Showing posts with label Bess Flowers. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Bess Flowers. 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, 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.