Showing posts with label Napoleon. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Napoleon. Show all posts

Saturday, October 31, 2015

A fancy dress party given by Marion Davies at the Ambassador Hotel, c. April 1926*

Charlie, dressed as Napoleon, is between Marion and John Gilbert. Irving Thalberg is below Marion. At bottom left is Eleanor Boardman. Seated above her is Charlie’s second wife, Lita, dressed as Josephine. Evidently a highlight of the party was Chaplin, in costume, performing a solo Charleston dance. Read more about the party here and here and here.

Chaplin with Princess Bibesco, who at the time was a houseguest
of Douglas Fairbanks & Mary Pickford, who were also at the party.

*Many sources give the date of the party as 1925 but I believe the date is most likely April 1926 since Marion often hosted a costume party for W.R. Hearst's birthday which was at the end of April (others who were in attendance recall that it was a party for Hearst). Princess Bibesco, in the photo with Charlie above, was a houseguest of Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford in the early part of 1926. In fact, she made the news when she had a horse riding accident at Pickfair in January. Lita claims in her first memoir that the party was held "after New Year's" and that her empire-waist dress was made to conceal her first pregnancy (Charlie, Jr. born May 1925). This could be partially correct since the party may have been held after the New Year--but in 1926 not 1925. However the problem with this scenario is that I don't believe Lita is pregnant here either. Her second son, Sydney, was born in March 1926 and she would have been noticeably pregnant during the first part of the year. To me, she doesn't look like a woman in the latter stages of her pregnancy in the photo. This was most likely after his birth when she still would have had some belly bulge, hence the empire waist dress. 

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Chaplin & Napoleon

                                                    Chaplin in costume as Napoleon, c.1930

Chaplin had a life-long fascination with Napoleon Bonaparte and for many years considered making a film about him. When he was looking for a dramatic vehicle to launch Edna Purviance's career, one of his first thoughts was to star her as Josephine to his Napoleon. Edna was not the first of Chaplin's female friends/companions to be offered the role of the Little Corporal's wife. Among them were Lita Grey (in private, Chaplin referred to her as "My Empress Josephine"),1 Raquel Meller, Merna Kennedy, Estelle Taylor,2 and May Reeves.

Merna Kennedy wearing a Napoleon-style hat (the same one Harry Crocker is wearing below)
in a photo taken at the Chaplin Studios.
Lita Grey posing in Napoleonic jewels at an exhibition in New York City, 1932.
During her marriage to Chaplin, they attended a fancy dress party as Napoleon and Josephine.
Click here to see a photo.

During the summer of 1934, Chaplin embarked on a screenplay for the Napoleon film with with his new friend, Alistair Cooke. Many months were spent on the script, which would be based on Napoleon's experiences in St. Helena, until Chaplin suddenly declared "it's a beautiful idea, for someone else."3

                                                                  With Harry Crocker

Below is a home movie of Chaplin as Napoleon that was filmed by Alistair Cooke aboard Chaplin's yacht, Panacea, during the summer of 1933. Alistair Cooke describes the film in his book, Six Men:
Chaplin suddenly asked me to take some photographs, both still and in motion, of himself as Napoleon. He pulled his hair down into a ropy forelock, slipped one hand into his breast pocket, and slumped into a wistful emperor. He started to talk to himself, tossing in strange names to me--Bertrand, Montholon--and then took umbrage, flung an accusing finger at me and, having transformed his dreamy eyes into icicles, delivered a tirade against the British treatment of him on "the little island." His face was now a hewn rock of defiance. I still have it on film, and it's a chilling thing to see. 

For a more in-depth look at the Napoleon project and how it eventually morphed (somewhat) into The Great Dictator, click here to watch a 20-minute visual essay by Chaplin archivist Cecilia Cenciarelli entitled "Chaplin's Napoleon."


1Lita Grey Chaplin, My Life With Chaplin

2Movie Classic, November 1932. Additional note: Chaplin was romantically linked to Taylor during the early part of 1924. There were even rumors of an engagement, but Taylor nipped that in the bud: "No, I couldn't take that kind of punishment. I will pick my own persimmons. Charlie isn't one of them." (Adela Rogers St Johns, Love, Laughter, and Tears

3Alistair Cooke, Six Men

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Photo from Motion Picture News, 1916

I've never seen this particular shot before. It appears to be from the Hartsook session of c. 1915. Charlie is doing his famous gag where he turns his hat sideways to look like Napoleon (he was still doing this as an old man). 

Saturday, October 26, 2013

New York City, 1923

Charlie strikes a Napoleonic pose while going through fan mail in his suite at the Ritz Hotel, New York City, following the premiere of A Woman Of Paris, October 1923.
(same photo, slightly different angles)

Dig the slippers.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Happy Birthday, Sir Charles!

Charlie strikes a Napoleonic pose with his birthday cake on the set of A Countess From Hong Kong, April 16, 1966
Dont forget, TCM is showing Charlie's films all day today (until 8:00pm), including The Gold Rush, The Circus, Modern Times, The Great Dictator, A King In New York & Limelight, as well as a few of the Chaplin Today documentaries.