Showing posts with label Christmas with Charlie. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Christmas with Charlie. Show all posts

Monday, December 21, 2015

It wouldn't be Christmas without a retelling of Chaplin's famous "orange" story

This clipping from 1938 features a version of the story taken from the book Star Spangled Manner (incorrectly called "Banner" below) by Beverley Nichols, which was a collection of celebrity interviews published in 1928.

The Whitewright (TX) Sun, December 22nd, 1938

Read other versions of the story here.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

"A Christmas Carol" by Charlie Chaplin
Los Angeles Times, December 24, 1916:
Do you know what I envy around Christmas time? Well, it's the old chap with the long white whiskers. I'd like to be Santa Claus for thirty days once every twelve months. Children are fond of me, but they love Santa Claus with undying affection. 
Every time Christmas comes around and I find myself in this land of sunshine and flowers, instead of knee-deep in snow, I have repinings. I remember Christmas in London in the old days when it was hard scratching for me to get sixpence so that I might see the Christmas pantomime spectacle at Drury Lane, "Jack & the Beanstalk," "Puss In Boots," or "Cinderella." 
Some day, when I get rich enough, I'm going to visit my old home in England made up as Santa Claus with all sorts of presents for all sorts of children, and I'm going to have the waifs follow me round in the snow, singing outside poor people's windows:
"Good Christians all rejoi--oi-oice,
With heart and soul and voi-oi-oice."
And then somebody'll hand me out a mug of mulled ale and I'll hand in my presents for the kiddies, taken out of an automobile truck, because no reindeer team could haul what I want to take along. 
Say! I'd like a slab of roast beef, that's been cooked on a spit, and a big helping of old-fashioned plum pudding for my Christmas dinner. Instead of that I'll get some kind a ragout  and grapefruit salad. Hey!....Camera!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Christmas with Charlie (and Jackie)

Another installment in my annual "Christmas With Charlie" series.

From the Los Angeles Times, November 16, 1920:
Charlie Chaplin emerged from seclusion yesterday to announce that he will be in Los Angeles to celebrate the Christmas holidays. The announcement came in a telegram sent by him from New York to Jackie Coogan, child screen actor who has played in many of the film comedian's pictures.1 The boy recently suffered a basal fracture of the skull in an automobile accident.2
Chaplin, for several weeks, while his wife's divorce suit was pending, had been in hiding from the general public and none of his plans were divulged until his telegram was received yesterday. The message stated:
"Dear Jackie: I know you are recovering nicely because you are such a strong little man who can take a punch. Hope yourself and daddy will be out when I return so that we can spend Christmas together, or at least you will be well enough to play with toys, so don't disappoint Santa Claus, as there are no chimneys in hospitals for him to come down through. You wait and see what I'll bring from New York. If you want anything ask my manager, Mr. Reeves, and he will get it for you. [Signed] Charlie Chaplin."

Coogan and Chaplin on the set of The Kid 

1Besides The Kid (1921), Jackie also appeared in A Day's Pleasure (1919) & Nice And Friendly (1921), a film Chaplin made as a wedding present for Lord & Lady Mountbatten.
2Jackie's father, who was driving, was also injured. 15 years later, father and son would be involved in another car accident. This time, Jackie's father would be killed.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Christmas With Charlie, Vol. 14

Photo from Chaplin family Christmas card, 1973.
L-R: Oona, Jane, Christopher, CC, Annette
  • Annette Chaplin: Christmas was the best time. My mother's gardener decorated the house. It was never overdone. You couldn't see the tree in the foyer, there were so many ornaments on it. On Christmas Eve the local optician from the village came in dressed as Santa Claus. He sang old carols in French in the most amazing voice, especially in the hall, which had an echo. My father used to stand there with his mouth open. 
  • Geraldine Chaplin: On Christmas Day, the Rossiers, friends of my parents' from Vevey, would come for Christmas dinner, as would Clara Haskil [the well-known Romanian concert pianist]. After dinner Clara would play the piano and Daddy would show his movies. There were always masses of presents. I cannot tell you the number of children and the number of presents, five or six, from each child to each child. Mummy bought them all. We never knew what we were giving anyone until we were quite old and had to buy our own presents. 
  • Michael Chaplin: My father always said he hated Christmas. Whether he actually did, I don't know, because he loved having Clara Haskil there. I think he hated the present part and the Christmas tree and all that. 
  • Geraldine Chaplin: Christmas depressed him. It brought back memories that he wasn't fond of. When he was little and poor, he told us over and over, all he got for Christmas was an orange. He used to try to spoil the day for everyone, and he finally did. He died on Christmas morning. 
(Interview magazine, September 1989)
Christmas, 1955
L-R: Oona, Geraldine, Victoria, Josephine, CC, Michael

