With writer, Elmer Ellsworth, c. 1921

Clockwise from top: Albert Austin, Chuck Riesner (in costume for The Kid), Charlie, & Ellsworth.

Chaplin was introduced to his “sarcastic friend” Ellsworth by Ford Sterling during his early days at Keystone. In My Autobiography, he admitted that he disliked him at first and thought him to be “crass.” He would taunt Charlie and ask him, “Well, are you funny?’ After one such comment, Charlie replied, “Well, if I’m half as funny as you look, I’ll do all right.”
Weeks later Charlie ran into Elmer on the street. “‘Say, listen,’ said he, ‘I’ve been seeing your pictures lately, and, by God, you’re good! You have a quality entirely different from all the rest. And I’m not kidding. You’re funny! Why the hell didn’t you say so in the first place?’ Of course, we became good friends after that.”

Ellsworth worked for Chaplin for a brief time but their friendship came to an abrupt end when Charlie gave Ellsworth $300,000 to hold until his divorce from Mildred Harris was final. He immediately regretted the decision and worried that Ellsworth would not return the money. But instead of confronting him (direct confrontations were not Charlie’s strong suit), he snubbed him instead. The story goes that when the time came for Ellsworth to give the money back, he produced a check for $290,000 claiming Charlie had promised him a bonus of $10,000 if he carried out the mission. This so infuriated Charlie that he fired Ellsworth and didn’t speak to him for two years.

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