I often wonder if/how Charlie's movies would have been different if Eric Campbell had not died when he did. As it was, it seems that Mack Swain took on the roles that Eric may have had. I am thinking his daughter was hit by a car sometime before this, while shopping for a dress for her mother's funeral. Terrible. (Or am I making that up?). And as with so many others, Charlie makes no mention of him in the autobiography, although I believe the original edition had a picture of him. Ironic that Charlie died 60 years and 5 days after Eric…
I read that the daughtercwas mamed and eventually sent back to England to be with relatives there as Eric remarried.I guess his new wife didnt care for his alcoholism either as she filed for divorce a year later. Edna got on famously with him, but she liked a toast also. He flirted with her shamelessly and kiddingly before the rolling cameras. Gee ….60 mph on Wilshire Blvd when he collided. I wonder how the other two women in the car did.Campbell had a sister in Australia. I read one of her letters to him printed somewhere.
I've loved Chaplin for years, and I think his Mutual films are his best, because Eric Campbell was just the perfect foil for little Charlie. Silent films are so visual, the contrast between Charlie & Eric was just sublime. In all the Mutual films, Eric's presence just made you sit up and anticipate all the physical gags. Eric was a brilliant actor he conveyed so much on film with his eyes and expressions. I always heard people say he had a beautiful baritone voice too. I believe Stan Laurel commented on that years later. I wonder what would have happened if Eric had lived, how Charlie's films would have been different, and how it would have affected Charlie's career. After Eric died Charlie seemed to really dive into the more comic/pathos, more sentimental, slower paced, & less physical, films. A Dog's Life was strikingly different from any of the Mutual films. It's much more sentimental, less laugh-out-loud. Still really good, just different. With Eric gone, there's just something missing from the post-Mutual films.Charlie brought back Mack Swain whom he'd worked with at Keystone, for some of his First National films and The Gold Rush. Mack was a decent heavy, but he couldn't compare with Eric. He just didn't have the fearful, dominant, bullyish presence Eric had. If Eric had lived, Charlie probably would have kept him on the payroll indefinitely through the 20s, and who knows. I suspect his films would have been more dynamic and less pathos, similar to the Mutuals (although he did use pathos in Mutual films quite a lot such as The Vagabond). We'll just never know. But Eric's brief film contribution is truly immortal.
I am Eric Campbell's half-niece (my father William Campbell was his half-brother) and Eric was born in Sale, Cheshire and had three brothers but no sister. His parents were William, a cotton yarn dealer, and Jane who died in 1895. My father spent many years trying to find out about what happened to Eric but he died in 1977 long before the Internet age. As far as I know, I, my son and grandson are his only descendants left. Elizabeth Spencer