Saturday, October 1, 2016

Working With Charlie Chaplin, Vol. 7: A WOMAN OF PARIS (1923)


Chaplin's first United Artists release debuted in New York on this day in 1923.

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Bess Flowers: "I admired Chaplin so extravagantly. Every morning in my dressing room was one American Beauty rose with a long stem. And the fire was on. He introduced me to Rupert Brooke's poetry. If he couldn't start a scene, he'd go back in the flaps and play the violin until he got an inspiration." 1

Bess Flowers gets unwrapped in the Latin Quarter party scene.


Eddie Sutherland: "Chaplin taught me more than I can say. On A Woman Of Paris I questioned a moment in the picture--I thought it was too much of a coincidence. Edna Purviance has been seduced by the boy, Carl Miller, in reel one, then she meets him again, accidently, in reel five.

'Do you think it's convenient?' asked Charlie.
'Not particularly,' I replied.
'Good,' said Charlie. 'I don't mind coincidence--life is coincidence--but I hate convenience.' 2


Chaplin and assistant director Eddie Sutherland (source: The Charlie Chaplin Archives/Taschen)

Junior Coghlan: "My memory of [Chaplin] at the time was of a friendly but fussy little man who insisted on taking the same scene over and over again. in it Edna Purviance was riding, facing backward, on the tailgate of a horse-drawn wagon with me and two other youngsters sitting beside her with her legs dangling over the rear of the cart. Chaplin with his camera crew followed closely, riding a platform built on the front of an auto.

"In fairness it was a tough scene to photograph. In a case like this distance and speed must be maintained to perfection if the actors are to be properly framed and in focus.  We began rehearsing this simulated French countryside scene around 9:00 A.M. and it was 2:30 P.M. before Chaplin approved a finished take. Naturally, we kids were in pain from hunger by then but Charlie wouldn't break for lunch until he was completely satisfied. That could never happen today as the teacher would have braved the Chaplin wrath at the proper lunch hour." 3

Edna and Junior Coghlan


Adolphe Menjou: "A scene that I'll never forget is one in which I had to embrace Edna Purviance. Chaplin wanted us to tell a great deal in that kiss. There was to be passion and yet no indication on my part that I was in love with Marie. On the other hand, she was to show that the kiss was not repulsive and yet that she was unhappy. It was like engraving the Constitution on the head of a pin—much to be told in a very confined space. Well, we kissed and we kissed. And what a pleasure it was to begin with—kissing this beautiful creature time after time. I thought it a delightful way to make a living. But after a while it got to be very hard work. Chaplin would look at me and shake his head as though I were the most amateurish osculator he had ever seen. Then he would show me how to kiss her. Then I would kiss her again, and again he would shake his head. I must have kissed her 150 times. I never got so sick and tired of kissing a beautiful girl in my life. By the time we got that scene in the can I was completely disillusioned about my qualifications as a Don Juan." 4

With Adolphe Menjou


Edna Purviance (via Alma Whitaker): "Edna says that during the making of the play Charlie would say, 'Now if this happened to you in real life, what would you do?' She would answer conscientiously and then be told to go ahead and do it.

"Never mind keeping your face to the camera," said Charlie, "your emotions will be seen and felt through any part of your body at any angle, if you act well." This, said Edna, gave one such a wide scope, left one free to be so natural. 5

Chaplin directs Edna (left) and Betty Morrissey.

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1Anthony Slide, Silent Players, 2010
2Kevin Brownlow, The Parade's Gone By, 1968
3Junior Coghlan, They Still Call Me Junior, 1993
4Adolphe Menjou, It Took Nine Tailors, 1948
5"The New Edna Purviance," Alma Whitaker, Los Angeles Times, October 21st, 1923

1 comment:

  1. Yes! Thank you for posting this, Woman Of Paris is one of my favorites I predictively enjoyed what Menjou had to say

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