Showing posts with label Rollie Totheroh. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Rollie Totheroh. Show all posts

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Between takes on the set of THE ADVENTURER, 1917

Other familiar faces include Albert Austin (far right) and Rollie Totheroh (behind the camera). The man on the left looks like someone I should know as well. Fred Goodwins?

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Editing LIMELIGHT, 1952

Click to enlarge

With Chaplin are cameraman Rollie Totheroh (in vest and tie), assistant producer Jerry Epstein (in dark sweater), and editor Joseph Engel (first and second photo at right). Limelight was Chaplin's last film made at his own studio in Hollywood.

Jerry Epstein recalls what it was like editing the film with Chaplin:
Charlie and I worked in the cutting room for a little over six months. Charlie never allowed anyone but himself to edit his films. The cutter's job was merely to assemble every sequence into long shot, medium shot and close-up, and splice the film together after Charlie had decided where he wanted the cuts. 
It could have been clear sailing, but we had a bungler as our editor. Cutting rooms are usually well-ordered: all the film takes are labelled and easily located. Ours was in total chaos; our editor couldn't find anything. The minute Charlie asked for a take, he began shaking and opening every tin in sight. Rolls of film tumbled onto the floor. It was like a W.C. Fields film. I thought Charlie would have a stroke. His precious Limelight! Luckily I knew each take by heart, and was always able to locate what Charlie wanted. The editor, meanwhile, would be muttering, "But that was never filmed; there's no such take!" --Jerry Epstein, Remembering Charlie, 1989.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Chaplin's Mann Act testimony, March 30-31, 1944

Part of my 6-part series on the Mann Act trial. Read more here.

Charlie in court, March 30th, 1944

According to one reporter,  Charlie appeared in court on his first day of testimony wearing a navy blue suit and his "favorite" polka-dot blue tie but "no sign of a smile."

His attorney, Jerry Giesler, later wrote that Chaplin was "the best witness I've ever seen in a law court. He was effective even when he wasn't being cross-examined but merely sitting there, lonely and forlorn, at a far end of the counsel table. He is so small that only the toes of his shoes touched the floor." He said Chaplin's greatest quality on the stand was his "outward humility--whether he was inwardly humble or not. He wept as he described his relations with Joan Barry and said, 'Yes, I was intimate with her. I liked the girl.' Both during direct and cross-examination he gave the appearance of utter sincerity. He wasn't arrogant, nor did he duck the verbal blows flung in his direction."

Before Chaplin took the stand, several other witnesses were called including two of Joan Barry's other lovers, J. Paul Getty & Hans Ruesch. Then, in rapid succession, Giesler called five employees of the Chaplin Studio to the stand. First was general manager, Alfred Reeves, who testified that Joan told him she had given up the idea of playing Bridget (her role in Shadow and Substance), given up the idea of a screen career, and that Chaplin had agreed to pay her fare to New York and that of her mother. He also said that, at Chaplin's instruction, he had given her $500 to pay her bills.

Cameraman Rollie Totheroh took the stand next. He testified that he shot 4500 feet of test film of Joan, given her a voice test, and around September 1942 had a conversation with Joan in which she said that she was sick of rehearsing and wanted to go to New York for good. Other employees who testified were Chaplin's secretary Catherine Hunter and bookkeeper Lois Watts.
Chaplin had been an intent spectator during earlier testimony but as his employees testified, he "cupped his chin in one hand and looked dreamily, aloofly toward the ceiling."

Chaplin's employees wait to testify for the defense (L-R):
 O.B. Gooding, Alf Reeves, Rollie Totheroh,
Frank Antunez, and Frank Testera.

Below is Chaplin's testimony. I have tried to compile as much of it as possible from various resources:

Asked to state his full name, Chaplin smiled and said: "Charles Spencer Chaplin."

Charlie then coughed, wiped his mouth with a handkerchief and settled into the witness chair.

"Where do you reside?"

"Los Angeles"

Giesler asked his address. Charlie fumbled. "Summit Rd," he admitted. But what about the number? He ruffled his white hair and looked puzzled. "If I told you it was 1085?" prompted Giesler. "Of course," Charlie said, relieved, "1085 Summit Drive."

Charlie was still amused as he gave vital statistics. He caressed his chin with one hand as he said he is 54, has lived in Los Angeles since 1914, and has had his own studio since 1918.

Then came the questions about Joan.

"Do you recall the first time you met Miss Barry?" asked Giesler.

Charlie threw his arm over the back of the witness chair, studied the ceiling for a moment, then answered:

"Somewhere in 1941."

"Thereafter did she sign a contract with your studio?"

"She did."

"Afterwards, did you direct her to some dramatic coach?"

Charlie ran his fingers through his hair. Finally, he replied:

"Yes, the Reinhardt School."

"Did you recommend other tests?"

"I gave her the tuition myself--I also directed the tests at the studio."

"Did you have anything personally to do with her wardrobe?"

"I designed it myself."

Costume tests for Joan Barry, 1941

"Was this for a particular part and a particular story you had purchased?"

"Yes, I purchased it for $20,000 dollars."

Chaplin then explained it was Shadow And Substance, an Irish play.

"How many tests did you give her--camera tests, that is?"

"I suppose we worked three days on makeup, rendition of lines and I wanted to get teh photographic contours and see if she was photogenic, you know. I know we used a lot of film."

"After the tests did you form any conclusion as to her screen possibilities? Did you think she was photogenic?

"I did before that."

"Yes, but did you then?"

"Yes, afterward too."

