Saturday, June 3, 2017

Working With Charlie Chaplin: Vol. 8: Paulette Goddard

Chaplin's "Gamine" recalls what she learned at "the greatest school of acting anyone could ever have":
"He told me you can't be clever. If you just be your own self, it comes through more than anything. And then they're kind to you. They love you. One thing I learned from Charlie--I learned many things, but when I was first learning to act he said, 'Baby, don’t be afraid to make a mistake. Because when you make a mistake, they love you.' And they did! I didn't know what I was doing. I was crawling around in circles And he said. "Forget it. Don't criticize. Don't analyze. Be it and if you're wrong, they will love you.' And that's the secret of performance. You cannot be clever. People hate cleverness. They despise it. And irony and--all of it. But if you make a mistake, they say, 'Oh, isn't she real!'

"I was about to start the picture of Modern Times. I’d been a showgirl and a model and all those things were wrong with me. The way of walking and everything. And I walk in and I’m wearing a Valentina—you know the Russian dressmaker. A plain little dress but so expensive! It cost five hundred dollars then! You know, a day dress. And I had my hair done to be beautiful and eyelashes on and came walking in—the Goddard Walk. I’ve lost it, thank God. I had to….I’ll tell you what he did that absolutely cured me—you see, working with Charlie was the greatest school for acting that anyone could ever, ever have. I mean, he knew it all. But anyway, this day that I walked in he said, “That isn’t it, baby."And he took a bucket of water and threw it on me and that’s how I got my hairstyle in Modern Times. It broke my heart. And I cried and cried and cried. And he said, “Cry, damn it, cry! Camera!” And he called Rolley [sic] Totheroh over, who loved me so much—you could tell by the camera. He’d bring it like a kiss, a caress. And he was just a plain cameraman but such a dear man. And Charlie’d say, “Rolley, get the camera in here! CRY! God damn it, get down on your knees and look up at me!” And tears were running and it was the best shot I ever had! And that’s how my hairstyle came. It was never set after that." (Recorded & transcribed reminiscences of Paulette Goddard, c.1973-74 via Opposite Attraction by Julie Gilbert)
Happy birthday, Paulette.


  1. Wild story from start to finish ha-ha so endearing at the same time. Happy Birthday Paulette Goddard.

  2. "But if you make a mistake, they say, 'Oh, isn't she real!'": that reminds me the trick of any magician or acrobat. If you succeed at once, the audience will think that's easy. So, intentionnally miss the first attempt, and the audience will see (or believe...) that what you're are doing is very difficult.
    I also like Paulette's comment about Rollie's kindness.

  3. Rollie was indeed enamored. And it kinda shows in the story he told about how he, and Charlie, first met Paulette. It's maybe a bit long for a comment, but here goes:

    Well, I'll tell you how he met her. When he got back [from Europe], he was invited over to Goldwyn Studios. And Goldwyn was shooting a scene and he had a lot of ballet dancers and different things in it, and when he was over there Paulette came up to him, or she was introduced by Goldwyn to Charlie. So, Charlie took a liking to her right off the reel, and he said to me... and one thing, she told him right off the reel, she said, she's here to, see...

    Eh, I got ahead of myself because when I was in... well now I won't go into that because I was making pictures on my own... [Rollie made, as far as I know, two travelogue/documentaries, with Tom Terriss aka the Vagabond Director, for Terriss' Vagabond Adventure series, while CC was in Europe following City Lights). I had met her in one of those gambling joints and that, in Reno, and she was shooting crap, and I was at the other end of the table. That's when I was making pictures on my own... but I didn't know who she was, or anything about her. But then I asked her later on when she was connected, she said, "Yeah, that was me." But she didn't remember the incident.

    ...So Paulette, she told Charlie, she said, "You know Mr. Chaplin," she said, "I have a... I've been married, I'm divorced, I'm a divorcee. My intentions are, I want to meet and I want to get on with one of the greatest, or considered the most important or the greatest actor in Hollywood." And she said, "That's you." So Charlie said, "Gee right away she showed her honesty, she told me exactly what's what." Well he took her down, introduced her to Mr. Reeves and Mrs. Reeves, down at the beach, and brought her back. And then I went out and made tests of her and different things, and I said to her, "You know, under Mr. Chaplin's directions, direction, you're gonna become a star, surer'n the devil." "You think so Rollie?" she would say. "Sure." And she used to talk to Mrs. Reeves, she said, "You know I think an awful lot of Rollie and that. He's a wonderful little fella," she said, "He's so full of humor and I really think the world of Rollie. Does Rollie ever say, has Rollie ever said anything to you about me?" And I said, to Mrs. Reeves I said, "Well," the only thing I said to her was "I think she's a comer. And later on and that, on account of Mr. Chaplin's direction and everything else, that she can become a star on her own."


    1. I'd forgotten this recollection of their meeting in the Lyons interview. I wonder why Paulette was in Reno at that time? She divorced her husband there but that was in 1929. His version of Charlie and Paulette's meeting is much different than Charlie's in MA, which is that they met on Joseph Schenck's yacht. I believe Paulette herself also acknowledged that this was how they met. Perhaps the meeting at Goldwyn Studio took place later. Paulette & Rollie did seem to take a shine to each other though!

  4. Great stories about Rollie and Paulette!