Showing posts with label Jack Oakie. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Jack Oakie. Show all posts

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Working With Charlie Chaplin, Vol. 3: THE GREAT DICTATOR

Today is the 75th anniversary of the New York premiere of Chaplin's first talkie.

PAULETTE GODDARD (Hannah): "I am proudest of my role in The [Great] Dictator--both politically and emotionally. I am not playing a character--it's really me. Charlie wrote that part for me. The girl is quaint, she's a rebel. She is fearless. She's the only one who fights and talks back to the storm troopers." (Boston Globe, October 13, 1940)

REGINALD GARDINER (Schultz): "Making that picture was a unique experience. Chaplin's studio on North La Brea is like Charlie's own private kingdom, where he is absolute boss and where nothing matters except this one picture. You can't help but be stimulated...And it's amazing to watch Chaplin on the set. One minute he is the white-haired genius, bursting with ideas, giving orders about the lighting and the set, planning everything ahead of time with extraordinary care, and the the next minute the camera will start to grind and he will suddenly become the wistful Little Tramp." (San Francisco Chronicle, November 29, 1940)

DAN JAMES (Asst. Director): "Charlie admired [Hitler's] acting. He really did. Of course, he had in himself some of the qualities that Hitler had. He dominated his world. And Chaplin's world was not a democracy either. He was the dictator of all those things." (David Robinson, Charlie Chaplin: His Life and Art, 1985)

Asst. directors Dan James (in striped shirt) and Wheeler Dryden

TED TETRICK (costumes): When we were making fittings, Charlie never wore a moustache. When we had a final fitting for the uniform in the spaghetti-throwing scene, the people from Western Costume remarked on how much he looked like Hitler. Charlie spun around and said, “Hitler looks like me!”' (Charlie Chaplin Archives, Paul Duncan, ed., Taschen, 2015)

JACK OAKIE (Napaloni): "He used to give me a lot of scenes. After each one he'd grin like a kid. 'Oakie,' he'd say, 'I don't know why I'm so good to you.' I'd say, 'Listen, you little rascal, you just do for me what you did for Jackie Coogan.' ..."I figure being in this picture with Chaplin is gonna get your Uncle Jack about ten years of nice fat work. It's that good." (Screenland, Nov. 1940)

FRANCESCA SANTORO (Aggie): "I suppose one scene was taking longer to prepare than usual. All of a sudden, Mr. Chaplin, who was directing from the outside, in makeup and costume (He was wearing what I recall as being a green plaid vest), came inside the ghetto. He started dancing a jig, just to entertain the cast, and keep them from getting more restless than usual. Since I was on the barrel, I remember he had his back to us, and he was facing the cameras. I don’t know if they ever shot any of that in film, but a still remains. I like to think that the cameras were moving. We were all clapping our hands. It was very funny, and it was also very kind of him to break up any restlessness the cast might have had." (Francesca Santoro, 2015)

Santoro is behind Paulette, second from left.

And for fun:

WHEELER DRYDEN (Asst. Director): The following are notes from the shooting schedules for The Great Dictator:

"Some people think that this schedule isn't subject to change. Some people also believe in Santa Claus." (December 9, 1940)

"Will the person who took the quart jar of alcohol from the prop room please return it. Clem Widrig has no place to keep his teeth." (December 16, 1940, Widrig was property master on the film) (source: The Great Dictator DVD, Image Entertainment, 2000)

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).

Friday, January 23, 2015

RIP Jack Oakie (January 23, 1978)

Oakie and Chaplin on the set of The Great Dictator.

Oakie describes below being approached for a role in The Great Dictator by Syd Chaplin when both men were returning to America from Europe aboard the Ile de France:

"Charlie's working on an idea for a picture about Hitler," Sid said. And in afterthought I remember that he used to look me over as if her were trying to guess my weight. Never dreaming that he would ever send for me, because I wasn't German and felt sure there was nothing in a Hitler picture that I could play. I cheerfully joked about the idea.
"Sounds good to me, Sid. After all, Hitler's been trying to imitate Charlie wearing his mustache."1
So when Charlie did send word that he wanted to speak to me I could hardly believe it. I began guessing that perhaps with my rotund build he was considering me for a character like Goering.
"Oakie," he said, "I've been watching you, and I hear you have a reputation for being a wise-cracker. How would you like to be in a picture about Hitler?"
"What would I play, Charlie?" I asked.
"No! Oakie, I want you to play Mussolini," he said.
"Mussolini!" I couldn't believe it. "Charlie, you must be kidding."
"No, Oakie, I'm not kidding. I want you to play Mussolini."
"Charlie, I'm Scotch-Irish," I protested, almost talking myself out of the job.  "You want an Italian to play Mussolini."
"What's so funny about an Italian playing Mussolini?" he asked.
"Charlie," I said as fast as I could, "I'm your man!"
"Good, good," he said. He could see how thrilled I was. "Good!" he said again and meekly raised his left palm, Nazi fashion, and saluted me. He kept his elbow tucked into his waist and held his hand below shoulder level. It was the sheepish salutation he used all through the picture. (Jack Oakie, "When Your Boss Is Charlie Chaplin," Saturday Evening Post, April 1978)

 With Paulette Goddard & CC at the New York premiere of The Great Dictator.
Chaplin is giving a Hynkel salute to the crowd.