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Christmas with Charlie, Vol. 13

Pinnie, the Chaplin's nanny, describes Christmas 1962:
Christmas came and we all looked forward to a family lunch together, Kay Kay1 and I included, also Auntie Gypsy2 from Lausanne. Another relation came for Christmas--I had not met this one before. She was Betty Tetrick, Mr. Chaplin's cousin from London, a widow [sic] who took great interest in the children. The table was decorated in red with two candle displays. Traditional crackers were in abundance, supplying the paper hats and small toys and puzzles. It was lovely. Mary had excelled herself with all the traditional foods common in England, even sixpences hidden in the Christmas puddings. The meal lasted all afternoon until Mr. Chaplin went off for a rest but, in the evening, he insisted that we all went to the movie viewing room to see The Gold Rush. Not again, said the children, but reluctantly went.  --Pinnie: Behind The Limelight by Michael Parrett. (Pinnie, aka Mabel Rose Pinnegar, began working for the Chaplins in 1953.)

From Pinnie: Behind The Limelight

1 Aka Edith MacKenzie, the Chaplin's senior nanny who had been with the family since 1944.
2 Syd Chaplin's wife. 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Christmas With Charlie, Vol. 12

Last year, I began a series called "Christmas With Charlie" in which I presented stories from family & friends (or Charlie himself) about the Christmas holidays. I thought I would continue the series this year, and in keeping with tradition, I will kick off the festivities with Charlie's famous "orange story." This was an incident from Charlie's impoverished childhood that affected him for the rest of his life. His son, Michael, remembered that his father, who would notoriously become depressed and morose around the holidays, would complain: "If I got an orange as a child at Christmas, I'd be lucky." Last December, I posted Charlie's version of the story from "A Comedian Sees The World." This year's version is from an interview with Charlie by Benjamin de Casseres that appeared in the New York Times on December 12th, 1920. The story is basically the same except Charlie changed the orange to an apple:
As part of my childhood was passed in a London orphanage. When Christmas time came around a big table was spread, and on it were laid little presents--tin watches, bags of candy, picture books, and other trivial things--for the inmates.
On this particular Christmas I was seven years old. We all formed in line, and long before it was my turn to reach the table and select what I wanted I had picked out with my eye a big, fat red apple for my present. It was the biggest apple I had ever seen outside of a picture book. 
My eye and stomach got bigger and bigger as I approached that apple.
When the line had moved up so that I was fifth from the table a housekeeper, or somebody in authority, pounced on me, pushed me out of line and took me back to my room with the brutal words. "No Christmas present for you this year, Charlie--you keep the other boys awake by telling pirate stories."
I have always found that red apple of happiness just within reach of my hand when some invisible presence or force drags me away just as I am about to grab it.
--"The Hamlet-Like Nature of Charlie Chaplin" by Benjamin de Casseres, New York Times Book Review & Magazine, December 12th, 1920)

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas with Charlie: Vol. 11

Excerpt from Moments With Chaplin by Lillian Ross:
The Chaplins were faithful with their Christmas cards, which always included a conventional family photograph of one kind or another, usually taken in their living room or on the lawn in front of their house. The children would be lined up in order of age. In the photographs, Chaplin didn't kid around; he always looked strictly the head of the family. There is just a hint of a departure from that role in the Christmas photograph taken in 1964, the year "My Autobiography" was published. It shows the clan reading the book, three members holding copies of the British edition and each of the others holding an edition published in a different country (Two-year-old Christopher, bare-legged with white socks and black patent leather shoes, has "Chaplin: Mit Liv.") Chaplin in this photograph wears an expression of fake, overdone concentration.
The next year, the family is shown standing ankle-deep in snow, with everybody wearing a parka and ski pants--everybody except Chaplin himself, who has on a dark double-breasted overcoat, a dark suit, a white shirt, a dark necktie, and a black fedora. He is standing straight, head up, grinning proudly, hands in his overcoat pockets.

