World Tour Revisited: Sister Aimee

During Charlie’s brief stay in Marseilles in April 1931, he was visited at his hotel by Los Angeles-based evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson, who had always wanted to meet him. They went to dinner where Charlie “twitted her good-humoredly about the mental age of her audiences (she inquired if he was aware of the mental age of a motion-picture audience), her success as an evangelist, and declared that she would have made a great actress.” They toured the city together before Aimee left for the Holy Land and Charlie returned to Paris to meet May Reeves.

The above story comes from Gerith Von Ulm’s Charlie Chaplin: King Of Tragedy (with information supplied by Chaplin’s valet/secretary Toraichi Kono). Years later, Charlie told Orson Welles a vastly different version of his visit with Sister Aimee. The following is from Orson Welles by Barbara Leaming, who spent hours interviewing Welles a few years before his death:

[Chaplin] told Orson all about his amorous encounter in London with the famous evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson, who used to wear immense white angel’s wings on stage. In the audience at one of her melodramatic appearances, Chaplin began to fantasize about having sexual intercourse with her still hooked into the white wings. Later, Chaplin couldn’t resist calling on the aging evangelist backstage to invite her out with him for the evening. After several hours in London’s nightclubs, he found himself alone with her in her hotel room, but since, up close, her face seemed to Chaplin “like a quilted bedspread” he wasn’t sure he could go any further. Telling himself to concentrate on the wings, he requested that she put them on. After which—as he told Orson—“I managed to thumb it in”.


  1. Hi, are you fully convinced that Welles never did write a script for Monsieur Verdoux and do you know if they were still friends after the film or not?

  2. MAH! "thumb it in". Let's not forget that Mr Welles was also very creative and might have embellished or paraphrased…. what a bunch of goobers!

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