"What conclusion did you reach?"

"I thought that she photographed very appealingly. I thought she had histrionic ability."

"Did she show any development as a result of her studies at the Max Reinhardt School?"

"No, I don't think so. This is no reflection on the school, but I don't think she concentrated. I don't think she took her studies seriously enough."

"The part in the story you bought, with the idea of making it into a picture, was it the leading part?"

"It was the leading part."

"The role of Bridget?"


"It was the role of a simple girl, was it not?"

"The part was supposed to be this very humble little servant, who is sort of modern Joan of Arc whose implicit faith in Catholicism transcended the orthodoxy of the priests."

Chaplin told of the termination, by mutual agreement,  of Joan's contract to him because she wished to try her luck elsewhere.

"She was very adamant about it," Charlie said with distress in his voice. "She wanted to go. I said, 'If you feel it will further your career, by all means do."

"I'm not sure what happened then, but two or three weeks later she came back. I told her she was more or less on probation, that if she studied and worked, well and good, but I was not going to put her under contract. It was a verbal contract."

All this time, he said, he was working on Shadow and Substance, rewriting the play, injecting action and scenes.

"You were going to play a part in it?" asked Giesler.

"No. Well, yes. I had an idea of doing so, but I vacillated a great deal. I was directing."

One day in September 1942, he said Joan wanted to talk to him. He hadn't seen her for a month or so. He was distressed as he told the jury why. She had had the principle role in a Reinhardt amateur play, and had failed. "She couldn't concentrate," he testified. She couldn't recall her lines." Then she came to his house and said she wanted to go to New York. "I told her her that instead of going to New York, she should go back to school and study diligently. She insisted on going.  She made quite a scene and became hysterical, which is part of her nature."

Prosecutor Charles H. Carr objected to the final phrase. It was stricken from the record.

Giesler prompted Chaplin to continue.

"Well, I told her she should concentrate, become more conscientious. She said, 'Oh, you'll never finish that [Shadow & Substance]. You've been on it a year. It's getting very irksome.' I said, 'I can't stop you from going, but if you're not prepared for your part, I'll have to get someone else.' She left very upset."

"Was there again any conversation on the subject?"

"The next time came while I was dictating to my secretary on the porch in the daytime. She came around the house to where I was and she was very excited. I was quite mad, I must say. She asked me: 'Are you not going to send me to New York?' and I said, 'I am not.' She turned on her heels and went out, back to where she came from. I was very upset and couldn't work any more that day."

Then again she came:

"She said, 'Look here, I'm not an actress. I don't want a career. I'm through with acting. I'm going to New York. Hollywood is no good for me.'

"I was distressed," Chaplin continued, his eyes sad. "Then she said, 'If you'll pay the fare for me and my mother to New York, I'll call the whole thing off.'

"I was discouraged, I was defeated. When you've worked a whole year on someone, putting heart and soul into it..." His voice trails away.

"Then there were two or three other little items. She had a few bills. Would I agree to pay them? I said I would. I was very philosophical about it. I said, 'Now, I am completely finished. That is out of my mind. I'll have to look for someone else to play the part."

This was Chaplin's version of why he paid Joan Barry's railroad fare to New York. Giesler read him Joan's testimony that he said he wanted her "to be near me."

"Did you say that?"

"I did not. Nothing of that sort took place at my home or anywhere else."

"When you authorized the purchase of the tickets did you have any intent or purpose that Miss Barry go to New York so you could have immoral relations with her?"

"I did not."

And then for the controversial New York stay.

Chaplin said he made his speech at Carnegie Hall, had dinner with Paulette Goddard and Constance Collier.

"Who is Constance Collier?" asked Giesler.

Chaplin started to say she was "an old, old actress," but corrected himself smilingly and said, "she was a very dear friend of mine and a very well-known actress."

Chaplin delivering a Second Front speech at Carnegie Hall,
Oct. 16th, 1942

After the speech, Tim Durant and Arthur Kelly joined the party, which adjourned to the 21 Club.

"Then Durant, Kelly and I were invited to the Stork Club and we went."

"Was there any prearrangement with Barry to meet her there?"

"There was not."

The next day, his butler Edward Chaney, told him Joan had called. He wouldn't talk to her. Later she called Tim Durant repeatedly.

"I believe," he began, then corrected himself, "mustn't say believe--well, I was in a quandary. I didn't know what to do about it. Mr. Durant told me she seemed very excited. He said, 'I think you should see her, she's staying in New York and won't be bothering you again. Otherwise she might come up tot he hotel and make trouble.'

"I said, all right. If we have an evening...then I think he made an appointment for dinner."

He said he and Durant and Joan had dinner at the 21 club, then went on to "an amusement floor, a cabaret of some sort." Later the three got into a taxi.

"Did you say, 'Joan, I want to talk to you. Will you come to my hotel?"

"I did not."

"What did you say?"

"Oh, ordinary pleasantries. I thought we were going to take her to her hotel first, but she said she wanted to see our suite, so I said all right, that's all."

"So we sat around for a while reading the papers. Just ordinary pleasantries. I remember Mr. Durant said he was tired, so he went to bed. Miss Barry and myself sat there and talked for about 20 minutes. Eventually I made the suggestion that I was tired--and saw her home.

This was Chaplin's answer to the first count of the Mann Act indictment.

"Was there an act of sexual intercourse?"

"There was not."

"Did you undress and redress?"

"I did not!"

"Was there any conversation on the way to her hotel?"