 The 1968 card bears the inscription, in Oona's handwriting, "25th Wedding Anniversary," and it shows the family, gathered on and around the living room sofa, everybody, including Chaplin, looking self-conscious, giving the obligatory anniversary smile.
The photograph for Christmas, 1976, shows Chaplin and Oona seated in a golf cart, useful for getting around large lawns, and surrounded by their children and, by then, grandchildren. 
The Christmas card for 1977 arrived just before Christmas Day, which was the day Charlie Chaplin died. The photograph is of Charlie Chaplin alone, and taken on April 16, 1977, his last birthday--his eighty-eighth. He is sitting in a chair and is wearing a dark suit over a baby-blue cashmere sweater. The white collar of his shirt comes down over the sweater, and there is a white handkerchief in the breast pocket of his jacket. His white hair is sparser but still full and is combed neatly from a side part. His left hand is raised--a bit of the blue sweater showing at the wrist--and is held in midair to a position over his heart, in the classic gesture of the actor.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Charlie & Oona, Christmas 1962
Josephine Chaplin:
He always got very depressed at Christmas because we made it the big fiesta of the year. There were a lot of children and a big Christmas tree, and loads and loads of presents. He'd come down in the morning and see them, get pretty depressed and go into the library and say, "All I had was an orange when I was your age." Then we'd come in and show him our presents and say, "You bought me this lovely dress!" And he'd say, "Oh!" and brighten up and be OK.

Geraldine Chaplin:
Then he managed to die on Christmas Day. He was never able to spoil Christmas for us because there were always so many presents. Finally he died on Christmas Day! All the presents were under the tree and someone came down and said, "Grandfather died." The grandchildren said to Michael, "Does that mean we can't open the presents?" So Michael took all the presents into the garage and they had a party there.

--Variety (Special Supplement), April 2003

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Christmas with Charlie, Vol. 9

"Chaplin owned a few cars, a formal Rolls Royce, and two Fords--with special engines--one for him and one for Oona. At Christmas he would get out his Ford and Oona and the children, along with Peggy and Norman Lloyd and their two children, would pile in for a holiday drive and motor around Hollywood taking in all the sights. Charlie made up a game in which the children had to ooh and aah every time they passed Christmas lights, and the car rocked with their delighted cries. The contrast between the way Charlie acted with his youngsters and his older boys was very evident to his longtime friends, and even Charlie himself admitted he had been a neglectful father to Charlie, Jr. and Sydney. According to the Lloyd's, it was not just Charlie; Lita Grey Chaplin was uncomfortable in the role of mother and really did not know what to do with her children whereas Oona Chaplin, they agreed, did."
--Jane Scovell, Oona: Living in The Shadows, Warner Books, 1998

Friday, December 21, 2012

Christmas with Charlie, Paulette, and Lita

I arranged to have a private room at the Ambassador Hotel for a party for the boys. It consisted of about fifteen boys from Black Foxe, with party favors, cake, and the things small children like at a party. before I came west by train, I had telegrammed Charlie that I was having a party for the boys and would he like to attend, just to be polite. He surprised me by coming. I opened the door of the party room at the Ambassador and there was Charlie, tanned and looking very well. He acted like an old friend, very pleasant--after all the terrible stuff we had been through--he was just as polite as he could be.
I offered Charlie a glass of champagne. He said, "I think I better leave now. I have Paulette waiting in the car outside, and she is probably getting impatient."

I said to him, "Why don't you invite her up? Maybe she would enjoy a glass of champagne? I'd love to meet her."

