Showing posts with label Third Liberty Loan Tour. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Third Liberty Loan Tour. Show all posts

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Third Liberty Loan Tour: Chaplin gives his final speeches in New York & then returns to California

Back in New York, Chaplin appeared at his final war bond rally on April 30th, 1918 at City Hall Park. It was another mob scene and additional police reserves had to be called in.

In his final speech, he told the audience that he had "gone into hock to buy Liberty Bonds":
"But what do I care? Money is nothing. A few years ago I was broke. I didn't have a nickel, but I was happier then than I am now. When I was broke I didn't give a --- what happened and was therefore contented. The war is teaching us to become real human beings. The money we are spending to buy Liberty Bonds is not being used to prolong the war, but to end it victoriously. I've put $100,000 into them. Who will put $50 into a bond?"
A man stepped up to one of the booths. 
"Your name please," said Chaplin.
"Tom McNulty," was the reply.
"That's a good Hungarian name," said Charlie, getting a big laugh. 1
Again, he offered the ladies kisses for $100 bonds & marriage for $1,000 bonds. "Isn't that fair enough?" he said. Chaplin put the crowd in such good humor that "subscribers fairly fell over each other to reach the bond booth." When a man asked him to sign his bond, Chaplin laughed and replied, "Imagine Charlie Chaplin having to sign a United States Government bond to make it valid in this man's eyes. There are only two people in the world that can get away with it, me and the kaiser, and they are going to stop him soon." 2

He concluded his duties for the Liberty Loan on May 1st when he gave a short talk in the men's restaurant of the Hotel Astor.
He was introduced by Captain Bealley, a British line officer now in this country recuperating from the effects of wounds received on the Flanders front.
Captain Bealley told of the many times he and his fellow-fighters had laughed away their troubles in the little temporary theaters behind the trenches watching "Charlie's" antics on the screen.
"He made us laugh when it often seemed that nothing else could," Captain Bealley declared. "And I for one hope that the authorities will realize that he is of far greater value as a gloom-chaser than as a fighter. In my opinion and the opinion of thousands of others at the front it would be little short of a calamity to cut short the output of Mr. Chaplin's inimitable comedies." 3
"Tired, but smiling," Chaplin arrived back in Los Angeles on May 12th, after having sold over 50 million dollars in war bonds.4 The tour was not Chaplin's only contribution to the bond effort. Later in that year, he made a propaganda film called The Bond, featuring Edna Purviance, Albert Austin, Dorothy Rosher, and his brother Sydney as the Kaiser.

Looking back on the tour, Chaplin said it was a "wonderful experience..."
Everywhere people turned out by the thousands, yes, tens of thousands. And if any cynic thinks the public was more interested in us [Charlie, Douglas Fairbanks, and Mary Pickford] than the Liberty Loan, I'm sorry, for we've all got to get interested in this governmental financial support if we are to carry through the war successfully. Film stars we have with us always, but the opportunity to do our own big bit, to make our own sacrifice when we want to make it, doesn't come often in a lifetime; it's a matter of pride to us that we were able to grasp the opportunity when it came. 5
I'll close with a photo sent to me by my friend, Dominique Dugros, showing Chaplin at a bond rally in Wilson, NC on April 12th, 1918 where thousands braved sleet, snow, and rain to hear him speak in a tobacco warehouse.


1New York Evening World, April 30, 1918
2Durham Morning Herald, May 1, 1918
3Moving Picture World, May 11, 1918
4Los Angeles Times, May 13, 1918
5Chaplin, "Why I Left My Mustache Behind," Film Fun, June 1918

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Chaplin winds down his southern Liberty Loan tour in NOLA, April 23rd, 1918

Chaplin in New Orleans. His secretary, Tom Harrington, is behind him on the right.

Chaplin proved himself not only a film comedian, but an orator of eloquence, "pep" and endurance....He was up and down the stage, a bundle of fire.... 
Comedian or orator, Chaplin delivered the most effective Liberty Loan speech made in New Orleans since the war began. His antics were made side issues of the words which bubbled from his lips in tumultuous volume. His work was all the more commendable when it is realized he really was a sick man. (New Orleans Times-Picayune, 4/24/18)

Exhaustion and stage fright forced Chaplin to cut short his Liberty Loan tour after a month. His appearance in New Orleans was to be his last, before heading back home to California (this plan changed too but more on that later). It was his first visit to the Crescent City, added late per his request. An elaborate parade, in which he was to be the main attraction, was to be held in the afternoon but was cancelled due to his health. He seemed to make up for it that evening, however, with an energetic appearance before a rowdy crowd of 10,000 at the Palm Garden auditorium at the fairground.

