Showing posts with label Mildred Harris. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Mildred Harris. Show all posts

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Chaplin & the Battle of Petroushka

"Long years of practice at dodging custard pies and various other missiles stood Charlie Chaplin in good stead Sunday night at the Petroushka Cafe, in Hollywood, when two men attempted to 'beat up' the famous film comedian." 1
Late Sunday night, January 20th, 1924, Chaplin, actress Mary Miles Minter, screenwriter Carey Wilson and his wife, Nancy Everett, entered the exclusive Café Petroushka on Hollywood Blvd for a quiet dinner.

Mary Miles Minter

A little after midnight,  C.C. Julian, president of the Julian Petroleum Corporation, arrived with a large party consisting of his brother, his secretary, and two women: actress Peggy Browne and her friend, none other than Chaplin's ex-wife, Mildred Harris. Browne and Harris had joined the party earlier in the evening at the Montmartre, which was just down the street, and followed the group to Petroushka. Browne said later that she and Mildred were "unescorted." 2

Chaplin saw the group walk in but did not see his ex-wife. "I didn't know Miss Harris was in the cafe...I noticed the party when it entered, however. One of the men was acting very rudely; he kicked over a floor lamp and cursed loudly."3

Mildred Harris

Russian actor Nicholas Dunaew, who was seated at an adjoining table, recalled what happened next: "Mr. Julian brushed roughly against Mr. Chaplin. Mr. Chaplin said: 'Please be careful there are ladies present.' Mr. Julian replied: 'Who are you telling to be careful?' and then struck Mr. Chaplin across the face. Mr. Chaplin got up and struck back knocking Julian down. When Mr. Julian stood up and squared off I hit him on the jaw and knocked him down again as other members of his party were getting into the fight." 4

"Mr. Chaplin  behaved in a thoroughly gentlemanly manner, "said Nat Arlock, manager of Café Petroushka. "His party was quiet and inoffensive. I could ask for no guests more cultured. I saw the entire proceedings and I am embarrassed that it should have occurred in my place which is a genteel establishment. I do not allow liquor in the rooms or rowdies.

"Mr. Chaplin was listening to the music," Arlock explained. "He is very fond of Russian music. Zamulenko, the Moscow violinist was playing...Mr. Julian was the instigator of the trouble.  Prior to striking Mr. Chaplin he had knocked over a projecting light. During the fight, a cello was broken." Arlock said that Mr Julian had given him a check to pay for dinner and all the damages, even though Julian would later claim that he wasn't present at the cafe at the time of the fight. However employees and other witnesses, including members of Julian's own party, identified him as the man who attacked Chaplin.5

Several newspapers reported that Chaplin received a black eye or a bloodied face in the brawl, but witnesses say he "escaped without a scratch." 

Pittsburgh Press, Mar. 2, 1924
Mildred Harris, who fled with her friend, Peggy Browne, during the uproar, later expressed regret over the incident. "Poor Charlie, I do hope that my presence there will not be misunderstood. I did not know Charlie was there and I am sure he didn't see me.

"Charlie and I are perfectly good friends. Reports that the trouble started through a quarrel over me are preposterous. As a matter of fact I personally was not with Julian. I merely happened to be with my girlfriend who was a member of the party. Charlie is very sensitive. I sympathize with him deeply in this affair because I know how dreadful it all must be to him." 7

According to Browne, Julian had been stewing about Chaplin from the moment he arrived at Petroushka. "All during the party, Julian made scathing remarks about Mr. Chaplin. Miss Harris urged him to discontinue his uncomplimentary utterances and when he refused a moment before the trouble started, she left the table. As soon as I saw something was going to happen I became so frightened I ran down the stairs to get away. I didn't see any blows struck." 8

Chaplin had initially wanted to press charges against Julian but later changed his mind. "I have nothing  more to say about the unpleasant affair. I shall forget it." 9

"I'm not a fighter," Chaplin said, "not a braggart of fistic prowess as has been reported. I have always endeavored to conduct myself  as a gentleman, and appeal to the press and public that my part in the affair was forced on me, and I did only what any red-blooded man would have done had he been in my place." 10

Photoplay, April 1924

I thought some of the headlines about this incident were a hoot. Here are a few:

Trenton Times, Jan. 27, 1924

Kansas City Star, Jan. 23, 1924
The last part is hard to read. Its says:
 "C.C. Julian Denies He Struck Blow That Messed Up Charlie's Countenance--
Actor Fears For Films' Future."
Tennessean, Feb. 8th, 1924
Trenton Times, Jan. 23, 1924
San Bernardino Sun, Jan. 22, 1924
Pittsburgh Press, March 2, 1924