"Would that be all right?" he said like a timid little boy, totally unlike the man I married.

He brought in Paulette Goddard. I had never seen such a beautiful woman, with her dark, soft, shoulder-length hair. She wore a black velvet dress and a string of pearls. While Charlie was visiting with the children, Paulette and I had a pleasant conversation.
"You probably don't remember this," she said to me, "but I used to model clothes in New York, and I used to model clothes for you."
The comment endeared her to me right away. I don't think most people in her position would have admitted that. She was humble and very likable.
Paulette was wonderful to my two boys. I really don't think her relationship with Charlei would have lasted as long as it did if it hadn't been for my children because she had such a good time with the kids. She would take them down to San Diego on Charlie's boat, the Panacea, or skiing. She would always send me a little note, keeping me informed of what the boys were doing. Paulette also encouraged Charlie to develop a relationship with the boys, which might not have existed without her.

--Lita Grey Chaplin, Wife Of The Life Of The Party, Scarecrow Press, 1998

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Christmas with Charlie, Vol. 7

Oona and Charlie invited me for the holidays. I was happy to go. That Christmas in Vevey started a tradition. I was to spend at least eighteen Christmases with them over the years. The pattern was usually the same. On Christmas Eve, everyone wrapped their packages and decorated the tree. This was Oona's domain, and she insisted we all help. While all this was going on, Charlie would sit in the living-room reading, always unconcerned. Christmas depressed him; he thought Oona was spoiling the children with all her lavish presents (he'd remember his orange). Usually, the day after Christmas he'd get ill with a cold or the 'flu. 
This Christmas [1954], he just wanted to talk about his next movie. We both wanted to talk about our projects. But at seven in the evening the doorbell rang, and in walked the kindly Mayor of Corsier, dressed in a Santa Claus outfit. In America, Santa Clauses are usually fat, jolly men; our Father Christmas was tall, thin, and serious, and his costume hung loosely. He sang Christmas carols in a high tenor voice. Charlie took this event very seriously and insisted everyone go into the hallway and listen. The Mayor's visit became an annual ritual. 
At 6 a.m., Christmas morning , squeals from the children resounded through the house. Within a flash all the paper from the carefully wrapped packages was ripped open. Charlie would come down hours later, after the commotion had subsided. Then he would open his gifts--as delighted as one of the children when he liked something. I usually bought him recordings of old-time English music-hall artists, or picture albums of Victorian London. He was always fascinated by anything that evoked old memories. 
After lunch and more champagne, we watched one of his films. By six o'clock everyone was falling off their feet. The help were relieved when we all went out to dinner. 
--Jerry Epstein, Remembering Charlie, Doubleday, 1989

Father Christmas visits the Manoir, 1955

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Christmas with Charlie, Vol. 6

When I was about twelve years old I asked my father what he thought about Chrismas. He was reserved about such things and rarely discussed them with us. But I pushed the point.
"Dad," I insisted, "what do you really think about Christmas?"
He gave me a thoughtful look and then replied, "It's the most conceited, commercial day of the year and it's exploited by everybody. It's supposed to be built on the principle that Jesus was born on that day, but it's just a load of pretense. When so many people in the world are suffering it's a criminal waste to spend all those millions on fancy gifts and unhealthy cakes and drink. It's a big joke."
My mother enjoyed the family part of Christmas...the younger children's excitement, the mysteriously packaged gifts...and I guess my father went along with it all because it made her happy. 
--Michael Chaplin, I Couldn't Smoke The Grass On My Father's Lawn, 1966

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Christmas with Charlie, Vol. 5