"Yes. I asked her how she was getting along, and she said she was putting up a front and everything, but she was very hard up. I said if she was hard up, how come she was staying at the Pierre. She said, 'Well, that's on Getty [referring to J. Paul Getty.] But I don't have anything else. She said: 'I need money for my mother. She's in debt and she's sick.'" Chaplin added that she was very convincing. "So she asked if I would loan her some money. I said: 'All right. I'll leave some with Edward.' Then I dropped her at the Pierre. That was the sum and substance of the conversation."

This was Chaplin's answer to the second Mann Act count, which charges he gave Joan $300 to go back to Los Angeles.

"Had you given her money other than her salary any time before going to New York?"

"I had--on frequent occasions"

"Did you give her this money to go back to California?"

"I did not. Not at all, not at all."

"Did you ask or suggest at any time that you wanted her back in California?"

"I did not."

"For the purpose of sexual relations?"

"I did nothing of the sort. I gave her money for her mother because she was in debt and out of a job."

"Did you see her again in New York?"


Now Giesler took him back to California. He said Joan called him so many times that he finally telephoned her. She told him she was only there for a brief stop on her way to Tulsa. She wanted to see him, but if he wouldn't see her, she wouldn't bother him.

"Naturally after that contrite statement," he told the jury, but the remark was stricken. Anyway, he asked her for dinner and drove by her hotel the next night to pick her up. He thought she was acting strangely, but he took her to Romanoff's. "She seemed to be worse," he testified, "so I said, 'You'd better go straight home.'

"She was quite inarticulate," he added, and on the way home he lectured her severely.

"I told her there was only one person who could play Bridget and that was she. I saod that after the tremendous expense I had gone through I couldn't afford to give her another chance. I told her she was very irresponsible.  I was very impatient with her. I told her I didn't want to see her again."

"You had not intent to have sexual relations at that time."

"I did not."

"Did you ever call her after the evening at Romanoff's?"



"No. No. I think she left and went to Tulsa because I received some letters from her."

"Ever try to locate her?"

"I did not."

"You made a second trip to New York?"

"Yes. I returned around December 20th"

"When was the first you knew she had returned from Tulsa?"

"I think that was the time she came up with the gun."

"Will you please explain that incident?"

Chaplin turned directly to the jury. He said he had just come home. It was after midnight and he was on the telephone.

"Suddenly I heard a noise. I turned around." He acted it out, as he talked. "There was my bathroom door and Joan was pointing a gun. She made a half-circle around the two beds. She came to me and said, 'I'm going to kill you.'

"Although it was rather melodramatic and absurd," he said, " I was scared." I tried to reason with her. I said, 'All your supposed love and affection for me is a pretense and a sham. Why do you resort to this violence?"

"I reminded her that I never put myself in a false position with her and she never had with me. From the beginning it was she who telephoned me night after night until, naturally, an intimacy grew. I admit it. I asked her why she embarrassed me night after night in front of servants with scenes and tantrums."

"I told her I believed in her as an actress. I believed she had histrionic ability; that I bought a play for her on which I spent $250,000 overhead; that the whole experience was frustrating."

"Then she said, 'I'm not going to kill you. You're not worth it. I'm going to kill myself and am going to do it in your bedroom.'

"At that moment I heard a disturbance in the hall. My children were downstairs."

"I went to the archway and said, 'there's a little trouble, sons. You'd better go back to your mother and stay there tonight." It was here Chaplin choked up.

"It appears they couldn't go because they hadn't a car or something."

"So all the time Joan was holding a gun in the archway. I said to her, 'You have to go. My children are here.'

"She said, 'I haven't any hotel. I haven't any home. I'm destitute. I'm going to stay here!'

"I said, 'I'm going to throw you out!'

She said, 'If you come any nearer, I'll kill myself.'

"I said, 'Don't be absurd. No one is coming near you.'

Chaplin told the jury that he assigned her to a bedroom separated from his room by a bathroom.

He related that the next morning she left his home after he had given her money.

"Did you in your home have an act of sexual intercourse with Miss Barry that night?"

"I did not"

"Did you have any under any circumstances?"

"I did not."

"Did you see Miss Barry on December 9, 10, 11, 12, or 13th?"


"Did you have sexual intercourse with her on any of these dates?"

"I did not."

"Did you say you were going to rehabilitate Miss Barry and give her another chance?"


"Did you tell her you would see her only when you wanted to?"

"No, I did not."

This ended the first day of testimony.

Charlie talks to Jerry Giesler following his first day testimony, March 30th, 1944

 On March 31st, Giesler continued his questioning.

"On the early morning of Dec. 31st, did you see Joan Barry?"

"I did."

"Will you kindly relate to the jury what happened?"

" I know I was home. I believe I was playing solitaire in my front room. I suddenly heard bells ringing in my kitchen. I went to the door. I saw lying on the mat outside Miss Joan Barry. I looked at her, I went to the kitchen. I rang all the bells to see if anyone was up. I knew we were going to have a lot of trouble."

Carr objected to the last statement. The judge told Chaplin his conclusions were improper testimony.

"I see," Chaplin said contritely. "Well, I beg your pardon. I wanted to see if I could get some help. I shouted and nobody paid any attention to me. I wanted help because on the night previous or two or three nights before she had come up with a gun."

He said the only man he could rouse was someone new whom he didn't know well, so he went back to the door alone.

"I aroused her. I said, 'what do you want?' She said, 'I'm destitute.' I said, 'I don't care what you are. You can't stay here!' She said, 'I haven't any car.' I said, 'I'll drive you.'

