Showing posts with label Women. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Women. Show all posts

Sunday, November 29, 2015

"When will girls like that learn to know when I'm through?"

The following is an excerpt from Hedda Hopper's autobiography From Under My Hat published in 1952.  It is common knowledge that Hopper disliked Chaplin for political and moral reasons and said some rotten things about him, but I believe there is some truth to the following anecdote. This was not the first time Chaplin met some obscure, lower class (or working class) girl and took her to dinner.1 He was also apt to become bored with a woman once the initial infatuation wore off. The following most likely took place sometime in the mid-1920s:
On one of Laurette's 2 first trips West, she, Hartley,and I went to a party given by Norma Talmadge and Joe Schenck at their home on West Adams Street.  Hartley wanted to leave before Laurette was ready. She was talking to Charlie Chaplin, who said, "I'll drive you home."

I went along, and the three of us sat in the back seat of Chaplin's Rolls-Royce. He and Laurette started talking about sex attraction: what a powerful thing it was, how hard to foresee or stem. Laurette remarked that a young waiter who carried in her breakfast tray was, though of course he didn't suspect it, attractive to her.

Chaplin chimed in, "Not long ago I walked down Hollywood Boulevard one evening. My car was following me as usual. A few steps ahead of me I saw a forlorn little girl, frail, poorly dressed. She looked so tired, I walked on ahead of her, looked back. Something in her face appealed to me. I turned round, walked back, and said, 'You're hungry, aren't you?'

'I haven't eaten for two days,' she said simply, like a child. I said, 'Would you allow me to buy your dinner?' She was so grateful she nearly fainted in my arms.

"I signaled my chauffeur, handed her into the car, drove her to my home, and fed her." Chaplin gave a bored sigh and a shrug. "She stayed with me for three days.

"She was delightful," Chaplin continued, speaking softly, rolling a remembered sweet on his tongue like the taste of good wine. "I experienced a new kind of thrill. I'd never met anyone quite like her. So giving, so grateful.

"Then I had the chauffeur drive her back to Hollywood Boulevard and let her out where I picked her up." Chaplin turned then to Laurette. "And would you believe it, the following night she found her way back to my home and begged to be let in? Of course I had the servants turn her out." He gave another sad sigh. "When will girls like that learn to know when I'm through?" he said peevishly.   

1Jim Tully describes two such women in "The Real Life Story of Charlie Chaplin": A girl who worked at a soda fountain and another known only as "Hotsy-Totsy".
2Laurette Taylor (1884–1946) was an American stage and film actress.
3J. Hartley Manners (1970-1928) was a playwright & husband of Laurette Taylor.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

According to a Hearst employee's diary, Charlie fondled the "It Girl" & nude statues

The following is a diary entry from Hayes Perkins, an "eccentric vagabond," who was an employee of William Randolph Hearst's San Simeon estate for ten years & kept a diary of the goings on there. This excerpt from the diary was published in a book called Hearst & Marion: The Santa Monica Connection by Taylor Coffman. As Coffman points out, Perkins' diary entries should be taken with a large grain of salt. Is if fact? Is it fiction? Who knows? That being said. The following entry is from February 10th, 1929:
When people get too much money what they get for it is likely to be bad for them. So it is here, for this Hollywood crowd runs to the sensual side of life rather than the spiritual. No regard for the marriage tie, let alone the virtue of a boy or girl. . . .

 All convention is laid aside, from what I see. Broad minded, they call it, but flattened out would express the situation better. I saw Charlie Chaplin and Clara Bow playing out on the tennis court during an interlude in the game. Chaplin wore whites, but Clara was clad in a tiny lappet [garment] less than the naked Shillook women on the [White] Nile wear, with two tinier brassieres, or covers for each shapely breast. Charlie had hold of both of them, being behind her. All the froth and bubble of Hollywood were interested spectators, giving advice in the best and latest movements in cohabiting. They didn’t actually do it [have sex], but wriggled round for ten minutes, much to the delight of the creme-de-la-creme of Hollywood. I’d get ten years if Hearst knew I wrote this, even in my diary. He has just obtained an eight-year sentence for a chap named [Frederic] Girnau in Los Angeles for saying a good deal less [about Clara Bow] than this [an event of 1931, not 1929]. Doubtless Girnau told the truth, but like me he couldn’t prove it.1
Here's one last tidbit from the same February 1929 diary entry:
There are 265 marble statues in the nude in the marvelous gardens here [an extreme exaggeration]. This is Jim Crowe’s count, for Jim cares for them. For the greater part they are images of women whose limbs and breasts are shapely and seductive. Chaplin caressed the breasts of one of these.
“Come on! Put a little more pep into it! Show some life, some interest!”2

