Birth announcement for Norman Spencer Chaplin, born July 7, 1919

Los Angeles Times, July 8, 1919

When Mildred went into labor the night before, Chaplin wrapped her in a blanket and drove her to the hospital himself. He insisted on being present at the birth but eventually “passed away in a dead faint and had to be carried out.”1

Mildred had wanted to name the baby Charles Spencer Chaplin, Jr., but Charlie protested and chose the name Norman Spencer instead because he felt Charles was a name with which “liberties could be taken” and “Norman can’t be shortened.”2

Sadly, Norman was born with an intestinal deformity and died three days later. Mildred recalled years later that “Charlie took it hard. Funny thing, isn’t it–that’s the only thing I can remember about Charlie…that he cried when the baby died.”3

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1Mildred Harris, “The Private Life of Charlie Chaplin,” Winnipeg Tribune, April 1936
2Los Angeles Times, July 10, 1919. Chaplin also protested 6 years later when Lita Grey wanted to name their first born son after him but he eventually acquiesced. 
3Lita Grey Chaplin, My Life With Chaplin, 1966. 

7 Comments

  1. With all the sincere happiness and hope that this article seemed to spill I had originally thought this was announcing the birth of Charlie Jr. I started tearing up a bit when I read that it was actually about Norman. This article was so promising and so happy that just knowing that Norman only a few days later is saddening.I always wondered why the biopic completely ignored Norman. I know alot of thing were heartbreaking for Charlie but they seemed to show all the other horrible things so I never understood why they left out Norman.

  2. I concur – the Chaplin film was a major disappointment to me as well. He was portrayed as a depressed man who never got over losing Hetty Kelly and whole sections of his life were left out completely. Like Norman above and like, say….LITA GREY? You see their boys BRIEFLY, with Paulette during her TEN MINUTES of screen time that is supposed to represent 10 years of his life (very fruitful cinematic years, too!) and then on to Oona and her sainthood. I was very disappointed, being a huge Downey Jr fan and thought he did admirably well bringing Chaplin to life physically. PHYSICALLY.

  3. I concur about the music – I still have it on rotation on my iPod and listen to it often. I have forgotten that ridiculous scene with the lipstick.

  4. I thought the baby had been born with a mishapen skull. I had wondered what had actually happened.I agree with all these comments about the Chaplin film with Robert Downey. Downey has made a wonderful comeback and I am so awed with Sherlock Holmes and Iron Man.

  5. I'm with you on this, Jessica. I, too, though Downey did a great job of evoking Charlie in spite of his lack of physical resemblance to him, but I also thought by trying to cover so much, they ended up having to fly over the most interesting parts of his life. They spent way too little time on him as an actor and filmmaker and way too much time on salacious details of his private life, without really even getting those details right.

  6. I tried to watch one of the RDJ Sherlock movies but I couldn't get into it. Jeremy Brett will always be my favorite Sherlock so I guess I'm a little prejudiced.

  7. Hi Jessica, I'm currently reading through your blog to help research a post concerning one of my favorite Chaplin films (coming soon!). I have had the exact–and I mean, EXACT–same thoughts concerning the biopic's numerous shortcomings. "The film seemed to only show this serious & gloomy side of Chaplin. Where was his playful side? The man who always put on a show at parties?" I swear those exact three sentences with those exact words have actually gone through my head, lol! And it's mindboggling that what mattered most to Chaplin–his work–was barely touched upon. (And heavens yes, the depiction of Mabel was just horrendous. It fills me with righteous indignation.)

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