Showing posts with label Jim Tully. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Jim Tully. 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, August 31, 2015

In shades in the Sierra Nevada mountains during location filming of THE GOLD RUSH

Chaplin's publicist Jim Tully recalled that "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." (Pictorial Review, March 1927)

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)

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Charlie's Real Life Story

In January 1927, Chaplin filed a suit against Pictorial Review magazine to halt the publication of a series of articles by his former publicist, Jim Tully, aka the "hobo author." His complaint asserted that the articles consisted of "statements that are false and untrue and tend to bring this plaintiff into disrepute and subject him to scorn and ridicule."1 He also objected to the use of his name and image in the advertising for the articles. Data for the biography was compiled by Tully during his two years of employment at the Chaplin Studios. He even stated that he "took the job with this story in view. Throughout that time I gathered copious notes. I'm sure that my articles are correct."2 Chaplin eventually lost the case.

After four years of searching, I now have all four installments of Pictorial Review series (published January-April 1927), which were called, "Charlie Chaplin: His Real Life Story." I don't find the articles to be overly biased or slanderous against Chaplin--no more than anything else one would have read about him at the time. Other people, such as Lita Grey, are ridiculed far worse than Chaplin in the piece. I have always been a fan of these portraits of Chaplin and Tully's is an interesting and revealing one. Three years later, Tully wrote two articles for New Movie magazine called "The Unknown Charlie Chaplin."3 This account is basically a highly abridged version of the Pictorial Review series.

Tully would not be as kind to Charlie in his subsequent writings nor his chapter about about him in his 1943 book, A Dozen & One. The latter I found to be downright mean-spirited at times. This was not out character for Tully, though. He was notorious in his day for raking movie stars over the coals.

Below is an excerpt from the first installment of "Charlie Chaplin: His Real Life Story" in which Tully describes his first meeting with Charlie:
I first met Chaplin about five years ago. Ex-hobo and ex-pugilist, I had just blossomed forth as an author with his first book, and an invitation had been extended to me for a diner at the great comedian was the guest of honor.4 I arrived--the cotton bulging in the shoulders of my ill-fitting suit--self-conscious and ill at ease. I faced the reception as an ordeal. ...
Chaplin arrived late, dressed in evening clothes. I afterward learned that he was tardy for all appointments. Upon being introduced to me, he said , "Well, well, Jim Tully, we're fellow vagabonds under the skin--what do you say?" Placing an arm in mine, he walked with me to the table. With fine intuition he noted my discomfiture and kept saying, "Fine, Jim, fine--fine--glad you're here, Jim--mighty glad!"
Chaplin's appearance surprised and pleased me. It was as if the caricature of a tramp had stepped from the pages of a funny paper and had suddenly changed into a handsome, well-dressed man. His face was remarkable--full of character and personality. His teeth were even, large, and white. His manner was gay, childish, benign, and to me full of tender consideration. His hair was slightly streaked with gray and rolled in a huge irregular wave back from his forehead. Over his face passed varying expressions--like dark, white, gray, and blue clouds racing across the sun. Even if Chaplin were unknown in the world, he would undoubtedly be a popular man at any social gathering. He is facile and pleasing, with moods that change like early March weather in his native England.

