Showing posts with label May Reeves. Show all posts
Showing posts with label May Reeves. Show all posts

Thursday, November 17, 2016

With May Reeves at the Hotel Miramar in Biarritz, August/September 1931

Charlie and May spent two months in Biarritz during his 1931-32 world tour. He'd met May that April in Nice when she was working as a dancer in a casino owned by Frank J. Gould. She ended up accompanying him on his travels for the next eleven months. Despite their smiles, May recalled that their stay in Biarritz that summer was "not pleasant."

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Juan les Pins, 1931

May Reeves is on Charlie's right. I don't know the identity of the other women but the woman at far left can also be seen here (top photo, along with May).

Friday, September 18, 2015

The brothers arrive at the Excelsior Hotel in Rome, March 1932

See sound footage from this occasion here (Charlie talks directly to the camera, and do we hear Sydney's voice as well?)

May Reeves is standing at far left (in a hat and fur coat, looking down). This was at the end of her year-long romance with Chaplin. They would part ways in Naples the next day. 

Read more about Charlie's arrival in Rome and his last evening with May here.

Monday, August 24, 2015

With May Reeves in Juan-les-Pins, summer 1931

Photo courtesy of Stephen Lovegrove

There has been a bit of a debate over whether or not the woman next to Charlie (with her straps down) is May. I believe that it is. Her body shape, her long nose, and her short, dark hair, all resemble May, in my opinion. Plus there are other photos of May with her bathing suit straps hanging down (here and here).

I have not been able to ID the other people in the photo.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Chaplin at a bullfight in San Sebastian, August 1931

Harry d'Arrast and May Reeves are seated next to Charlie on the right. This was Chaplin's first bullfight, and probably his last. Find out why here: World Tour Revisited: Charlot at a Bullfight (from my World Tour series. I have updated this piece since I first posted it two years ago, including Harry d'Arrast's description of Charlie being handed an ear from one of the dead bulls.)

Friday, April 10, 2015

Chaplin, May Reeves, and others after the promenade by boat on the Adour River in Bayonne, France, August 1931

Chaplin is at right in a cap. May Reeves is seated next to him

Two views of the same group at the Canoe Club with designer Jean Patou, far right. 

May Reeves is in the dark hat next to Chaplin

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Chaplin & French car manufacturer, André Citroën, St. Moritz, Switzerland, 1932

In May Reeves' book, she wrote about a picnic given by Citroën that she and Chaplin attended during their stay in St. Moritz. A clairvoyant was present and commented on various objects hidden by the guests. May handed him Charlie's glasses through a friend (the psychic didn't know whose they were). He commented that the glasses belonged to someone who has "reached the peak of success," but didn't say anything more. Afterwards, May took him aside and asked for more information. The psychic told her: "the person to whom these glasses belong will live to an advanced age, but will not die a natural death." When May told Charlie this, he said "Oh well, since he granted me a long life, I'll willingly accept a violent death!"

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Charlie & May Reeves, French Riviera, Summer 1931

I'm not sure of the identity of the fellow on the left (he looks a little like Frank J. Gould, Chaplin's host during the first part of his stay on the Riviera) nor the woman on the right, but the man is holding a siamese cat. Charlie and May had two pet siamese cats during their time in France (see picture here, scroll to the bottom). I wonder if this is one of them?

Thursday, March 6, 2014

World Tour Revisited: Chaplin bids farewell to May Reeves and embarks for Japan, March 6th, 1932

Charlie, May, and Syd in Naples, March 6th, 1932.
Boris Evelinoff, European representative for United Artists, is standing (I think)
behind Charlie to his right. May was left in the care of Evelinoff after his departure.
He eventually lost his position at UA because of his continual appeals to Chaplin on May's behalf.