"So eventually I got her to the car. She said, 'Drive me to Olympic Blvd.' She said, 'Never mind that. I'm destitute. I'll sleep at the police station.'

"Did she enter the..."

"She did not," Chaplin replied before Giesler could finish.

The judge leaned over. "Mr. Chaplin you should wait until your council finishes the question."

"I beg your pardon," Chaplin said quickly, shaking his hands in vexation, and smiling at the judge. "It's just my eagerness."

Giesler repeated the question.

"Did she enter the house at all?"

"She did not."

At this point, Prosecutor Charles H. Carr  began cross-examination. He asked Chaplin if on his second date with Miss Barry he hadn't told her she was very pretty and very charming. "And didn't you try to kiss her?" he insisted.

"I think I kissed her before that," Chaplin said, smiling faintly.

"Did you ever tell Miss Barry you were in love with her?"

"No, never," said Chaplin.

"Well, did she tell you she was in love with you?"

"Yes, she did."

"Did you ever call her 'Hunchy'?"

"Yes. I used that as a term of endearment. I often use terms of endearment."

"When did you stop calling her 'Hunchy'?"

"I don't remember."

Charlie during cross-examination, March 31, 1944

Carr started on the night Chaplin met Joan, an introduction arranged by Tim Durant. Chaplin said they went to Perino's for dinner.

"Then you and Miss Barry drove to and from the beach several times?"

"That isn't true. No, we didn't."

"Where did you go?"

"I think we drove to her home."

"What did you do?"

"We talked a great deal in the car."

"You saw her the next day?"

"No, two or three days later."

"You had Mr. Durant get in touch with her again?"

"I did not."

"You called her?"

"No, I did not."

"Well, how did you get together?"

"I think we met at Mr. Durant's home."

"You had a long conversation with her?"

"I think so."

"At that time you told her you were more or less enchanted by her?"

"No, I did nothing of the kind."

"You told her she was a very pretty girl and interesting?"

"I told her she was interesting. I may have said something about her having personality."

Chaplin recalled they had dinner alone a few days later, but couldn't remember where.


"Now, this is a long time ago, you are pinning me down to dates and I cannot remember."

"How long were you together that evening?"

"I don't know."

"You took her home then?"

"Very soon...I think it is the time you allude to...I'm trying to catch the entire scene."

"She came to my house," Chaplin explained, "and said she was going to New York to marry someone. And I said I thought it was a very good idea. She said, 'Oh, don't send me back to New York!' I said, 'My dear girl, I hardly know you.' And I thought it very strange.  Oh (shaking his head at the words) I'm sorry, I couldn't understand this conversation so very soon after I met her."

"Had you signed a contract at that time?"


He admitted her took her to Santa Barbara and a yachting trip to Catalina Island.

"After the contract was signed," asked Carr, "you were seeing Miss Barry quite often weren't you?"


"Three or four times a week?"

"Maybe twice a week."

"She spent the night there once or twice a week, didn't she?"


"Did you read Shakespeare to her at your house?"


"You began to tell her you were in love with her, didn't you?"


"Did she tell you she was in love with you?"


"Quite often didn't she spend the night?"

"No, it wasn't very frequent."

"That relationship continued through December 1941?"


Carr asked about their time at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York and Chaplin insisted he only spent 20 minutes with her and did not take her into his room, and then escorted her to her hotel by taxicab

Carr brought the questioning back to Los Angeles. He tried to get Chaplin to admit to a series of quarrels with Joan at Romanoff's restaurant.

Chaplin said there had been no quarrels, merely that Joan was not feeling well at Romanoff's.

"But don't you recall her coming to the back of your house and insisting that you come out on the night of December 11th or 12th?" Carr insisted.

"No, I do not recall any such thing."

"Isn't it true that you slapped her at that time?"

"No," Chaplin said, turning to the jury, "I've never slapped a woman in my life."

Carr tried to elicit testimony as to the frequency of acts of intimacy since first meeting her to the night of December 30-31, 1942:

"I will ask you, as nearly as you can remember, what was the last date you had sexual intercourse with Miss Barry?"

"Sexual intercourse isn't that important in my life."

Subsequently, Chaplin testified that he "might have been" having sexual relations with Barry in January 1942, and that "maybe" he did during the following May.

Chaplin wept again as he told the story of how Joan came to his house one day in January 1942 to tell him she had had an operation.

"She took me to one side," he said visibly upset and halting frequently in his statement.

"She told me what she had gone through. I believed her, and I was very upset when I was confronted with all of this very suddenly." Tears streamed down his face, and he burst out: "And that is why I have been suffering ever since. And that is why she is doing all this to me."

"Isn't it true," demanded Carr, "that you took her in your arms and said to her, "you poor, dear thing."

"Yes, I did," Chaplin admitted. "I was so upset."

"Don't you recall that you embraced her on that occasion?"

"Yes, I did. When she told me."

"Well, do you recall that Miss Barry was put to bed in your home?"

"That's right."

"You stated you changed the locks on your door three of four times. Did Miss Barry have a key?"

"Yes. She stole keys."

"Did she steal three of four?"

"She must have done so."

Chaplin and prosecutor Charles Carr.

Carr then questioned Chaplin about the gun episode.

"How long was she in your bedroom?"

"I don't know, I was so excited, so upset, so bewildered. It seemed hours. Maybe two hours."

"Do you recall saying having an affair under those circumstances [with a gun nearby] was a new wrinkle?"

"No, of course not."