When we had seated ourselves at the table there seemed to be present all the knives and forks in the world. Chaplin was placed at the end of the table. I was close to him. Catching me looking his way as I fumbled for the right fork, he said, "Don't look at me, Jim. I pick the wrong one every time." Everybody laughed, and I felt easier.
Chaplin has the gift for making people love him. 
I watched him closely--the fine head and the waving hair, the large, even, white teeth, the deep lines that must have been written in the corners of his eyes at boyhood. All these I noted. And save for some awkward gestures while eating, he had the poise and the polite, nonchalant manners of a duke.
The dinner passed in a jovial manner. Everybody laughed and talked gaily but myself. Chaplin was the life and soul of the gathering. He sang. He danced and made fun of everybody. His versatility astounded me. As a final touch to his impromptu performance Chaplin suddenly started mimicking a fat local banker at the opera. "Yes, yes," he said between snores, "go right on, Caruso--I'm listening."
I have since met many famous entertainers at dinner, but Chaplin is king of them all. ...
When the party broke up Charlie walked with me to his waiting limousine. He was almost gentle. I had never met a human so charming and kind. "We'll meet again, Jim," he said. "I like you."...
Two days after the party a fine autographed picture of Charlie came to me. Upon it was written, "My fellow comrade."
Three weeks later, while walking about Hollywood, I met him. We were both alone. A heavy mood was upon him. Being lonely, and this I came to know was a frequent state with him, he was genuinely glad to see me. 
"I'm weary of this town," he fretted. "It drives me crazy--it's awful--awful!"
"Yes, it's terrible," I returned. 
"Yes--yes," he answered quickly.
"But you have friends here, Charlie--everything in the world--all your heart could wish for."
"You make me laugh, Jim. I haven't a thing--not a thing. There isn't a person in town I want to talk to." He paused. "None of us have much, Jim--we're all a lot of kids afraid of the dark--and we're glad when daylight comes. It's no good to have fifty million people know you--when---"
"But, Charlie," I cut in, "suppose you were me--trying to write when nobody cares a rap--"
"It would be fine, Jim--I'd like it--work is all that matters--you'll find out as you go along. You can't lose yourself in anything long--unless it's something you're creating--something out of your soul."
The last words were said with finality--brows wrinkling. 
"There's not much difference in any of us--more money--more bother--more people you don't want to see--" he lifted his hand, finger pointing. "You're going along, Jim--you'll learn a lot of things I've learned. We've both had a lot of grief as kids--money'll bring you just another kind of grief--that's all."
He walked now, with head down, body swinging nervously, oblivious of people who turned to look at Charlie Chaplin. 
A great mimic, a quick mentality. Chaplin absorbs all that is necessary for him to know. Abrupt in conversation, his wondering brain bruising itself against all abstract ideas, he yet goes straight and true to many questions which puzzle more learned men. He does not actually think his way to the answers--he feels it. 
His interests are not in art--not in work primarily--not in lands or ships at sea--but people. Behind the mask of the clown there is a defeated dramatist--a weary and sad man lost in a sea of wonder. (Pictorial Review, January 1927)

1Los Angeles Times, January 8, 1927
3New Movie, July-August 1930.
4The occasion was a party given by producer Ralph Block.

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)

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Random Excerpt

From “The Real Life-Story of Charlie Chaplin” by Jim Tully, Pictorial Review, March 1927. Tully was Chaplin’s publicist during the mid-1920s:
At the Ambassador we took a table near the dancing space in the center of the room.
Wealthy sightseers stopped within a few feet of the great man's table. Three women introduced themselves. Charlie, as usual, with the manners of a duke, stood up and bowed politely. When the last lady had gone Charlie exclaimed, under his breath, "darn her!"
"Why is wealth more vulgar than poverty, Charlie?" I asked.
He looked at me earnestly as if trying to frame an answer.
"Because," he answered slowly, "wealth itself is more vulgar. There's simplicity in poverty--simplicity without ostentation."
I liked the answer.
From Pictorial Review, 1927.
 Photo by Apeda.
Time and again beautiful women at neighboring tables or from the dancing-floor smiled their open admiration. He, Charlie, was oblivious of it all. I called his attention to it. His only comment was, “They know I am Charlie Chaplin. If I came in here an unknown, no one would look at me.” Then, his face lighting up, he began in a reminiscent mood:
“There’s more fun meeting someone who doesn’t know who you are. I met a pretty little girl on Broadway one day. She worked at a soda-fountain and I was in having an ice cream soda. I had no necktie on—and my shirt was open at the throat, and I hadn’t shaved in three days—I was very low and didn’t know what to do with myself so I’d strolled into the place and finished my soda just as the girl was goin’ off duty. She’d smiled nice at me before, and I jokingly said:
“Can I walk down the street with you? And she came right back, “Surely."
We walked out of the store together and finally the little girl asked, “Where do you work?”
“Over at Robinson’s in the shoe department—I’m on my vacation now," I told her.
“Gee—you got a good job, ain’t you?” She looked admiringly at me when she said it.
“You bet I have—I’m gettin’ thirty a week the first of October—I came out here from the East an’ fell right into it a year ago.”
“Gosh—you was lucky” said the girl. “My brother didn’t get work for four months after we came here—work’s hard to get here—when you don’t know no one.”
“I’ll say it is,” I told her.
We looked at some hats in a window. “That’s a peach, ” I said, “for six dollars—”
“Gee—it’s a dandy—but they ain’t no hat in the world worth that much—not when you jerk soda for a livin’—I make all my own hats.”
“That so?” I says; “the hat you got on looks nice—did you make it?”
“I sure did.”
Charlie placed a knife and fork in the form of a pyramid. It fell down. He resumed.
“I’ve never seen anyone prettier than that little girl—she had a little doll mouth and great big blue eyes that always seemed to be askin’ questions. We went over in Pershing Square and sat down, I kept my cap low over my eyes so’s no one would notice me—and the little kid talked on just as if she was hungry to tell someone her troubles. “You like it in California?” I asked her.
“Yes—we had so much trouble back in Iowa I was glad to get away.”
“Father owned a big farm there—then everything happened at once,” she shuddered, and I didn’t press matters, but changed the subject.
I made up my mind right then to be her friend. “Let’s go an’ have something to eat,” I suggested. She was willing, and we walked along Fifth Street, and when we came to Boos Brothers’ Cafeteria near Broadway she kind of sidled toward it.
I told her we weren’t going there and that I knew a better place. She says, “Where?” and I says, “The Alexandria.”
She gasped right out and says, “Gee, no—it’s too swell. It’ll cost you a week’s wages for a meal there.” I told her I wanted to celebrate and that one of the waiters roomed where I do—so’s it would be all right. “But you ain’t got no tie on,” she told me. I told her we would sit over in the corner. Finally she went in with me.
We had the finest time, as she soon forgot herself and began to talk to me some more about her life on the farm and her driving to high school every morning.
Then I told her how one time I came near buying a hog ranch in Texas and settling down to raise hogs. I intended to do that one time just before I went into pictures—and I came darn near letting the cat out of the bag—forgetting that I was just a shoe clerk to her, when she says, “It takes money to buy hog ranches—even in Texas.” Then I came down to earth.
We sat there a long time and kept getting chummier and chummier until finally Norma Talmadge came in and came running up to me yelling, “Hello, Charlie!” and the game was up. The little girl looked startled and tried to stammer something when I introduced Norma to her. She excused herself for a minute. —Charlie looked around the gay room wistfully—“and she never came back.”
There was a pause for some minutes. “She never came back to work, and I could never find any trace of her—and that was that.”
After a pause Charlie drummed the table with his fingers, then rising, he said quietly, more to himself that to me, “You never can tell.”