Preceding Chaplin onstage was former governor of Iowa and former Secretary of the Treasury, Leslie M. Shaw, who earlier in the day had expressed sharp disapproval of the country allowing actors and actresses to sell liberty bonds. Wrote the Gulfport Daily Herald (4/25/18): "He likens their campaigns to Nero's fiddling while Rome burned, and to 'Sunday School Picnic' methods and considers it in a sense sacrilegious in view of the seriousness of the war." Not surprisingly Chaplin wasn't on stage while Shaw spoke and waited outside the building until his speech was finished.

Times-Picayune, April 23, 1918

It was clear that the crowd was there to see Chaplin and Shaw had a hard time getting them to listen to him. In Chaplin's War Trilogy, author Wes Gehring notes: "Of course, the audience's response might have been a partial response to Shaw's aforementioned uppity attitude towards performers." When Shaw finished and left the building, Chaplin entered. Carlyle Robinson, his press agent, attempted to make a speech but the crowd was "Chaplin wild."1 Once onstage, "his smile was reflected back by 10,000 others. He was up and down the stage trying to talk but the cheering wouldn't stop.2 Then he turned to throwing kisses. He had nearly kissed his hand off when the crowd decided to sit down."

"I am only a moving picture actor," Chaplin told them,"but I want you to understand I am speaking seriously. We know we entered the war a little too late, but not too late. I believe we know the seriousness of it now. We have had too much optimism--it is now time to forget the optimism, get down to real business, and we are going to do our best. Tonight, we are going to be patriotic. Money is nothing, but it is up to us to do our bit through the medium of money. I went through the cantonments and saw the magnificent fellows in training there. It is great to be able to give your money for great fellows like them. Money is nothing. If you don't give it now, they will take it from you later, so come on and subscribe.  We have had too much of the waving of the Stars & Stripes. It's a case of fight or pay; let's get down to business." His voice was "magnificent and went the limit of the Palm Garden," said the Times-Picayune.

A man interrupted the speech to claim the right to make the first subscription, "Chaplin jumped into the air, seized his derby and did his nifty hat trick. Up into the air he went and his coat came off. The crowd went wild. He jumped into the bandstand and led the playing of 'The Stars & Stripes Forever' going Sousa one better in the art of gesticulation." Then an usher yelled that a $10,000 subscription had been made. "Up in the air went Chaplin and down on the floor on his back. Up went his feet as he did a back headstand. On his feet again he gave three cheers for Vaccaro [the subscriber] and the crowd went wild again."

Then came the kissing. In Richard Dawson-like fashion, he had kisses for everyone--young and old alike:
One elderly woman brought in a subscription for $1000. She drew a kiss, and became the happiest woman in the building. She brought up her two little daughters to meet Chaplin.3 He kissed the youngest one and started to kiss the other. She appeared older than she really is and the comedian hesitated, but recovered quickly and delivered the kiss.
Chaplin sold $227,000 worth of bonds at the Palm Garden. A "regular riot" ensued when he tried to leave at the conclusion of his speech. "A mob of people surged to the platform and policemen had to fight for a passageway for him."

An interesting sidelight to Chaplin's visit was that his latest film A Dog's Life arrived in New Orleans at the same time he did. He had completed the film only a few days before he left Hollywood on the bond campaign & had not seen it since. He viewed the film in a private screening at the Strand Theater on the morning of his arrival (the 23rd).

He had originally intended to stay in New Orleans for two weeks but his doctor ordered him to take a complete rest, "which he cannot obtain anywhere except Los Angeles, where the people are so accustomed to movie folk they do not crowd around him." However in typical fashion, Chaplin did not heed his doctor's advice.4 When he left Louisiana his destination was not Los Angeles, but New York. More on this later.

Read more in my Liberty Loan Tour series here.


New Orleans Times-Picayune, April 24, 1918
Wes Gehring, Chaplin's War Trilogy, McFarland, 2014. This is an excellent resource for more in-depth information about the Liberty Bond tour.

