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TO A FEW FRIENDS
AND TO MY MOTHER
IN GRATITUDE AND WITH
. I DEDICATE THIS BOOK
CHAELES SPENCER CHAPLIN, film comedian ex
traordinary and the most widely known figure in
the history of motion pictures, holds the distinc
tion of enduring for twenty-five years as the out
standing, if somewhat enigmatic, personality of
the screen. To retain such universal popularity,
in its deeper sense, in an industry gradually but
surely taking its place as an integral part of the
arts, an industry which all too often raises its
favorite to stardom overnight only to hurl him
back into oblivion with equal celerity, this achieve
ment of Charlie Chaplin s becomes worthy of
What manner of man is this who sits securely
upon his golden throne of millions poured into his
coffers by a world-wide audience? What sort of
man can defy any challenge to the universal ap
peal of a single characterization, who can resist
for ten years the more modern medium for ex
pression, the transition of silent films into talking
Surely this sustained hold upon the public taste,
the public affection, implies a certain artistry
genius, if you will. And there are few to deny
that Charlie Chaplin has brought into bold relief
the ancient art of pantomime as a portrayal of
modern, human life.
Chaplin has been the subject of more writing
and fewer accurate delineations than most of his
contemporaries throughout the years. He has en
joyed the paradoxical status of being the man ev
erybody knows yet nobody knows. Protected by a
self-imposed isolation in his private life, he has
had, nevertheless, certain dramatic phases in his
life, two marriages and their subsequent dissolu
tions, emblazoned on the front pages of American
newspapers for weeks and months at a time. And
when we reflect upon the adverse publicity to
which he was subjected at these times, some of it
careless of the truth, it is small wonder that
Charles Chaplin is wary of revealing himself to
the serious biographer or that he bends over back
ward in expurgating any story about himself
which is submitted to him for his approval. A
true biography of him must, of necessity, be an
unauthorized one to survive with any value as an
Because of this consistent discouragement to
biographers, few stories of any length, or what is
more important, strength, have been uncovered in
this writer s search for material pertinent to this
book. One, a mild little book written by W. Dodg-
son Bowman in 1931, makes no effort to trace the
pattern of the man behind the artist and succeeds
in not tracing it. It can be assumed that the manu
script of this book was either censored by its sub
ject or prepared with the wish uppermost in the
mind of the writer not to off end. Consequently, it
has scant value in depicting the living, vital Chap
lin. The most colorful and dramatic, the most re
vealing and not always creditable, episodes in the
life of the King of Comedy are veiled by meager
paragraphs or ignored with an airy sycophancy
which destroys the value of the book as a true
biography. ^ ^
Another, a magazine serial written in a state of
pique by Carl Robinson after his dismissal by
Charlie in Algiers in 1931, can be considered only
as a slap on the wrist. That Robinson received a
goodly sum in advance for "telling all" (he could
not tell it) is not surprising, for revelational ac
counts of Charlie Chaplin are as rare as blue-and-
white-checked nightingales laying polka-dot eggs.
And Carl Robinson, never in the intimate confi
dence of his employer, knew him only as well as
the average acquaintance could.
<j* Throughout eighteen years of Chaplin s twenty-
* five years on the screen, there has been one em
ployee, one person who actually knows Chaplin, the
man. That this employee has little understanding
of the complex nature of an artist, takes nothing
from the facts. That employee is "Kono," as he is
known in Hollywood, in New York, over Europe,
by all who know Charlie Chaplin.
Kono, Chaplin s Japanese secretary, has seen
through the years, promises broken, obligations
evaded, a ruthlessness toward women, a cowardice
of the practical mechanics of life all beyond his
understanding. This biographer sees a man an
artist who, with the whole courage of a sorely
tried heart and unquenchable ideals, has again and
again mastered a bitter fate and recaptured the
essence of his life.