The Japanese ship, Suwa Maru, was set to embark from Naples at 5:30pm on Sunday, March 6th. In their hotel room in Rome that morning, Charlie was in such a rush to catch the train and the ship that May didn't have time to put on makeup or finish dressing. When they were alone in their compartment on the train, Charlie told her, "Dear, I want to thank you for all you've given me. You've made me very happy, and my only wish is that this should continue. This short separation is just a chance to prove yourself. Remember to keep me informed of everything you do. Only swear to me that you'll be faithful and that you won't look at other men." She remembered holding his "feverish hands." "Why were they so hot?" she wondered, "Was it the thought of separation, or of his departure." At Naples, they lunched at the Exselsior Hotel and then visited the poor section of town--something Charlie often did when he was in new city. May spent the afternoon going through the motions in a tearful haze. To keep his courage, Charlie would avoid looking at her.

May (far right) accompanies Charlie as he boards the ship. 
Charlie and Syd pose for photos aboard the Suwa Maru. May Reeves & Kono
are standing behind them.
Chaplin poses with crew members, March 6th, 1932

The captain of the ship invited them to his cabin to drink champagne with the other officers. Charlie looked at May and lifted his glass, "To our love, darling. To you forever. Be faithful to me. We'll see each other again soon."

A short time later an officer opened the door: "Return to the dock. We're leaving."

Here Charlie and May said their final farewells. Chaplin remembered that there were no tears. "As the boat pulled out, she was imitating my tramp walk along the quay. That was the last I saw of her."

May's recollection of their separation was more vivid:
Everything passed before me in a flash. Charlie took me in his arms: "Goodbye, dear, till we meet again." They led me to the dock. I can still see myself, lost in the middle of the crowd, watching the ship pull slowly away. Near the dock, in a small boat resting on the oily water, an accordionist played one of those Neapolitan songs that wring the heart. 
All the passengers waved their handkerchiefs. Charlie leaned out from a spot on the bridge where there was no railing, which seemed so dangerous to me that I uttered a loud cry. I was afraid he would fall into the sea. Finally he stood alone at his post, his white hair waving in the wind. As long as he could see me, he held up two fingers to signify two months of separation, and then he pointed to the third to signify the clinching of an imaginary alliance. 
May waving to Charlie from the dock.

Charlie waving back.

Those unfamiliar with May's story may wonder what ever became of her pregnancy (Spoiler Alert: the following is the last chapter of May's book, so if you haven't read it, you might want to skip this part):
Four weeks later, after atrocious suffering, Charlie's wish was granted. He wouldn't have a third child...For several weeks I struggled with death. I telegraphed the news to Charlie on several occasions and wrote long letters of explanation, but I never received a response. Only when I was convalescing did I receive a telegram: "Hope you are better--cheer up--Love Charlie." And as a last sign of life, Charlie's representative in Paris [Boris Evelinoff] received a cable asking him to send the doctor's bill. 
Thus ended my romance with Charles Spencer Chaplin

Charles Chaplin, My Autobiography
May Reeves, The  Intimate Charlie Chaplin
Lisa K. Stein, Syd Chaplin: A Biography

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

World Tour Revisited: Charlie returns to Italy, March 5th, 1932*

Sometime during their three-month stay in St. Moritz, May Reeves told Charlie she was pregnant. Whether this was a real pregnancy, a false alarm, or an entrapment ploy, we will never know. Needless to say Charlie was less than thrilled by the news. Nevertheless, May's condition, whether real or invented, didn't change his travel plans. Arrangements were being made for City Lights to premiere in Japan and Charlie wanted to be there. His brother, Sydney, would accompany him.1 They would depart from Naples aboard the Suwa Maru on March 6th. It had been decided that May would not join Chaplin on this voyage. According to her version of the story, she would stay behind in Europe and reunite with him two months later in Hollywood. She was content with this plan for "a separation seemed desirable to me. In my condition, I couldn't have borne the strain of such a voyage."2 Furthermore, she and Charlie were not getting along and she felt that it would be best "to put the sea between us for a while."

Charlie's version of events is slightly different, however. There is no mention of May meeting him in Hollywood later (nor, not surprisingly, any mention of a pregnancy). Charlie felt that they had grown tired of each other and that May was "resigned and somewhat relieved" when they finally parted ways. "Since our sojourn in Switzerland, our alchemy of attraction was somewhat diluted, and we both knew it. So we parted good friends."3 Regardless of the promises or arrangements Charlie may or may not have made with May, their year-long romance was coming to an end.

