Showing posts with label Robert Lewis. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Robert Lewis. 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

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Working With Charlie Chaplin: Vol. 1

This is a new series in which Chaplin's associates describe what it was like to work with "the little genius."1

"Charlie has a mysterious personality, you are always trying to solve him, and you never do. He is almost feminine in his moods and the elusive quality of his personality. One morning he speaks warmly to you. The next he says nothing at all. He is an artist and temperamental.
Now Syd is more masculine. He is a great character actor. He can so change his personality in a scene that I can't recognize him. It is almost uncanny. Where Charlie's pictures are dramas, Syd's are melodramas. The two are exactly opposite, and it is the finest experience in the world working for them." --Charles "Chuck" Reisner, Los Angeles Times, Nov. 21, 1926
Shooting The Gold Rush. L-R: Harry d'Arrast, Eddie Manson, CC, Rollie Totheroh,
and Chuck Reisner.

"Working with Chaplin convinced me beyond any personal doubt that he is a genius. There's no one in Hollywood like him. In the four months I was in the picture I learned more about acting than I had during all the years I'd put in at it. Without my even realizing it at first, he started right in making me over. In the nine years I'd been carrying that old football for Paramount the one thing hammered into me was speed. Everything I did had to be quick stuff, the fly guy who was too fast for anybody to catch up with him. Chaplin changed all that. He would stop me in a scene and suggest my doing it in another way. At the moment I didn't understand what he was after. But it was clear enough when I saw it on the screen in the projection room. A glance showed me how he got his effects. Then he would say, 'All you have to do, Jack, is to take your time. If, for example, you're soaking a guy over the head with a mallet don't do it bing, bing, bing, but bing — bing — bing. That gives the audience time to laugh between each sock.' His timing is wonderful. --Jack Oakie, Hollywood magazine, August 1940
With Oakie on the set of The Great Dictator.

"All members of the cast received equal respect and attention from Chaplin, the director. In Monsieur Verdoux there was a scene with an infant-in-arms so young that, at short intervals, a different baby had to be substituted as the previous one would tire. After one take that he didn't like, Charlie came out from behind the camera, stalked up to the startled infant and scolded, 'You're anticipating again!'" --Robert Lewis, Slings & Arrows: Theater In My Life (I don't think the scene Lewis describes is in the final film.)
Chaplin as Verdoux and Robert Lewis as Maurice Botello in Monsieur Verdoux.

"Charlie gave me the biggest compliment I'd ever had. The script said that after listening to [Marlon] Brando's words I was to respond with a look, without saying a word.
'You're like an orchestra answering its conductor,' he said, almost moved. 'If I raise my hands, you go up, if I lower them, you go down....Outstanding.'
From those words, which were sewn inside me, a strong green plant grew, which continues to bear fruits today." --Sophia Loren, Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow: My Life.
Sophia and Chaplin on the set of A Countess From Hong Kong.