1A different version of the story of Syd recommending Jack for the role is told in an article in the Los Angeles Times from September 1940. In that version, they are talking at a Hollywood party when Syd asks Jack: "Stick out your jaw again that way, will you?...I want you to come around and see Charlie tomorrow, I've got an idea." (Stein, Syd Chaplin)

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Advertising tie-ins featuring The Great Dictator

Top photo: The Great Dictator: Chaplin Project Notebook N. 1
Bottom photo: Showman's Trade Review, May 17, 1941

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Random Excerpt

Oakie plays fellow dictator, Benzino Napaloni,
 in The Great Dictator (1940)

The following is an excerpt from "When Your Boss Is Charlie Chaplin," by Jack Oakie, who was born on this day in 1903:

Charlie was the most left-handed person of all the left-handed people in the world.
Sometimes he even confused the right side from the left side of the camera when looking through the lens. Karl Struss, the cameraman, had to keep reminding him that what he was looking at was on the side he meant it to be.
Right after lunch one day, with food still on his mind, we went to the set of the large banquet hall.
This was the scene where Hynkel and Napaloni were to have their private meeting.
Chaplin directed that, as we two dictators enter the banquet hall, his cabinet members hurriedly usher all the guests and waiters out of the room.
Charlie directed one of the young actresses , a dress extra, and a very attractive young lady, to pick up a plate on the run, fill it with food from the magnificent buffet table, which was laden with plates, silverware, napkins, and extra large platters of salads, meats, cheese, fruits, spaghetti, breads, cream dressings and condiments, and take it with her greedily as she quickly exited with the other departing guests. "See," he said, and demonstrated what he wanted her to do. He picked up the plate, filled it with some cheese and meat, hurriedly reached for some slices of bread and then rushed through the doors before they were closed by the guards. We started the scene and the girl picked up the plate exactly as Charlie had done. She tried to fill it with some meat and cheese, but the slices kept sliding off the plate, and the bread tray seemed far out of reach. She was too late getting to the doors before the guards closed them. "No! No! Honey," Charlie called to her. "Be quicker. Pick up the plate just as I showed you. Put some cheese and meat on it, reach for the bread and don't stop for anything else, go right out of the doorway."
"Yes, sir," she said. The poor girl was becoming nervous.
"That's all right," Charlie said kindly to give her confidence. "Let's try it again."
This time the food slipped and slid more than ever. Nothing stayed on the plate.
Charlie stopped the rehearsal and tried to put her at ease.
"How can anybody be so stupid?" he mumbled to me.
The lady grabs some bread, cheese, and a big sausage (ahem).
There is a lot of phallic imagery in this banquet hall scene.
Charlie joined her at the table. "Now," he said, "do exactly as I do." He stood beside her and had her follow him and imitate each gesture as he went through the scene. He picked up a plate, she picked up a plate, exactly as he did. But she didn't seem to be able to hold on to it.
He reached for the cheese and put some on his plate. When she did exactly as he did the plate seemed unbalanced with the weight of the cheese. He put some meat on his plate. She put some meat on her plate, and it wouldn't even stay on her plate with the aid of the fork. He picked up some slices of bread, but she couldn't manage that because she was holding on to the meat and cheese.
He then led her to the doorway and let her leave the room. As I watched them I began to realize that the more the girl tried to please Charlie by doing exactly as he did, the more awkward she became.
Then suddenly it dawned on me! I knew why she couldn't handle the plate and food business.
Charlie sat down beside me. "Muscles,* what am I going to do?" he said. "Have you ever seen anybody so stupid?"
"Charlie," I said quietly. "That girl isn't left-handed."
"Oh my gosh! Oakie, you're right!" He got right up and went off to talk to her privately. The very next take she picked up the plate with her left hand and with her right hand filled it with plenty of cheese and ham and reached for the slices of bread and got to the doorway for her exit just as Charlie wanted her to.
(Jack Oakie, "When Your Boss Is Charlie Chaplin," Saturday Evening Post, April 1978) 
*"Muscles" was Chaplin's nickname for Oakie.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Jack Oakie (November 12, 1903 – January 23, 1978)

Yesterday (the 23rd) marked the 35th anniversary of the death of Jack Oakie. His performance as Benzino Napaloni in The Great Dictator is absolutely brilliant & is one of my favorite things about the filmIt was also the role he liked best:

Saturday Evening Post, November 6th, 1948

Monday, October 15, 2012

Scenes from the premiere of THE GREAT DICTATOR, New York City, October 15th, 1940

The film premiered simultaneously at the Capitol and Astor theaters.  Charlie and Paulette Goddard appeared at both.

Charlie and Paulette at the Capitol Theater. The couple did not travel together to the New York City premiere. Paulette flew in from Mexico, where she had been spending time with artist Diego Rivera, and Charlie arrived from Los Angeles. After the premiere, Paulette flew back to L.A. and Charlie stayed on in New York for another four months. During this time, Paulette moved out Charlie’s house.

Jack Oakie with Paulette & Charlie, who gives a Hynkel salute to the crowd.
Charlie fights his way through the crowd at the Astor theater.

Two-page spread from the New York newspaper PM, October 16th, 1940

A peek inside the original program which featured artwork by caricaturist Al Hirschfeld.
(from the collection of Phil Posner)

 After the premiere.
Dancing with Paulette at the Monte Carlo. 
Celebrating with H.G. Wells and Constance Collier.