Charlie with “Dinky” Dean Reisner, c. 1922

These photos were taken at Charlie’s Summit Drive home in Beverly Hills.

Reisner played the mischievous child in Chaplin’s 1923 film, The Pilgrim. Almost fifty years later he would write the screenplays for the Clint Eastwood films Play Misty For Me & Dirty Harry.

Dean’s father was Chuck Reisner who worked for Charlie for several years (including a role in The Pilgrim). When Chaplin was looking for a child for the film, Chuck suggested his son. Years later Dean remembered being able to do everything Charlie asked except slap him. “I was well-brought-up kid and a gentle child, and I was not a great slapper of people. And so when it came time to start slapping people I didn’t want to do it. I don’t want to hit Uncle Charlie….Finally he and Sydney were playing slapping games. And they’d say, ‘Oh, I love to be slapped. I just adore being slapped’ and he’d say, “Sydney, hit me again’ and Sydney would give him a shot and Charlie would say ‘Ho, ho, this is so much fun. I just love it!’ He finally convinced me that slapping was a great charge to him.”
Reisner also recalled that the flypaper was real (“I still haven’t gotten it all off”) and that the scene where Charlie gets his revenge and kicks the child in the butt was actually played by “a midget” named Billy. “I remember my father bringing him home the night before, and they were both drunk, smoking cigars.”

As for his nickname: “I was called Dink ever since I was a little kid. I don’t know what that came from. My father had some kind of fake story, he said ‘such a dinky little baby’ or something, but it never sounded right to me. I think my Uncle Dave gave me that nickname.”

Reisner died in 2002 at the age of 83.

Unknown Chaplin
Limelight, Winter 1997

1 Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.