Showing posts with label A Woman Of Paris. Show all posts
Showing posts with label A Woman Of Paris. Show all posts

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.


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.


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

Saturday, May 21, 2016

On the set of A WOMAN OF PARIS (1923)

This is the chair that Marie (Edna Purviance) is sitting in in the film when she reads about Pierre's engagement.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Chaplin gives his first radio broadcast to promote A Woman Of Paris

Chaplin was extremely nervous about his radio debut, which took place on October 3rd, 1923 at WOR in Newark, NJ. Before going on he paced the studio and continuously mopped his brow. "You can face the camera," he told J. M. Barnett, director of WOR, "knowing that if you make a mistake, if you slip up, you can try again; you can make over the picture. Think of all the thousands of people out there in the world hanging onto everything I say." Charlie frowned, mopped his brow again, and said pitiably, "I don't know what to say, I haven't prepared a speech."

Seated before the microphone, he nervously squirmed, gulped, buttoned and unbuttoned his coat. Finally he braced himself and opened his mouth: "My friends, this is all way beyond me. I’m glad you can’t see me—I am nervous as a witch.” He continued: "It is to me ghastly to think of you out there in your homes with Tom, Dick, Katherine, Harry and the baby all gathered around, and me here by this funny little thing perforated with holes (the thing, not I), my knees trembling, my hands tightly clasped."


In the course of the broadcast, which lasted half an hour, he did some imitations, including an imitation of a jazz band. "I can play any instrument of the orchestra," he declared, "Just listen." Then, one by one, he signaled the various members of a jazz band specially engaged for the occasion and made each man do his bit. "Now I'll play them all at once," he said, and the orchestra broke into "The Blue Danube." Chaplin concluded the broadcast by telling the listeners: "If you have nothing else to do, go to see my new picture, which I directed, A Woman Of Paris."

Afterward, Charlie told the studio director that he "lost nine pounds in fifteen minutes" (due to stage fright) and could sign a statement to that effect.

"As he left the studio, he asked anxiously, 'Did I talk sense into that thing?' Then he shook his fist at the microphone, grinned the grin that has earned him a fortune and went on his way."

Radio Digest, October 27th, 1923
Pictures & The Picturegoer, May 1924

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Edna makes her debut as a star at the Los Angeles premiere of A WOMAN OF PARIS, September 26th, 1923

Crowds gather outside the Criterion for the premiere of A Woman Of Paris 

The premiere was the first attraction at the brand-new Criterion Theater (formerly the Kinema Theater) in Los Angeles. Chaplin did not attend because he was en route to New York for the opening there on October 1st. Edna Purviance, however, did attend. "For her debut as a star," wrote the Chicago Tribune, "Miss Purviance wore a gown of shimmering silver cloth, a wrap of brocade delicately embroidered in blues and reds, and a wide bandeau of silver cloth." When Edna appeared on stage following the film, "there was no polite applause, but a loud burst of appreciation. Edna was initiated into the stellar sorority." (Chicago Tribune, Oct, 7th, 1923)

Friday, May 22, 2015

Some of the cast & crew of A WOMAN OF PARIS, 1923

Chaplin is kneeling in front with cameraman Rollie Totheroh. Back row (L-R): ?, assistant director Eddie Sutherland, Harry D’Arrast, Adolphe Menjou, Granville Redmond, Jean De Limur, Monta Bell, cameraman Jack Wilson (?) & studio manager, Alf Reeves.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014


Edna Purviance's starring debut premiered in New York on October 1st, 1923

In this excerpt from an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Edna describes how Chaplin directed her in a scene:
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. (Alma Whitaker, "The New Edna Purviance," Los Angeles Times, Oct. 21, 1923)

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Directing A WOMAN OF PARIS--hopefully in a blue suit

Adolphe Menjou remembered that Chaplin's mood could be measured by the color of his suit:
The regular studio staff members claimed that they could gauge his mood by the suit he was wearing. They would call his house before he arrived and would try to learn from his valet what clothes he was wearing that day. If he were wearing his famous green suit, we would get ready for a bad day. The green suit was his melancholy suit. But if he were wearing a blue suit with pin stripes, that would be a sign of a good day; he would be in a jovial all's-right-with-the-world mood, and we would get some fine scenes shot. A gray suit meant a sort of in-between mood; we would never be sure whether things would go right on a gray-suit day, so we would feel our way for a while until a definite mood developed. One or two of the staff had this suit-to-match-the-mood theory developed to a very fine degree. They claimed that they knew his whole wardrobe and that every suit in it had a different shade of meaning. (Adolphe Menjou, It Took Nine Tailors, 1948)

The suit-color theory was corroborated by Chaplin's publicist, Jim Tully (who was alerted to it by Eddie Sutherland*):
It was Eddie Sutherland, this assistant director, who claimed that he could tell Chaplin's moods by the suit he happened to be wearing. A dark-green suit was always evidence of a heavy mood. Sutherland first drew my attention to this in Chaplin. I watched it over a period of two months. It never failed. 
One of the most vigorous pictures of the comedian in my memory is that of him walking, head down, face buried in a meditative scowl, and wearing the dark-green suit. 
When in a light mood Chaplin always walked swiftly, his arms bent, his hands even with his breast, his fingers snapping continually. I always knew that he could be easily approached at such a time. He seldom, if ever, wore light clothes. The nearest approach to it was the wearing if a pair of flannel trousers. (Jim Tully, "The Real Life Story Of Charlie Chaplin," Pictorial Review, April 1927)
*In an interview in 1959, Sutherland said that when Chaplin wore the green suit "all hell broke loose." (Jeffrey Vance, Chaplin: Genius Of The Cinema, 2003)