"Those scenes where we're playing on the street were not done at Mr. Chaplin's studio, they were done on the Paramount lot. And when we shot those scenes there was no music, so my cue was taken from Mr. Chaplin off-camera, giving me the tempo. And if you look, nobody is looking at him except me, because he is directing me on the tempo. And I can see fear in my face because I'm not a musician, but he knew that--he didn't ask me if I knew how to play the violin he didn't ask me if I knew anything about music--he just gave me the tempo. And when the picture was dubbed and the music was laid in, we were watching it in the dubbing room--and I have to tell you, when he was watching himself on screen, Mr. Chaplin never referred to himself as 'I,' he'd always say, 'Did he do that right? Was he funny?' He never said 'Did I do that right.' It was always in the third person. So anyway, we're watching the scene and he's screaming at me on the screen, 'God damn it, play faster, play faster!' And I'm sitting right next to him and he's yelling at the screen. It's because the tempo of the music he had written didn't match the tempo I was playing. I've never forgotten that: he was sitting right next to me and shouting at me on the screen! "--Julian Ludwig interview, Chaplin's Limelight & the Music Hall Tradition, Frank Scheide/Hooman Mehran, ed.
The street musicians from Limelight. Ludwig is in the middle (watching Chaplin).
With Snub Pollard (left) and Loyal Underwood.
"One of the more curious facets of my job was playing Charlie Chaplin in rehearsals. When a scene had to be set up to Chaplin 's satisfaction he would go behind the camera and call out: 'All right, let's see it!'  With the famous bat­tered derby on the top of my head--I stand an even six feet--and with the cane in my hand I would run through the actions of the scene with the other members of the cast. It was no sur­prise when Chaplin would say 'No, no, no, he wouldn't do that!' and leap in front of the camera to play the scene himself." --Harry Crocker, "A Tribute To Charlie," Academy Leader, April 1972
CC and Asst. Dir. Harry Crocker during the filming of City Lights.
"I thought he was very patient. He never lost his patience with me. But he did with Almira Sessions, the one that played the sister with the bird in her hat. 'Oh, that's him, that's really him, that's the one.' She couldn't get anything straight. He got so frustrated that he started yelling and screaming. 'Why can't you get anything straight? All you have to do is this, this and this,' and that flustered her even more. But other than that, the rest were alright." --Interview with Marilyn Nash, Limelight newsletter, Spring 1997
Lena Couvais (Almira Sessions) recognizes Verdoux in Monsieur Verdoux.
"[Charlie is] the easiest man [to work with]. He's never abusive, never impatient. I don't believe anybody else could get out of people what he does. At first they are a little overawed by such a big man. But he soon puts them thoroughly at ease. He always reassures them like this: 'I don't know much more about this than you do. Instead of telling you what to do, perhaps I can show you better.' If the player doesn't respond properly, instead of saying 'No, no, that is wrong!' he very quietly says: 'Maybe I didn't show you right. I will do it again.'" --Henry Bergman, Boston Globe, Feb. 22, 1931
CC and Henry.
"There was one scene I could not get right. It was between Charlie and me in my hotel room. Charlie tried to help me "break through," but I just couldn't make it. I don't know whether the fault was mine or the script. But Charlie understood and changed the order of the dialogue.
Shooting that scene took a whole day and afterwards I felt terrible about it. But when I tried to apologize he only laughed. 'Once with Paulette (Goddard) it took four days to get a scene right,' was his only comment." --Dawn Addams, "Leading Lady To A King," Charlie Chaplin: A Centennial Celebration, Peter Haining, ed.
Chaplin & Addams in A King in New York.
"It was funny about City Lights. We began rehearsing that water scene at night. Phew! We did it over and over and things wouldn't feel right. It wasn't until I discovered that Charlie is a southpaw that I realized what was the matter.  You may notice I'm left-handed through the picture too--when we shake hands, and during the cigar stunt. Another thing, I've been on the water wagon for years, so I guess I was picked for that role on my past performances. Gosh, the spaghetti and scrambled eggs we consumed rehearsing! But I'll say that for Charlie, he never made me begin before 1 o'clock." --Harry Myers, Los Angeles Times, Mar. 1, 1931
Harry Myers and CC in City Lights.
"[Chaplin was receptive to ideas from his associates] but our ideas had to be good and this rarely happened. Chaplin carried the ball all the time, and we were mostly used as punching bags to try ideas on. None of us yessed him, and he always listened to any criticism we might make. Later, as I got to know him better, I discovered the best criticism was silence--and being a very sensitive artist, he knew something was wrong by the expression on our faces." --Harry d'Arrast, "Chaplin's Collaborators," Films In Review, January 1962
With Harry d'Arrast
"I'm the only girl around the studio most of the time, and they treat me like a queen. Everything is always pleasant and harmonious. Mr. Chaplin is very quiet himself and dislikes any unnecessary commotion.
He writes and directs his own pictures and, I tell you, I have to be wide awake and on the alert to keep pace with him, for I never know at what instant he will think up some big scene and, when he is in the mood, he likes to work quickly and steadily. It is always interesting to watch him develop the action, for he insists that there must be a cause leading up to the fights, the runaways, or whatever it is. He acts out our parts for us, and I assure you he can play even my role better than I can, for he is a natural imitator." --Edna Purviance, Motion Picture Classic, November 1919
With Edna during the filming of A Woman Of Paris.