1Perkins is referring to Frederic Girnau, who was charged with criminal libel and sent to prison for publishing outrageous lies about Clara Bow.

2Charlie did enjoy frolicking with the statues at San Simeon. Here's proof.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

With Pola Negri at the Pebble Beach Lodge in Del Monte, CA on the day they announced their engagement, January 28, 1923

Chaplin told the reporters: "Yes, we are engaged." (NYT, Jan. 29, 1923) However within a month or two the whole thing would be called off--thank goodness. What a disaster that marriage would have been.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

90 years ago today: Chaplin marries Lita Grey in Mexico

The couple at a train station in Shorb, CA the day after their wedding.

The ceremony was performed at 5:00 in the morning in Empalme, Mexico1 by a justice of the peace who spoke through an interpreter. Those in attendance were Chaplin’s valet, Toraichi Kono, his lawyer, Nathan Burkan, members of Lita’s family, Charlie's publicist Eddie Manson, and his friend, Chuck Reisner. Sixteen-year-old Lita, who was three months pregnant and suffering from morning sickness, was flanked by her mother. Chuck Riesner stood next to the groom, who held a lit cigarette between his fingers and puffed on it nervously throughout the ceremony. "Words cannot describe how grim [it] actually was," recalled Lita. When it was over, Charlie awkwardly kissed his bride on the cheek. She was then congratulated by her mother and Chuck, who had tears in his eyes. Lita looked around for Charlie but he had already left.

Afterward the wedding party gathered for breakfast, but Charlie was not in attendance. He had gone fishing. Lita remembered that "it felt as if we had gathered for a wake instead of a wedding." She did not see him again until that evening in the drawing room of the train headed back to Los Angeles. At one point, she overheard him tell his entourage, "Well, boys, this is better than the penitentiary but it won't last long."

When Lita finally entered their compartment, Charlie yelled loudly enough that others on the train heard him, "What are you coming in here for? You made me marry you." 3

In her book, Wife Of The Life Of The Party, Lita described what happened next:
In our stateroom, Charlie said to me, "Don't expect me to be a husband to you, for I won't be. I'll do certain things for appearances' sake. Beyond that, nothing."
My throat was dry and I felt nauseated. "Please, would you get me a drink of water?"
"Get it yourself. You might later claim I tried to poison you." I staggered to my feet to get the water. 
After watching me for several minutes, Charlie said, "Come on, I'll take you outside. The air will do you good." Standing on the platform of the observation car, I stared at the couplings of the train below, breathing deeply the cold night air. Charlie broke his aggressive silence and said to me, "We could put an end to this misery if you'd just jump."4
At a deserted station in Shorb, CA, Charlie and Lita disembarked from the train and dodged the press as they moved quickly to an awaiting limousine. One exchange went like this:

"Charlie, how about the wedding?" asked a reporter.
Charlie replied: "I don't want any publicity."
"Are you going back to Hollywood?"
"I don't want any publicity."
"The public is yearning to know about your romance."
 Charlie snapped back: "The public knows all about everything already. My life's an open book." 5 & 6

The reporters followed Chaplin's car twenty miles to his Beverly Hills house. They were stopped only by his security gate. Once Charlie and Lita were inside, he issued the following statement:

"Just tell everybody we are happy, thankful, and glad to be home."

Charlie and Lita in Shorb.

1 Charlie attempted to marry Lita in Mexico on October 14th, but when they filed the application, they were told that by Mexican law they had to wait 30 days before the marriage could take place. 