"She was destitute and had no place to sleep. That was her reason and motive for being there."

"You didn't call the police?"


"You had cars available to take Miss Barry away didn't you?"


"Didn't you have breakfast with her the next morning?"

"No, I had breakfast alone. Then I went up to see her. She was still asleep with the gun."

"In her hand?"


"On Dec. 30th, when you said you found her on your doormat, was she unconscious?"

"No, because she spoke to me at the door."

"What time was that?"

Running his fingers through his hair, Chaplin replied, "I don't know. I didn't look at the clock, I was too excited."

"Didn't you drive her around Beverly Hills while she argued that $25 was too little to pay for a hotel bill?"

"No, that is not true."

"And didn't you finally say, 'Well, here's a good place for you,' and point to the police station?"

Chaplin flatly denied this and said he didn't even know where the police station was. "I didn't notice, I was very upset."

Carr jumped to June 1943 when Joan told Chaplin she was pregnant.

"And did Joan at this time, referring to her unborn baby, say, 'What are you going to do about it?' And you said, 'I suggest you go to New York to have it.' And she said, 'Charles, why don't you marry me?' And you said, 'I'm not marrying anyone, Joan, if you make this matter public, I'll spend my entire fortune fighting it and if necessary blacken your name, and I will not be any issue at all.' Didn't that conversation take place, Mr. Chaplin?"

"No, that is not true."

On redirect examination by Giesler, Chaplin examined his studio records and discovered that his final payment for film rights to Shadow and Substance was made on March 28th, 1942. He said he had been considering it two months.

On recross Carr asked, "Why did you raise Miss Barry's salary from $75 a week to $100?"

"Because I thought she was worthy of it."

"That's all," Carr said, and Chaplin stepped down.



Freeport Journal, March 31, 1944
Chicago Daily Tribune, March 30-31, 1944
Salt Lake City Tribune, March 31, 1944
Mason City Globe-Gazette, March 31, 1944
"The Jerry Giesler Story," Saturday Evening Post, November 21, 1959
"Accusations Against Charles Chaplin for Political and Moral Offenses," Film Comment, Winter 1969

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Happy Rollie Day!

Rollie marks a scene on the set of The Floorwalker, Chaplin's first Mutual.

Today marks the centennial anniversary of the day Roland H. Totheroh came to work for Charlie Chaplin as his cameraman. But March 6th would come to have significance in his later years as well. I'll let Rollie himself explain.

The following is from an interview with Totheroh from December 1964 conducted by his brother, Dan, and his grandson, Steve. Many thanks to Rollie's other grandson, David Totheroh, for sharing this story with me.
“Lloyd Ingraham wanted me, pretty near hijacked me to get on the train with him, to come down when he went with D.W. Griffith. But I didn’t want to leave [Niles and Essanay] - Los Angeles, that seemed out of the world to me, Los Angeles - and I felt nearer home where I was, so I didn’t go, I didn’t accept it. So then when the company [Essanay] closed down and that, I decided I’ll go to Los Angeles. They all bid goodbye to me in Niles, and I left my wife and little Jackie my son, and down I went, like going to the other end of the world… I got to Los Angeles, and I didn’t know how to get to any studios, so I got on a bus. It was takin’ tourists around Universal City. I think it was a dollar to go sightseeing, waited until they got the bus filled up and finally out to Studio City they went, Universal City. Soon as they pulled through the gates I jumped off. I jumped off and ran around to find out where Roy Clements was. So they told me where his office was and I saw him and he said, “Well Rollie, so glad to see you. If you had been here a week earlier I’d’a had you as my cameraman, but I’m all set on my cameraman.” I said, “That’s OK. I’m going to see Chaplin anyhow.” [Roy said] “He’s gone.” And he was. He was in New York at the time on business. That’s when he was signing up to make the Mutual Comedies.
 “He had a fellow by the name of Leo White, and Charlie at that time had a little music shop, he was writing music and everything, he had a little music store, not a store, but a little office. And this Leo White was taking care of it. And I knew where, I found out where it was. And I went down to see him. And I was kinda disappointed. At first he said, “Oh sure Rollie, Charlie always asks about you.” And I said, “Well I came down, I hear he’s gonna get started… He said, “Yeah, he’s signin’ his contract, and he’s due back and he’s gonna get started about uh, two weeks after he gets back.” So next time I went down to see him, Charlie hadn’t arrived back yet and he [Leo] said, “I don’t know. I heard they’re gonna have a cameraman from Universal City.” And I said, “Oh Jeezus!” And he said, “I don’t know but I think they’re gonna use two cameras.” So I didn’t know then what, whether I’d follow through with pictures or go back home, or what…. Finally Charlie arrived in town and I went to see him. And Charlie said, “Oh, great Roll. We’ll get started next week.” And I said, “Well, will I be with you?” “Sure, sure.”
Moving Picture World, August 1918.
Note Charlie's bowler & hat hanging on the chair.
 "So, a couple’a days passed and that, and the fellow that did, they had for a manager was a man that used to be a manager or one of the heads at Universal City. He was a manager and it seemed that he had all set up, a cameraman by the name of Bill Foster, Bill Foster, head cameraman, Universal. So this Bill Foster had always been shooting dramas and things like that. Well, anyhow we started together, Bill and I, camera one and two. So Bill finished up the first and that, and when it came to selecting scenes and that, pretty near all of my scenes were selected…. Well, at that time Dustin Farnum was gonna make a picture for Fox, and Bill heard about it, and right away he said, “I don’t want to make comedy. I’m gonna go over to Fox and get this job, which, he wants me. I’ll go over to Farnum, over at Fox.” And he left. And I was on my own.
 “I photographed all the Mutuals, all the First Nationals, and all of his features, which was in the space of time of thirty-eight years. And a funny thing, when I left San Anselmo to join the Essanay Company, it was March 6th, 1912 [actually Aug. 8,1912] and I joined Mr. Chaplin March 6, 1916. And I got a call after he retired from Hollywood and went to Europe, to Switzerland, I got a cable from him [about getting the films together and setting up a film archive in England]. On the way over, of course I flew over, and I took over Charlie’s derby, his cane, his trousers, in fact his, all his little get up, bought a special bag for it, and when I got to Bill Smith, head of United Artists over there, he met me at the airport. They didn’t know who I was at first, and as soon as this bag I had, they started to go through, naturally they checked, you know, your belongings when you go through Customs. So I said, “Be careful of that bag!” And they thought, they were suspicious. And well, they opened it first and there was Charlie’s clothes. Jesus, it got around. Charlie Chaplin’s outfit - Charlie Chaplin, Charlie Chaplin!
“Well, I finished out, like I say, after going to London and everything, I came back here. And I finished up here March 6th, 1954, closed up with Mr. Chaplin.
“Then I had my accident, fell off my roof and everything... And then I went over to the Motion Picture Hospital in Woodland Hills, and on March 6th lo and behold, I heard from somebody that Broncho Billy was there. And I said, “Well that’s the man that started me in pictures, the old Essanay Company, Broncho Billy.” So, by golly I went to see him, March 6th, see. And he said, “Rollie! My great third baseman."
Rollie with Charlie's Tramp outfit, 1954

