to the street so that men and women with tickets could enter the theater without danger of injury." (New York Times, Feb. 6th, 1936)


  • "Some of the notables were badly disarrayed when they gained their $5.50 seats." (Chicago Daily Tribune, Feb. 6th, 1936)
  • "While more than twenty-five policemen held back the crowds that insistently closed in on arriving first-night celebrities, Mr. Chaplin was reported to be spending a quiet evening 3,000 miles away on the Pacific Coast." (New York Times, Feb. 6th, 1936)
  • "Inside the lobby a microphone had been set up and an announcer related a round-by-round account of the struggle between the police and the crowd. Many of the celebrities were invited to say a few words of greeting in a broadcast over WNEW." (New York Times, Feb. 6th, 1936)
  • "The Rivoli's rather sophisticated first-night audience found the most fun in a mechanical sequence with Mr. Chaplin suffering at the ministrations of a feeding machine. The pie throwing that used to be done by hand now is presented better and faster by a machine." (Motion Picture Herald, Feb. 8th, 1936)

Chaplin Studio production report, Feb. 5th, 1936.

Stay tuned for the next installment of my "Day By Day: 1936" series, where I document one year of Chaplin's life. Want to know what's been going on so far? Click here.

4 comments:

  1. Gee, I can't IMAGINE why Charlie didn't want to attend THAT mess. Also, $94 for an opening night ticket is an incredible cost!

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    1. It's hard to imagine that a $5 bill was worth so much in those days.

      Yes, no wonder Charlie wanted to be 3,000 miles away. My favorite line: "Marcel waves became wind-blown bobs in no time at all."

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  2. I was going comment on the Marcel waves too! From Josephine Baker and the Marcels! Cute
    I wonder if the NYC folks knew that CC wasn't going to be there? What a flash mob!
    I love the marquee. It looks like there are cut outs of Chaplin in various poses. Are there any other photos that show this better?
    Thanks Jess!

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    1. I haven't seen any closeups of the cut outs on the marquee but I'll take a look.

      It had been in the paper that Chaplin wouldn't be there but I'm sure many showed up hoping to see him.

      He must have been a little disappointed to have missed this premiere because in 1940, he and Paulette made an appearance at two premieres of "The Great Dictator" in New York on the same night.

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