Christmases at my father's home form a composite picture in my mind, for every one of them was almost identical in style and texture. Even the weather was the same. As far back as I can remember, the Christmas days of my boyhood were sunshiny and mild.
Accompanied by Nana, Syd and I arrived at Dad's house around eleven--brunch was always at twelve. To walk into his home on that day was like going between the leaves of a Dickens novel, because Christmas for Dad was a typically British institution. As we came in the front door we could see the Christmas tree standing at the far end of the hall. It was always a stately white tree, tall enough just to miss the ceiling. It had been decorated the week before by the Japanese servants under the supervision of Frank [Chaplin's chauffeur]. Christmas was just as much a day of celebration to them as to us, for Dad never omitted a generous bonus to each.
Though the tree was beautiful, Syd and I seldom gave it more than a quick appraisal. We were far more interested in the stacks of presents underneath it. As we walked down the hall, Dad came forward to greet us, a jovial father, all vexations completely erased from his mind. Christmas represented drama to him, and every year of our boyhood he played that drama with little variation.
"Well, boys," he would say, seeing our eyes on the packages, "I'm sorry but you don't have so much this Christmas. Just a few little things. It's been an expensive year."
Syd and I would recognize our cue. "That's all right, Dad," we would answer, getting just the right tone of disappointment in our voices.
"Well," Dad would reply philosophically, rubbing his hands together with delight over his unfolding drama but carefully keeping the pleasure out of his voice, "we can't have a big Christmas every year, can we, boys?"
"Don't worry about it, Dad," Syd and I would answer, and as we grew more proficient at playing the game we learned to release an involuntary sigh.
All morning friends and relatives had been gathering for brunch. There was our actor half-uncle Wheeler Dryden, who had by this time followed Dad to California. His son, Spencer, was younger than we and yet he could recite pages of Shakespeare, because his father had pounded it into him. He pounded so hard that when Spencer grew up he chucked the whole thing; the culture went down the drain fast, and Spencer became a jazz musician instead. Today he plays the drums most efficiently....1

L-R: Sydney, Paulette Goddard, Dr. Cecil Reynolds, Charlie, Jr, CC
Uncle Sydney Chaplin was there, too, as was our macabre dinner guest, Dr. Reynolds, and Dad's oldest friends, Amy and Alf Reeves. Tim Durant, whom Dad had just met that year [1936] through Director King Vidor, came with his daughter, Marjorie. Constance Collier, Anita Loos, King Vidor and, until his death in 1939, Doug Fairbanks and his wife, Lady Sylvia Ashley, were all Christmas Day visitors. Each of the guests brought Syd and me a gift--a sweater, a billfold, a book--depositing it under the tree with the other packages. 
At twelve we sat down at the big table in the dining room. Christmas brunch was a carefree occasion. Gone was Dad's strict insistance on manners that day. Syd and I might talk as we please, interrupt as we chose, laugh as much as we liked. Every year the menu was the same. It started with roast beef and ended with Yorkshire pudding--a plum pudding with rum on it which was set alight when it was time for dessert--and champagne for everyone. After brunch Dad always gave Syd and me a taste of the holiday champagne. 
Then we gathered around the tree to open our presents, and once again Syd and I found ourselves in the very center of the drama. Assuming resigned expressions, we began looking in the pile for presents marked for us. One by one we sorted them out and opened them. As our piles grew we allowed our faces to put on more and more astonishment. 
"All these for us, Father?" we gasped. 
Dad chuckled at our perplexed delight. 
"Yes, they're yours, boys."
"But you said..." we let our words trail off in a bewildered way. We were truly happy about our presents, which were always lavish. But we were almost as happy playing the little drama with Dad.
--Charles Chaplin, Jr., My Father, Charlie Chaplin, 1960

Monday, December 17, 2012

Christmas with(out) Charlie, Part Two

Just as Mildred Harris didn't lay eyes on Charlie on Christmas Day when they were married--neither did his second wife, Lita Grey Chaplin. Below are Lita's recollections of her holidays with Charlie from both of her memoirs, My Life With Chaplin, published in 1966& Wife Of The Life Of The Party, published 3 years after Lita's death in 1998. The description of their first Christmas in 1924 is quite different in both books. Lita herself said that the facts were exaggerated in her first book by her ghostwriter, Morton Cooper. The second book was supposed to set the record straight. I have to say that the Charlie in the first version just doesn't sound like the Charlie I have read about all these years. Charlie suggesting a prayer be said before a meal?  Charlie making preparations for the Christmas holiday? The story in the second book is much more believable, in my opinion. Christmas 1925 is not mentioned in My Life With Chaplin, but it is described in Wife Of The well as her divorce complaint. 

