World Tour (1931-32) Revisited: Romantic adventures in “sad” Vienna

Charlie spent three short days in “sad, sensuous Vienna.”*  His original plan was to stop over for a few hours in the city then move on to Budapest. But his plans quickly changed when he met a lovely pianist named Jenny Rothstein. “Within an hour of his meeting her he was enthusing about her future–on the concert platform in the United States. At the end of another hour he had lost all interest in Budapest. Didn’t care if he never saw the place!”**

On his second evening, Chaplin attended a musical-comedy. He was struck by the performance of its star, Hungarian actress & dancer, Irene Palasty. During the intermission, he met her backstage. Later that evening, they tangoed at a cabaret, but the evening went downhill from there:

After the theater we went to a cabaret. I danced several tangos and was having a wonderful time until we struck one of those excitable wenches. This time there were fireworks.

She was a Hungarian. “Ach, here is a great artist,” she announced, eulogizing me with all the superlatives she could think of.

I am not a man of false modesty, but I actually squirmed. She suddenly fell to her knees and with a panache gesture grabbed my hand and kissed it. In endeavoring to pull away she yanked me off my balance and I toppled over on her.

I might mention I was perfectly sober, not having had a drink that evening, but the manner in which the proprietor picked me up convinced me that he suspected that I had.

“Everything is all right, Mr. Chaplin. It is quite all right.” Feeling an explanation necessary, I endeavored to tell him I was perfectly sober, but he insisted. “Don’t mention it, Mr. Chaplin.”

The affair was exasperating and I left with a resolve never to enter a cabaret again.

Backstage with Irene Palasty

Chaplin’s press agent, Carlyle Robinson, offers a slightly different version of the evening in his article, “The Private Life Of Charlie Chaplin.” According to him, Charlie was sitting at an inconspicuous table when Ms. Palasty arrived with her husband. He was hoping she wouldn’t notice him, but…

Unhappily at the end of an anxious half hour she did. Shrieked the news to the entire room. Rushed across the dance floor and fairly flung herself upon the much embarrassed Chaplin. His struggles to extricate himself were futile. The crowd looked on and applauded.

Eventually he managed to get out of the place. As we hurried along to the hotel Charlie cursed Budapest up hill and down dale. It seemed that Irene hailed from that city. If all Budapest ladies were as demonstrative as Frau Palasty, he growled, it was no place for him.

Charlie left Vienna for Venice on March 18th. Only Jenny Rothstein saw him off at the railway station. Years later in in autobiography, Charlie’s lasting memory of the city was a romance he had with a girl he met there.

It was like the last chapter of a Victorian novel: we made passionate vows of affection and kissed good-bye, knowing that we would never see each other again. 

He didn’t mention the girl by name. Was it Jenny Rothstein?***

* My Autobiography
**”The Private Life of Charlie Chaplin,” by Carlyle Robinson, Liberty, 1933. 
***For the life of me, I could not find a picture of Jenny Rothstein, or any information about her at all. David Robinson refers to her as “Jennie Rothenstein,” so I tried a search under that name, but to no avail.  Perhaps her name was incorrectly remembered by Carlyle Robinson.

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