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Random Excerpt

He was always fond of people who were not carried away by his name. During my stay with him he had a young lady friend whom he called Hotsy Totsy. It was the only name I had ever heard him give her.

One night he called at her humble home to take her to dinner. As he rang the bell a voice came from upstairs.

"Let him in, Mother."

"Be down in a minute, Charlie," called the girl.

The mother returned to the kitchen, where Chaplin overheard her talking to a man. He remained alone in the "front parlor."

Presently Hotsy Totsy came downstairs.

"Well, I'm all ready for the eats, Kiddo," she said.

After riding for several blocks Chaplin asked, "Did your mother know who I was?"

"Sure, Kiddo," I told her your'd be calling and to let you in. She hardly ever comes in the front room--sits back there and talks to dad. They should worry a lot and build a house about who calls on me! I got 'em trained different."

Hotsy Totsy was long a favorite with the comedian.

— Jim Tully, "The Real Life-Story Of Charlie Chaplin, Part Four," Pictorial Review, April 1927

Sunday, August 5, 2012

The Real Life Story Of Charlie Chaplin

Charlie with writer and former boxer Jim Tully,
 who worked as his publicist in the mid-1920s.

In 1927, Chaplin's publicist, Jim Tully, wrote a biography called “The Real Life Story Of Charlie Chaplin” which was published in 4 installments in Pictorial Review magazine. Chaplin brought an unsuccessful suit against Tully for the bio on the grounds that it was unauthorized (I think he was worried that it might have a negative effect on his impending divorce at the time). Nevertheless I found it to be very revealing about Chaplin the man, as well as what it was like to work with him.

Here are a few highlights:
  • His associates teasingly called him “the little genius” behind his back.
  • Chaplin’s moods could be gauged by the color of his suit. A green suit almost always brought a foul mood, a blue suit signaled a good mood. (Adolphe Menjou & Georgia Hale attested to this trait in Chaplin as well. According to Menjou, one of the staff members would call Charlie’s house before he arrived and ask what color suit he was wearing so they could prepare themselves).
  • Likewise, if Charlie was in a good mood, he would often walk swiftly, his hands even with his chest, snapping his fingers continuously.
  • He once dated a working class girl that he referred to as “Hotsy Totsy." It was the only name Tully ever heard him call her.
  • One night at a restaurant, Charlie met a boxer who was down on his luck, so he gave him a role as an extra in The Gold Rush.
  • When alone, he would sometimes sing for hours, “his heavy voice rolling over the quiet studio."
  • He once met a girl who worked a soda fountain and pretended to be a shoe clerk and took her to dinner at the Alexandria Hotel. The charade worked until he was spotted by Norma Talmadge. The girl excused herself from the table and Charlie never saw her again.
  • Once while walking along the grounds of his Beverly Hills home, Charlie noticed a frog sitting at the bottom of his empty swimming pool. He walked down the steps and stood before the frog and said, “Fellow frog, dost thou not know, thou warty wonder, that there are enough croakers in Hollywood?”