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Rare images from the set of SUNNYSIDE (1919)

These photos show Chaplin with the "wood nymphs" and some of the cast and crew.
The nymphs were played by Olive Burton, Willie Mae Carson, Olive Ann Alcorn, and Helen Kohn.

Chaplin's friend, Rob Wagner, is at far left. Rollie Totheroh is behind the camera.
In bowler hat is Tom Wilson, who plays Charlie's boss in the film.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Working with Charlie Chaplin: Vol. 4

I couldn't come up with a title for this one but suffice to say you didn't want to get on Chaplin's bad side. I must admit that I did consider calling it "For Christ's Sake!" You'll see why...

[Chaplin to assistant director and half-brother, Wheeler Dryder, during production of Monsieur Verdoux] "No, no, no, shut up, you silly bastard, for Christ's sake, we cut to Annabella, you don't understand anything about motion pictures. I know what I'm doing, yeah, that's what I cut to. I have been in this business for 20--for 30 years, you don't think I am gaga? Oh, shut up...Christ... We cut to Annabella, I know goddamn well what I am doing...For Christ's sake, I have been cutting this scene in my mind for the past three years...I know exactly...then the music starts....Don't talk to me." (reminiscences of Robert Florey via "Charlie Dearest" by Brian Taves, Film Comment, April 1988)
Group shot on the set of Monsieur Verdoux, 1946:
L-R: Robert Florey, Wheeler Dryden, Henry Bergman (in front), Rollie Totheroh, and CC

After I had been working at the Manoir for a few days I ventured to ask if he ever stopped work for a cup of tea during the afternoon. He snapped back, "I don't like tea." Feeling this to be a bit lacking in consideration, I retorted equally, "Well, I do." To my surprise instead of a lordly rebuke he said quite gently, "How thoughtless, you must forgive me, Eric." He at once rang for Gino [the butler] and from that day and every day thereafter a gentle tap would be heard on the door at precisely 4:00 pm and Gino 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, 2000)
CC with longtime music associate Eric James

[Chaplin to son Sydney, who played Neville in Limelight] "For Chrissakes, come on Syd!. Get some feeling into the lines...Show a little warmth!...For Chrissakes, what's wrong with you? Get the lead out of your pants!" (Jerry Epstein, Remembering Charlie, 1989)
With Sydney in Limelight

It was on 
A Woman Of Paris. We were all in watching rushes. And he said, "Rollie, that's out of focus." And I said, "Gee, if it was out of focus, my eyes are sharp, I'd tell you." "For Christ's sake! Jesus Christ! Lousy!" he said. So I said, "Well, if you can say that is lousy, you'd better get yourself another boy." He said, "I will." "Okay." So he ran down to Mr. [Alfred] Reeves office. I went back and sat in my office. They went to lunch, and I went to lunch and came back...Word came down that we'd call it a day. [That night, Alf Reeves went came to talk to Rollie at home and made sure that he would come in the next day. Rollie said he would, and give Charlie his two weeks' notice.]The next morning I was sitting on the bench and instead of Charlie driving in through the gates where he always did, he came into his front office through the screen door and I was sitting on the bench outside. He mentioned to me to come down to him and he turned around and put his behind up in the air and he said, "Kick me in the ass, Rollie." And I did. And he said, "You know, I wanted to take that shot over anyhow." ("Roland H. Totheroh Interviewed," Timothy J. Lyons, ed., Film Culture, Spring 1972

With Rollie, 1923
He got so frustrated with Almira Sessions that he started yelling and screaming. 'Why can't you get anything straight? All you have to do is this, this and this...'" (Interview with Marilyn Nash, "Limelight" newsletter, Spring 1997)

Almira Sessions as Lena Couvais in Monsieur Verdoux (1947)

