Random Excerpt

While I was slithering around Sunset Boulevard, Charlie was a more and more frequent guest at our house. He had just recently been starred for the first time at Essanay, and was now making a fortune with a series of one-reelers at Mutual. He and three other friends of mine–Mary Pickford, Doug Fairbanks, and David Griffith–were about to join forces as the United Artists.

Though Popsy was wary of my Hollywood companions, he trusted Chaplin because he knew him. It has always amused me to see cautious parents accept as suitable suitors old friends who are often as eligible as Don Juan. It is probably the quality of the unknown that terrifies them so.

To me, there remained very little unknown about Charlie. He unburdened his heart to me. He loved talking about himself; but I adored his sense of humor and appreciated his sense of values. He was marvelous fun to be with, Charlie!

He wasn’t very prompt, and one night he arrived for dinner an hour and a half late. Mutz, who had kept her patience for weeks, now was furious. Such a tirade! She told him how selfish and thoughtless he was; and we were all sure that we would never see him again. What did he do when mother finished? He kissed her and said, “How wonderful you are. You’ve scolded me just as you would your own son. Now I know I’m one of the family. Thank you, thank you.”

What could one do with such a reaction? We all adored him. How stimulating Charlie was! Those intense gray eyes! Even in repose, there was always a faint smile hovering around his lips. There was always an imp in Charlie, no matter how serious he was being, an element of the unpredictable. He was an elf with a memory of sadness.

He loved playing with abstract ideas. His brain never stopped buzzing. When he was working he would ask me to the studio so I could watch him work. Though he used a script, ideas, fresh and sparkling, would spill from him while the camera was going. Some of his most famous scenes were spontaneous. His slim, nervous body would respond instantly to any improvisation that struck him. He was nimble in everything. He moved like a dancer.

Charlie was still to become the intellectual’s darling, the controversial exile, the legend. Life was simple then–like the people. Chaplin was funny and the public laughed. The scholars and students hadn’t recognized him as a genius. He was loved as a clown.

Charlie, however, was always impressed with himself–like a small child who has suddenly found a doting audience for his antics. He was quicker than his audience and always ahead of them. I loved going to the movies with him. He would laugh until he cried. Then he would nudge me.

“Wait, Daggie. Wait till you see what’s going to happen now!”

When it happened, he would become convulsed. I think I enjoyed watching Charlie watching Charlie more than the movie.

— Dagmar Godowsky, First Person Plural: The Lives Of Dagmar Godowsky, 1958.

Dagmar appeared in 24 films between 1919 & 1926,
including The Sainted Devil in which she co-starred with Rudolph Valentino.
 She is also among the many celebrities, including Chaplin, to appear in the 1923 film, Souls For Sale.

Charlie with Dagmar’s father, pianist/composer Leopold Godowsky, 1917.

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