Helpless to combat the simple forces of practical,
everyday living, Charlie Chaplin has, nonetheless,
demonstrated a stupendous ability to grow upward
stormily, to put down internal revolt, to produce
the living form of his art controlled to a precise
measure and to an austerity removed from all
George Moore has said, "For the true picture of
a man, give me the disrespectful biography." This
unauthorized story of Charles Chaplin is intended
to be "disrespectful" only in so far as is necessary
to depict the truth. It is far from the author s
intention to disparage the subject; rather is it her
desire to guard scrupulously the character of the
artist from any implication of baseness. And it is%
because the man belongs not to the hour but to
posterity that the writer maintains the right
to embody the hitherto unknown facts of Charlie
Chaplin s life within the covers of a book.
As to the sources of material which went into
the preparation of this book, the reader may be
assured that the writer did not depend upon idle
rumor or vague gossip but obtained by legal con
tract, information and documents belonging to
Toraichi Kono. And Chaplin, himself has described
his secretary in his accounts of his travels in 1931
as follows : "Kono is my man-Friday. He is every
thing nurse, valet 1 , private secretary, and body
In addition to this source, public records and ad
ditional private documents have been carefully
scrutinized, the latter with the owner s consent and
In portraying the chain of events resultant "of
the inner urge to greatness that converted an ob-
secure, poverty-ridden Cockney boy into one of
the greatest artists of his day, the writer has
made no effort to please Chaplin, nor to placate his
friends; but has endeavored to reveal as much of
the truth as is compatible with good taste. If the
record should show that in his various amours and
in his other private dealings, Mr. Chaplin has ex
ceeded the bounds of convention, what artist has
not? It will also show that he has through his own
merit and his own development attained an envi
able place in the artistic world. We cannot have
art without artists ; and their modes of life are not
ours to criticize but rather is it our pleasurable
1 Charlie employed another valet at the time.
duty to come to an understanding of such natures.
Charlie Chaplin has shown in 1939 unquestion
able courage in his determination to satirize the
dictators of the totalitarian states. A box adver
tisement appeared in the Los Angeles Daily News
on March 20, 1939, as follows : "Owing to errone
ous reports in the press that I have abandoned my
production concerning dictators, I wish to state
that I have never wavered from my original de
termination to produce this picture. ... I am not
worried about intimidation, censorship, or any
thing else. . . . "
Surely the writer can show no less courage than
the subject of her work. She has "not wavered
from (my) determination to produce this picture,"
is "not worried about intimidation, censorship nor
KONO : A Biographical Note 19
1. THE ROAD BEGINS 29
2. YOUNG LOVE 47
3. To AMERICA 60
4. EDNA PURVIANCE 82
5. FIRST MARRIAGE _ 96
6. DIVORCE The Kid " 112
V 7. NEW YORK AND LONDON _. 128
L, 8. PARIS, BERLIN, AND LONDON 145
ij 9. CLARE SHERIDAN 169
10. POLA NEGRI AND CARLOTTA 185
11. SECOND MARRIAGE The Gold Rush FIRST
12. SECOND SON BROKEN MARRIAGE 212
13. NEW YORK ATTACK DEFENSE 221
14. INTERLUDE DIVORCE SETTLEMENT The Circus 238
15. MOTHER S DEATH City Lights 256
16. NOSTALGIC JOURNEY 269
17. LA JANA SOCIOLOGICAL AWAKENING 292
18. A BOAR HUNT 312
19. THE RIVIERA MAY REEVES MARSEILLES 318
20. PRINCE OF WALES _ 334
21. SWITZERLAND 345
22. JAPAN 350
23. HOLLYWOOD Modern Times PAULETTE
24. THIS AND THAT 384
25. BON VOYAGE : 394
List of Illustrations
Charlie Chaplin, a recent photograph Frontispiece
Charles Spencer Chaplin, Sr 32
Charlie as one of the Eight Lancashire Lads 60
Charlie at the age of twenty-one 60
Francis X. Bushman, Charlie, and "Broncho Billy"
Edna Purviance 76
J. D. Williams, Edna Purviance, and Charlie in 1917.. 96
Charlie in a still from The Rink 96
