Showing posts with label Adolphe Menjou. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Adolphe Menjou. 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

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Working With Charlie Chaplin, Vol. 6: Talking Story

Chaplin holds a scenario conference at the Lone Star Studio during production of Behind The Screen, 1916.
 L-R: Eric Campbell (2nd from left), Henry Bergman (next to Campbell, partially visible), 
Frank J. Coleman, Loyal Underwood, Albert Austin (wearing boater hat), CC, Rollie Totheroh (far right).
(Source: Jeffrey Vance/Chaplin: Genius Of The Cinema)
  • For story conferences on pictures preceding The Circus and City Lights, Charlie used a small frame bungalow on the far northeast cor­ner of the studio lot. Consisting of a bedroom and dressing room, a bathroom, and a small kitchen, it was secluded and quiet. Sometimes he would sit, one foot tucked under him, slashing at the leather cushion with one of his limber bamboo canes, as if in an effort to whip out an idea. Mostly, though, when he was thinking he would walk. Furiously. The room was small. Restlessly he would pace up and down like a caged animal. Sometimes he would detour through the rest of the bungalow. That he was in another room didn't stop him talking.... "Have you got that down?" Charlie would demand incessantly of Carl Robinson who, pencil in hand, had been making notes of all ideas expressed and suggestions made. He would walk up and shake an impatient finger at the sheet of paper. "Get all this down! I can't remember everything. Have you got the ring gag down? And the fruit stand? And the vegetable wagon?" Carl would nod. --Excerpt from Harry Crocker manuscript, Academy Leader, April 1972
  • He came scurrying into the bungalow every morning on the dot of ten in cap, tieless shirt, white slacks and the angora sweater, sat down at the creaky little table and said, "Shall we go?"...Then we started the [Napoleon] script, and the first thing he taught me was that you don't begin at the beginning. "We look," he said, laying down the law with a firm index finger tapping the table, "for some little incident, some vignette that fixes the other characters. With them, the audience must never be in any doubt. We have to fix them on sight. Nobody cares about their troubles. They stay the same. You know them every time they appear. This is no different from the characters who surround 'the little fellow.' He's the one we develop."
  • Sometimes we had along Carter de Haven, whom Chaplin had hired to be assistant director on Modern Times....Almost always, except during the knottier historical sketches, there was his massive old friend, spiritual uncle and adviser, Henry Bergman, who had played in some of the early two-reelers as every sort of foil from a fat lady and a bum to a pawnshop owner. Bergman was a huge, gentle old German to whom Chaplin always referred some promising scene or gag. He said very little, but if Chaplin had doubts, in the moment of improvising, he would look over to Bergman, say, "No?" and Bergman would shake his head, and we'd forget it. --Alistair Cooke, Six Men, 1956

Still from How To Make Movies (1918).
L-R: Tom Wilson, Loyal Underwood, CC, Henry Bergman, Rollie Totheroh Jack Wilson, Edna Purviance

