Showing posts with label Henry Bergman. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Henry Bergman. 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)

Monday, July 25, 2016

Charlie's blindfold cigarette test

This photo shoot was used to advertise Old Gold cigarettes in Judge magazine in 1928.

In the background of the above photos (L-R): Carlyle Robinson (Chaplin's press agent), Harry Crocker, and Henry Bergman.

According to the ad below: "Chaplin was asked to smoke each of the four leading brands, clearing his taste with coffee between smokes. Only one question was asked:  'Which one do you like best?' He chose Old Gold." Sez Charlie: "It was like shooting a scene successfully after a whole series of failures. It just 'clicked' and I named it as my choice. It was Old Gold...It seems Strongheart and Rin-tin-tin are the only motion picture actor stars who don’t smoke them.”

"Not a cough in a carload"

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Working With Charlie Chaplin: Vol. 1

This is a new series in which Chaplin's associates describe what it was like to work with "the little genius."1

"Charlie has a mysterious personality, you are always trying to solve him, and you never do. He is almost feminine in his moods and the elusive quality of his personality. One morning he speaks warmly to you. The next he says nothing at all. He is an artist and temperamental.
Now Syd is more masculine. He is a great character actor. He can so change his personality in a scene that I can't recognize him. It is almost uncanny. Where Charlie's pictures are dramas, Syd's are melodramas. The two are exactly opposite, and it is the finest experience in the world working for them." --Charles "Chuck" Reisner, Los Angeles Times, Nov. 21, 1926
Shooting The Gold Rush. L-R: Harry d'Arrast, Eddie Manson, CC, Rollie Totheroh,
and Chuck Reisner.

"Working with Chaplin convinced me beyond any personal doubt that he is a genius. There's no one in Hollywood like him. In the four months I was in the picture I learned more about acting than I had during all the years I'd put in at it. Without my even realizing it at first, he started right in making me over. In the nine years I'd been carrying that old football for Paramount the one thing hammered into me was speed. Everything I did had to be quick stuff, the fly guy who was too fast for anybody to catch up with him. Chaplin changed all that. He would stop me in a scene and suggest my doing it in another way. At the moment I didn't understand what he was after. But it was clear enough when I saw it on the screen in the projection room. A glance showed me how he got his effects. Then he would say, 'All you have to do, Jack, is to take your time. If, for example, you're soaking a guy over the head with a mallet don't do it bing, bing, bing, but bing — bing — bing. That gives the audience time to laugh between each sock.' His timing is wonderful. --Jack Oakie, Hollywood magazine, August 1940
With Oakie on the set of The Great Dictator.

"All members of the cast received equal respect and attention from Chaplin, the director. In Monsieur Verdoux there was a scene with an infant-in-arms so young that, at short intervals, a different baby had to be substituted as the previous one would tire. After one take that he didn't like, Charlie came out from behind the camera, stalked up to the startled infant and scolded, 'You're anticipating again!'" --Robert Lewis, Slings & Arrows: Theater In My Life (I don't think the scene Lewis describes is in the final film.)
Chaplin as Verdoux and Robert Lewis as Maurice Botello in Monsieur Verdoux.

"Charlie gave me the biggest compliment I'd ever had. The script said that after listening to [Marlon] Brando's words I was to respond with a look, without saying a word.
'You're like an orchestra answering its conductor,' he said, almost moved. 'If I raise my hands, you go up, if I lower them, you go down....Outstanding.'
From those words, which were sewn inside me, a strong green plant grew, which continues to bear fruits today." --Sophia Loren, Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow: My Life.
Sophia and Chaplin on the set of A Countess From Hong Kong.