2 Lita falsely gave her age as 19 on her marriage certificate.

3 Lita Grey Chaplin's divorce complaint, reprinted in Wife Of The Life of The Party.  Lita also states in her complaint that she and Charlie became engaged in May 1924 and that Chaplin "seduced" her under the promise of marriage and that is how she became pregnant. 

Lita once told the "jump from the train" story in an interview and she said that she couldn't tell if Charlie was being serious or not.

5 Chicago Daily Tribune, November 28th, 1924

6 I've never understood why Charlie schlepped Lita all the way to Mexico to marry her when he could have had the ceremony in the privacy of his home and avoided all the publicity and headaches. Lita herself wondered the same thing and said his behaviour reminded her of someone who was "deranged."

Saturday, September 13, 2014

A Comedian In New York (1925), Part VII: Louise Brooks

Much has been written here and elsewhere about Chaplin's romance with Louise. However, the best source for information about their relationship, Louise wrote herself in her 1966 Film Culture article, "Charlie Chaplin Remembered" (read here). I would prefer not to rehash every detail from Brooks' article for this piece but present the basics of their relationship along with a few other tidbits. 

El Paso Herald, Oct. 15, 1925 

Chaplin met 18-year-old Follies showgirl and future silent film icon Louise Brooks at a cocktail party hosted by Walter Wanger shortly after his arrival in New York in August 1925.1 They were soon seen everywhere together--often double-dating with Louise's best friend in the Follies, Peggy Fears, and Chaplin's pal & assistant director, Harry d'Arrast. They went to nightclubs such as the Montmartre and the Lido, and to plays including The Cradle Snatchers (featuring a young Humphrey Bogart) and Outside Looking In (starring James Cagney), which Chaplin had already seen twice.

In late August, Fears was left without an escort when d'Arrast returned to Hollywood. He was replaced by A.C. Blumenthal, "the tiny film financier."2 At this time, Chaplin also left his room at the Ritz and installed himself, and Louise, in a suite at the Ambassador. However, according to Louise, most of their evenings were spent in Blumenthal's penthouse (also at the Ambassador).
Blumie played the piano, Peggy sang, I danced, and Charlie returned to reality--the world of his creative imagination. He recalled his youth with comic pantomimes. He acted out countless scenes for countless films. And he did imitations of everybody. Isadora Duncan danced in a storm of toilet paper. John Barrymore picked his nose and brooded over Hamlet's soliloquy. A Follies girl swished across the room, and I began to cry while Charlie denied absolutely the he was imitating me. Nevertheless, as he patted my hand, I determined to abandon that silly walk forthwith.3
NYC, August 1925
For the Film Culture article, Louise was discreet in writing of her time with Chaplin, but to friends she was more explicit:
Privately, she told a few close friends of one entire weekend the foursome spent in Blumie's suite, ordering up all their meals and rarely even bothering to get dressed...Afraid of contracting certain diseases, Chaplin had studied the matter and was firmly convinced that iodine was a reliable VD preventative. Normally he employed only a small local application, but one night at the Ambassador he was inspired to paint the entire sum of his private parts with iodine and come running with a bright red erection toward the squealing Peggy and Louise.4

Fitchburg Sentinel, Sept. 30, 1925

Louise also spoke candidly about Chaplin after his death in 1977. Below is an excerpt from Louise Brooks by Barry Paris:
"I had an affair with him for two happy summer months," she told Kenneth Tynan. "He was...a sophisticated lover." Chaplin's sexuality and creativity were dynamically intertwined, she thought. By day, he was in constant motion. At night, he required no booze or drugs to facilitate lovemaking or to induce the deep sleep of a child...The complexities of the man bordered on the perverse. "He adored his mother's madness," Louise claimed, "and credits her with giving him his comic viewpoint."
She also paid eloquent tribute to Chaplin's ethical character, even during the Lita Grey divorce. "The truth is that he existed on a plane above pride, jealousy, or hate," she said. "I never heard him say a snide thing about anyone. He lived totally without fear."
"He knew," she continued," that Lita Grey and her family were living in his house in Beverly Hills, planning to ruin him, yet he was radiantly carefree--happy with the success of The Gold Rush and with the admirers who swarmed around him. Not that he exacted adoration. Even during our affair, he knew that I didn't admire him in the romantic sense, and he didn't mind at all. 
"Which brings me to one of the dirtiest lies he allowed to be told about him--that he was mean with money. People forget that Chaplin was the only star ever to keep his ex-leading lady [Edna Purviance] on his payroll for life, and the only producer to pay his employees their full salaries even when he wasn't in production."