1Jim Tully recalled that Chaplin was teasingly given this nickname by a few of his associates. (Pictorial Review, 1927).

Friday, April 11, 2014

Premiere of MONSIEUR VERDOUX, New York City, April 11, 1947


Mary Pickford was Charlie and Oona's guest at the premiere which took place at the Broadway Theater. Charlie remembered that Mary, holding on to his hand, pushed her way through the packed lobby and propelled herself to the microphone:
In the midst of the shoving and pushing, said Mary: "Two thousand years ago Christ was born, and tonight..." She got no further, for, still holding on to my hand, she was yanked away from the mike by a sudden push from the crowd--I have often wondered since what was coming next.
There was an uneasy atmosphere in the theater that night. A feeling that the audience had come to prove something. The moment the film started, instead of the the eager anticipation and the happy stir of the past that had greeted my films, there was nervous applause scattered with a few hisses. I loathe to admit it but those few hisses hurt more than all the antagonism of the press.
Charlie got up long before the film was finished and paced in the lobby until it was over.


Afterward, at a party at "21," Charlie, "surrounded by ill-wishers," quickly downed two drinks at once, which was rare for him. Robert Lewis, who played Verdoux's friend, Maurice Botello, remembered that "other celebrities there didn't even mention the picture. They simply took over the party."

After supper, entertainers got up and performed their numbers. While Ethel Merman sang, Lewis watched Louella Parsons "dressed in black, sitting in a corner, her disapproving eyes glued on Chaplin. She looked like some predator waiting for him to do or say something that might be used against him in her column." Finally, in a desperate attempt to recapture his own party, Charlie got up and performed his bullfight pantomime where he plays both the matador and the bull. Although it was executed brilliantly, it wasn't enough to get much response from the crowd. Charlie once told Lewis about a recurrent nightmare he had had all his life where he would be performing in front of a large crowd and no one would be laughing. "Now his nightmare had become a reality."

Oona had left the party early, so Lewis and Donald Ogden Stewart escorted a tipsy & "genuinely shaken" Charlie back to his hotel. "Don and I helped Charlie undress. In his shorts, sitting on the side of his bed, the twentieth century's mighty performing artist sniffled like a little boy. 'They couldn't take it, could they?' he kept repeating, 'I kicked them in the balls, didn't I? I hit them where it hurt.'"

_________________________________________________________________________________

Sources:

Charles Chaplin, My Autobiography, 1964
Robert Lewis, Slings & Arrows: Theater In My Life, 1996

Friday, November 23, 2012

Charlie and Robert Lewis in Monsieur Verdoux

Robert Lewis was an actor, director, teacher, founding member of the Group Theater in the 1930s & co-founder of the Actor's Studio. But among Chaplin fans he might be best-remembered for his role as Henri Verdoux's pharmacist friend, Maurice Botello, in 1947's Monsieur Verdoux.  Lewis met Charlie in the 1930s through Clifford Odets and was delighted to get a chance to work with him. He recalled that as a director, Chaplin was an actor's dream. "He gave me one direction: 'He's the kind of bore who doesn't talk. He lectures.' That was all I needed."

Lewis was also in attendance at the premiere of Monsieur Verdoux in New York City. The film was disastrously received with some members of the audience hissing & booing. Charlie left before the film was finished. At a party at "21" following the premiere, Charlie quickly downed two drinks at once, which was rare for him. Lewis and Donald Ogden Stewart escorted a tipsy & "genuinely shaken" Charlie back to his hotel. "Don and I helped Charlie undress. In his shorts, sitting on the side of his bed, the twentieth century's mighty performing artist sniffled like a little boy. 'They couldn't take it, could they?' he kept repeating, 'I kicked them in the balls, didn't I? I hit them where it hurt.'"

Robert Lewis died 15 years ago today at age 88.