"Those scenes where we're playing on the street were not done at Mr. Chaplin's studio, they were done on the Paramount lot. And when we shot those scenes there was no music, so my cue was taken from Mr. Chaplin off-camera, giving me the tempo. And if you look, nobody is looking at him except me, because he is directing me on the tempo. And I can see fear in my face because I'm not a musician, but he knew that--he didn't ask me if I knew how to play the violin he didn't ask me if I knew anything about music--he just gave me the tempo. And when the picture was dubbed and the music was laid in, we were watching it in the dubbing room--and I have to tell you, when he was watching himself on screen, Mr. Chaplin never referred to himself as 'I,' he'd always say, 'Did he do that right? Was he funny?' He never said 'Did I do that right.' It was always in the third person. So anyway, we're watching the scene and he's screaming at me on the screen, 'God damn it, play faster, play faster!' And I'm sitting right next to him and he's yelling at the screen. It's because the tempo of the music he had written didn't match the tempo I was playing. I've never forgotten that: he was sitting right next to me and shouting at me on the screen! "--Julian Ludwig interview, Chaplin's Limelight & the Music Hall Tradition, Frank Scheide/Hooman Mehran, ed.
The street musicians from Limelight. Ludwig is in the middle (watching Chaplin).
With Snub Pollard (left) and Loyal Underwood.
"One of the more curious facets of my job was playing Charlie Chaplin in rehearsals. When a scene had to be set up to Chaplin 's satisfaction he would go behind the camera and call out: 'All right, let's see it!'  With the famous bat­tered derby on the top of my head--I stand an even six feet--and with the cane in my hand I would run through the actions of the scene with the other members of the cast. It was no sur­prise when Chaplin would say 'No, no, no, he wouldn't do that!' and leap in front of the camera to play the scene himself." --Harry Crocker, "A Tribute To Charlie," Academy Leader, April 1972
CC and Asst. Dir. Harry Crocker during the filming of City Lights.
"I thought he was very patient. He never lost his patience with me. But he did with Almira Sessions, the one that played the sister with the bird in her hat. 'Oh, that's him, that's really him, that's the one.' She couldn't get anything straight. He got so frustrated that he started yelling and screaming. 'Why can't you get anything straight? All you have to do is this, this and this,' and that flustered her even more. But other than that, the rest were alright." --Interview with Marilyn Nash, Limelight newsletter, Spring 1997
Lena Couvais (Almira Sessions) recognizes Verdoux in Monsieur Verdoux.
"[Charlie is] the easiest man [to work with]. He's never abusive, never impatient. I don't believe anybody else could get out of people what he does. At first they are a little overawed by such a big man. But he soon puts them thoroughly at ease. He always reassures them like this: 'I don't know much more about this than you do. Instead of telling you what to do, perhaps I can show you better.' If the player doesn't respond properly, instead of saying 'No, no, that is wrong!' he very quietly says: 'Maybe I didn't show you right. I will do it again.'" --Henry Bergman, Boston Globe, Feb. 22, 1931
CC and Henry.
"There was one scene I could not get right. It was between Charlie and me in my hotel room. Charlie tried to help me "break through," but I just couldn't make it. I don't know whether the fault was mine or the script. But Charlie understood and changed the order of the dialogue.
Shooting that scene took a whole day and afterwards I felt terrible about it. But when I tried to apologize he only laughed. 'Once with Paulette (Goddard) it took four days to get a scene right,' was his only comment." --Dawn Addams, "Leading Lady To A King," Charlie Chaplin: A Centennial Celebration, Peter Haining, ed.
Chaplin & Addams in A King in New York.
"It was funny about City Lights. We began rehearsing that water scene at night. Phew! We did it over and over and things wouldn't feel right. It wasn't until I discovered that Charlie is a southpaw that I realized what was the matter.  You may notice I'm left-handed through the picture too--when we shake hands, and during the cigar stunt. Another thing, I've been on the water wagon for years, so I guess I was picked for that role on my past performances. Gosh, the spaghetti and scrambled eggs we consumed rehearsing! But I'll say that for Charlie, he never made me begin before 1 o'clock." --Harry Myers, Los Angeles Times, Mar. 1, 1931
Harry Myers and CC in City Lights.
"[Chaplin was receptive to ideas from his associates] but our ideas had to be good and this rarely happened. Chaplin carried the ball all the time, and we were mostly used as punching bags to try ideas on. None of us yessed him, and he always listened to any criticism we might make. Later, as I got to know him better, I discovered the best criticism was silence--and being a very sensitive artist, he knew something was wrong by the expression on our faces." --Harry d'Arrast, "Chaplin's Collaborators," Films In Review, January 1962
With Harry d'Arrast
"I'm the only girl around the studio most of the time, and they treat me like a queen. Everything is always pleasant and harmonious. Mr. Chaplin is very quiet himself and dislikes any unnecessary commotion.
He writes and directs his own pictures and, I tell you, I have to be wide awake and on the alert to keep pace with him, for I never know at what instant he will think up some big scene and, when he is in the mood, he likes to work quickly and steadily. It is always interesting to watch him develop the action, for he insists that there must be a cause leading up to the fights, the runaways, or whatever it is. He acts out our parts for us, and I assure you he can play even my role better than I can, for he is a natural imitator." --Edna Purviance, Motion Picture Classic, November 1919
With Edna during the filming of A Woman Of Paris.