Chaplin and Brooks parted ways in early October when he returned to Hollywood. In a letter to Kevin Brownlow in 1966, Louise wrote: "When our joyful summer ended, he didn't give me a fur from Jaeckel or a bangle from Cartier so that I could flash them around, saying, 'Look what I got from Chaplin.' The day after he left town, I got a nice check in the mail signed, 'Charlie.'5 And then I didn't even write him a thank-you note. Damn me."6

Chaplin & Brooks never saw each other again.

Cortland Standard, Nov. 4, 1925

1The exact date of their meeting is unknown. Chaplin arrived in New York on August 3rd & he was already acquainted with Louise when he introduced her to Edna Purviance, who was in the city on her way to Paris to make a film, sometime between August 17-22. (Barry Paris, Louise Brooks
2Brooks, "Charlie Chaplin Remembered". Fears and Blumenthal married in 1927.
4Barry Paris, Louise Brooks,
5The amount of the check was $2500
6Paris, Louise Brooks

Friday, June 27, 2014

Chaplin's affair with Louise Brooks depicted in cartoon from c. 1925

The cartoon also references the then-recent suit Louise had brought against photographer John De Mirjian to prevent him from distributing nude photos he'd taken of her a couple of years before.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Florence Deshon

Florence Deshon, c.1918

In the summer of 1919, Chaplin was introduced to a budding actress named Florence Deshon.1 At the time she was the girlfriend of his friend, writer Max Eastman.2  She was not only beautiful, but intelligent, free-spirited, and witty. She may have been one of the few women Charlie ever truly loved yet little has ever been written about her.

Max Eastman met Florence at a Masses3 ball in December 1916 and soon after they began living together in Eastman's house in Croton-on-Hudson in upstate New York. In July 1919, Florence was offered a contract with the Sam Goldwyn studio. She moved to Hollywood and took an apartment on De Longpre Ave., not far from the Chaplin Studios. A few months later, Max joined her. It was during this time that Max introduced her to Chaplin. The trio became fast friends, often playing an elaborate version of charades they had devised at Chaplin's home. According to Max, Chaplin's wife, Mildred, was never present at these parties any longer than to say hello to the guests. "You didn't ask why, but you got the impression that she thought his friends had too many ideas and would expect her to say something."

CC, Max Eastman, and Isaac McBride at the Chaplin Studios, 1919

Max eventually returned to his home in New York and it was in the interim that a romance began between Charlie and Florence.

Although Max and Florence had agreed to be mutually independent, he couldn't help but wonder what was going on since Charlie was the only man she ever mentioned in her letters:
Charlie is always very sweet to me.
I dined with Charlie on Christmas Eve, and he gave me a Christmas present.
Beloved, Charlie came to dinner last night and I gave him your book. He was so happy to get it. I saw his picture The Kid in the projection room. I was wonderful, wonderful. I cried and laughed and smiled and worried. It was the most exciting thing I ever saw. 
Charlie is all excited about buying a yacht. He said, "Let's you and Max and Elmer [Ellsworth?] and I go off together." I said we would make movies in all the countries we touched, and he is enthusiastic about your acting in them. Well, we had a wonderful time. Anyhow, as soon as he finishes this picture he asked if I would take a trip in his car. We all the the wanderlust very strongly and were flying all over the world.4