1Robinson and Charles Lapworth were often warm-up speakers for Chaplin on the tour.
2This was the era of megaphones. Those close to the stage were probably the only ones who could hear him.
3How old was this "elderly" woman if she had two "little daughters"??
4The Los Angeles Times reported that Chaplin became ill in Hollywood before he left for the tour and that his doctor insisted that he cancel his trip East to recuperate. Chaplin ignored him and left anyway. (LA Times, April 2, 1918). The nature of his illness wasn't disclosed in the article but it may have been exhaustion from trying to finish A Dog's Life before he left town. He notes in his autobiography:  "As I had a commitment to release it at the same time as the bond drive, I stayed up three days and nights cutting the film. When it was finished I got on the train exhausted and slept for two days."

Monday, April 20, 2015

Chaplin battles enormous crowds and stage fright during the Third Liberty Loan Tour, mid-April 1918

April 15th: Columbia, SC: Chaplin appeared at the Fort Jackson Army base where he spoke to an "almost riotous group of young men." The crowd became so "unwieldy" that an S.O.S. call was sent out for military police. Afterward he addressed an even larger crowd at the Columbia Theater comprised mostly of children who "turned out in a solid phalanx and stormed the theater in struggling mass formation for standing room in the corridors or any other available niche, climbed over window sills pell mell, and chased Mr. Chaplin out through the basement of the theater."1

Chaplin at Fort Jackson

April 16th, Augusta, GA: Chaplin spent his 29th birthday giving a speech at the Wells Theater and then visiting the Camp Hancock Base Hospital where he "talked to the convalescents and distributed cigarettes among the patients." That evening a birthday dinner was given in his honor at the Augusta Country Club. (Read more about his visit here)

With the exception of his visits to Army bases, Chaplin made a point of adopting an air of seriousness during his Liberty Loan appearances. He was there not as "Charlie" but "Charles," doing his part to help the war effort. "You can see me funny for a nickel," he reminded one crowd.2  He would not perform his famous "Chaplin walk" unless a certain number of bond subscriptions were purchased. If they purchased more, he would do other stunts. 3 When a bond purchase was made, the check was made out to Chaplin who then endorsed it and handed it over to a Liberty Loan representative so that the autograph would eventually be returned to the subscriber.

His speeches included leading the audience in "Over There," if a band was present he would jump up on a chair and lead it-- "going one better to Sousa in the art of gesticulation." 4 He then revved up the crowd by asking them to give "three cheers for the Liberty Loan!" & "three cheers for the army and navy!" His talks, which became shorter as the tour went on, encouraged citizens to "fight or pay." He would also address the question of why he didn't fight" "I have been asked why I didn't go. I am ready to go when the government wants me to go, but if I can serve it better by doing what I am doing then I am going to do it with all my might."5

State Capital building, Nashville, April 18th. Rob Wagner is on CC's right. (Roy Export SAS)

April 17th, Macon & Atlanta, GA: Over $500,000 in bonds were purchased from the 8,000 people who packed the Atlanta Auditorium. Pandemonium broke out when Chaplin performed his famous waddle and other tricks for the audience:  "He promised to show them the Chaplin walk if they reached a certain point in subscriptions. They did it, and he walked. He promised to stand on his head and they made him to do that. He flopped over backward, jackknifed, flipped, landed on his head, righted himself. The crowd went wild." 6

April 18th, Nashville, TN: Chaplin was welcomed by a "monster crowd" at the Ryman Auditorium (future home of the famous Grand Ole Opry). Admission was free and every seat was filled. Thousands were turned away. When Chaplin, who was late in arriving, walked on stage, he asked if there was anyone "hanging on the rafters." He then spoke frankly to the audience: "Gee, but this is one patriotic sight but I want to tell you that I am about played out. I've been sleeping on one leg for about three weeks. However I assure you it is a great pleasure for me to be here, even though it be on a serious mission. I am not a speaker. I am not a politician. I am just a movie actor trying to influence you to buy liberty bonds."7

