Showing posts with label Eddie Sutherland. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Eddie Sutherland. Show all posts

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Lita Grey, along with Chaplin & his enterouge, at her contract signing to be leading lady in The Gold Rush, March 1924

From left: Chaplin’s publicist Eddie Manson, Lillian Spicer (Lita’s mother), Asst Dir. Chuck Reisner, CC, publicist Jim Tully, Lita, Henry Bergman, Asst. Dir. Eddie Sutherland, and studio manager Alf Reeves.

In his 1927 biography of Chaplin, Jim Tully recalled how Lita got the part:
Chaplin's selection of Lita Grey to play the role of the leading lady in "The Gold Rush" was quite romantic. Many young women of great beauty had applied for the position. Charlie, never quite certain as to which type he wanted, found his selection almost hopeless until the young schoolgirl appeared at the studio. She had played with Charlie in "The Kid," and hence was given a "screen-test" to see whether she photographed well or otherwise. 
A day after Miss Grey appeared at the studio her picture was flashed in the projection room. Chaplin was in a particularly happy mood that morning. 
After the rushes and screen-tests had been viewed Charlie walked with me to my office. Lita Grey followed us. She stood in the middle of the room saying, "What's it to be, Charlie--Mister Man?"
Charlie looked at her for a moment and said boyishly, "You're engaged."
The young girl, not yet sixteen, jumped up and down with joy. Had she been able to read the future she might have jumped over the moon, for within a short time Lita became not only leading woman for the most famous man in the world but also his wife. (Jim Tully, "Charlie Chaplin: His Real Life Story" Pictorial Review, February 1927)

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

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.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Random Excerpt

