Showing posts with label Jerry Epstein. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Jerry Epstein. Show all posts

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.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Working With Charlie Chaplin: Vol. 2: Lunch Time

Lunch on location

"Most days we went to lunch at Musso and Frank's, a nearby restaurant that is to this day one of my favorites. Charlie, Henry Bergman (who appeared in any Chaplin films), Carter de Haven, Sr. (who had been a famous actor, and was the father of Gloria de Haven), and I would travel in splendor in Charlie's limousine. We always sat in the same corner table in the back room and had the same rather bored waiter. Almost anyone else would have been elated at the prospect of serving an artist of such eminence, but this one was onto all of Charlie's tricks and affected to be unaffected by them. But I loved every minute of it. Charlie had certain little songs with which he would order lunch, and we learned to sing them along with him. One of them, to the tune of 'I Want A Lassie,' went: 'I want a curry; a ricy, spicy curry, With a dish of chutney on the side!' Another, to the melody of 'Irish Eyes Are Smiling,' went: 'An I-rish Stew, with veg-e-ta-bles...!' All were performed with gusto. Diners who were startled by the sudden outbursts from the corner table seemed to be quickly mollified at the thought of enlivening their dinner conversations with the accounts of the luncheon entertainment. --David Raksin, "Life With Charlie Chaplin," Quarterly Journal Of The Library Of Congress, 1983

"[Eating] his lunch of a single tomato...he could never understand why the crew needed a whole hour for lunch when he only took a couple of minutes" --Robert Lewis, Slings and Arrows, 1996

"At lunchtime, Oona would arrive on the set with a carton of cottage cheese and pineapple, or hard-boiled eggs. They would sit in his little portable dressing room nibbling away contentedly until [Robert] Aldrich called, "OK! ready for the next shot!" --Jerry Epstein, Remembering Charlie, 1989

"Charlie Chaplin had lunch [at Musso & Frank's] almost every day; his favorite was the boiled lamb with caper sauce."--"Coast Grill Still Thriving," Bridgeport Post, July 1, 1964

 Oona lunches with Charlie

"At precisely 4:00 pm...Gino [Chaplin's butler] would appear with a silver tray containing a pot of tea, a wedge of chocolate cake, and an assortment of sweet biscuits. At this point Mr Chaplin would then absent himself from the room for five minutes. Occasionally he would remain, sitting in the armchair facing me and I would feel waves of suppressed irritation wafting over me as he tapped his fingers on the arm of his chair and dared me with his eyes to linger a moment longer than he considered necessary." --Eric James, Making Music With Charlie Chaplin, 2001

"We always went off to the same place [for lunch], Musso & Frank's, and Chaplin made a point of banning all talk of the script. At the end of the meal, he would make a silent sign to [Henry] Bergman, who produced the money and paid the bill. I never remember Chaplin carrying money." --Alistair Cooke, Six Men, 1956

"At twelve o'clock on the second day, I yelled, 'Lunch!' The silence was terrific. You could hear the jaws drop. Nobody yells on a Chaplin set, not even Mr. Chaplin. Chuck came over, in that exquisite ballet-dancer gait of his. Pleasantly he asked me, 'What was that, m'love?' (Chuck called me 'm'love' during all the twelve weeks we worked. It's his term for Annabella--in the picture.) So I explained. People who aren't geniuses get hungry at noon...Chuck thought it was a wonderful idea. He couldn't imagine why somebody hadn't told him about it before. So for the duration of the picture, I called lunch. And now that I think of it, maybe that's the reason the crew and other members of the cast used to insist that I come around to the set even on the days that I didn't appear in the script!" --Martha Raye, Movieland, Feb. 1948

"Charlie Chaplin and Edna Purviance used to be [at Graham's Confectionery] almost daily. At that time, Charlie was not the cultured man he is today. He was a rather bad-tempered little customer, inclined to make temperamental scenes. I remember he nearly scared one of the girl waitresses to death one day by yelling, as he pounded his hand on the table, 'I want service! My time is money! Give me service or I'll get out? I can't wait around here all day!'...Charlie is a very different person, now" --Picture Play, September 1926

"Perhaps his emotional state can be best illustrated by the food he eats. One week he solemnly informs us that he is a vegetarian, that meat is bad for one, and that lettuce and fruit form the ideal food. We all become vegetarian. The next week, he looks up and says: 'What I need is a big juicy steak. Good meat to build up the body and brain.' The following week it becomes cantaloupe filled with ice cream. 'Everybody is eating too much,' he says. 'One can work much better on light lunches.'" --Virginia Cherrill, Picturegoer magazine, Dec. 9th, 1935

Afternoon tea on the set of Sunnyside.

