Charlie & Paulette entertain newlyweds Alistair Cooke and his wife, Ruth, at the Coconut Grove nightclub, September 1934

Property of Roy Export SAS

Chaplin was supposed to be best man at Cooke’s wedding in 1934, but failed to show up the day of the nuptials.  Alistair Cooke’s biographer, Nick Clarke, contends that Chaplin didn’t attend because Cooke’s bride-to-be was worried that her straight-laced father would be offended by the fact that Paulette was living in sin with Charlie (Clarke said in an interview that this information came from an interview with Ruth Emerson Cooke, whom Alistair divorced in 1944). Cooke recalls in Six Men that Chaplin promised to come but just never showed up, something he was certainly known to do sometimes.

Several days after the ceremony, Cooke called Chaplin who behaved as if nothing had ever happened and offered to host the mother of all wedding parties for the newlyweds at the Coconut Grove.

While everyone looks happy in the picture, things apparently went downhill later in the evening:

The midnight show at the Coconut Grove was coming to an end. The star performer was one Gene Austin, a sugary crooner who had an alarming, but highly admired, habit of modulating his final notes a whole octave higher and so giving out the sound of a boy soprano or castrato. “Revolting” muttered Chaplin, who had declined into a brooding silence. Riding home, Paulette kept up the heartbreaking pretense that from now on her evenings would be agog with music and dancing. Chaplin gave her a black parental look. He started in about the cacophony of jazz, which he hated, and went on about the decadence of night life, the excruciating “eunuch” sounds to which he had been subjected, and the fate, similar to that of Sodom, which would shortly overtake the Republic. Paulette saw her vision collapse like the Ghost of Christmas Present. A tear ran down her enchanting face as she said, “What are we supposed to do evenings—stay home and write theses?!” Well, Chaplin replied, “One night a year is enough of that rubbish!”

At the house, his spirits revived, but there was no champagne to help them along. He never, through the two years I knew him best, drank or offered alcohol. He ordered his men to fetch a huge pitcher of water and the required number of tumblers. Our wedding party ended on a scene that would have warmed the heart of a Southern Baptist. We sat there yawning slightly, throwing in monosyllabic responses to Chaplin’s elegy on the modern world, and took long meditative drafts of pure cold water. (Alistair Cooke, Six Men, 1956)

1 Comment

  1. I always liked this story and the second photo that usually accompanies it (that you have here as well) – with his "black parental look" kind of evident.

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