Syd (seated at left), May, and Charlie at the Excelsior Hotel in Rome, March 5th, 1932

On March 2nd, 1932, Charlie and May left St. Moritz with his friend, "Hungarian consul Plesch," 4 traveling by car to Rome where they would arrive late in the evening on March 4th (along the way, they visited Rimini, Gubbio, and Perugia). Awaiting Charlie's arrival was his brother Sydney, who had come from Nice (he had left Charlie in St. Moritz a week or two earlier), with a message saying that arrangements could be made for a meeting with Mussolini. But this did not materialize. "I could only stay in Rome for two days which was too short a notice for Il Duce to give me any of his valuable time."5 May remembered that Charlie was disappointed because "he lost a unique opportunity to discuss politics."6

May recalled that her last evening with Charlie was spent having dinner at an old inn, "I joked to hide my sadness. Charlie laughed heartily when I imitated the Charlot of City Lights eating spaghetti." Afterward they visited a museum: Charlie "walked past the pictures and statues without looking at them. Occasionally he expressed his admiration by exclaiming, 'Oy, oy!' an expression he had adopted from a Jewish story someone told him. It was quite amusing to hear him exclaim 'Oy, oy!' in front of a Raphael."7

Coming up tomorrow: Charlie and May part ways in Naples.

*This was Chaplin's second visit to Italy on his world tour. In March 1931, he spent a three days in Venice.

1It seems Sydney had to ask to be invited to Japan. According to Charlie Chaplin: King of Tragedy by Gerith Von Ulm: "Syd had urged Kono to arrange for him to accompany them to the Orient. Kono did suggest it to Charlie, who, after a few days hesitation, finally consented to take him along. Syd was informed by telegraph at Nice that he was to join them at Naples." This is confirmed in Lisa Stein Haven's bio of Syd which includes the actual text of the telegram: "When can you come? Leave here Thursday. Sailing from Naples six March. Charlie."

2May Reeves, The Intimate Charlie Chaplin

3Charles Chaplin, My Autobiography

Arpad Plesch (1889-1974). Hungarian Consulate in France before WWII. Chaplin may have met him c. 1929 when he visited the Chaplin Studios with the former president of the Hungarian Republic, Count Mihaly Karolyi, & Konrad Bercovici. (Many thanks to Dominique Dugros for this info).

5Charles Chaplin, "A Comedian Sees The World"

6Reeves, The Intimate CC


Sunday, February 9, 2014

World Tour (1931-32) Revisited: Out & About in St. Mortiz, Pt. 2

Learning to ski, St. Moritz, c. 1932

For those who may have just discovered "Discovering Chaplin," my "World Tour Revisited" series follows Chaplin chronologically on his 16-month world tour to promote City Lights, which started in February 1931 & ended in June 1932. I began the series one year ago on February 12th when Chaplin left the U.S. for England. You can read previous posts in the series under the label "World Tour (1931-32) Revisited."

Presently (in February 1932), Chaplin is in St. Moritz, Switzerland, where he has been since December. He is accompanied by his lover and traveling companion, May Reeves, and his brother, Sydney.1 Douglas Fairbanks, who invited Chaplin to St. Moritz, was along for the first part of the stay, but by February had already returned to Hollywood. This post includes a few more pictures from Charlie's visit to the swank Swiss ski resort where he made his skiing debut.

Outside the Palace Hotel, St. Moritz
Charlie & Syd (far left) at the Apollo Kino.

Chaplin met several other celebrities who were wintering in the Alps, including Adolphe Menjou, the star of his 1923 film, A Woman Of Paris, as well as photographers Lee Miller2 and George Hoyningen-Huene. He was also introduced to Egyptian businessman, Aziz Eloui Bey & his wife Nimet. As usual, Charlie was the life of the party:
Having just completed City Lights, he ate dinner as if he were blind, wrapped Nimet's head in a table napkin and proceeded to extract an imaginary tooth (a sugar lump) from her mouth, then posed for Huene before a snowy replica of his alter ego, the Little Tramp.3
Charlie & May will remain in St. Moritz until they leave for Italy on March 2nd.