1Jim Tully recalled that Chaplin was teasingly given this nickname by a few of his associates. (Pictorial Review, 1927).

Tuesday, April 14, 2015


Released April 14th, 1918, this was Chaplin's first "million dollar comedy" for First National and the first film he made in his newly built studio in Hollywood.

"Scraps--A Thoroughbred Mongrel." His real name was Mut (or Mutt). The story goes
that when Charlie left for a Liberty Bond tour shortly after filming was completed, Mut,
who had become very attached to him, died of "a broken heart."
 He was buried on the studio grounds.
This was the first of Charlie's film to feature his brother, Sydney,
 who had already made several successful films for Keystone including
the "Gussle" films and The Submarine Pirate.
Syd's first wife, Minnie, (far left) appears in the dancehall scenes usually dancing with
Albert Austin (with mustache) who is getting ready to cut in on Minnie
and her dance partner in this scene.

The dance hall drummer (Chuck Reisner) thinks Charlie has a tail.
 This was Reisner's first film with Chaplin.
"A new singer sings an old song"
...and makes everyone cry
including Henry Bergman, dressed as a woman, and Loyal Underwood.
Edna's singing inspires the bartender, played by Andy Anderson,
 to put back the money he stole from the cash register.
 Anderson later became the skipper of Chaplin's yacht, Panacea
 This was also the first film in which Granville Redmond appears.
Redmond was a deaf painter who kept a studio on Chaplin's lot. 
"I'm flirting"
Poor Mut was plied with alcohol for this scene. 

Friday, March 13, 2015

Roscoe Arbuckle visits the Lone Star Studio, 1916

Judging from the costumes, Chaplin was filming Behind The Screen. Henry Bergman is between Chaplin and Arbuckle. Eric Campbell is at left. Everyone appears to be checking out Arbuckle's fancy car.

Photo from Chaplin's Schatten by Fritz Hirzel (1982), credited to MOMA, NYC.
 Courtesy of Dominique Dugros.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Random Excerpt

Journalist Sara Hamilton describes a day on the Chaplin lot during the filming of Modern Times:
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 they gather--and the situations are acted out one after the other. Charlie begins by taking his own role as 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; Charlie is the factory foreman. Then swiftly they change parts again. Della is Charlie, the tramp; Henry is a policeman and Chaplin becomes the street waif. 
Henry Bergman and Della Steele, c.1935. ©Roy Export S.A.S.
It was his untiring striving for perfection in performance and his gentle patience with the clumsiest performer that impressed a titled visitor (and visitors are rare) at the Chaplin lot recently.  Rehearsals began at ten that morning with extras and bit players ready and waiting. Then began one of the strangest phenomena every witnessed. Chaplin directing his own picture. In explaining the action to the owner of the delicatessen shop, Charlie became the character. In some manner he took on enormous proportions, his face rounded, his hands grew massive and clumsy as the tramp faded in the background. 
In a flash he became the policeman, growing in stature before the eyes as he strutted, stormed and threatened. Then on to Miss Goddard's role. Prone on the sidewalk he wept, cried out in childish despair, "I didn't, please, please, I didn't steal the ham. Oh please, I didn't, Mister. Honest, I didn't." The voice, not Chaplin's, but the voice of the frightened waif--wept and cried and pleaded from the sidewalk. Now, in a flash, he was an extra tramp, weaving his gentle way in perfect rhythm in and out among the characters.  
Directing Paulette Goddard. ©Roy Export S.A.S.
From ten till four it went on without a moment's pause. And then, with the perspiration dripping down his face, he humbly thanked them all and with an apology for having carried them past the lunch hour, staggered off, tired and weary, to his little bungalow, his cane flipping a feeble staccato as he went. 
There is little boisterousness around the Chaplin studio. The Chaplinites feel that unwarranted noise or crude language might offend "him." "Him" in case you haven't guessed, is the little tramp, the tattered ragamuffin, the gallant little gentleman with his absurdly defiant elegance who picks his teeth with such delightful savoir faire and belches with such charming daintiness. 
To them this pathetic little creature who once, long ago, sprang from the forehead of Charles Spencer Chaplin, is a definite personality. He lives, he breathes, he thinks, he walks his troubled way alone. His name to all of them, is just "he."
In the midst of some hilarious bit of tragedy in which "he" finds himself involved on the set, Chaplin will figuratively stand aside and contemplate his little friend with an amused chuckle and a knowing wink that seems to say, "our little friend got himself into a fine pickle that time, didn't he?"
So it was when they showed Charlie the sweater knit by the loving hands of some dear old lady and sent over to the Chaplin studio with a note explaining it was for the little tramp when the wind blew cold. Chaplin's eyes grew misty as he said, "Write and thank her and tell her not to worry. "I'll always take care of 'him.'"
--Sara Hamilton, "The New Charlie Chaplin," Baltimore Sun, September 1, 1935 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