"Hello, Gardiner," he said, looking at me with those strange, deep blue, and at times, pathetic eyes. "Say, you didn't show up at 6 a.m." And then rather sharply: "You held everything up, you know." I explained to him that there had been some mistake about the call as I had not received one the night before and that I was sorry I had caused him any inconvenience, but that it really wasn't my fault. "I must have cooperation at all times from people who work for me," he answered. "If people don't show enthusiasm over their work with me, I've no use for them. And if you feel you are not going to be able to put everything you've got into this role. I can always get someone else."I felt mortified and completely tongue-tied. I pulled myself together and, as calmly as I could, that I would do everything possible to do my part to the utmost and was looking forward to being in the picture more than any other assignment I had had previously."Well, that's fine, Reggie," he said, smiling now. "Let's say no more about your being late this morning." I smiled and thanked him and he walked away over to the camera. (Reginald Gardiner, "The Pleasure of Meeting A Dictator," New York Herald Tribune, September 16, 1940)

Reggie Gardiner, left, as Schultz in The Great Dictator (1940)

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

Friday, May 22, 2015

Some of the cast & crew of A WOMAN OF PARIS, 1923

Chaplin is kneeling in front with cameraman Rollie Totheroh. Back row (L-R): ?, assistant director Eddie Sutherland, Harry D’Arrast, Adolphe Menjou, Granville Redmond, Jean De Limur, Monta Bell, cameraman Jack Wilson (?) & studio manager, Alf Reeves.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Editing Limelight, 1952

Other familiar faces include cameraman Rollie Totheroh in the background on the right. Assistant producer Jerry Epstein, wearing a dark shirt, in the photos on the left. The man on Charlie's left is probably editor Joseph Engel.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Friday, March 7, 2014

Chaplin & his crew on the set of CITY LIGHTS, c. 1930

Charlie is in costume except that he has replaced his bowler hat with a straw hat.

Other familiar faces include: cameraman Rollie Totheroh (far left), press agent
Carlyle Robinson (in the middle wearing glasses) and I believe that's
Allan Garcia (who plays the millionaire's butler) behind Charlie (4th from left).

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Chaplin after editing The Immigrant? or A Dog's Life?

Alternate photo with Rollie Totheroh (from
Variety advertising supplement for the Warner/MK2 DVDs, 2003)

It has long been thought that the photos above were taken after Chaplin edited A Dog's Life in 1918 but it seems they were actually taken the previous year.  Chaplin's longtime press agent, Carlyle Robinson,* included the photo in an article that was published in Liberty magazine in 1933 "The Private Life Of Charlie Chaplin." The caption states that it was taken after cutting was completed on The Immigrant (1917)Robinson goes on to say that by the time Chaplin finished with the editing, his "beard had grown...his hair was a matted mess" and he was "collarless, haggard, and dirty"--just like in the photo.

Photo and caption (upper right) from "The Private Life Of Charlie Chaplin"
by Carlyle Robinson, Liberty, 1933
 (reprinted in Liberty in 1972)

Below left is a photo of one of the buildings at the Lone Star studio where Chaplin filmed The Immigrant (A Dog's Life was filmed at his brand new studio on La Brea). Note how the windows (and the building itself) are very similar to the ones behind Charlie at right.

Photo on left from Silent Traces by John Bengston.

I'm not sure if the Chaplin Archive has an actual date for this photo because I'm curious how it ever came to be associated with A Dog's Life--possibly because Chaplin spent several days and nights cutting that film as well. However, at this point I'm convinced that this photo was taken after The Immigrant (or at least during the Mutual period).

*Robinson was press agent from c. 1917-1932.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Paulette Goddard and the crew of Modern Times

Front row: Paulette (far left), asst. director, Carter De Haven (middle), continuity secretary, Della Steele (far right).
Back row: cameramen Ira Morgan (second from left), Rollie Totheroh (behind camera) and Mark Marlatt (second from right)

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

RIP Henry Bergman (February 23, 1868 – October 22, 1946)

Henry Bergman became an indispensable member of Chaplin's stock company in 1916. He adored Charlie and was a loyal and supportive friend and associate for 30 years. Chaplin repaid that loyalty by keeping Henry on his payroll until his death.

In an interview from 1931, Henry remembers how he came to work for Charlie:
I had known Mr. Chaplin personally. We used to be quite friendly at dinners, etc., and when I mentioned to him that I was looking for a job he said, "Why don't you come with me? You can work with me when I start a company of my own." That's the way it was. (Interview with Mayme Ober Peak, Boston Globe, February 22, 1931. I posted a longer excerpt from the interview here.)
Bergman was a versatile actor and would sometimes have multiple roles in one film. During filming, he was known to be just as tireless as Charlie:
For hour on hour on a sweltering August day during Shoulder Arms, Charlie forced the weighty Henry, in a full parade of German arms and uniform and sweating under a full muff (or crepe hair beard) to pursue him, disguised as a tree stump, through a eucalyptus grove. "You great fat hulk," complained the ex­hausted comedian. "Can't I wear you out?" Henry pled fatigue, but told Chaplin he was determined not to give up until Charlie did. (Harry Crocker, "Henry Bergman," Academy Leader, April 1972). 
In the 1920s, Bergman opened a popular Hollywood restaurant called Henry’s (possibly financed, or co-financed, by Chaplin). Henry would often go from table to table talking with customers, with his ever-present cigar dangling from his mouth. Charlie, who was fascinated by the success of the restaurant, was a regular customer. His favorite dishes were the lentil soup and coleslaw.