"When Dad was engrossed, he lost all conception of time. Lunch hour might come and go without a break, especially as no one would find the temerity to interrupt and tell him that it was twelve noon. Sometimes it would be as late as two o'clock before he would come to his senses and dismiss the company for an hour. Syd and I always took lunch with Dad in his dressing room." --Charles Chaplin, Jr., My Father Charlie Chaplin, 1960

"When we'd go on location, Sid would have his half-brother Wheeler keep an eye on the food-line. They had a special table set up for Charlie and the heads; I always sat over with the workmen and I think Charlie got a little put out about it, too. They'd break their necks; they'd do anything for me. I'd say, 'I'm no better than they are. What the hell, I don't have to sit over there and listen to all this and that.' Charlie happened to see Wheeler Dryden checking on me; he had a notebook, checking on every guy as he went along taking his dinner. Charlie finally said, 'Listen, what have they got over there to eat?'--where all the crew and everybody was eating. 'Well, so what, what have we got here?' You feed them over there the same that this table is eating. Regardless of what we got here, they eat the same thing. Remember that. See that you do.' Always for the underdog." --"Roland H. Totheroh Interviewed," Timothy J. Lyons, ed. Film Culture, Spring 1972

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Charlie's JFK Connection

In the early stages of the screenplay for A Countess From Hong Kong, the character of Ogden Mears, played by Marlon Brando, was loosely based on President John F. Kennedy (in the original story, Mears was planning to run for president.) After Kennedy was assassinated, however, Chaplin revised the story because he didn’t want to offend the Kennedy family, especially Mrs. Kennedy.

Charlie with Marlon Brando on the set of A Countess From Hong Kong

Several years after Countess was released, producer and Chaplin family friend, Jerry Epstein, met Pierre Salinger, Kennedy’s press secretary. Epstein recalled their conversation in his book, Remembering Charlie:
"He said that Kennedy had planned to do something about Chaplin’s exile. Salinger was supposed to visit him and invite him back to the United States. But of course in the meantime Kennedy had been killed. Salinger also mentioned that he’d seen A Countess From Hong Kong. ‘I know who that picture was based on’ he told me. ‘Mr. Chaplin captured it very accurately.' So I guess we didn’t disguise the Kennedy aspect too well."

Saturday, September 27, 2014

With Oona on their yacht, probably at Catalina Island

Charlie is shielding his nose from the sun.

RIP Oona (May 14, 1925 - September 27, 1991)

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Photo by Jerry Epstein

Friday, August 29, 2014

Editing Limelight, 1952

Other familiar faces include cameraman Rollie Totheroh in the background on the right. Assistant producer Jerry Epstein, wearing a dark shirt, in the photos on the left. The man on Charlie's left is probably editor Joseph Engel.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

1966 World Cup

One hot summer's night, England played West Germany in the World Cup Final. Oona, Charlie, and I decided to take a ride around London. We listened to the match on my car radio. After playing overtime, England put in the winning goal. There was pandemonium in the streets. That evening, all London ran wild. 
There, in my car, the three of us were weeping with joy. England victorious over Germany. It seemed like the end of the Second World War! For Charlie, football was the working man's sport; he was always thrilled by the enormous crowds that went to soccer games. "There's no audience like them in the world," he said. He loved the way they sang, cheered, and waved their banners. We never forgot the thrill of that evening--July 30th, 1966--when England won the coveted Cup! --Jerry Epstein, Remembering Charlie, 1989

Friday, June 27, 2014

Home movie footage, c. 1950s


The folks at the beginning are Jerry Epstein (far left), Kay Kendall and Rex Harrison. Kendall was a former girlfriend of Sydney (the younger) and was Charlie's first choice to play Ann Kay in A King In New York. I think the first blonde is Noelle Adam, son Sydney's wife and the second (the one who hugs Charlie) is Oona's childhood friend, Carol Marcus (later Matthau, wife of Walter) but this is just a guess. There is also a brief shot of Claire Bloom sitting on the lawn at the Manoir.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Chaplin watches a Circle Theater performance of The Doctor In Spite Of Himself


Charlie was closely associated with the Circle Theater in the late 1940s—directing plays (without credit) and allowing access to props from his movies. Charlie’s son, Sydney, was one of its founding members (Charlie, Jr. was also a member for a brief time).

Kathleen Freeman is addressing the audience, which includes such familiar faces as:
Elizabeth Taylor (front row, far right), Roddy McDowell is next to Taylor, Gene Tierney
 is seated between Charlie and Oona. Constance Collier is on Oona's left.
Co-founder of the Circle Theater, Jerry Epstein, is on Charlie's right. 

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

Monday, December 10, 2012

Charlie At The Wheel

Charlie & Oona going for a drive, c. 1950s
Charlie was a notoriously bad driver. According to his son, Charlie, Jr., he was easily distracted by the scenery around him and would sail through traffic lights or swerve into oncoming traffic. "I think he seldom looked at the road ahead," recalled his son. Charlie bought his first car when he was with the Keystone company: "The first day I ran it, it went on a gasoline jag. First it playfully climbed a telephone pole, then it bit me when I tried to fix the speedometer, and lastly, when I got out and tried to pry the darn thing loose from a house it had run into, it jammed me up against a wall and wouldn't let me go."1 A few years later, he crashed a brand-new Rolls-Royce roadster into a pole on Sunset Boulevard, only a few blocks from his studio. He was also involved in a couple of crashes in which he wasn't the driver of the car, one with Paulette (Charlie's chauffeur was driving, Paulette suffered a bump on the head) and another with Oona (Jerry Epstein was the driver, no one was injured).