1San Bernardino Sun, Jan. 22, 1924
2Pittsburgh Press, March 2, 1924
3Los Angeles Times, Jan. 22, 1924
4Los Angeles Times, Jan. 24, 1924. Note: There were several reports that Jascha Heifetz was also seated at the adjoining table with Dunaew but Heifetz later claimed that he was not at the restaurant that night, and was shocked to hear that Chaplin had been in a fight. "He is not that sort of fellow, unless he was attacked. Of course a man will defend himself when attacked and Chaplin no doubt did that. I have no doubt that he gave a good account of himself, for I know him very well. But I did not see the fracas and I never heard of a scrap in that club before." (Portland Oregonian, Jan. 28, 1924)
5Los Angeles Times, Jan. 23, 1924
6San Bernardino Sun, Jan. 22, 1924
7Pittsburgh Press, March 2, 1924
9Los Angeles Times, Jan. 24, 1924
10Los Angeles Times, Jan. 23, 1924

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Mildred Harris (November 29, 1901-July 20, 1944)

Mildred was Chaplin's first wife and the mother of his first-born child, Norman Spencer (aka "The Little Mouse") who died three days after his birth. Charlie and Mildred were married in 1918 and divorced two years later. A successful actress, she appeared in 135 films between 1912 & 1944, although many of her final appearances were uncredited. She died of pneumonia following surgery on July 20th, 1944 at the young age of 42. Charlie sent a spray of orchids, roses, and gladioli to the funeral.1 This is touching since Mildred wore orchids, her favorite flower, on her wedding day.2

In 1927, Mildred wrote the following about her former husband:
I came to know him as a strange brooding spirit, haunted by good, and, perhaps, sometimes bad impulses or temptations, inspirations and fears, all pulling in different ways and giving him no rest. ("Mildred Harris' Own Story," Syracuse Journal, Feb. 1927)

1Charles Chaplin, Jr, My Father, Charlie Chaplin (1960)/New York Times, July 25th, 1944
2Mildred Harris, "The Private Life Of Chaplin," March 21, 1936

Friday, August 14, 2015

Mildred Harris in the Three Stooges film MOVIE MANIACS (1936)

Mildred appears around the 10:00 mark as the leading lady. According to IMDB, this was her last credited film appearance.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Chaplin in the U.S. census


Chaplin is living 674 Oxford Ave. with his first wife, Mildred Harris. Also living in the house are his chef, the wife of the chef, and his secretary, Thomas Harrington (who is somehow only 37. He always looks at least 50 in photos). The head of the household (Chaplin) is 30,  his wife is 19. Chaplin was born in England, Mildred in Illinois, although her birth place is usually given as Cheyenne, WY. They give their occupations as "actor" and "actress" respectively.

Click to enlarge


Ten years later, Chaplin is living at 1103 Cove Way (later called 1085 Summit Drive due to reassignment) in a house he had built in 1922 & would live in until he left America in 1952.  He is 41, divorced (only his servants are living with him), and his occupation once again is "Actor" in "Motion Pictures." Note that Buster Keaton (and his wife, Natalie Talmadge), who lived at 1004 N. Hartford, is listed on the census before him.

Click to enlarge


On this census, Paulette (Goddard) is listed as Chaplin's wife. Charlie claims to rent his home on Summit Drive (the "R" in the third box on the left) even though he listed himself as owner on the same home in 1930 (the "O" after "Head" on that census). In Lita Grey's divorce complaint she claimed that Chaplin once told her that he had his house put out of his name to protect himself against women. Two Japanese servants lived in the home including George, who was Charlie's cook for many years. Chaplin's age is listed as 51. Paulette's age is incorrectly given as 27. According to her birth certificate, she was born in 1910 which means she would have been closer to 30. Paulette, like many women in Hollywood, fibbed about her age.  His neighbors on Summit Drive include Mary Pickford and her husband Buddy Rogers (1143), Fred Astaire (1121), & Ronald Colman (1003).

Click to enlarge

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Photos of Chaplin with his 162-lb marlin swordfish at Catalina Island, October 6th, 1918

Chaplin landed the fish in 22 minutes.
On the right is Capt. J. Edmundson, one of the Catalina Island boatmen.
Chaplin's future wife Mildred Harris (they were married 17 days later)
poses with Charlie and his catch (and the capt.)
Photo: My Life In Pictures by Chaplin

Below are a couple of other photos that appear to have been taken the same day.

