Joan was “highly nervous” and spoke in a soft voice–so soft, the judge had to tell her to speak up. Although Chaplin “glared” at her, sometimes through horn-rimmed glasses, she never once looked in his direction. She told the jury, which consisted of seven women and five men, that she was introduced to Chaplin by Tim Durant in late May 1941. After that, she saw him “pretty constantly…five or six times each week.” She said that she signed a contract with the Chaplin Studios around June 15th, 1941 to play the part of Brigid in his never-made film Shadow and Substance. She said she became annoyed with Chaplin because he was “working on The Gold Rush [reissue] and something else and not on Shadow and Substance. And because I was dissatisfied I asked if I could go to New York. He said ‘definitely no.’ He said, ‘Joan, if you go to New York I will terminate your contract.’ A few months later, Chaplin brought up the trip to New York and asked if she wanted to go because he was going himself (to give a Second Front speech at Carnegie Hall). Charlie said that she could stay at her aunt’s or at the Waldorf Astoria where he was staying.
Joan stated that she and her mother went to New York and stayed first at her aunt’s and then moved to the Waldorf and then to the Hotel Pierre where she stayed for three weeks.
She testified that she saw Chaplin for the first time at the Stork Club on October 16th–the same day he gave his Second Front speech. She saw him again three days later “we had dinner at the 21 club and later went to another place, El Morocco, I think.”
“Where did you go then?” Prosecutor Charles Carr asked.
“To Mr. Chaplin’s apartment. Mr. Chaplin said, ‘Joan there are a few things I’d like to talk over with you. Will you come to my hotel?’ I said I would.”
“What happened there?”
“We went into the living room and Mr. Chaplin showed me around. Mr. Durant excused himself. He said he was tired and was going to bed.”
“What did you and Mr. Chaplin do then?”
“We talked for a few minutes–on the couch.”
“Oh, about the Russian people, how fine they were, I just don’t know what…”
Joan became very embarrassed and began to fidget.
“During the conversation, did you go somewhere else?” Carr asked.
“Yes…to Mr. Chaplin’s bedroom.”
“What did he say?”
“He said, ‘Joan…,’ I don’t know just exactly how to say it…. Well, he….well. Oh well, he said, ‘Joan, will you come into the bedroom with me?”
“How long were you there?”
“About two hours”
“State whether you had sexual intercourse with him.”
Joan was asked if Chaplin completely undressed and she said, “yes, he did.”
She then testified that she left about two a.m. and Chaplin accompanied her back to her hotel. He told her he was going to South Carolina to give another speech and that he wanted her to go back to California. The next day he gave her three one hundred dollar bills to pay for her fare and that of her mother.
At this point, Joan was questioned about the gun episode at Chaplin’s house.
“How did you get in?”
“Oh,” sighing audibly, “I broke in the door.”
“Did you point the gun at the defendant?”
“What did he say?”
“He was talking on the phone. He said, ‘I’ll have to call you back.” Then he said to me, ‘You are going to kill yourself. That will be very dramatic. The papers will eat it up.’ Then he said, ‘Sit down. Don’t be such a fool.'”
“Did you have sexual relations?”
She looked down and said in a whisper, “I did.”
“Where was the gun while you and Mr. Chaplin had the relationship?”
“Right here,” indicating the judge’s bench beside her, “on the table.”
She left the next day but not until Chaplin delivered a sermon to her about how he wanted to rehabilitate her and give her another chance. He offered to give her an allowance of $25 a week on the condition that she didn’t bother him and would only seen him when he wanted her to see him.
Under cross-examination by Chaplin’s attorney, Jerry Giesler, Joan was questioned about a trip she made to Tulsa in November 1942 to get money from another man (J. Paul Getty). Giesler then introduced two letters that were written and mailed by Joan from the Mayo Hotel (Tulsa). She lowered her head and hid her face as Giesler read the letters aloud to the jury. Chaplin “began a nervous tapping of his black and white shoe. Finally wincing, he shielded half his face with one hand and looked alternately vexed and in pain.”
|Charlie and his black and white shoes. March 24, 1944|
Later, Giesler attempted to question Joan about her other relationships with men and how she was not a virgin when she hooked up with Chaplin, but the judge wouldn’t allow it.
Frederick Cannon, the night elevator operator at New York’s Waldorf Astoria also testified. He stated that one night in October 1942 he took Chaplin, Tim Durant, and a young lady with hair “that was really beautiful, a kind of auburn color” to a floor above the thirtieth. Asked if he overheard any conversation.
“To tell the truth, I must say I just heard Mr. Chaplin say, ‘Well, honey’–you know, ‘Well, honey.'”
Chicago Tribune, March 24, 1944
Milwaukee Daily Journal, March 25, 1944
Film Comment, Winter 1969
Read the complete story of Chaplin’s Mann Act trial “as it happened” here.