Max recalls that he was never really jealous of Charlie. "Perhaps because we had all three been good friends together--my thoughts of him were not disturbing. I read with a tranquil mind the interesting things she told me about him."
Charlie speaks ever of going away, but it all depends on his picture and at the rate he is working, he will never finish it. I know I am naughty, but I become tired of Charlie's matrimonial troubles. He stays in that frightful situation at this home, and his powerlessness to move wears me out. I did not go with him to meet [Jascha] Heifetz as there were too many people there. I would rather meet Heifetz with Dagmar Godowsky. 
Did I tell you that I met the French comedian, Max Linder? I spent the day at Charlie's studio, and he had a lot of callers that day. Linder is smaller than Charlie and very good looking and well dressed. He is a very sweet little fellow and Charlie was quite jealous of him for a few minutes. Then he went into his dressing room, and Charlie pulled off his cap and roughed his hair and you know he always looks charming that way. He caught a fleeting vision of himself in the glass and all was right with the world again, not because he is striving for perfection, but because something in him refuses to go forward. 5
Another reason for Max's calm may have been his new romance with dancer Lisa Duncan, who had moved into his house in Croton. When Florence learned of Max's new relationship, the "Black Panther" (as he called it) side of her personality came out. Although Max was still in love with Florence, he was not capable of being with just one woman.

Florence Deshon and Max Eastman

A month later, sometime in the late summer of 1920, Max received a letter from Florence stating that she had been "sick in bed for a month." This made Max uneasy. He had a low opinion of Hollywood doctors ("those I knew were a little on the occult side.") He wanted to get her into the hands of a doctor he could trust--"Ignoring the fact that she was living in the bonds of true love with another man." Florence wrote again that she was not getting better and was coming east with Charlie as far as Chicago where he had business. Max believed that neither of them realized how sick Florence really was. Florence traveled on to Croton and Max met her at the train station. They returned to their little house on Mount Airy. Eastman contacted a friend who was a gynecologist who examined Florence and discovered that she had been pregnant for three months and the fetus was dead but he didn't know for how long. An immediate operation was needed to save her from blood poisoning.

Florence recovered within a few days & Chaplin eventually arrived in New York to see her, first staying at the Astor Hotel and then taking a room at a fashionable roadhouse in Croton."And there ensued a period," Max later wrote, "in which Florence, to put it crudely, commuted between two lovers. Neither of us was jealous, or at least not troublesomely so. In Hollywood Charlie had ever since midwinter been coming to her apartment each day after work, and for the most part dining and spending the evenings with her--and how soon also the nights, I don't know. They were as close, almost, as she and I had been. But there had been no arrogance in his courtship or his love. He used to tell her--astutely as well as modestly--that he was satisfied to have sneaked in where a better man belonged."6

Nevertheless, the three-way romance had to eventually come to an end. Charlie was going back to Hollywood, Florence would follow a few weeks later. "Had there been an element of scheming in her love for him," wrote Max, "she would have gone back with him. All Hollywood expected them to marry, and marriage to Charlie Chaplin was then the making of a movie star...But Florence's ambition, however, 'abnormal,' was too proudly high to be satisfied with a triumph bought at the price of her inmost self.

"As she told me the story, she took a late train to Croton one night after spending the day with Charlie in New York. There was no need of her taking that train, and he had demurred. He came to the train with her, and said goodbye with tears in his eyes.

"'Don't mind these tears," he said. 'I'll be all right.'

"And in that mood he went back to Hollywood."7

Florence stayed with Eastman for two months and they renewed their romance for a brief time. One evening after having a few drinks, Florence told him that she could never marry any man but Charlie Chaplin, and if she did marry Charlie, 'I would have a child by you before I married him.'"

When Florence returned to Hollywood, she struggled to revive her career. "She had gradually to face the humiliating fact that not her talents or beauty, but her association with Charlie had given her the sudden rise toward her stardom of the previous winter." Charlie was friendly to her now but impersonal. Max felt that Charlie "was not one who, having been hurt once, would permit himself to be hurt again."8 Charlie was also not one to stay alone for long, he was now involved with actress May Collins.

