Chaplin's secretary Tom Harrington is second from left.
This was during the time when Chaplin famously edited his film The Kid in a hotel room in Salt Lake City in order to avoid Mildred Harris' attempt to attach the film in her divorce settlement.
There is an old saw which still retains most of its teeth to the effect that "Clothes Don't Make the Man." It would probably be equally the part of sagacity to remark that in a vast majority of instances "man don't make the clothes." There are, however, conspicuous exceptions to both of these bromidic rules: In fact, Charlie Chaplin may be looked upon as a living embodiment of an exception to each. To find proof of this odd circumstance it is only necessary to reflect that under the spell of a weird inspiration, Mr. Chaplin watched a battered old derby hat, a wilted collar that once was white, an indescribable morning coat, a pair of unmentionable trousers and shoes no shoemaker ever could peg, become the greatest comedy costume the world has known.
That sounds like a feat that would defy repetition. But it was done. again, and it was Mr. Chaplin who did it the second time. For the clothes which Jackie Coogan wears, and which are wrapped around his fame dip as a little screen wonder were selected for him by the great Charles.
|Jackie Coogan as The Kid. Photo by James Abbe|
A disreputable sweater which had been worn by Charlie in the dim past hung forgotten in a closet of the Chaplin studios. It was mildewed with age; it bore the stains of custard—honorable battle-scars sustained in the strenuous old pie-slinging days. But its glories were gone; there wasn't a laugh left in it. Then Charlie led it gently into the sunshine; fumigators fell upon it; and it returned shriven of soul. When part of the sleeves were cut off and the waist shortened, it fitted Jackie Coogan--here and there.
It was obvious that little Jackie could not go pantless through six reels of motion pictures; but the task of getting trousers which would keep disreputable company with the cap and sweater was a big one. At first Chaplin thought of overalls; but they never could appear shabby enough to meet his ideas. While he was pondering the subject Benny Zeidman, the diminutive producer, appeared at
the studio. Inspired, the comedian suddenly inquired:
"Got any old pants, Benny?"
"These old enough?" Denny demanded. He had just come off the lot and was not looking his usual immaculate self. "When do you want them?"
"Now!" said Chaplin.
Jackie himself contributed the shoes, but Chaplin put the finishing touches to them by cutting them open at the tips to allow the kid's toes to show through. And that is the origin of the wardrobe which will go down through screen history. ("Chaplin's Sartorial Art," Washington Post, December 25, 1921. Author unknown.)
|Edna and Carl Miller|
It was by pure accident that I met this remarkable child actor. He was with his parents in a Los Angeles hotel sleeping, as a child will, in a chair. He was roused in order to meet me. He rubbed his eyes, jumped up, made his politest bow, and promptly went back to sleep.
However, in that instant, I had seen the rare quality of Jackie Coogan, a quality so lovable that I followed him up, induced his parents to let him become a member of my company and shortly set about a picture which might express something of my feeling--which, I believe, will not prove a purely individual reaction--toward the child.
What first attracted me to the boy was a whimsical, wistful quality, a genuineness of feeling. He is the lovable child carried to the nth power, yet endowed with not a little of the self-consciousness of an artist and with a hundred resources as an actor....
In this initial stages of his training, however, my chief difficulty was to overcome his inattention, or rather that inability to concentrate the attention, which is, of course, a common characteristic of all children. One quality he has, which is extraordinary in a child: his ability to repeat a scene without losing interest. I have seen him pick up an object after a dozen rehearsals, with a wonder and attention, which would make you believe he was looking at it for the first time in his life....
Now that The Kid is about to be released, I suppose another picture made by myself and Jack Coogan is scarcely probable. What the boy will do, I don't know, but then neither do I know what I shall do, I shall probably go on wearing a trick moustache and carrying a cane too small for me, until at last I meet the undertaker.
|Jackie at the Chaplin Studios.|
|On the set of The Kid.|
|Chaplin wrote the following about Jackie in 1921:|
"What first attracted me to the boy was a whimsical, wistful quality, a genuineness of feeling.
He is the lovable child carried to the nth power, yet endowed with not a little
of the self-consciousness of an artist and with a hundred resources as an actor."
(Chaplin, "The Marvelous Boy Of The Movies," Vanity Fair, January 1921)
|"The Kid" visits the set of Modern Times, c. 1935|
|Jackie and Charlie Chaplin, Jr. with whom he appeared|
in the 1958 film High School Confidential.
|Charlie and Jackie meet again during Charlie's return to America in 1972.|