Nashville Tennesseean, April 19, 1918

It's clear that Chaplin wasn't feeling well in Nashville. He told one reporter that he was "stuffed full of cold." But he was also exhausted & on the verge of a nervous breakdown. He had travelled non-stop since the tour began on April 6th, often making 3-4 appearances in one day. He cancelled all but one appearance in Memphis on the 20th. He also cancelled engagements in KY (Bowling Green & Paducah). This was done at the request of a physician who told him that if he didn't rest his health would be in serious jeopardy. An announcement was eventually made that Chaplin would cancel the rest of his tour after New Orleans on the 23rd. Interestingly enough, the reason he gave for quitting was not his health but stage fright: "Facing crowds" he said, "has made a nervous wreck of me and I must quit. I have tried to memorize my speech, but my nerve fails me." Chaplin admitted to a Liberty Loan representative in Memphis that "facing an actual audience and trying to speak is a terrible strain." He struggled so much during his speech in Memphis that he was "several times to the point of giving up." Evidently Chaplin had been battling stage fright since the beginning of the tour. En route to Washington, DC for the tour's kick-off, Chaplin, Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks made a brief stop in Chicago to attend a reception at the Blackstone. When a crowd gathered at Union Station to see them off, he refused to leave his compartment to greet them. "Why don't you show yourself to them?" he was asked. "I dislike it," he replied and sank deeper into his seat.9

State Capital, Nashville. (Roy Export SAS)

1The State (Columbia SC), April 16, 1918
3According to the Winston-Salem Journal (4/14/18), Chaplin made one promise that thrilled the ladies of Charlotte, NC:
"For a $5000 subscription I will kiss the subscriber," and--as an afterthought--"for a $10,000 one I will marry her!"
The words had hardly dropped from his lips  when several young ladies, almost in unison, sighed. "Gee whiz! I wish I had $5000." Another exclaimed: "Bet your life I'd like to have ten!"
4Times-Picayune, April 24, 1918
5Nashville Tennesseean, April 19, 1918
6Atlanta Constitution, April 18, 1918
7Nashville Tennesseean, April 19, 1918
8San Francisco Chronicle, April 23, 1918
9Winnipeg Tribune, April 25, 1918

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Third Liberty Loan Tour: "Charlie, ole boy" visits Charlotte & Camp Greene, April 14th, 1918

Waiting for Charley Chaplin" (

Chaplin's first appearance of the day was at Camp Greene, a U.S. Army facility located outside of Charlotte, NC.
"Hi, Charlie!" and "Hurrah for Charlie Chaplin!" rang out from the throats of thousands of soldiers at Camp Greene between 12:30 o'clock and 2 o'clock yesterday, when the famous comedian of the movies paid the boys there a visit and rode through the camp. Chaplin made short talks to the boys at various intervals. The soldiers were at home, for the most part, and Charlie was given a rousing welcome."
Chaplin & his tour entourage, which included Rob Wagner, press agent Carlyle Robinson, and Charles Lapworth, formerly of the London Daily Mail, visited the camp headquarters and were escorted through the camp by Major Hines of the ordnance corps. "Chaplin was in the leading machine" [aka car]...."The machine would drive along the road, pass a crowd of soldiers loitering about, and one man would happen to recognize Charlie as the man who has made millions laugh." The boys would swarm about the car and urge Charlie "ole boy" to pay them a visit. And he would.

He visited one company at mess and had a picture taken with the boys circled about him. In the picture, Chaplin holds a plate of dollar bills in place of food, calling attention to the fact that it took money to put something to eat in the soldiers' pans. "When he started back to the machine, the soldiers began to roar. Charlie had spread his feet out and was walking the way he does in the movies. He didn't walk that way long, however, for he straightened himself up, and just then his hat flew high into the air. The familiar expression on his face seen in the movies could be observed as he glanced up at the hat and caught it."

The boys of the motor mechanics regiment gave "Charlie, ole boy," as the soldiers liked to call him, a slice of pie, which he "gobbled up, as he stood in the automobile, this bringing much laughter from the soldiers."

Chaplin at Camp Greene. (Lisa Stein Haven)

Following his appearance at Camp Greene, Chaplin's next stop was at the City Auditorium in Charlotte where more than 6,000 people gathered to hear him speak and "get a good look" at him. Between $20,000 and $25,000 in subscriptions to Liberty Loan Bonds were secured. Chaplin offered to kiss any woman who subscribed to $5000 worth of bonds but there were no takers.