Florence returned to New York in the autumn of 1921 with hopes of landing a part in a Broadway play. One night in early February 1922, Max bumped into Florence as he was coming out of a subway on 42nd St. They exchanged pleasantries and Max went on his way. He didn't tell her he was  on his way to Scribner's on Fifth Avenue to pick up a copy of his recent book The Sense Of Humor which he had had bound in leather for her. He was going to bring it to her apartment later in the afternoon and surprise her with it but he went home and fell asleep. When he awoke, he decided he would bring it to her the next morning and then met some friends at the theater.  In the middle of the first act someone touched his shoulder and whispered that Florence had been taken to the hospital. When he reached St. Vincent's a woman was in the corridor waiting for him. A neighboring tenant had smelled gas coming from Florence's apartment and forced the locked door open. The doctor in charge told Max that Florence was dying but that a blood transfusion might save her. Max's blood was a match and Florence was wheeled in next to him for a direct transfusion. "She was not pale; she was still vivid, but her breathing was raucous and rapid, a fierce noisy effort of her body to get air, reminding me...what a concrete real violent enginelike thing we mean when we say so abstractly, 'the will to live.'"

Max couldn't help but feel guilty about not bringing her his book. "In her presence, my little personal regret about the book seemed trivial and sentimental, as I so often had seemed trivial and sentimental beside her bold, heroic, uncompromisingly passionate way of living a life."9

Florence died on February 4th, 1922. The true circumstances of her death remain unknown. Many believed, including Eastman, that it was a suicide. However the medical examiner ruled her death an accident since a window in her apartment had been open and there was no suicide note.

There is some speculation whether the opening scenes of Chaplin's 1952 film Limelight, where Terry is found unconscious in her apartment due to gas poisoning, were inspired by Deshon's possible suicide. Who knows if this is true, but suicides were part of Chaplin's films long before Limelight (Sunnyside, A Woman Of Paris, etc.)

Years later, Eastman admitted that it was difficult to write about the triangular affair between Charlie, Florence, and himself. "There was a three-way reticence about the details of this triangular attachment which makes it difficult for me to tell the story now. Charlie was still reticent when I reminded him of it thirty-five years later, inquiring whether he would mind my telling about it in this book [Love & Revolution]."

"You ought to see what I'm telling here!" he answered, holding up the manuscript of his own autobiography. But he did not offer to help me with the task. He only contributed one heartfelt exclamation: "Florence was a noble girl."10


1Florence's real last name was Danks, She invented the name Deshon, with an accent on the last syllable, because she thought it sounded French.
2Chaplin was introduced to Eastman in February 1919 by their mutual friend Rob Wagner after one of Eastman's "Hands Off Russia" lectures in Los Angeles.
3The Masses was a monthly socialist magazine edited by Eastman.
4Max Eastman, Love & Revolution, Random House, 1964

Monday, May 5, 2014

Chaplin escorts Mexican actress Lupe Velez to the premiere of Lilac Time starring Colleen Moore, 1928

Here's what Lupe told Motion Picture magazine about her date with Charlie (Unfortunately Motion Picture may have  taken some liberties with Lupe's actual way of speaking here but I do enjoy what she said even if she did not say it in this manner):
Of course, every time you go out with mens in Hollywood, they put it in newspapers. I go once with Charlie Chaplin. Just once-- to the opening of "Lilac Time." They say we are going together. But I like Charlie. I love to listen to him. He has so many brains. He is-- what you say?-- a geen-i-oos. His talk teach me somethings. I want to learn things in this country. Of course, I flirt with him. I flirt with every mans, but that means nothing. (Lupe Velez, "The Love-Life Story of Lupe Velez," Motion Picture, January 1929)

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Charlie with his second wife, Lita (right), and Marion Davies, c. 1925

This is an interesting picture for a couple of reasons: a.) there are few pictures of Charlie and Lita together and b.) Marion was Charlie's mistress at the time.

Speaking of the Charlie-Lita-Marion triangle. I found the following little tidbit in a 1926 issue of Picture Play magazine:
(Marion accompanied Charlie to a Raquel Meller concert.)

