Showing posts with label Martha Raye. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Martha Raye. Show all posts

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

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Buster Keaton & Martha Raye reenact the music hall finale from LIMELIGHT on THE MARTHA RAYE SHOW in 1956

Few Americans saw Limelight upon its initial release in 1952. Although it had received positive critical reviews, it was subjected to widespread boycotts because Chaplin was thought to be a Communist. So it's ironic that while a scant number of people saw the film in 1952, a few years later many saw one of its final scenes reenacted on television.

In this version, filmed before a live studio audience, Martha Raye1 plays Chaplin's role of Calvero, wearing a pot-bellied tux and, as an additional nod to the man she considered her idol, a Tramp mustache (Chaplin didn't have the Tramp mustache in Limelight). Keaton is wearing glasses and a tux but not the large mustache he wore in the film. Unlike the film version, this routine belongs to Keaton, who reworked the material from the original and restored some of the gags that had been cut from the final film, including his fall at the beginning and the bit where the piano lands on Martha's foot. We also see a variation on the high shirt collar business. When Martha's face is hidden behind the collar, Keaton pulls her head up by the hair "lengthening" her neck. Chaplin filmed a similar sequence but didn't use it (in the film he simply tears off the collar).

There has been a lot of talk over the years that Chaplin cut Keaton's best bits from the Limelight. Yes, he deleted a couple of good Keaton gags but it was for the purpose of the film. It would have made no sense for the Keaton character to upstage Calvero in this scene. The final music hall routine was supposed to belong to Calvero, it was his moment.

For a more in-depth comparison of the two routines, see Dan Kamin's essay, "The Three Ages Of Limelight" in Chaplin's Limelight & The Music Hall Tradition, edited by Frank Scheide and Hooman Mehran (McFarland, 2006).

1Raye appeared alongside Chaplin in Monsieur Verdoux (1947) as the indestructible "Annabella Bonheur."

Monday, June 1, 2015

Martha Raye on making a film with "Chuck"

©Roy Export S.A.S.

Excerpt from "Monsieur Chaplin" by Martha Raye
Movieland, February 1948

All right, I was scared. 
That sounds silly, I guess, coming from me, a toughened-up trouper who's afraid of neither men, mice, nor the special brand of rodent known as the night-club heckler. 
But the first day I walked onto the set to play a scene opposite Charles Chaplin I thought I'd never be able to open my big mouth. Me, Martha Raye! Funny, isn't it?
My agent had called me a couple of weeks before. "Martha," says he, "Charles Chaplin wants you to play opposite him in Monsieur Verdoux!"
"You must have got yourself a new writer," I came back, quick and cute as anything. "You were never this funny before."
It took the fellow ten minutes--and a few light taps with a ball peen hammer--to get it through my head that he was serious and that Charles Chaplin did want me to play the roll of indestructible Annabella in his French bluebeard comedy. 
I jumped at the chance. There isn't a comedian anywhere who wouldn't have. For to all of us, Chaplin is the tops--and corny as it may sound--to work with an artist like that is an honor and a privilege. 
But after I'd jumped at the chance, I wanted to jump right back again. In the interval before I went to work on "Verdoux," I envied those funny man high-divers in the newsreels--the ones who can un-plunge. ...
Wanta know how long that scared lasted? For about ten minutes after I started working with Mr. Chaplin. 
Somehow he put me at my ease immediately. He made me feel as though my contribution to the picture was a good one and important. And the Charles Chaplin whom I'd respected as an artist became "Chuck"--a person whom I liked besides. 
I've been tossing around words like honor and privilege. Words like that are usually associated with the kind of wonderful but darned uncomfortable feeling a man  must feel when he wears a boiled shirt. Working with Chaplin was not only an honor and a privilege, but more fun that I've had since funny business became funny business. And that, for me, was when I was three-and-a-half years old. 
That first day we worked through lunch hour and well into the afternoon. Chuck was intent upon some intricate effect, and the cast and crew, whose day had begun almost before daylight, began to get the haggard, hungry look of a high fashion dress model. 
At twelve o'clock on the second day, I yelled, "Lunch!"
Now when I yell, I yell! I heard later that workmen over in Honolulu knocked off early--there's a difference in time, you know. 
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.) 1
So I explained. People who aren't geniuses get hungry at noon. Every other place I'd worked somebody like an assistant director yelled lunch, and there was lunch. 
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!
One of the first scenes I played with Chaplin called for a bit of tricky dialogue. As my hsuband he plays the role of a sea captain and greets me with a staccato sentence, involving sou-wester and every polysyllabic nautical term there is. He did the take perfectly--but I realized something that hadn't occurred to me before. 
Sublime master of pantomime that he is, Chaplin still finds the spoken word a new medium. He could have spared himself that tongue-twister--after all he wrote the thing, didn't he--but because it was right he kept the lines, lines for which he had to gather up a bit every time he saw them coming. Chaplin doesn't spare anyone, even himself. 
After a few days, Chuck asked me if I didn't want to stay and see the day's rushes.
We'd talk about the scenes and he honestly seemed interested in my reactions. And while we were talking, he taught me things about show business I'd never thought of before. He knows every trick of the trade.
One day I brought my three-year-old daughter, Melodye, down to see me work. I think Melodye's pretty special, but then, of course, I'm her mother. 
I'd known that Chuck liked and understood children because I'd seen him work with little Allison Roddan, who plays his son in Monsieur Verdoux. But after all, movie time is money and Melodye was told that she could look--but she must not be heard. 
Martha's daughter Melodye visits the set.
Melodye is smart but she can't read. So she didn't know that the quick-moving little man with the thatch of silver hair and kind, freckled hands was a great artist, alone in his field. She wasn't awed; nobody remembered to tell her. 
So we all knocked off for the afternoon, while Chuck and Melodye got acquainted. IT was the day when a nightclub scene was scheduled, and the dress extras and the Can-Can chorus and the waiters and orchestra stood around--at union wages--and watched the pair of them have a delightful time., playing pixy. Mr. Chaplin, who's quite an intellectual, believe me, was simple and unaffected as Melodye. It takes a little kid to be that way--or a big man. 
Chuck taught me a lot. He's a genius. But the nicest thing he taught me was that a genius can be a good guy.

1According to Charles, Jr. he also called her "Maggie" (her real name was Margaret).

Friday, November 8, 2013

Martha Raye cracks up Charlie in an outtake from Monsieur Verdoux

During the first days of filming, Martha had such hero worship for Chaplin that she found it difficult to do her work, so she decided to calm her fears by calling him “Chuck” and being a good sport, Charlie in turn called her “Maggie” (her real name was Margaret).  The two became fast friends. She would also yell “lunch!” if she felt Charlie was keeping everyone past lunchtime--something nobody else on the set would have had the nerve to do. According to others in the cast, it was sometimes difficult for “Chuck” & “Maggie” to get much accomplished when they had a scene together because they were too busy laughing and joking around.  Raye said many years later that she learned more from Chaplin than anyone else she had ever worked with and that working with him was like “working with God."