Charlie posing next to a Tramp ice sculpture (right), and shaking hands
with a dog. Photos by George Hoyningen-Huene.
Vogue, March 1932
May Reeves & Syd Chaplin in front of the Tramp sculpture.
Charlie chatting with Adolphe Menjou in St. Moritz, top left.

1 Syd returns to his home in Nice by the end of February but will rejoin Charlie in Italy and accompany him on the rest of his tour.
2 Chaplin supposedly had an affair with Lee Miller in Paris in March 1931, a month before he met May Reeves.
3Lee Miller: A Life by Carolyn Burke

Saturday, January 11, 2014

World Tour (1931-32) Revisited: Out and About in St. Moritz, Switzerland, c. January 1932


Charlie dancing with toilet paper.

May Reeves*:

With friends:

Charlie and May with airplane manufacturer, Anthony Fokker.
Reeves later recalled that the two men performed "a comic sketch:
two monkeys scratching themselves constantly, looking for fleas and eating them."  
Chaplin with car manufacturer, Andre Citroen.


*According to Reeves'  memoir, she became pregnant in St. Moritz. Not surprisingly, Chaplin was less than thrilled with the news. Shortly after their separation in March, May had a miscarriage which she claims was induced by Chaplin when he forced her to go on a long skiing expedition. I have always found this story a bit hard to believe. Even if Chaplin was displeased about May's pregnancy (if she was pregnant at all), a skiing expedition was hardly a plausible strategy for inducing a miscarriage, especially at this very early stage in her pregnancy.

Friday, December 20, 2013

World Tour Revisited: Charlie & Syd's Skiing Adventure

Illustration by Robert Gellert from "A Comedian Sees The World,"
 A Woman's Home Companion, December 1933

From Syd Chaplin: A Biography by Lisa K. Stein:
This was only Sydney's second time on skis and the guide assured him he had nothing to fear. But, in fact, twelve of the group started down and only eleven arrived. "After I came to," Sydney remembered, "I found myself buried in snow at the bottom of a ravine. The rest of the party had disappeared. I had visions of being left there for the night and frozen to death. I managed to pick myself up and continue on. I arrived an hour later at the station just as the rest of the party were about to take the train back to St Moritz" looking like a snowman. Icicles were hanging from his nose and eyelashes. Everyone roared with laughter and Sydney was the joke of the evening. "I decided I had had enough of skiing and would confine my future activities to the bobsleigh, which I did. It's funny the different fears that people have," Sydney wrote. "Charlie would not go on the bob run for a £1000 and no one could persuade him to and yet he would go on night skiing expeditions that I would not have for any sum." 

Syd in St. Moritz (source: Syd Chaplin: A Biography/Lisa K. Stein)

From The Intimate Charlie Chaplin by May Reeves:
Each morning we went up on a beginner's slope to ski. I accompanied Charlie on his first attempts. He wobbled and held me responsible for the slightest fall. He was afraid of breaking an arm or a leg, and got up moaning each time instead of accepting his apprenticeship with good humor. When we came to the trail where all the children practiced skiing, he took a tumble over some horse dung and fell flat. This was a catastrophe. "What are you thinking of, May," he roared, "leading me onto this slippery trail? Keep in mind that I'm not a champion yet." I could barely suppress my laughter, because the trail was already so flat that one had to put one foot in front of the other to move anywhere; there was no question of it being slippery. 

Charlie & May (far right)