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

Friday, November 15, 2013

Dancing with Carole Landis

Charlie briefly dated Landis in early 1941. She was blonde, beautiful, and buxom, which was not lost on Charlie. According to one gossip column, the highlight of "a recent shin-dig" was "Charlie Chaplin's popping eyes that followed Carole Landis' low-cut evening dress."*

Sadly, Landis committed suicide in 1948 at the young age of 29.

*The Miami News, March 8th, 1941

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Random Excerpt

The following is an excerpt from a letter from Rebecca West 1 to her sister Letitia Fairfield, April 3rd, 1927:
"I never told anybody but when I was out in Los Angeles in 1924 Charlie Chaplin made violent love to me and asked me to marry him. 2  Finally the last weekend of my visit, he got so pressing that I went away to Santa Barbara without telling him where I was going. {I never heard from him} again but heard that he tried to find me very hard after I had left. The other day I had a long talk with him and he told me that he was pressing me so hard to live with him then because he had suddenly become terrified of impotence and wanted to see if it were so. Then when I went he experienced one of the regressive movements he has had at intervals all his life, and became interested in very young children--I mean little girls of  thirteen and fourteen. It was then he took Lita Grey, though knowing it would lead to trouble. But for six months afterwards he was impotent with mature women and remained so till he took up with Marion Davies, who is the original of Lorelei in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, the very antithesis of myself." (Selected Letters Of Rebecca West, ed. by Bonnie Kime Scott, New Haven, Yale Univ. Press, 2000)
Rebecca West, c. 1923

1 Writer Rebecca West first met Chaplin through her lover H.G. Wells in England in 1921. She wrote her first impressions of him in a letter to her friend Reginald Turner, describing him as "a darling" and "very serious cockney" who told her anecdotes about the Queen's dollhouse. Of his recent marriage to Mildred Harris, he had said, "You know, I dropped into it with a blonde," to which she reacted, "I don't think you can better that as a concise statement." (Selected Letters Of Rebecca West)

2 During a dinner with his friend, playwright William Saroyan, in 1947, Chaplin gloated that seducing West was "a piece of cake." Saroyan responded by telling Chaplin about his own unsuccessful attempt to have his way with her: "I chased her around the bed for at least four hours." "Dear boy," Chaplin chided him, "that is not how it’s done. You do not chase anyone around the bed. You do it from the moment you say 'How do you do?'" (Carol Matthau, Among The Porcupines, Turtle Bay, 1992)

Thursday, October 10, 2013

With Hedy Lamarr, c. 1941

Chaplin told his son Charlie, Jr., that in repose, Hedy’s Madonna-like face could capture the heart of any man in the world, but its serene quality, he insisted, was marred whenever she smiled, and was of the opinion that she never do so.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

With May Collins & Sam Goldwyn, 1921

Charlie met seventeen-year-old actress May Collins in November 1920 at the Actors' Equity Ball in New York City. They began dating shortly afterward and within a few months there were rumors of an engagement, which were neither confirmed nor denied by both parties. Although Charlie told one reporter: “I like the young lady. Like her. That is all.” As was usually the case with Charlie's relationships, he eventually grew bored with May and the relationship fizzled out by the summer of 1921. Another reason may have been that he was still sweet on Florence Deshon. 

In this snippet from the August 1921 issue of Photoplay, we see that May, like many of Charlie's wives/girlfriends, was yet another victim of "Charlie Scissorhands":