After an absence of eight months, Chaplin returns to Los Angeles to face his divorce from Lita Grey, mid-August, 1927

Chaplin with his attorney, Gavin McNab, August 1927
Chaplin had been in New York since Lita filed her complaint for divorce in mid-January. Before heading to Los Angeles, he spent a couple of days relaxing with his attorney, Nathan Burkan, and a friend in Del Monte, CA. The divorce was set to go to trial on August 22nd* and although he spent most of his first day home in seclusion at his brother Syd's house, that evening he emerged with Henry Bergman and drove to his home on Summit Drive to see his sons, Charlie, Jr. and Sydney. Lita, her mother, and the boys had been occupying the house for the last several months under a court order. Charlie and Lita "exchanged greetings and hoped that the other was feeling well."1 Then while Lita and her mother stood in the background, Chaplin "sought out his two babies and spent the better part of a half hour caressing and playing with them."2 Before he left, Lita told him that her front door was open to him anytime he wanted to visit his children.

By himself--with and without his hat, August 1927

Later that day Chaplin visited his studio but according to Bergman, he kept to himself most of the time. "He is hopeless and doesn't want company. He is not avoiding anyone but he would rather be by himself." Charlie visited Henry's restaurant on Hollywood Blvd twice and there "nodded carelessly to friends and acquaintences." When he did not return home Syd's house that evening it was thought that he was likely out driving by himself.3


*A settlement would be reached by the 19th and the divorce granted on the 22nd.
1New York Times, August 18, 1927
2Los Angeles Times, August 17, 1927

Monday, August 4, 2014

CITY LIGHTS set visit

Charlie is at far right. Other familiar faces include: Henry Bergman (far left, in the back), Virginia Cherrill, Douglas Fairbanks, & Toraichi Kono (behind Doug). That might be Alf Reeves behind Charlie (in the hat) but it's hard to tell.

Photo credit: Charles Chaplin In Japan by Ono Hiroyuki

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Outtake from The Idle Class

Below are stills (or on set images) from a bowling alley sequence that was filmed (supposedly) for The Idle Class but never used.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

RIP Henry Bergman (February 23, 1868 – October 22, 1946)

Henry Bergman became an indispensable member of Chaplin's stock company in 1916. He adored Charlie and was a loyal and supportive friend and associate for 30 years. Chaplin repaid that loyalty by keeping Henry on his payroll until his death.

In an interview from 1931, Henry remembers how he came to work for Charlie:
I had known Mr. Chaplin personally. We used to be quite friendly at dinners, etc., and when I mentioned to him that I was looking for a job he said, "Why don't you come with me? You can work with me when I start a company of my own." That's the way it was. (Interview with Mayme Ober Peak, Boston Globe, February 22, 1931. I posted a longer excerpt from the interview here.)
Bergman was a versatile actor and would sometimes have multiple roles in one film. During filming, he was known to be just as tireless as Charlie:
For hour on hour on a sweltering August day during Shoulder Arms, Charlie forced the weighty Henry, in a full parade of German arms and uniform and sweating under a full muff (or crepe hair beard) to pursue him, disguised as a tree stump, through a eucalyptus grove. "You great fat hulk," complained the ex­hausted comedian. "Can't I wear you out?" Henry pled fatigue, but told Chaplin he was determined not to give up until Charlie did. (Harry Crocker, "Henry Bergman," Academy Leader, April 1972). 
In the 1920s, Bergman opened a popular Hollywood restaurant called Henry’s (possibly financed, or co-financed, by Chaplin). Henry would often go from table to table talking with customers, with his ever-present cigar dangling from his mouth. Charlie, who was fascinated by the success of the restaurant, was a regular customer. His favorite dishes were the lentil soup and coleslaw.

