Chaplin entertains Pavlova

On the evening of January 26th, 1922, Chaplin attended the opening of Anna Pavlova’s (or Pavlowa’s) Ballet Russe at the Philharmonic Auditorium in Los Angeles. He was accompanied by his date and femme du jour, Lila Lee, and pals Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford. The group occupied one box and watched attentively as Pavlova performed.1

The next afternoon, the prima ballerina & her company visited the Chaplin Studios:

Charlie Chaplin entertained members of the Pavlowa dancing organization at his studios in Hollywood recently. Anna Pavlowa herself was a visitor and saw Charlie’s next First National picture to follow Pay Day in the making. A group of girls from the ballet also were at the studio and Charlie entertained by showing them around the plant and relating anecdotes about the king of Belgium and other members of the royalty who have visited his studio.
With Mme. Pavlowa as guest of honor, Douglas Gerrard [the director] as master of ceremonies and Charlie Chaplin as lord high executioner of mirth and laughter, a party was given later at the Maurice cafe in downtown Los Angeles. Speeches were made by the various members of the Pavlowa company were present. Mr. Chaplin, too, talked in both English and “Chinese.”2

Chaplin with members of Pavlova’s company

Years later, Chaplin gave a more detailed version of the party in My Autobiography (1964):

On one occasion the Russian Consulate gave her a testimonial dinner at which I was present. It was an international affair and quite a solemn one. During dinner there were many toasts and speeches, some in French and others in Russian. I believe I was the only Englishman called upon. Before my turn came to speak, however, a professor delivered a brilliant eulogy of Pavlova’s art in Russian. At one moment the professor burst into tears, then went up to Pavlova and kissed her fervently. I knew that any attempt of mine would be tame after that, so I rose and said that as my English was totally inadequate to express the greatness of Pavlova’s art I would speak in Chinese. I spoke in a Chinese jargon, building up to a crescendo, as the professor had done, finishing by kissing Pavlova more fervently than the professor, taking a napkin and placing it over both our heads as I continually kissed her. The party roared with laughter, and it broke the solemnity of the occasion. 

CC, Pavlova, Douglas Gerrard, unknown man. ©Roy Export SAS

Another tidbit from Pavlova’s visit was related by screenwriter Lenore Coffee in 1973:

Monta Bell, who directed A Woman of Paris for Chaplin [sic] told me he had had a tremendous experience when, during her stay, Chaplin had asked Pavlova out to supper after a performance. This was at his studio, attached to a fine colonial house on Sunset Boulevard which he used for offices, and, sometimes, for entertaining.3 There was a large pool in front of the house and after supper Chaplin produced his violin and began to play the Saint-Saëns music to which Pavlova always danced the Death Of The Swan. And so drawn was she to the music, it might have been a magnet, for she began to dance as if in a dream. The few guests Chaplin had invited scarcely dared to breathe lest she should stop. But she danced on and on, growing more and more into the mood of the music, all around the pool. The moonlight fell on the water and Monta said it was the most enchanting moment he had ever known.4

1Edwin Schallert, “Pavlowa Magic Again Charms,” Los Angeles Times, January 27, 1922
2Atlanta Constitution, April 2, 1922
3Syd Chaplin was living the Sunset house at the time.
4Extract from “When Hollywood Was A Village” by Lenore Coffee, reprinted in The Grove Book Of Hollywood by Christopher Silvester, 2002

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.