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Charlie & German director, Ernst Lubitsch, 1923

Lubitsch had just seen a rough cut of A Woman Of Paris, which he hailed as “a great step forward…a picture that left something to the imagination.” Some believe that Lubitsch's next film, The Marriage Circle, which also starred Adolphe Menjou, was influenced by A Woman Of Paris. I'm not sure exactly when Lubitsch saw the preview, but AWOP was released on October 1st, 1923 and Marriage Circle was already in production by then.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

New York City, 1923

Charlie strikes a Napoleonic pose while going through fan mail in his suite at the Ritz Hotel, New York City, following the premiere of A Woman Of Paris, October 1923.
(same photo, slightly different angles)

Dig the slippers.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Chaplin appears outside of the Lyric Theater in New York to promote A WOMAN OF PARIS, 1923

Chaplin is posing next to an announcement outside of the theater that reads: "To the public: In an effort to avoid any misunderstanding , I wish to announce that I do not appear in this picture. It is the first serious drama written and directed by myself. Charles Chaplin" This caveat also appears as the first title card in the film.

The New York premiere of A Woman Of Paris was held 70 years ago today.

After the show, Waldo Frank took Chaplin to the Greenwich Village apartment of poet Hart Crane, who was still in his pajamas. Crane described the scene in a letter to his mother the next day:
"I had just got my pajamas on last night when there was a rap on the door. I opened and in walked Waldo Frank--behind him came a most pleasant-looking, twinkling, little man in a black derby--"Let me introduce you to Mr. Charles Chaplin," said Waldo, and I was smiling into one of the most beautiful faces I ever expect to see." Well! I was quickly urged out of my nightclothes and the three of us walked arm in arm over to where Waldo is staying at 77 Irving Place. All the way we were trailed by enthusiastic youngsters. People seem to spot Charlie in the darkness. He is so very gracious that he never discourages anything but rude advances.
At five o'clock this morning Charlie was letting me out of his taxi before my humble abode. "It's been so nice," he said in that soft, crisp voice of his, modulated with an accent that is something like Padraic Colum's in its correctness. Then he, blinking and sleepy, was swung around and was probably soon in his bed up at the Ritz."*
A few years later, Crane sent Chaplin a book of his poems called White Buildings. One poem was called "Chaplinesque," which he was inspired to write after he saw The Kid. Chaplin reprinted the poem in My Autobiography.

*The Letters Of Hart Crane 1916-1932, Berkeley, U of C Press, 1965

Monday, September 30, 2013

Update on previous post

In my post* about the 90th anniversary of the premiere of A Woman of Paris, I said that I didn't believe Edna was at the Los Angeles premiere of the film. Just today when I was looking for information about the New York premiere, I found an article about the L.A. premiere and Edna WAS there but Chaplin himself was not. Elsewhere I have read that Chaplin deliberately hogged the publicity for this film and didn't support the actors, etc., which is clearly not the case. The fact that Chaplin chose to be absent from this premiere shows that he wanted Edna to have her well-deserved moment in the spotlight.

The following is from the Oct. 7th, 1923 issue of the Chicago Tribune:

*I have since updated this post.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

90 years ago today, A Woman Of Paris premiered at the Criterion Theater in Hollywood

"A Woman of Paris was a courageous step in the career of Charles Chaplin. After seventy films in which he himself had appeared in every scene, he now directed a picture in which he merely walked on for a few seconds as an unbilled and unrecognisable extra – a porter at a railroad station. Until this time, every film had been a comedy. A Woman of Paris was a romantic drama." --David Robinson.
By 1923 Chaplin felt that his leading lady, Edna Purviance, was growing too mature for comedy. A Woman Of Paris, was his attempt to launch her on a new career as a dramatic actress. Although the film received positive critical reviews, it failed at the box office. Chaplin was so disappointed by the public's rejection of his film that he removed it from circulation at the end of the 1920s--not to be seen again for nearly 50 years.

Edna attended the Los Angeles premiere and was given a "loud burst of appreciation" when she appeared on stage after the film.  She did not attend the New York premiere on Oct. 1st.

Edna Purviance, Nellie Bly Baker & Betty Morrissey.
  Baker was not an actress, but a secretary at the Chaplin Studios. Her scene-stealing performance in the film as a masseuse, led to more film roles during the 1920s. Betty Morrissey went on to appear in The Gold Rush & The Circus. She was subpoenaed for deposition during Lita Grey's divorce from Chaplin because Lita was suspicious of her relationship with Charlie. (Photo: Chaplin: Genius Of The Cinema/Vance)

Edna Purviance and Adolphe Menjou. Although the film did not boost Edna's career as Chaplin had hoped, it did launch Menjou's. He was very impressed with Chaplin's direction: "Within a few days I realized that I was going to learn more about acting from Chaplin than I had ever learned from any director." Menjou recalled an unforgettable line that Chaplin always used when he thought the actors were hamming it up: "Don't sell sell it! Remember, they're peeking at you." This bit of advice stuck with Menjou:  "Since then I have never played a scene before a camera without thinking to myself, "They're peeking at you; don't sock it."

During a party in the Latin Quarter, the sheet around a "mannequin" is slowly unraveled.  I read somewhere that Bess Flowers, who played the mannequin, was really naked underneath the cloth.

Charlie directs Malvina Polo, who plays Paulette.
 I think it's interesting that Chaplin had a character in one of his films named Paulette,
 nearly ten years before he met Paulette Goddard. 

Friday, December 28, 2012


Charlie acts out the kitchen scene for Adolphe Menjou (who is standing behind him), including showing him what to do with his cigarette.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Charlie directs the Latin Quarter party scene in A Woman Of Paris (1923).