One of the last photos of Henry was taken on the set of Monsieur Verdoux. He did not have a role in the film and died from a heart attack shortly after shooting had begun.

Cameraman Rollie Totheroh is between Bergman and Chaplin. Associate Director Robert Florey is on the left of Bergman and Charlie’s half-brother Wheeler Dryden is behind Florey. 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Chaplin & crew on the set of City Lights, 1929

From left: publicist Carlyle Robinson, studio manager, Alf Reeves, assistant director, Henry Bergman, CC, cameramen: Mark Marlatt, Rollie Totheroh & Eddie Gheller (?), Henry Clive, seated, originally played the millionaire but was later fired, and assistant director, Harry Crocker, far right, who was also eventually fired from the production.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Color home movie footage from The Great Dictator

This behind-the-scenes footage was taken by Charlie's half-brother, Sydney, during production of The Great Dictator. This is my edit of the original 26-minute footage which can be found on both the MK2 & Criterion DVD sets of the film.

Music: "The Great Dictator", from Charlie Chaplin: Essential Film Music, Carl Davis, conductor, & "Falling Star" from Oh! That Cello by Thomas Beckmann

Don't miss:

Opening shot & .21: Charlie (in costume) behind the camera
2:30: Charlie loses his temper.
2:49: Assistant director, Wheeler Dryden, Charlie's half-brother (Dryden is also the voice of the translator, Heinrich Schtick, during Hynkel's speech)
3:02: Betty Chaplin (later Betty Chaplin Tetrick, Charlie's cousin), at left wearing a white blouse, and Syd's wife, Gypsy. They are seen again at the 5:33 mark.
4:17: Henry Bergman (Bergman is not in the film but has an uncredited role as assistant).
4:28: Charlie waves to his brother.
4:45: Syd's panning shot taken from the roof of the Chaplin Studio garage, note the Hollywood sign in the distance, the set from City Lights where Charlie assessed the nude statue (5:00), & the Chaplin studio gate (5:31).

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Chaplin & company on location with Shoulder Arms, 1918

Albert Austin is at far left. Henry Bergman is talking to Syd Chaplin (with mustache). Studio manager Alf Reeves is in the center (wearing a straw hat), Charlie is seated in front. Cameraman Rollie Totheroh, wearing a visor, is next to the camera. 

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Della Steele

Filming The Circus. Merna Kennedy is standing at center with Harry Crocker (tall man with hat),
 Toraichi Kono (behind Crocker) & Henry Bergman behind the camera. 
Seated in front of Bergman is Della Steele.

I've always been curious about Della Steele, Chaplin's continuity secretary from c.1924 to 1936. She can be spotted in numerous behind-the scenes-photos from this period (like the one above)--sitting behind the camera (usually off to the side somewhere) writing her meticulous notes, no matter where they were filming. She was among the crew who accompanied Chaplin to the snowy mountains of Truckee, CA during the filming of The Gold Rush. Lita Grey Chaplin remembered that Steele was one of the first crew members to catch a bad cold.

Steele's notes provide valuable insight into Chaplin's filmmaking process. Sometimes they included little tidbits of info about late-night meals and who visited the set on a particular day:
Midnight supper served on stage. Shooting in Dynamo set. Worked all night from 7:30PM to 4:45AM. Paulette Goddard, King Vidor and Betty Hill [Vidor's girlfriend] visitors on set. (October 15th, 1934)
The production report for the next day is a little more dramatic:
Shooting in Dynamo set. Hard rainstorm stopped work for an hour and a half. Rain came through tarpoleon [sic] overhead and caused some damage to the sets. Hot supper served at 1 A.M. and worked balance of night to 5:10 Wednesday morning. [work began at 6:30PM the previous day]
Production Report, Oct. 16th, 1934. Source: Modern Times: Project Chaplin n. 2 (©Roy Export)

Usually the secretary just filled in the start and end time for the day on the production report. Maybe it's just me, but the fact that Steele reiterated that the crew had to work all night both nights in her notes makes it sound like she wasn't too pleased about it.

