Showing posts with label Glasses. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Glasses. Show all posts

Saturday, November 5, 2016

"At this moment I believe my troubles began"

On the evening of May 17th, 1942, Chaplin received a phone call from the head of the American Committee for Russian War Relief in San Francisco asking if he would replace former U.S. Ambassador to Russia, Joseph E. Davies, who was scheduled to speak at a rally the next evening but became ill with laryngitis. Although he was only given 24 hours' notice, he accepted. He caught the evening train to San Francisco which arrived at eight the next morning.

The Civic Auditorium was packed with 8,000 people. Chaplin had been given little time to come up with a speech. He made notes on the back of his placecard at dinner and downed two glasses of champagne to calm his nerves.

Chaplin delivering his speech at the Civic Auditorium in S.F., May 18th, 1942

Backstage he paced back and forth waiting to go on. Then he heard his introduction.
I was wearing a black tie and dinner jacket. There was applause, which gave me little time to collect myself. When it subsided I said one word: "Comrades!" and the house went up in a roar of laughter, then applause. When it subsided, I said emphatically, "And I mean comrades." There was renewed laughter and then applause. I continued: 'I assume there are many Russians here tonight, and the way your countrymen are fighting and dying at this very moment, it is an honor and a privilege to call you comrades.' Through the applause many stood up."1
He continued:
What Communism is, I know not. But if it makes such men as are on the Russian front then we should respect it. Now is the time to clarify the air, for they are giving their life's blood that we might live. We should not only give of our cash but of our spirit of comradeship to help them.
When people ask: "What about after the war; will Communism sweep the world?" My answer is "So what?" Our design for an industrial system makes it impossible for us to predict. We are not to say. Undoubtedly we are in an era of collectivism.
But we won't go back to the old days of a few men making a hundred million dollars in a business about which they know nothing while little men stand in line.2

He ended his forty-minute speech by saying: "The Russians are our allies, they are not only fighting for their way of life, but for our way of life and if I know Americans they like to do their own fighting. Stalin wants it, Roosevelt has called for it--so let's all call for it--let's open a second front now!"

Chaplin recalled that there was a wild uproar that lasted for seven minutes. "And as they stamped and yelled and threw their hats in the air, I began to wonder if I had said too much and had gone too far."

Chaplin & others at the home of S.F. businessman Louis Lurie, May 18th, 1942: L-R: Chaplin, Betty Gordon (secretary of the Society of Russian Aid), Jacob Lomakin (Soviet Consul-General), Joseph Thompson (chairman of SF Russian War Relief Committee), Mrs. Thompson, & John Garfield. (source)

Afterward Chaplin had dinner with fellow speakers John Garfield, who presented a dramatic reading of "A Letter From A Red Army Soldier To An American Soldier" and Dudley Field Malone who read the speech prepared for the occasion by Joseph Davies. 3 Garfield told Chaplin, "You have a lot of courage," referring to his speech. "His remark was disturbing," recalled Chaplin, "for I did not wish to be valorous or caught up in a political cause célèbre. I had only spoken what I sincerely felt and thought was right. Nevertheless after John's remark I began to feel a depressing pall over the rest of the evening. But whatever menacing clouds I expected as a result of that speech evaporated, and back in Beverly Hills life went on as usual."4

Betty Gordon, Louis Lurie, and Chaplin

However the experience seems to have whet Chaplin's appetite for public speaking, which is surprising since it was something that he never seemed to enjoy. A few weeks later, he was asked to speak by radio-telephone at a mass meeting in Madison Square. He made several more speeches on behalf of the Second Front over the next few months, beginning each speech with "Hello, Comrades!" He delivered his final Second Front address in New York on December 3rd, 1942.

Chaplin's advocacy of the Second Front began what would be a very turbulent time in his career. The Joan Barry scandal would come a year later, then the controversy over his 1947 film, Monsieur Verdoux, culminating in his exit from America in 1952. But as Chaplin recalled twenty years later in My Autobiography, it all started with the speech in San Francisco. "At this moment I believe my troubles began," he wrote.