Christmas 1924, My Life With Chaplin (1966):

Although Charlie had no use for most religious festivals, he could get quite sentimental about the Christmas season. At Christmas in 1924--with our baby due in about four and a half months--he made preparations, through Kono, for a tree, dinner in the afternoon, and a gift for Mama and one for me. When I asked Charlie if my grandparents might come for dinner, he looked at me sharply, as if I'd asked the impossible, but answered, "Very well, if they'd like to--and as long as it's understood that there's to be no religious folderol and none of those insufferable carols."
At first, Grandpa raged. Under no conditions would he set foot in That Man's home. But Mama and Grandma went to work on him, and the Currys arrived at Cove Way on time.
Charlie and Grandpa shook hands gravely and circled each other as warily as cavemen, each of whom is convinced that the other is hiding an ax. But after a glass or two of sherry the two men seemed to get along reasonably well if not famously; both having come from Britain, and both having certain characteristics in common, found they had enough of a meeting ground to lessen the tension. When we sat down at the table, Charlie began paying extravagant court to Grandma, who was overwhelmed. He carved the turkey himself, with precision and skill, and then, when everyone was served and just before we began to eat, he befuddled me thoroughly by inquiring, "Would someone like to say grace? I think it would be fitting." Grandpa obliged.
The day was not the easiest for any of us to get through, but I must say for Grandpa that he behaved civilly and for Charlie that he sat through the stilted after-dinner conversation with a minimum of squirming.
Charlie & Lita in 1925

Christmas 1924, Wife Of The Life Of The Party (1998):

(In this version, Lita claims that she is no longer living at the Cove Way (aka Summit Drive) house. Lita and her mother did move into a cottage when she was pregnant with Charlie, Jr. as a means of keeping her stress level down (a Japanese couple, Tomi & Todah, moved in with them as well). This move did not take place until Feb. 1925 according to page 56 of this memoir as well as Lita's divorce complaint. She must have been confused about the time frame, which is understandable since she was describing something that happened 70 years before.)
Despite the odd circumstances under which we were no living, Mama and I decided to have a good Christmas that year. Kono had provided enough money for our needs to see us through for the months it was estimated that we would be spending in the cottage before going back to the Cove Way house. Charlie said he would come on Christmas morning, and Grandfather and Grandmother planned to join us for dinner. I was assured by Grandfather that if, by any chance, he and Charlie would meet, he would be civil, for my sake.
Todah had brought me a small tree and ordered a small turkey. Tomi, Mama and I were trimming the tree when the postman pushed the doorbell and delivered a parcel addressed to Todah. We opened it and the enclosed card read, "Have a Nice Christmas." It was signed "Charlie." Sadly, Charlie never came over to see us Christmas Day.

Christmas 1925, Wife Of The Life Of The Party:

Our second Christmas as husband and wife was as disappointing as our first. Mama, Grandfather, Grandmother, Charlie, Jr., and I were to have a nice Christmas dinner with Charlie. However, before Grandfather and Grandmother arrived, Charlie left without explanation and did not return until late that night. It was like a scene out of The Gold Rush, we were reluctant to begin without him, waiting for the arrival of the guest who never came.

Christmas 1925, Lita Grey Chaplin's Complaint for Divorce, 1927 (reprinted in Wife Of The Life...)

(j) That on Christmas Day, 1925, defendant promised plaintiff that he would have Christmas dinner at home with her. That defendant started to leave the house about five o'clock in the afternoon. That plaintiff thereupon said: "Dinner will be ready at seven; you will be back now won't you?" That defendant promised to return at seven; that plaintiff did not see or hear from him until about two o'clock the next morning, when he came home intoxicated.

