Random Excerpt

The following is an excerpt from “A Tribute To Charlie”1 by Harry Crocker, Academy Leader, April 1972:

For story conferences on pictures preceding THE CIRCUS and CITY LIGHTS Charlie used a small frame bungalow on the far northeast cor­ner of the studio lot. Consisting of a bedroom and dressing room, a bathroom, and a small kitchen, it was secluded and quiet. 

The living room, in which we usually worked on the story, also served as a dining room for luncheon and occasionally, when the fires of creation were flaming high, dinner. 

Charlie believed in concentration without distraction. Thus the building had a monastic simplicity. The odds and ends which had ac­cumulated in it were quite extraordinary.

On a bird’s eye maple sideboard Clare Sheri­dan’s bust of Chaplin reigned over the glass­ware. When Charlie’s friends and co-workers were upset at what they thought was a Chaplin obstinacy over a story problem they were ac­customed to vent their feelings by snapping their fingers under the nose of this replica dur­ing the original’s momentary absence from the room.

Across the sideboard, by a swinging door leading into the kitchen, stood a nondescript bit of furniture made of a dark wood. It was never used for anything. Where it came from or what it was designed for, no one ever knew. Between it and the door was an upright chair usually occupied by Henry Bergman. 

Almost the entire, windowless, back of the room was taken up by a large divan with a worn leather cushion. Over it was the only picture in the room, an Alpine scene. 

Next to the divan was a small bookcase, most of the books being autographed gifts from the authors to Chaplin. To the left of it, near the en­trance door, stood a gilt stand with a woven metal basket containing a bunch of worn artificial roses, each blossom holding a rose colored electric bulb to its heart. This had been sent to Charlie years previously by Max Linder, the French comedian who later committed suicide.

Charlie occupied the divan when thinking. Sometimes he stretched out on it in silence for an hour or so. It would be difficult for Henry Bergman or me to tell whether he was thinking or asleep.

Sometimes he would sit, one foot tucked under him, slashing at the leather cushion with one of his limber bamboo canes, as if in an effort to whip out an idea.

Mostly, though, when he was thinking he would walk. Furiously. The room was small. Restlessly he would pace up and down like a caged animal. Sometimes he would detour through the rest of the bungalow. That he was in another room didn’t stop him talking.

‘Yes man,’ in Hollywood, is a term of oppro­brium meaning, as it does, an employee who un­reservedly agrees with his employer. There were periods in the creation of his stories when Charlie deliberately asked us to ‘yes’ him, to agree, to enthuse with him. These came in the preliminary stages when he was groping for ideas. There is time later for a critical analysis of material. 

“Have you got that down?” Charlie would demand incessantly of Carl Robinson who, pencil in hand, had been making notes of all ideas expressed and suggestions made. He would walk up and shake an impatient finger at the sheet of paper. ” Get all this down! I can’t remember everything. Have you got the ring gag down? And the fruit stand? And the veg­etable wagon?”

Carl would nod. But Charlie is wrong when he says he cannot remember everything. He not only can, but does. His mind is an encyclo­paedia of comedy, a filing cabinet of ideas.

The article “A Tribute To Charlie” is an extract from Crocker’s unpublished manuscript Charlie Chaplin: Man & Mime which is part of the Harry Crocker Collection at the Margaret Herrick Library, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Los Angeles, CA.

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