From "A Comedian Sees The World" by Charles Chaplin:
Douglas Fairbanks insisted that I be initiated into the art of skiing. I always thought it was easy, but oh, boy! I never knew how many knots I could tie myself into! For the first two hours I suffered with impediment of the legs and was continually standing on my own foot. Turning was most difficult, but this I mastered in my own fashion, deliberately sitting down and pivoting in the direction I wished to go. Sometimes, however, the sitting was not deliberate. To a beginner, skiing down a hill is very simple, especially if there are no obstacles in the way. But the problem is stopping. This is most difficult. You are instructed to assume a knock-kneed position, at the same time spread your feet apart and turn your ankles in, digging the sides of your skis into the snow. When I attempted it, I invariably went into the splits.
To give you an idea of the enjoyment of my first day's skiing, you must imagine yourself starting slowly down a hill developing speed as you go, thrilled and exalted with a sense of your own motive power and the icy breezes blowing against your cheeks. As the speed increases, however, your exhilaration changes to a growing anxiety, especially when the hill becomes precipitous and the going increases to about fifty miles an hour. You go flying past rocks, trees and other obstacles that miraculously escape you. After such gymnastic triumphs, you accumulate confidence and go whizzing on, resolved to see it through to the bitter end.
Then a sinister rock approaches and comes rushing at you menacingly. This time it is determined to get you. Your heart leaps into your mouth. You become philosophic. You relish the sweet memories of life before skiing. Death is contemplated. You see your skull crashed against the rock and your body flung over it like a pair of empty pants. But you are not killed. You survive. You go on living, crippled for life.
Then a miracle happens. Some metaphysical force moves the rock to compassion and lets you skim by it, and you go shooting onward, relieved. Your mind gains control of your reflexes and you make a decision to sit down, not perhaps as gently as you’d wish. So plunk!
You extricate your head from the snow. You discover you’re still conscious. You involuntarily sit up and look around for fear somebody has seen you. But a superior individual in slow tempo comes gliding up with the query, “Are you hurt?”
And you sally with a cheery, “No, not at all, thank you”.
Then you endeavor to start off again. But when the stranger’s out of sight, reason becomes the better part of valor, so you change your mind, take off your skis and call it a day.
However, dear readers, 'twas not ever thus, for later I became--but there, modesty forbids, so I shall quote from the newspaper, the South Wales Argus: "People at St. Moritz were electrified to see a small man go tearing down a steep village street at a terrific speed, to pull up suddenly at the door of his hotel. He was Charles Chaplin, film clown, says Reuter's correspondent. Perhaps there were painful memories of misadventures with the hotel revolving door that made him stop so sharply. Skiing experts declare that this dash was a very fine achievement. Charlie, in fact, is becoming an adept on skis."
The above is one of my most treasured clippings. 

Sunday, December 15, 2013

World Tour Revisited: Chaplin arrives in St. Moritz, Switzerland, mid-December, 1931

I've never been intrigued by Switzerland. Personally I dislike all mountainous country. I feel hemmed in and isolated from from the rest of the world. The ominous presence of mountains towering above me gives me a feeling of futility. I suppose I am indigenous to the lowlands near the ocean, for my Romany instincts tell me that here I'm better suited to survive. Life opens out on a wider vista. 
Nevertheless having basked in the sunshine of the Riviera and enjoyed London's spring and survived its autumn fogs, I felt that a change of atmospheric diet would be beneficial. Besides Douglas Fairbanks was in St. Moritz enjoying the winter sports and that was a good excuse to go there.1
You leave London in the morning and arrive in St. Moritz the following afternoon. The air is bracing and the whole country is blanketed in snow. The sharp whiteness gives zest and life to your spirit.
But all this is knocked out of you on discovering the price of your rooms. But it's worth it. The answer is I intended to stay two weeks and remained two months. ("A Comedian Sees The World, Pt. 4," A Woman's Home Companion, December 1933)

Of course, Charlie's thoughts on Switzerland are ironic since he spent the last 25 years of his life there. One can assume by that time he was happy to be isolated from the rest of the world. 

Chaplin was joined in Switzerland not only by Douglas Fairbanks, but also his on-again, off-again companion, May Reeves,2 and his brother, Sydney3. Both brothers were enthusiastic about skiing, although neither were very confident on skis (this was Charlie's first time skiing and Syd's second) and there are humorous stories about their misadventures on the slopes, which I will share in a later post. 

May Reeves in St. Moritz.
Charlie with Syd
...and Douglas Fairbanks.

1 According to May, St. Moritz was her idea. Chaplin asked where they should go next. "I proposed St. Moritz," she replied. In My Autobiography, Chaplin states that he decided upon St. Moritz  after receiving a telegram from Douglas Fairbanks inviting him there.