The following is Jim Tully's first-hand account of the filming of the opening scenes of The Gold Rush on Donner Summit near Truckee, CA, early 1924:
As we left the train a great shout of "He's here--he's here!" echoed over the snow-white country. It was from Chaplin's lieutenant, Edward Sutherland, and members of the company who had blazed the trail for the general. The same shout was always given when Chaplin arrived at the studio.
Summit consisted of a general store and a pine hotel perched on a mountainside. Weary of the day, we walked toward the hotel. 
Boxes filled with sawdust served as spittoons in the roughly furnished lobby. A battered registry book was open on a garishly painted red desk. 
We waited about it until Chaplin had written his heavy signature. We then wrote our names. Teamsters, carpenters, and other men loitered in the lobby. They gazed in awe at Chaplin. As he walked past them in a narrow hallway several men said, "Hello, Charlie!"
He answered "Hello!" cheerily. 
The preparation for the trek over Chilkoot Pass had been a long and arduous task. So loyal and efficient were Chaplin's assistants that upon his arrival every detail had been carried out. He was up at five the next morning, going over plans with Eddie Sutherland, his assistant, and [Chuck] Reisner, his chief gag-man. 
At seven that morning the army of hoboes arrived. 
As the disheveled 500 vagabonds left the train they marched in a body to the front of the hotel and shouted, "Hurrah for Charlie!" The world's greatest screen artist listened with a wry smile. 
Chaplin (in middle with back to the camera) with the hobo extras. Lita Grey is at left.
Sutherland and Reisner were outdoors marshaling the army of nondescripts. The pass headquarters was three miles away, in a white basin of land surrounded by pine-covered mountains. The road was full of drifted snow. 
As we emerged from the hotel with Chaplin, dressed in baggy trousers, wearing the derby and holding his cane, another mighty shout went up from the assembled vagabonds, who stood as if at attention. I hurried with Chaplin into a waiting sleigh. The horses dashed through the cold air. Chaplin held his hand to his derby, the men shouting the while, "Hey, Charlie boy!" Hurrah for Charlie--he's our kind--hurrah--hooray!" Cold, benumbed fingers lifted greasy caps and hats as the horses dashed onward by them. 
"Isn't it great, Charlie--those men love and understand you--hear them cheer!" I said. 
As the men marched single file after the sleigh, they resembled a long black string across a white earth. We soon lost sight of them. 
Chaplin is in the middle between Lita Grey and Eddie Sutherland (in black hat).
Jim Tully is on right (in white shirt).
Cameras turned upon the marching men as they drew near the pass headquarters. Feeling a communion with Chaplin, like boys at a picnic, the weary trudgers enjoyed it all. Their gay and life-streaked faces showed it. 
The comedian's energy was indefatigable. He hurried about giving orders through a large megaphone. Chaplin wanted to make his opening shots of this picture "the greatest ever made." Teams, wagons, sleighs, hauling supplies, came endlessly from Summit. 
Within two hours the first march over Chilkoot Pass was started. One by one the men trudged through a narrow pass between two mountains, nearly two miles long. Far up, men scaled the pass. Down below, men clambered upward with lust for the gold which lay beyond. 
Chaplin's original idea for "The Gold Rush" was ironical. The end finally chosen came only after many, many changes, until Charlie had what he felt he had been seeking. 
The working hours passed swiftly and were generally pleasant. Chaplin's energy seemed inexhaustible. 
The terrible glare of the sun on snow nearly blinded us at times. It made our skin turn red and blister and caused our eyes to burn through the night. 
Chaplin wears sunglasses to shield his eyes from the blinding snow.
Time after time hundreds of men walked by the camera uncomplainingly as ghosts and as heavily laden as army mules. Blankets and other paraphernalia of miners were strung across their backs. Chaplin, during this sequence, was one of the men. He would direct it until it came time for him to join the march. He would then hand his megaphone to his assistant director, Edward Sutherland, adjust his battered derby, and fall in line. 
As he stepped along with the army of vagabonds, his face slowly and miraculously took on a sad and sadder expression, until, as he neared the cameras, you saw a broken explorer in a lonely moment, worn and heartsick, and trudging onward to a very uncertain destiny. He was able to interpret perfectly his companions' sufferings on his mobile face. I stood near a cameraman who had photographed the comedian for seven years [Rollie Totheroh]. He sighed as he looked at Chaplin's face and turned the camera. 
Here, indeed, was the man Chaplin great. Here he made you forget all his superficialities and all his sad futilities. He was now a troubadour, two skillets rattling on his back, his derby hat near to falling off, his mouth in little puckers of agony, and his eyes too brave to cry. 
You wanted to laugh at his grotesque make-up. But his face kept you from it. He looked about dismally at his companions, who staggered onwards heads down, backs hunched, as if to better bear their loads. On and on they walked, leaning forward like men going up a steep hill. These 500 hoboes--social rebels hating all established order--were now as docile as lambs. 
The cameras turned in a steady, monotonous rhythm. Voices yelled to the men "Don't look at the cameras--keep goin' on--if you look up at all--look at the narrow pass--pay no attention to Charlie at all--he's just one of you--don't even look at him--it'll spoil the continuity of the action." Sutherland, the assistant, could be heard now above everything else. 
"Come on, men--a little slower--you're a little more tired--it's been a long walk, you know--but you've got to go on--you've got to make the pass before night--your feet are heavy--but you're game--slow up slowly--so it isn't too perceptible on the screen."
As Chaplin reached the headquarters he looked up and beheld his leading lady [then Lita Grey]. Clad in a fur coat, beautiful in contrast to her rough surroundings, she walked straight into the derbied vagabond's heart. Words were not needed--here was a life-and beauty-starved man. It was all written on his face as he looked at the girl. But as a sore-footed soldier might look at a rose while marching to battle, he dare not stop. 
Then came the villain and the mechanics of the screen. Chaplin became the tawdry hero and lost the poignancy of the situation. 
At least twenty times the men marched past the cameras. Chaplin alternately watching and walking with them. At last the effect was what he thought he desired. The men rested. In an hour they did it all over again. (Tully, "The Real Life-Story of Charlie Chaplin," Pictorial Review, March 1927)

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)