One of the first things Charlie did when he became wealthy was to buy a car and acquire a chauffeur. In those days, he had little interest in driving. "I don't drive my car about much. In fact about the only thing I like to do is ramble around."2 Sometimes Charlie had no choice in the matter. When it came time for his first wife, Mildred Harris, to give birth to their son, the chauffeur was not available, so Charlie rushed to the garage and got out the car. He wrapped Mildred in a blanket, placed her in the car, and drove her to the hospital himself.3  In 1930, Harry Lang of Photoplay magazine observed that Charlie "prefers to drive himself and let the chauffeur ride in the backseat."4 Although he had several cars at his disposal, his car of choice was almost always a Ford sedan. Charlie, Jr. said his father kept the same one for years because he was "confused by the strange gadgets on later models."5 In his book, Remembering Charlie, Jerry Epstein recalls riding to work with Charlie during the filming of Limelight: "We spotted Aldrich (Robert Aldrich, assistant director) driving ahead of us in his brand-new Cadillac. Charlie grumbled: 'Look at him driving a Cadillac while I'm driving a small Ford!' 'You can afford a Cadillac," I said, 'Why don't you buy one?' 'But I don't like big cars, I like small ones.' 'Well Bob likes big cars, so leave him alone!' I said."

Go-karting with Douglas Fairbanks, c. 1919
Charlie's international driver's license, which was sold at a Julien's auction earlier this year

1Los Angeles Times, August 20th, 1916
2New York Herald, September 11th,1921
3Interview with Mildred Harris, 1935, reprinted in Charlie Chaplin: A Centenary Celebration, Peter Haining, ed. Note: Charlie & Mildred's son, Norman Spencer, lived only three days.
4Harry Lang, "No Talkies For Charlie," Photoplay, May 1930
5Charles Chaplin, Jr., My Father, Charlie Chaplin, Random House, 1960

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Chaplin & The Circle

In the late 1940s, Chaplin directed a series of plays for the Circle Theater in Los Angeles. The theater was founded by a group of students from UCLA including Charlie’s son Sydney, Jerry Epstein, & actor William Schallert (Charlie Chaplin, Jr. was also a Circle player for a short time).

Chaplin's contributions to Circle productions were uncredited. He never wanted any publicity, although it was hard to keep the secret because so many actors and friends saw him at rehearsals.  He spent countless hours with the actors, rehearsing them until the wee hours of the morning, when finally his wife, Oona, would call to summon him home. Then he would take the tired actors out for wheat cakes and maple syrup. "My fee for directing," Charlie would tell Jerry Epstein, "is thirty-five cents and a cup of black coffee!"

The Circle must have been a haven for Charlie at this time, a place where he could temporarily forget his problems & all the bad publicity he was receiving from the F.B.I. & the House Un-American Activities Committee.  Epstein said that Charlie never mentioned his problems, and they never asked about them. They were just "grateful that he was so generous with his time and talent."

The following photos are from Remembering Charlie by Jerry Epstein:

Charlie directing the first rehearsal of Rain (a play by Somerset Maugham).
Sydney Chaplin is at right wearing a black shirt.

Directing the Albert Camus play, Caligula, Charlie shows the actors how to shake their tablets.
The pillar int he background is from The Great Dictator. According to Epstein, Chaplin was generous with props
from his movies. 

Charlie and Oona congratulate Sydney after a performance at The Circle.

Monday, August 27, 2012

With Buster Keaton on the set of LIMELIGHT

Excerpt from Remembering Charlie by Jerry Epstein (background, center):
Charlie still hadn't found his partner [for the violin and piano sequence]. At one point he thought Sydney's stand-in, who had a long lugubrious face, could play the pianist. But he was undecided. Then just before shooting, someone told him Buster Keaton was available -- that he was also broke, and needed money. That did it. Charlie hired Keaton.
Buster arrived on the set wearing his old Buster outfit with the small pancake hat. Charlie took him aside and said gently, "We're not playing our old characters now. I'm not playing the Tramp; you're not playing Buster." Keaton, like an obedient pupil, replied, "Yes, Charlie, of course." and removed his hat and went to wardrobe for a costume.
Before our picture began, all the technicians had been excited about working with Charlie Chaplin. He hadn't made a film in years and of course he was a legend...But after a few weeks of shooting, Charlie Chaplin became just another actor. Now their affection switched to Keaton. He was the new boy in town. But if Ben Turpin had shown up two weeks later, I'm sure Keaton would have been dropped like a hot potato. Charlie must have been aware of the technicians' attitude, but chose to ignore it. He just wanted to get on with the business ahead.