2 May arrived in St. Moritz a few days after Charlie because, according to her, she wanted to go to Paris first to buy the proper clothing and would meet him there a few days later. This differs from the account in Gerith Von Ulm's Charlie Chaplin: King Of Tragedy (and supposedly as per Kono) which states that Chaplin had become annoyed with May weeks before in London and summarily dismissed her and sent her to Paris. Now Chaplin wanted to "make amends," so he arranged for May to meet him in Switzerland.

3 In a letter to his friend, Jim Minney, Syd recalls, with his usual dry wit, his invitation to join Charlie in Switzerland: "I was just getting ready to hibernate for the winter and figuring out how I could reduce my debts by going off the Gold Standard or the end of the pier when I received a telegram from he of the quarter to three feet asking if I would care to join him in the solidified winter sports." (Syd Chaplin: A Biography by Lisa K. Stein)

Thursday, October 17, 2013

World Tour Revisited: London, October 1931 + a couple of "leftovers"

I haven't posted much about Charlie's time in London so far because not much is known about his activities during the month of October. All I know for sure is that he had dinner with the Duke and Duchess of Sutherland at Ciro's one evening. He was also spotted at a "motor show" where he looked "very tired."

It is also unclear when May Reeves joined him in London since the press does not mention her arrival nor her presence at any event with Chaplin. As you may recall, Charlie and May separated after their stay in Biarritz in mid-September. May was going to Austria to visit her parents, while Charlie moved on to England. When she finally does join him in London, she surprises him by arriving two days earlier than he expected which didn't bring the reaction from him that she had hoped: "I shouldn't have surprised him!" she later wrote. "His first exclamation astonished me: 'Oh, how strange; I'm not moved at all.' What hard-hardedness! I almost wanted to get back on the train. But a minute later he leaped into my arms and murmured, 'Oh my sweet, my beautiful one, how happy I am to be with you again.'" Thereafter, they "shared a room at the Carlton and live like a married couple."

May's presence with Charlie in London is noteworthy because she was one of only two women that Charlie ever showed around his beloved hometown. His wife, Oona, was the other.

Things pick up for Charlie in November and December 1931, including his induction into the Grand Order Of The Water Rats & the Ice Carnival benefit with the Prince of Wales. I will have more on those events in the coming weeks.

In the meantime, I will share some rare photos that my friend Dominique Dugros recently brought to my attention. Had I seen them sooner, I would have included them in my Leftovers post from last month. The photos, which were published in an April 1931 issue of the magazine, Sur La Riviera, show Charlie meeting Frank J. Gould upon his arrival in Nice on March 31st, 1931:

Chaplin shaking hand with Mr. Gould.
Syd Chaplin is at far right. Gould was Chaplin's host during his stay in Nice.
 He is also holding an issue of Sur La Riviera.
Mr. Gould's wife, Florence, is in the middle.
 Mr. Gould was previously married to Hetty Kelly's sister, Edith.

Monday, September 16, 2013

World Tour Revisited: Leftovers

September 1931 marked the halfway point of Chaplin's 18-month world tour. I thought I would take this post to look back over the past 9 months with some photos that didn't make into my original World Tour Revisited posts.

U.S., Feb. 1931
On the train to New York en route to England.

London, Feb. 1931:

On the roof of the Ritz Carlton.

With Jack Fitchett, a friend from his vaudeville days.

Party following the London premiere of City Lights, Feb. 27th, 1931

Winston Churchill toasts Charlie.

With journalist Hannen Swaffer.

Dancing with Lady Doreen Stanley at a party following the premiere of City Lights.

Berlin, March 1931
At the Hotel Adlon.

Vienna, March 16th, 1931

Paris, March 1931

At the Folies Bergère. Chaplin's press agent Carlyle Robinson is in the background.

Boar Hunt, Normandy, March 25th, 1931

Nice, April 1931

French Riviera Summer 1931

L-R: Charlie, May, Syd & Minnie Chaplin. 

Aboard the HMS Shropshire in Cannes.

Charlie and May Reeves on the streets of Cannes. 
On the beach in Juan-les-Pins. Source: Lisa Stein Haven
Source: Lisa Stein Haven
Sunbathing with May.

Bullfight, San Sebastian, August 1931

Harry d'Arrast and May are seated next to Charlie on the right.

Biarritz, September 1931