Charlie, Jr. describes the story of his father's drunken return on Christmas night in his book, My Father, Charlie Chaplin, but in his version it's Christmas 1924:
The Christmas Day that followed their marriage she and Nana heard him in the early morning hours. His weaving footsteps coming up the stairs and groping uncertainly down the hall told them he was drunk. My father drunk! That tells me more than anything else the extent of his anguish and despair, because it's the only time I have ever heard of his drinking too much. He always had an aversion to liquor.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Christmas with(out) Charlie, Part 1

Excerpts from the divorce testimony of Charlie's first wife, Mildred Harris Chaplin, from December, 1920.

(Charlie and Mildred were married on Oct. 23rd, 1918. Not long after their marriage, Mildred checked into the hospital with a nervous breakdown. After she was released, the doctor ordered her to bed rest.)

 Q.--Now, after the marriage became public, Mrs. Chaplin, just tell the court in your own way about the course of treatment Mr. Chaplin adopted toward you after that time?
 A.--Well, after I was taken out of the hospital I had to stay in bed until Christmas, Christmas Eve, and the doctor sent a nurse home with me, and Mr. Chaplin got us a home up in Laughlin Park, and I had to stay in bed until Christmas Eve, and that was the first time I was down after I got out of the hospital. And Christmas afternoon--I mean the day before Christmas, Mr. Chaplin told me that he would be home and have dinner with me and help me trim the Christmas tree, and I had had mother get all the Christmas presents. I was not able to get up and I had always thought a great deal of Christmas, and that evening, I dressed and went downstairs and waited for him, and he did not come home. And I waited until 11 o'clock, and he did not come, so I trimmed the tree and mother helped me and then I went to bed and stayed awake until about two or three, and Mr. Chaplin came home about three o'clock.
Q.--What occurred?
A.--And when he came home he came upstairs and was very angry at me for buying so many Christmas presents and making such a time over Christmas.
Q.--Then what occurred?
A.--Then the next day was Christmas Day, and he would not get up all Christmas morning, and I went downstairs and took him up his presents and he was very angry at me for making so much over Christmas.
Q.--What would he say? What did he say?
A.--Well, he said it was very foolish and that he did not believe in such things and that I should not be so silly over Christmas and over having presents and liking such things.
 Q.--Now, on this Christmas evening you have told about, the first Christmas evening after your marriage in October, you had invited your friends there to the house, had you?

 A.--No, I had not; Mr. Chaplin had all his own friends; he did not want me to have mine.

 Q.--Then, you allege, that he came home about what time on Christmas morning?
 A.--It was about two-thirty or three.

 Q.--Two-thirty or three.  Then, on Christmas morning what occurred?

 A.--He stayed in bed all day until four o'clock; he wouldn't go downstairs with me to see the tree.  I took him his presents.
 Q.--Did he abuse you?
 A.--He was very angry at me for making so much over Christmas.
 Q.--What did he say?

 A.--He said it was very foolish and wasn't right to make so much or for me to like presents and foolish things; that it was not his idea to have Christmas or celebrate Christmas; he had never done it.
Q.--Now, on that Christmas did he give you any present or token of any
 Q.--Would you buy anything for Mr. Chaplin himself?
  A.--On Christmas I bought him a silver set for his dresser; I bought him a great many things.  I bought him--
  Q.--His personal clothing and things of that kind, did you?
  A.--Yes; socks.
  Q.--Describe what you bought for him.
  A.--I bought all his handkerchiefs and socks and pajamas and ties.
  Q.--Did he pay for them or did you?

  A.--I did. 
 Q.--You have told about the first Christmas after you were married-- tell the court about your second Christmas.
  A.--On the second Christmas he had been staying out in Beverly Hills,  He had been staying up there for quite a time and he would stay all night a good deal up there because he had a very good time, and the second Christmas he said he would be home and I invited some people, and on Christmas Eve he phoned he would not be able to come home until about nine, but he sent some presents home for the people.
  Q.--Did he send you a present?
  Q.--Go ahead.
  A.--He didn't come.  So these people left and he came home about four in the morning.  I waited up until about two and then I went to bed and sat up in bed waiting for him.
  Q.--Then, as I understand it, on the second Christmas night, after your marriage, after he had promised to come home, he didn't come until about four o'clock in the morning?
  A.--Yes, sir.
  Q.--What did he say when he came in?
  A.--Well, he said he had been detained; that he had met some people and had been talking with them.
  Q.--Did you afterward ascertain where he had been?
  A.--He had had dinner with a lady and gentleman at a little cafe on Fifth street.  I don't know where he had gone.  I think afterwards he told me he had been talking business.**