Charlie directs a scene for Modern Times: Rollie Totheroh & Ira Morgan are behind the camera. 
Della Steele is behind Chaplin. Assistant director Carter De Haven is seated with his legs crossed on the left.
 Standing at far right is Paulette Goddard. Charlie appears to be in street clothes except for his shoes.

According to a 1936 article by Sara Hamilton,* Steele stood in for the actors during a story conference for Modern Times. The article also reveals how Chaplin could bring an audience to tears even during rehearsals (and even when he wasn't playing the Tramp)**:
About the table gather Charlie, Henry [Bergman] 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, [poor Henry!] is then called upon to play Chaplin's role, Della takes Miss 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.**
Not much is known about Steele's personal life. A lifelong Californian, Della Elizabeth Dosta Steele was born in 1890 and died in 1955. She was married once (as far as I can tell) to a man named John Steele. They were divorced sometime in the 1920s. She is buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale. I don't believe she had any children. She was among the few women who worked for Charlie who wasn't an actress. It's a shame she was never interviewed (to my knowledge) about her time working for him. I'm sure she had some great stories to tell.

Chaplin's crew circa Modern Times. Back row: Mark Marlatt (asst. cameraman), 
Girwood Averill (projectionist), William Bogdonoff (construction). 
Front row: Joe Van Meter (production asst.), Henry Bergman (asst. director),
 Rollie Totheroh (cinematographer),  Della Steele, Allan Garcia (casting).
Photo by Max Munn Autrey.

*"Charlie Chaplin and Charles Chaplin," The Straits Times, March 20th, 1936

**Alice Davenport had a similar reaction while watching Charlie film the scene from The New Janitor where the Tramp pleads for his job because he has a large family to care for. Afterwards Davenport told Charlie, "I know it's supposed to be funny, but you just make me weep." Henry Bergman also recalled the crew members getting misty-eyed while watching Charlie film the final scene of City Lights.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Random Excerpt

From "The Man Who Knows Charlie Chaplin Best" By Mayme Ober Peak, Boston Globe, Feb. 22nd, 1931:
Henry's huge figure had been familiar to me for some time. But not until I looked into his kindly eyes did I realize what a definite quality of sympathetic understanding radiated from his tremendous strength. One can appreciate  how the high-strung artist--the world's playfellow, but the loneliest man in it, has grown to rely upon Henry Bergman. 
At first he was reluctant to talk of his association with Chaplin. So, to draw him out, I asked him to talk about himself, knowing it would be impossible for Henry to do this without talking about Charlie. 
The first thing I learned was surprising--that Henry is a native of California, as are three generations of Bergman farmers. Bergman's father was a breeder of fine horses, his mother a former grand opera singer, who as "Aeolla" was well-known in Europe. Henry inherited his mother's talent and sang on the  same stages on which she appeared. He studied in Germany and Italy, making his operatic debut in a small role in Faust
"I got my histrionic training in Wagnerian roles," he told me. 
"Twenty years ago I came into pictures. Before that I had been with Augustin Daly's company for nine years in New York. I was catapulted from stage to screen by a music comedy flop. I had been rehearsing for it many weeks without pay and when it closed a few days after it opened I was disgusted. 'This is no business for me,' said I."
"One day I ran into a player I had known in Germany. When I asked him what he was doing he said. 'Sh-h-h, don't let anyone know, I'm working in pictures. Doing pretty well, too, making $5 a day.'
"He suggested he might be able to fix me up at a studio. The idea rather appealed to me, that when you don't get paid, you don't need to work, so I went out with him to the Pathe. There I got my first job as heavy with Pearl White in The Perils Of Pauline. An introduction to Paul Panzer led to my association with Henry Lehrman with whom I came to Hollywood with the Elco Company in 1914.
"We did a series of pictures after which I went to Mr. Chaplin and stayed with himI had known Mr. Chaplin personally. We used to be quite friendly at dinners, etc. and when I mentioned to him that I was looking for a job, he said: 'Why don't you come with me? You can work with me when I start a company of my own.' That's the way it was." 
As simply as that, Henry tried to dismiss his long association with the Napoleon of the movies. But the reporter pressed him for details. 
"Just how do you assist Mr. Chaplin in directing?" I asked. 
Henry shrugged a protesting shoulder at the word "directing."
"What I really do is cueing. I stand in Mr. Chaplin's place cueing while he enacts the scene. Then he takes my place and I do his part while he directs."
"Is Mr. Chaplin difficult to work with?" I inquired.
"The easiest man, never abusive, never impatient. I don't believe anyone else could get out of people what he does. At first they are a little overawed by such a big man. But he soon puts them thoroughly at ease. He always reassures them like this: 'I don't know much more about this than you do. Instead of telling you what to do, perhaps I can show you better.' If the player doesn't respond properly, instead of saying 'No, no, that's wrong!' he very quietly says: 'Maybe I didn't show you right. I will do it again.'
"He always likes the most dramatic scenes best. When he did the last scene in City Lights, where the flower girl recognizes him. I was sitting alongside the camera. Gradually I could feel my eyes fill up. 'That's funny I'm affected that way.' I thought. I turned around and the script girl had tears rolling down her face. I looked at the cameraman, Mr. Totheroh, who had been with Charlie for 15 years, and he was weeping."
"When Charlie saw the reaction, he was like a child. He looked at me and said, 'All right, Henry?' Then he got a little cocky and said, 'I'll do it again.' 'Oh, don't spoil it, Charlie.' I urged. But he did the scene twice again and better each time."