Chaplin, left, is pointing to the fish and to himself. Roscoe "Fatty"Arbuckle is on the right.
I'm not sure who the man in the middle is (Cecil Reynolds?)
Photo: Roy Export SAS
With  Arbuckle.
Photo: Chaplin: Genius Of The Cinema by Jeffrey Vance

Monday, July 7, 2014

Birth announcement for Norman Spencer Chaplin, born July 7, 1919

Los Angeles Times, July 8, 1919

When Mildred went into labor the night before, Chaplin wrapped her in a blanket and drove her to the hospital himself. He insisted on being present at the birth but eventually "passed away in a dead faint and had to be carried out."1

Mildred had wanted to name the baby Charles Spencer Chaplin, Jr., but Charlie protested and chose the name Norman Spencer instead because he felt Charles was a name with which "liberties could be taken" and "Norman can't be shortened."2

Sadly, Norman was born with an intestinal deformity and died three days later. Mildred recalled years later that "Charlie took it hard. Funny thing, isn't it--that's the only thing I can remember about Charlie...that he cried when the baby died."3


1Mildred Harris, "The Private Life of Charlie Chaplin," Winnipeg Tribune, April 1936
2Los Angeles Times, July 10, 1919. Chaplin also protested 6 years later when Lita Grey wanted to name their first born son after him but he eventually acquiesced. 
3Lita Grey Chaplin, My Life With Chaplin, 1966. 

Saturday, June 7, 2014

"The Private Life Of Chaplin" by Mildred Harris

Charlie's first wife, Mildred Harris, wrote this series of articles, "The Private Life Of Chaplin" which were published in the Winnipeg Tribune in 1936. They are longer and somewhat more in-depth than the series she wrote in 1927, "Mildred Harris' Own Story," that I posted here about two years ago. In this 1936 series, she offers some interesting tidbits about their life together (i.e. he called her "Millie") and the birth and death of their infant son, some of which were new to me, as well as her own insight into Chaplin the man. See for yourself. I have uploaded a pdf of the articles to my Google Drive site (let me know if you have any problems with the link):

("The Private Life Of Chaplin" by Mildred Harris, printed in 6 installments in the Winnipeg Tribune, March 14-April 18, 1936)

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

I wish the picture were better quality.

Fort Wayne Journal, July 1919

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Syd Chaplin Airfield, c. 1920

L-R: Douglas Fairbanks, Marjorie Daw, Mary Pickford, Mildred Harris (Charlie's first wife), & Charlie

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Christmas with(out) Charlie, Part 1

Excerpts from the divorce testimony of Charlie's first wife, Mildred Harris Chaplin, from December, 1920.

(Charlie and Mildred were married on Oct. 23rd, 1918. Not long after their marriage, Mildred checked into the hospital with a nervous breakdown. After she was released, the doctor ordered her to bed rest.)

 Q.--Now, after the marriage became public, Mrs. Chaplin, just tell the court in your own way about the course of treatment Mr. Chaplin adopted toward you after that time?
 A.--Well, after I was taken out of the hospital I had to stay in bed until Christmas, Christmas Eve, and the doctor sent a nurse home with me, and Mr. Chaplin got us a home up in Laughlin Park, and I had to stay in bed until Christmas Eve, and that was the first time I was down after I got out of the hospital. And Christmas afternoon--I mean the day before Christmas, Mr. Chaplin told me that he would be home and have dinner with me and help me trim the Christmas tree, and I had had mother get all the Christmas presents. I was not able to get up and I had always thought a great deal of Christmas, and that evening, I dressed and went downstairs and waited for him, and he did not come home. And I waited until 11 o'clock, and he did not come, so I trimmed the tree and mother helped me and then I went to bed and stayed awake until about two or three, and Mr. Chaplin came home about three o'clock.
Q.--What occurred?
A.--And when he came home he came upstairs and was very angry at me for buying so many Christmas presents and making such a time over Christmas.
Q.--Then what occurred?
A.--Then the next day was Christmas Day, and he would not get up all Christmas morning, and I went downstairs and took him up his presents and he was very angry at me for making so much over Christmas.
Q.--What would he say? What did he say?
A.--Well, he said it was very foolish and that he did not believe in such things and that I should not be so silly over Christmas and over having presents and liking such things.
 Q.--Now, on this Christmas evening you have told about, the first Christmas evening after your marriage in October, you had invited your friends there to the house, had you?

 A.--No, I had not; Mr. Chaplin had all his own friends; he did not want me to have mine.

 Q.--Then, you allege, that he came home about what time on Christmas morning?
 A.--It was about two-thirty or three.

 Q.--Two-thirty or three.  Then, on Christmas morning what occurred?

 A.--He stayed in bed all day until four o'clock; he wouldn't go downstairs with me to see the tree.  I took him his presents.
 Q.--Did he abuse you?
 A.--He was very angry at me for making so much over Christmas.
 Q.--What did he say?

