Edna Purviance (October 21, 1895 – January 13, 1958)

Edna died of throat cancer at the Motion Picture Country Home 57 years ago today.1 She was 62. Her funeral was held at Forest Lawn Memorial Park, but she was interred at Grand View Cemetery in Glendale, CA. Edna was a widow at the time of her death. Her husband, Jack Squire, passed away in 1945.
Edna wrote to Chaplin often over the years, even after his move to Switzerland. He admitted that he never responded to her letters, but they must have meant something to him since he includes two of them in the closing pages of his autobiography. The following is one of those letters. In it, Edna tells Charlie about her horrific cancer treatments and thanks him for keeping her on his payroll. As always, Edna ends her letter with a joke:

November 13th, 1956

Dear Charlie,

Here I am again with a heart full of thanks, and back in the hospital (Cedars of Lebanon), taking cobalt X-ray treatment on my neck. There cannot be a hell hereafter! . . . Am thankful my innards are O.K., this is purely and simply local, so they say. All of which reminds me of the fellow standing on the corner of Seventh and Broadway tearing up little bits of paper and throwing them to the four winds. A cop comes along and asks him what was the big idea. He answers, “Just keeping the elephants away.” The cop says, “There aren’t any elephants in this district.” The fellow answers: “Well, it works, doesn’t it?” This is my silly for the day, so forgive me.

Hope you and the family are well and enjoying everything you have worked for.

Love always,


Shortly after he received this letter, Edna died. “And so the world grows young. And youth takes over,” he wrote, “And we who have lived a little longer become more estranged as we journey on our way.” 2

After Edna’s passing, Charlie was asked by an interviewer if he remembered her. He responded, “How could I forget Edna? She was with me when it all began.”3

According to Edna’s death certificate, she died of “carcinoma of the tonsil with metastasis.”
Charles Chaplin, My Autobiography, 1964
3 David Toll, Edna Purviance, Nevada’s Forgotten Movie Star . Sadly, Toll doesn’t provide the original source for this quote.

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