One of the last photos of Henry was taken on the set of Monsieur Verdoux. He did not have a role in the film and died from a heart attack shortly after shooting had begun.

Cameraman Rollie Totheroh is between Bergman and Chaplin. Associate Director Robert Florey is on the left of Bergman and Charlie’s half-brother Wheeler Dryden is behind Florey. 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Chaplin & crew on the set of City Lights, 1929

From left: publicist Carlyle Robinson, studio manager, Alf Reeves, assistant director, Henry Bergman, CC, cameramen: Mark Marlatt, Rollie Totheroh & Eddie Gheller (?), Henry Clive, seated, originally played the millionaire but was later fired, and assistant director, Harry Crocker, far right, who was also eventually fired from the production.

Friday, September 6, 2013

In the director's chair on the set of Modern Times

Cameraman Rollie Totheroh is in the background (in a sweater), as well as continuity secretary Della Steele. Charlie appears to be in street clothes except for his shoes.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Chaplin & company on location with Shoulder Arms, 1918

Albert Austin is at far left. Henry Bergman is talking to Syd Chaplin (with mustache). Studio manager Alf Reeves is in the center (wearing a straw hat), Charlie is seated in front. Cameraman Rollie Totheroh, wearing a visor, is next to the camera. 

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Della Steele

Filming The Circus. Merna Kennedy is standing at center with Harry Crocker (tall man with hat),
 Toraichi Kono (behind Crocker) & Henry Bergman behind the camera. 
Seated in front of Bergman is Della Steele.

I've always been curious about Della Steele, Chaplin's continuity secretary from c.1924 to 1936. She can be spotted in numerous behind-the scenes-photos from this period (like the one above)--sitting behind the camera (usually off to the side somewhere) writing her meticulous notes, no matter where they were filming. She was among the crew who accompanied Chaplin to the snowy mountains of Truckee, CA during the filming of The Gold Rush. Lita Grey Chaplin remembered that Steele was one of the first crew members to catch a bad cold.

Steele's notes provide valuable insight into Chaplin's filmmaking process. Sometimes they included little tidbits of info about late-night meals and who visited the set on a particular day:
Midnight supper served on stage. Shooting in Dynamo set. Worked all night from 7:30PM to 4:45AM. Paulette Goddard, King Vidor and Betty Hill [Vidor's girlfriend] visitors on set. (October 15th, 1934)
The production report for the next day is a little more dramatic:
Shooting in Dynamo set. Hard rainstorm stopped work for an hour and a half. Rain came through tarpoleon [sic] overhead and caused some damage to the sets. Hot supper served at 1 A.M. and worked balance of night to 5:10 Wednesday morning. [work began at 6:30PM the previous day]
Production Report, Oct. 16th, 1934. Source: Modern Times: Project Chaplin n. 2 (©Roy Export)

Usually the secretary just filled in the start and end time for the day on the production report. Maybe it's just me, but the fact that Steele reiterated that the crew had to work all night both nights in her notes makes it sound like she wasn't too pleased about it.

Charlie directs a scene for Modern Times: Rollie Totheroh & Ira Morgan are behind the camera. 
Della Steele is behind Chaplin. Assistant director Carter De Haven is seated with his legs crossed on the left.
 Standing at far right is Paulette Goddard. Charlie appears to be in street clothes except for his shoes.

According to a 1936 article by Sara Hamilton,* Steele stood in for the actors during a story conference for Modern Times. The article also reveals how Chaplin could bring an audience to tears even during rehearsals (and even when he wasn't playing the Tramp)**:
About the table gather Charlie, Henry [Bergman] and Della and the situations are then acted out one after the other. Charlie begins by taking his own role of the little tramp, closely watching their reactions to his every move. Henry, who weighs the better part of a ton, [poor Henry!] is then called upon to play Chaplin's role, Della takes Miss Goddard's role of the little street waif and Charlie is the factory foreman. They go into the scene, silently moving about the room.
Swiftly they change parts again. Della is Charlie the tramp. Henry is the policeman and Chaplin becomes the street waif, a look of pathetic wistfulness stealing across his face as the Chaplin features fade into some vague mist and the hungry child of the streets emerges in perfect form. Trying to hide their tears Della and Henry watch the character before them. Not Chaplin. Certainly not Chaplin. But a strange and terrified child.**
Not much is known about Steele's personal life. A lifelong Californian, Della Elizabeth Dosta Steele was born in 1890 and died in 1955. She was married once (as far as I can tell) to a man named John Steele. They were divorced sometime in the 1920s. She is buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale. I don't believe she had any children. She was among the few women who worked for Charlie who wasn't an actress. It's a shame she was never interviewed (to my knowledge) about her time working for him. I'm sure she had some great stories to tell.

Chaplin's crew circa Modern Times. Back row: Mark Marlatt (asst. cameraman), 
Girwood Averill (projectionist), William Bogdonoff (construction). 
Front row: Joe Van Meter (production asst.), Henry Bergman (asst. director),
 Rollie Totheroh (cinematographer),  Della Steele, Allan Garcia (casting).
Photo by Max Munn Autrey.

*"Charlie Chaplin and Charles Chaplin," The Straits Times, March 20th, 1936

**Alice Davenport had a similar reaction while watching Charlie film the scene from The New Janitor where the Tramp pleads for his job because he has a large family to care for. Afterwards Davenport told Charlie, "I know it's supposed to be funny, but you just make me weep." Henry Bergman also recalled the crew members getting misty-eyed while watching Charlie film the final scene of City Lights.