He spoke for ten minutes...
"It was not so much what Chaplin said at the auditorium meeting that was responsible for the enthusiasm of the meeting and the subsequent securing of subscriptions to the bonds for such a goodly amount, but it was his actions. No, he didn't get funny but he was full to overflowing with vivacity and energy...the consensus of opinion among those present was that Chaplin is a wonderful man."
Chaplin also led the Seventy-Seventh Field Artillery band in two selections
"No one had any idea that Charlie was a band leader--he had always been looked upon as a leader in the comedy section of the screen world. But the comedian took the baton and inspired the band to wonderful efforts. Occasionally he would make a slight gesture, which the audience remembered having noticed in some of his pictures. This brought a laugh, but Charlie remained serious and drifted back into a disguised posture again." 
Thousands more gathered at the old Presbyterian college to see Chaplin in his final appearance of the day. "He stood up in the machine, and waving his arms high above his head, he called upon the crowd to give three cheers for the success of the Liberty Loan. The cheering was weak, and Chaplin reprimanded them in a witty manner and called for three cheers for the army and navy. These two strong arms of Uncle Sam then were cheered heartily. Charlie said he had understood that he had come to the college building to see children, and, finding more grown-ups than youngsters he asked in a half sarcastic manner: "Where are the children?"

Charlie did make one faux pas during the meeting at the auditorium when he forgot the name of the town he was visiting. After asking someone in his party to tell him, he explained to the audience that he had visited so many towns he got the names mixed up.

Members of the Liberty Loan committee who were with Chaplin estimated that between 25-30,000 civilians and soldiers saw and heard him speak during his visit to Charlotte & Camp Greene.


Charlotte Observer, April 15, 1918

Thursday, April 9, 2015

"The Big Three" in Philadelphia during the Third Liberty Loan Drive, April 9th, 1918

This was their last appearance together before setting off on tour by themselves. Chaplin headed south, Pickford to the north, and Fairbanks to the midwest. Chaplin's southern tour began in Petersburg, VA on April 11th.

Chaplin was impressed by the enthusiasm of the people of Philadelphia. "It is just what I expected to see in this great city of Independence." (Evening Public Ledger, 4/9/18)

Schedule for Philadelphia's "Movie Day" Liberty Loan program.
Evening Public Ledger, April 9, 1918
All open-air meetings were cancelled due to rain.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Chaplin appears on Wall Street at the start of the Liberty Loan tour, April 8th, 1918

A crowd of 50-100,000 people (reports vary) gathered on Wall Street in New York City to hear Charlie and Douglas Fairbanks make speeches on the steps of the Sub-Treasury Building. "There was a roar as Charlie mounted the platform and announced that he had just come from addressing a Liberty Loan meeting in Washington [where the tour officially started] and that his 'British heart was 100 percent American today.'" He appeared without his famous costume, wearing a blue suit & black derby. But with the help of a cane he performed his celebrated Tramp walk for the crowd, lest some of the folks may not have recognized him. Noticeably suffering from stage fright, he was the first to address the crowd:

"Now, listen, I've never made a speech in my life, but I believe I can make one now. You people out there, don't think of the percentage of the loan, think of the lives that are being sacrificed. America's richest blood is now being given up for democracy. The Germans are now in an advantageous position and we must get them out of it....Money is needed—money to support the great army and navy of Uncle Sam. This very minute the Germans occupy a position of advantage, and we have got to get the dollars. It ought to go over so that we can drive that old devil, the Kaiser, out of France.

Next up was Douglas who asked the audience what they thought of Charlie's speech. They answered, "Fine!" "Good, I wrote it!" responded Doug. This produced a roar of laughter from the crowd. At the end of his speech, and with an arm flung over Charlie's shoulder, he led the crowd in "Over There" and the "Star-Spangled Banner." Then, in a typically acrobatic move, Doug grabbed Charlie around the waist and hoisted him above his head--creating one of the most famous photos from the rally:

Chaplin spent one month touring the southern states selling Liberty Bonds before quitting early due to illness & fatigue. As time allows, I may focus on some of these stops over the next month. Chaplin's Liberty Bond tour provides an interesting peek into Charlie Chaplin-mania which was at its height in 1918. He was hunted, swarmed, and mobbed everywhere he went. Stay tuned...

Chaplin's War Trilogy by Wes Gehring, 2014
New York Evening World, April 8, 1918
New York Tribune, April 9, 1918