1Charles Chaplin, My Autobiography, 1964
2Bakersfield Californian, May 19th, 1942.
3Also on the bill was violinist Yehudi Menuhin.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Editing LIMELIGHT, 1952

Click to enlarge

With Chaplin are cameraman Rollie Totheroh (in vest and tie), assistant producer Jerry Epstein (in dark sweater), and editor Joseph Engel (first and second photo at right). Limelight was Chaplin's last film made at his own studio in Hollywood.

Jerry Epstein recalls what it was like editing the film with Chaplin:
Charlie and I worked in the cutting room for a little over six months. Charlie never allowed anyone but himself to edit his films. The cutter's job was merely to assemble every sequence into long shot, medium shot and close-up, and splice the film together after Charlie had decided where he wanted the cuts. 
It could have been clear sailing, but we had a bungler as our editor. Cutting rooms are usually well-ordered: all the film takes are labelled and easily located. Ours was in total chaos; our editor couldn't find anything. The minute Charlie asked for a take, he began shaking and opening every tin in sight. Rolls of film tumbled onto the floor. It was like a W.C. Fields film. I thought Charlie would have a stroke. His precious Limelight! Luckily I knew each take by heart, and was always able to locate what Charlie wanted. The editor, meanwhile, would be muttering, "But that was never filmed; there's no such take!" --Jerry Epstein, Remembering Charlie, 1989.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Chaplin in 1946

Notice his (real) Verdoux mustache.

Photo by Karl Gullers at Chaplin's home in Beverly Hills. See more here.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Charlie at home, c. 1947

Charlie is writing with natural left-hand, although he normally wrote with his right. In his day, left-handed children were forced to write with their right hands and because of this Charlie was ambidextrous, although he didn't write well with either hand (case in point).

Thursday, October 3, 2013

French Riviera, 1956

Charlie is wearing one of his eczema gloves. Eric James said that whenever he saw those white gloves, he knew Charlie would be in a bad mood.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Charlie directs the ballet sequence for Limelight

Charlie (in costume as Calvero and wearing glasses) is being watched by cameraman Karl Struss (tall man in center), Buster Keaton (in white shirt), Jerry Epstein (behind Buster), & assistant director Robert Aldrich (behind Chaplin).

Photo by W. Eugene Smith

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

RIP Douglas Fairbanks (May 23, 1883 – December 12, 1939)

Charlie & Doug, c. 1917
Charlie was introduced to Douglas by Constance Collier in 1916 & the two quickly became very good friends. When Charlie made his films, he depended on Douglas’ enthusiasm & reassurance. He later told Mary Pickford (Fairbanks' ex-wife), "Whenever I made a particular scene I would always anticipate the pleasure it would give Douglas."

In 1918, Charlie was so discouraged with his film Shoulder Arms that he considered "throwing it in the ash can." He changed his mind after he showed the film to Doug during a special screening: “From the beginning Fairbanks went into roars of laughter, stopping only for coughing spells. Sweet Douglas, he was my greatest audience."

Charlie with Douglas on the set of The Great Dictator. Reginald Gardiner is on the right. 

Shortly before he died, Doug visited the set of The Great Dictator. Charlie remembered that he "laughed uproariously" at some of the scenes he filmed.  This was the last time Charlie saw the man whom he would later say was his only friend in Hollywood.  There was no shooting at the Chaplin Studio the day of the funeral. Afterwards, Charlie told Mary Pickford, with a catch in his voice, "Mary, I couldn't bear to see them put that heavy stone over Douglas."

Twenty-five years later in his autobiography, Charlie remembered his dear friend: "I have missed Douglas--I have missed the warmth of his enthusiasm and charm; I have missed his friendly voice over the telephone, that used to call me up on a bleak and lonely Sunday morning: 'Charlie, coming up for lunch - then for a swim - then for dinner - then afterwards, see a picture?' Yes, I have missed his delightful friendship."

Charlie delivers the eulogy at the dedication of the Douglas Fairbanks Memorial at Hollywood Forever Cemetery, May 25, 1941.  Chaplin read these words from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, which are also inscribed on Fairbanks’ tomb: “Good night sweet prince, and flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.” (Photo: Jeffrey Vance, Chaplin: Genius Of The Cinema)

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Reading aloud from the manuscript for My Autobiography, c. 1964. Charlie often did this when friends came to visit.