**Charlie spent this Christmas with Florence Deshon. In a letter to her on again, off again lover, Max Eastman (who was also a close friend of Charlie's), Florence wrote, "I dined with Charlie on Christmas Eve, and he gave me a Christmas present."2 The two dined alone in Charlie's room at the Los Angeles Athletic Club. The gift was a set of monogrammed, hand-embroidered handkerchiefs.3

2 Max Eastman, Love & Revolution, 1964
3 Joyce Milton, Tramp, 1998 (I'll add that Milton gives no source material for this information)

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Christmas with Charlie, Vol. 2: Charlie's Strange Predicament

The following story is related by Eric James, Charlie's music associate for the last twenty years of his life:
I cannot leave the downstairs cloakroom without referring to a most amusing incident that occurred one Christmas. It had been the custom, just prior to Christmas Day, for members of a local choir to trudge up the steep hill from Vevey and position themselves by the main door of the Manoir to give a performance of carols. On this occasion Charlie had an urgent need to use the lavatory, where he sat on "the throne" but unfortunately had forgotten to pull over the curtains.
Happily engaged with the business at hand and in deep contemplation, he failed to notice the arrival of the choir until they burst into song just a few feet from the window. He was absolutely taken aback because although while sitting they could only see his head and shoulders, if he were to stand up the "herald angels" would take off in alarm! The choir was obviously quite impressed by the sight of him in the window because they mistakenly thought that he was so eager to hear them sing that he had stationed himself at this vantage point well in advance of their arrival. As it was, he had to sit there with his trousers down for half an hour, beaming at them every now and then and clapping animatedly after each carol.
It wasn't until the last of them had passed into the house that he was able to get up, pull the curtains and adjust himself before joining them. The leader of the group expressed their great satisfaction at having found Mr. Chaplin so impatiently awaiting their performance! Charlie's reply could not have been bettered. He thanked them and said that their singing had literally rooted him to the spot! --Eric James, Making Music With Charlie Chaplin, Scarecrow Press, 2000

Friday, December 14, 2012

Christmas with Charlie

This is the first in a series of posts called "Christmas With Charlie" which will include stories from or about Charlie regarding the Christmas holiday. I will post one each day from now until Christmas. It's well-known that Charlie was not a fan of Christmas, although he did seem to enjoy the holiday more once he had his own children. But Christmas usually depressed him, which makes it all the more ironic that it would also be the day he died.

I thought an appropriate first installment would be Charlie's "orange" story. This incident from Charlie's childhood affected him deeply for the rest of his life. Even as an old man he would tell the story with bitterness. Below is Charlie's own recollection of the story from his travel memoir A Comedian Sees The World. During a visit to London in 1931, Charlie returned to the orphanage where the incident occurred. Walking into the dining room, Charlie found his place, the third seat at the fourth table, where he sat as a boy, and the memories of a Christmas many years before came flooding back:
How well I remember one Christmas Day sitting on that same seat, weeping copious tears. The day before I had committed some breach of the rules. As we came into the dining-room for Christmas dinner we were to be given two oranges and a bag of sweets.

I remember how excited I was awaiting my turn. How joyous and bright the oranges looked in contrast to the gray surroundings. We never saw oranges but once a year and that was at Christmas. I am speculating what I shall do with mine. I shall save the peel and the sweets I shall eat one a day. Each child is presented with his treasure as he enters the dining-room. At last it is my turn. But the man puts me aside. "Oh, no--you'll go without for what you did yesterday." And there, on that seat at the fourth table, I wept bitterly. The children were more human than the attendants were and so the little ones at our table contributed one candy apiece and made up my loss. (Charlie Chaplin, "A Comedian Sees The World, Part I," A Woman's Home Companion, September 1933)