 A.--He said it was very foolish and wasn't right to make so much or for me to like presents and foolish things; that it was not his idea to have Christmas or celebrate Christmas; he had never done it.
Q.--Now, on that Christmas did he give you any present or token of any
 Q.--Would you buy anything for Mr. Chaplin himself?
  A.--On Christmas I bought him a silver set for his dresser; I bought him a great many things.  I bought him--
  Q.--His personal clothing and things of that kind, did you?
  A.--Yes; socks.
  Q.--Describe what you bought for him.
  A.--I bought all his handkerchiefs and socks and pajamas and ties.
  Q.--Did he pay for them or did you?

  A.--I did. 
 Q.--You have told about the first Christmas after you were married-- tell the court about your second Christmas.
  A.--On the second Christmas he had been staying out in Beverly Hills,  He had been staying up there for quite a time and he would stay all night a good deal up there because he had a very good time, and the second Christmas he said he would be home and I invited some people, and on Christmas Eve he phoned he would not be able to come home until about nine, but he sent some presents home for the people.
  Q.--Did he send you a present?
  Q.--Go ahead.
  A.--He didn't come.  So these people left and he came home about four in the morning.  I waited up until about two and then I went to bed and sat up in bed waiting for him.
  Q.--Then, as I understand it, on the second Christmas night, after your marriage, after he had promised to come home, he didn't come until about four o'clock in the morning?
  A.--Yes, sir.
  Q.--What did he say when he came in?
  A.--Well, he said he had been detained; that he had met some people and had been talking with them.
  Q.--Did you afterward ascertain where he had been?
  A.--He had had dinner with a lady and gentleman at a little cafe on Fifth street.  I don't know where he had gone.  I think afterwards he told me he had been talking business.**

**Charlie spent this Christmas with Florence Deshon. In a letter to her on again, off again lover, Max Eastman (who was also a close friend of Charlie's), Florence wrote, "I dined with Charlie on Christmas Eve, and he gave me a Christmas present."2 The two dined alone in Charlie's room at the Los Angeles Athletic Club. The gift was a set of monogrammed, hand-embroidered handkerchiefs.3

2 Max Eastman, Love & Revolution, 1964
3 Joyce Milton, Tramp, 1998 (I'll add that Milton gives no source material for this information)

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Mildred Harris' Own Story

I was browsing the Fulton History website a few weeks ago and came across a series of articles written by Mildred Harris & published in the Syracuse Journal between Jan. 31st-Feb. 8th, 1927.  I had never heard of this memoir and was excited to read it because so little had been written about their life together. There are several factual errors, including her own wedding date. I doubt Mildred actually wrote this piece, it seems to be more of an "as told to" account to me. However there were a lot of similarities between her story and Charlie's second wife, Lita Grey's account, including his moodiness and staying away for long periods of time. At times I felt like I was reading Lita's book.  Of course, Mildred's pregnancy before the marriage is not mentioned. To hear her tell it, they got married because they were deeply in love. I was also surprised by the story of their very first meeting, which took place in a bookstore, not a party at Sam Goldwyn's. Given the date, I'm sure this was published to coincide with Charlie's divorce from Lita, which was a big news story at the time.

I created a pdf of the articles, you can click here to read them.

On this day in 1918, Mildred Harris became Charlie's first wife

Charlie met Mildred in early 1918 at a party at Sam Goldwyn's beach house. Although Charlie later insisted he had no interest in Mildred except for sex, he found himself courting her anyway and eventually she became pregnant. Charlie married her and was willing to make it work although he did not think Mildred was very bright. The pregnancy was a false alarm (if there was a pregnancy at all), but Mildred soon became pregnant again and gave birth in July 1919 to a baby boy who lived only 3 days. Soon after their marriage, Mildred signed a contract with Louis B. Mayer who began billing her as "Mrs. Charlie Chaplin" which, understandably, annoyed Charlie to no end.  

The marriage ended in November 1920. Mildred later claimed that if the baby hadn't died she would still be Mrs. Chaplin. Personally, I doubt it would have lasted. Charlie was already feeling trapped & he would not have been faithful. In fact, he already had an affair with Florence Deshon, whom he was in love with and wanted to marry, and later, before the divorce was final, he began a relationship with May Collins. 

In January 1927, Mildred wrote a series of articles for the Syracuse Journal in which she describes her life with Charlie. Her version of events is very different than Charlie's, including their first meeting.  I will post the article later today. 

Friday, July 20, 2012

Rest In Peace, Mildred Harris (November 29, 1901 – July 20, 1944)

Mildred was Charlie's first wife and mother of his first-born son, Norman Spencer Chaplin, who died three days after his birth.  Many years later, Mildred said that the only thing she remembered about being married to Charlie was that “he cried when the baby died”.