“A Day With Charlie Chaplin On Location”

Motion Picture writer James E. Hilbert describes his day at the location shoot of Charlie’s last Mutual film, The Adventurer. Their location was “a summer camp” in Los Flores Canyon in the Santa Monica Mountains.  Evidently the day did not go so well for Charlie…

A dummy dressed as a prison guard was to be rolled down the mountainside, and when everything was ready it was started on its way. It did not reach the much-desired bottom; instead it dangled by its coat-tail in midair from a shrub on the mountainside. Thereupon Charlie complimented  it for its foresight in stopping short of its destination and for wasting several feet of good film.

The next scene was one which must be taken on the narrow road, and a director’s “imp” was sent out on a motorcycle in the direction which the camera faced, in order to stop the traffic from coming that way. In his haste to get away, the “imp” upset a nice young lady and her camera, who was trying to get a snap of Charlie. With much gusto and gallantry, Charlie assisted the young lady to her feet. He posed specially for the dear girl.

I am sorry to say that Charlie got real mad. A flivver that refused to stop for the “imp” was in the picture, and it had to be done all over again.  Charlie wished “Henry much peace!”

The scene was taken again, just as Charlie made his get-away and the guards were starting down [the mountainside], a lovely big rattlesnake loomed up on the trail and stopped the whole proceedings.

The two guards stopped short, a long pole was procured, and Mr. Snake was promptly executed. Charlie tried again, and to make sure everything was right, he went through his dialog:
“No more flivvers coming? No. No more snakes in sight? No. Are you ready up there you bum guards? Yes. Are the caps off the cameras? Yes….Then you know the rest. All ready! Camera!”

At this point some one mentioned it was “Friday the 13th,” and, with an exclamation of annoyance, Charlie said with the tones and air of finality:

“We shall all go home at once. This is my Jonah day, and I absolutely refuse to work any more today.”



(Excerpt & photos from “A Day With Charlie Chaplin On Location” by James E. Hilbert, Motion Picture Magazine, November 10th, 1917)


  1. Jess, I had read somewhere else about Charlie having a bad day filming and declaring it a "Jonah Day" (prompting me to look up the expression [!]) before ending the work day. But I'd never read an explanation as to what the circumstances were. This is a great story — thanks for posting! 🙂

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