More than 15,000 fans, held in check by ropes and police, gathered outside the theater on the evening of June 26th, 1925 to watch the celebrities descend from their cars. Among those in attendance were: Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford, Gloria Swanson, Mabel Normand, Rudolph Valentino, John Barrymore, Lillian Gish, Marion Davies, Irving Thalberg and Norma Shearer, who were on their first date. Chaplin’s then wife, Lita Grey, did not attend.*
|Cover of premiere program. See the inside here.|
Inside the theater the stars were announced to the audience via an elaborate stage prologue called “Charlie Chaplin’s Dream” described as a “thing of matchless beauty”:
A novel presentation of the celebrities present was accomplished by unreeling a special movie showing a procession of stars in specially acted incidents with Fred Niblo as master of ceremonies, both in film and on the stage.
Rudolph Valentino in the screen introduction was presented in a bathing suit and bathrobe as an oceanside victim of auto thieves. At this point a noise of running feet in the aisles attracted attention to a racing figure which was Rudy, sure enough, in a bathrobe. Niblo reproached the sheik for appearing in such a costume, whereupon Rudy nonchalantly unpeeled the checkered robe and revealed the proprieties of a tuxedo.1
The applause for Mabel Normand’s entry was second only to that of Charlie himself.
|Chaplin at the premiere.|
When the film was over Chaplin received an ovation and made his way to the stage but was “too emotional, he explained, to make much of a speech and then, characteristically, he proceeded to deliver a fairly good one.”2
|John Barrymore, Douglas Fairbanks, Charlotte Pickford, and Mary Pickford
at the opening.
Another person in the audience that evening was William E. Curry, grandfather of Lita Grey, who was Chaplin’s original leading lady in the film until she became pregnant. “At the intermission, old Mr. Curry confided to a friend the depth of his disappointment at seeing Georgia Hale instead of Lita in the screen triumph he had anticipated for his 17-year-old granddaughter.”3
|Chaplin with Sid Grauman|
Afterward a party was held for Charlie at the home of Sam Goldwyn. The celebrations continued the next afternoon with a “bachelor lunch party” at the Montmartre attended by the “back wash of the Chaplin premiere of the night before. Charlie himself with Douglas Fairbanks, Harry d’Arrast, and Robert Fraser.” Charlie was clad in a “snappy sports outfit, white buckskin shoes, white serge trousers with a black hair line, and a form-fitting khaki coat. He received visits from many admirers at his table.” Interestingly, a “nattily turned out” Syd Chaplin was also there, but “lunched with Hawaiian friends.”4 _________________________________________________________________________________
*Lita had been in practical seclusion during this time. Three days after the premiere, the birth of Charlie Chaplin, Jr. was announced. His date of birth was given as June 28th, although he had actually been born on May 5th. Since Charlie and Lita had only been married 6 months, he paid the doctor $25,000 to falsify the birth certificate with a later date. In order to keep the birth a secret for another 7 weeks, Lita and the baby were hidden away–first in a cabin in the San Bernadino mountains and then in a house in Redondo Beach.
1Rosalind Shaffer, “All The Old Guard of Movieland Sees Chaplin Premiere,” Chicago Daily Tribune, July 5, 1925
2David Robinson, Charlie Chaplin: His Life and Art, 1985
3Chicago Daily Tribune, July 5, 1925
4Rosalind Shaffer, Chicago Daily Tribune, July 5, 1925