  • The "writing" of the story is done in Charlie's room at the Athletic Club, for obvious reasons which will appear when it is related that the other night a bellboy, entering Charlie's room, found the whole crowd rehearsing a wild scene, and started to call for the police. --Grace Kingsley, "Charlie Chaplin Begins Work In New Studio," Los Angeles Times, January 20th, 1918
  • A Chaplin picture conference is something that defies description. When the picture situations (they are never referred to as gags on the Chaplin lot) have been perfected in the mind of Chaplin--a long, slow process that requires from two to four years--Della [Steele] and Henry [Bergman] are then summoned to a conference in Charlie's bungalow.
  • About the table gather Charlie, Henry and Della and the situations are then acted out one after the other. Charlie begins by taking his own role of the little tramp, closely watching their reactions to his every move. Henry, who weighs the better part of a ton, is then called upon to play Chaplin's role, Della takes Miss [Paulette] Goddard's role of the little street waif and Charlie is the factory foreman. They go into the scene, silently moving about the room. Swiftly they change parts again. Della is Charlie the tramp. Henry is the policeman and Chaplin becomes the street waif, a look of pathetic wistfulness stealing across his face as the Chaplin features fade into some vague mist and the hungry child of the streets emerges in perfect form. Trying to hide their tears Della and Henry watch the character before them. Not Chaplin. Certainly not Chaplin. But a strange and terrified child. --Sara Hamilton, "Charles Chaplin and Charlie Chaplin," Straits Times, March 20th, 1936
  • There is another story that Harry D'Arrast loves to tell as convincing proof that Charlie is an eccentric and unpredictable genius. Shooting had been suspended for a few minutes while the staff sat down to discuss a certain scene. During the discussion a fly kept buzzing around Charlie's head; he slapped at it several times, finally became annoyed, and called for a fly swatter. The swatter was obtained and Charlie took charge of it. As the discussion continued he watched the fly, waiting for an opportunity to swat it. But this was a very elusive fly. Three times Charlie swung at it and three times he missed. At last the fly settled on a table directly before him. He raised the swatter to deliver the death blow. Then he changed his mind and lowered his weapon, allowing the fly to escape.
    "Why didn't you swat it?" someone demanded.
    Charlie shrugged. "It wasn't the same fly." --Adolphe Menjou, It Took Nine Tailors, 1948

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, May 7, 2014

Group photo of United Artists' stars, management, and crew, c.late 1920s

Charlie is in the middle between Marion Davies and Gloria Swanson. Adolphe Menjou is at far right.
In this closeup of the above photo you can see a few more familiar faces:
Mary Pickford at far left in the second row. D.W. Griffith second from right.
 Colleen Moore in front of Griffith & Harry Crocker in the front row.

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 9, 2014

World Tour (1931-32) Revisited: Out & About in St. Mortiz, Pt. 2

Learning to ski, St. Moritz, c. 1932

For those who may have just discovered "Discovering Chaplin," my "World Tour Revisited" series follows Chaplin chronologically on his 16-month world tour to promote City Lights, which started in February 1931 & ended in June 1932. I began the series one year ago on February 12th when Chaplin left the U.S. for England. You can read previous posts in the series under the label "World Tour (1931-32) Revisited."

Presently (in February 1932), Chaplin is in St. Moritz, Switzerland, where he has been since December. He is accompanied by his lover and traveling companion, May Reeves, and his brother, Sydney.1 Douglas Fairbanks, who invited Chaplin to St. Moritz, was along for the first part of the stay, but by February had already returned to Hollywood. This post includes a few more pictures from Charlie's visit to the swank Swiss ski resort where he made his skiing debut.

Outside the Palace Hotel, St. Moritz
Charlie & Syd (far left) at the Apollo Kino.

Chaplin met several other celebrities who were wintering in the Alps, including Adolphe Menjou, the star of his 1923 film, A Woman Of Paris, as well as photographers Lee Miller2 and George Hoyningen-Huene. He was also introduced to Egyptian businessman, Aziz Eloui Bey & his wife Nimet. As usual, Charlie was the life of the party:
Having just completed City Lights, he ate dinner as if he were blind, wrapped Nimet's head in a table napkin and proceeded to extract an imaginary tooth (a sugar lump) from her mouth, then posed for Huene before a snowy replica of his alter ego, the Little Tramp.3
Charlie & May will remain in St. Moritz until they leave for Italy on March 2nd.

Charlie posing next to a Tramp ice sculpture (right), and shaking hands
with a dog. Photos by George Hoyningen-Huene.
Vogue, March 1932
May Reeves & Syd Chaplin in front of the Tramp sculpture.
Charlie chatting with Adolphe Menjou in St. Moritz, top left.

1 Syd returns to his home in Nice by the end of February but will rejoin Charlie in Italy and accompany him on the rest of his tour.
2 Chaplin supposedly had an affair with Lee Miller in Paris in March 1931, a month before he met May Reeves.
3Lee Miller: A Life by Carolyn Burke

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.