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Random Excerpt

Actress Virginia Bradford recalls an evening with Chaplin, frolicking nude around his house, the night before his mother passed away.
(Note: the dashes & ellipses are hers)
I saw him one night at his home in a mad mood, stripping off his clothes and ruffling his curly hair until it looked like horns sprouting through -- stretching his arms and body as though he were going to spring into the woods out of sight, showing his protruding teeth in a grin as he said, “Down gods. My name is Pan -- And you are Daphne.  --I like you because you are a nut the same as I.”
And because I was just as mad as he, I took off my clothes, and we ran all over his grand mansion like something wild in the woods. He sprang upon the seat of his pipe organ and after a moment of silence, he played chords -- And I saw how sad and lonely he really was -- then his mood changed. -- He showed me his curiosities from the Emperor and Empress of China. They were in a glass case.  He danced around a Chinese mask. Then he was a child showing another child his toys. -- Later we got into a shower together and imagined it was raining in a woodland. The glass-enclosed shower bath with its elaborate fixtures prevented him from seeing trees dripping with rain. -- We held each others hands and danced around and around.
Surely, I should be envied by the rest of the world who have not seen him as “Pan." For that is the very soul of his genius.
The next morning, he received word that his mother was dead [Hannah Chaplin died August 28, 1928 from an infected gall bladder.] The servant who brought me my breakfast told me. Later, I met him downstairs. He was only the famous man now who had lost his mother.  He took me home in his car -- All the way he talked about her -- disconnected sentences. -- How young she looked. -- Her eyes were blue -- “I hate funerals. I wish I didn’t have to go.  But I have to. Can’t send anyone else in my place. --Three weeks ago she was dancing the Charleston. -- Didn’t feel any grief when they told me. -- Just a pain in my stomach. --I wonder what the nurse thought yesterday when I was holding her hand. -- While my mother looked up at me I wondered what was…in the nurse’s mind as she watched. --This…dying mother. --Interesting to know."


Sunday, August 4, 2013

With Marion Davies, c. 1924

This photo may have been taken at the premiere of Marion's film, Janice Meredith.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Random Excerpt

While I was slithering around Sunset Boulevard, Charlie was a more and more frequent guest at our house. He had just recently been starred for the first time at Essanay, and was now making a fortune with a series of one-reelers at Mutual. He and three other friends of mine--Mary Pickford, Doug Fairbanks, and David Griffith--were about to join forces as the United Artists.
Though Popsy was wary of my Hollywood companions, he trusted Chaplin because he knew him. It has always amused me to see cautious parents accept as suitable suitors old friends who are often as eligible as Don Juan. It is probably the quality of the unknown that terrifies them so.
To me, there remained very little unknown about Charlie. He unburdened his heart to me. He loved talking about himself; but I adored his sense of humor and appreciated his sense of values. He was marvelous fun to be with, Charlie!
He wasn't very prompt, and one night he arrived for dinner an hour and a half late. Mutz, who had kept her patience for weeks, now was furious. Such a tirade! She told him how selfish and thoughtless he was; and we were all sure that we would never see him again. What did he do when mother finished? He kissed her and said, "How wonderful you are. You've scolded me just as you would your own son. Now I know I'm one of the family. Thank you, thank you."
What could one do with such a reaction? We all adored him. How stimulating Charlie was! Those intense gray eyes! Even in repose, there was always a faint smile hovering around his lips. There was always an imp in Charlie, no matter how serious he was being, an element of the unpredictable. He was an elf with a memory of sadness.
He loved playing with abstract ideas. His brain never stopped buzzing. When he was working he would ask me to the studio so I could watch him work. Though he used a script, ideas, fresh and sparkling, would spill from him while the camera was going. Some of his most famous scenes were spontaneous. His slim, nervous body would respond instantly to any improvisation that struck him. He was nimble in everything. He moved like a dancer.
Charlie was still to become the intellectual's darling, the controversial exile, the legend. Life was simple then--like the people. Chaplin was funny and the public laughed. The scholars and students hadn't recognized him as a genius. He was loved as a clown.
Charlie, however, was always impressed with himself--like a small child who has suddenly found a doting audience for his antics. He was quicker than his audience and always ahead of them. I loved going to the movies with him. He would laugh until he cried. Then he would nudge me.
"Wait, Daggie. Wait till you see what's going to happen now!"
When it happened, he would become convulsed. I think I enjoyed watching Charlie watching Charlie more than the movie.
— Dagmar Godowsky, First Person Plural: The Lives Of Dagmar Godowsky, 1958.

Dagmar appeared in 24 films between 1919 & 1926,
including The Sainted Devil in which she co-starred with Rudolph Valentino.
 She is also among the many celebrities, including Chaplin, to appear in the 1923 film, Souls For Sale.

Charlie with Dagmar's father, pianist/composer Leopold Godowsky, 1917.