"A few hours after the Hollywood opening of City Lights, I was just leaving the studio in my car when Charlie drove up. At once he came to me and said in all seriousness: 'Henry, I don't know so much about this picture, I'm not sure.' And I said to him: "I'm telling you, Charlie, I've never failed you yet, have I? If this isn't right you will quit the business and go live abroad on what you've got. Nobody can do what you've done."
"It really is a supreme achievement of histrionic art. Finer ln construction than A Woman Of Paris or The Kid. It has more comedy and one of the most dramatic moments that has ever appeared on the screen."
"Did you ever see such a world of drama?" said Henry, now appealing to me, "when the flower girl recognizes in the tramp the man she had visualized as being wealthy and charming? Charlie realizing that he would break the spell if he walked away, did the only thing there was to do--left it to your imagination. It is your business to figure out what you would like to happen."
I made a futile attempt to get some admission from Mr. Bergman as to whether he played any part in assisting Mr. Chaplin to compose the score for City Lights. I wouldn't be surprised, however, if he hasn't had something to with the comedian's love of music. Music and travel are his only relaxations.
"When Chaplin left Hollywood" (on his world tour), remarked Henry, "he said: 'I won't be long. I'll come back and go to work after I've relaxed and played around a little bit.' He took his Japanese valet with him, and his secretary, Carlyle Robinson.
"Until he returns, I'll not hear a solitary word. Charlie never writes to anybody. He never even wires about business. That's why he has to have someone with him all the time."
"Mr. Chaplin is interested financially in your cafe is he not?"*
"That's just a story," said Henry, "but I haven't bothered to deny it. When I found myself, seven and eight months at a time, walking up and down Hollywood Boulevard between Chaplin pictures, I said to myself, "this won't do. I'm getting to the age where my mind must be occupied. I've been a bachelor all my life, eaten in restaurants in all parts of Europe. I thought it would be a good idea to create in Hollywood a place where people could feel at home, sit around and chat with their friends. The kind of cafe they have in every country in Europe."
As I passed out of the cafe, by the deaf and dumb newsboy who maintains the front of Henry's as his special right, and walked down the gayly lit boulevard, I thought how strange it was that in Hollywood, obsessed by self-aggrandizement, I should find in the heart of a cafe proprietor such unselfish allegiance and devotion to the world-famous clown with whom he works and weeps.
In a way, Henry Bergman can be likened to a piano tuner who keeps the unique instrument that is Charlie Chaplin in shape to play upon the world's emotions.

*Henry's Cafe opened in the 1920s. It became one of the most popular lunch spots in Hollywood. Charlie was a regular customer.