Charlie speaking in the streets of Los Angeles 96
A crowd in front of the Statler Hotel, Detroit 96
Mildred Harris, Charlie s first wife 116
Founders of United Artists Charlie, Douglas
Fairbanks, Mary Pickf ord, and D. W. Griffith 116
Charlie and Jackie Coogan in The Kid 124
Douglas Fairbanks, Charlie, and Jack Dempsey 124
Charlie, John Barrymore, and Douglas Fairbanks 152
Pola Negri _ 152
Charlie s house in Beachwood Drive 180
Charlie weaving tales for young Dick Sheridan 180
Lita Grey signing a contract to appear in The Gold
Rush - 200
Georgia Hale, who replaced Lita Grey in The Gold
16 LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
Charlie and his mother, Hannah Chaplin 260
Charlie and his secretary, Toraichi Kono, in 1927 260
Virginia Cherrill, the blind girl of City Lights (1929) 260
Charlie is met by Lady Astor at Southampton, 1931.. 304
Winston Churchill as host to Charlie 304
La Jana, Viennese dancer whom Charlie met in
Albert Einstein attending the theater -vmh Charlie,
May Reeves 328
Charlie, May Reeves, and Emil Ludwig on the
Charlie, May Reeves, and Siamese Kitty II 344
May Reeves at St.-Moritz 344
Charlie in a scarf dance at St.-Moritz, 1932 344
Party given for Charlie by Japanese businessmen 360
Kono, Charlie, geisha girl, and Syd Chaplin, Kobe,
Kono and Charlie in a Tokyo restaurant 360
Kono, Charlie, and Sydney Chaplin leaving Tokyo,
Charlie s present home, Summit Drive, Beverly Hills 372
Charlie romping with his two sons, 1930 372
Recent photograph of Paulette Goddard (Estelle
Charlie and Paulette Goddard attend a preview 392
Autographed "crest" given to the writer 396
KONO: A Biographical Note
TORAICHI KONO sprang from an old and wealthy
middle-class Japanese family of Hiroshima, Ja
pan, a family substantial, and prominent in mer
chandising for nearly one thousand years by actual
genealogical records in possession of the present
There were three children born to his parents,
SuM and Huyemon Kono, two sons and one daugh
ter. Toraichi was the elder son.
Now it is the custom in Japan for the eldest son
to assume, upon his father s death, the given name
of his male parent. Toraichi, modern-minded, a
materialist, and given to flouting the old order,
was to be denied this privilege.
At fourteen, while still in junior high school in
Hiroshima, young Kono gave every evidence of
becoming the undutif ul son who was to be cut off
with the proverbial yen. He refused to train him
self in self -discipline and the rigid conduct ex
pected t of him or to take seriously his future
responsibilities in regard to entailed wealth.
Toraichi admired geisha girls, who were, after
20 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
all, the only girls a very young man about town in
Japan could admire save at a discreet distance.
He had a school friend, the son of a banker, who
was of the same mind about the fleshpots of
Hiroshima. This lad seemed always to be plenti
fully supplied with money, but it never occurred
to young Kono to question its source; he merely
considered his own father penurious in not allow
ing him proportionate yen to spend in the tea
houses and at geisha house dancing parties which
were his and his friend s constant indulgence.
Before long their indiscretions were discovered.
The storm broke. The banker s son had been filch
ing from his father s safe, and Toraichi must ac
cept his share of the blame. Had he not enjoyed
the stolen fruits? Well, then, he must pay. The
two boys were asked to leave school, were made to
feel pretty uncomfortable, each in his respective
home, until tfie fathers, feeling that the ends of
discipline had been served, asked that the boys be
reinstated in school. This was granted, but they
were transferred to another school across town.
Young Kono, having had more than a taste of
gay life, had no idea of relinquishing it. By some
youthful, quixotic reasoning he decided that al
though it had been wrong for his chum to steal
money, it would be quite ethical and most expedient
for him to filch not money, but bamboo ! Among
his father s various holdings was a vast bamboo
farm, and bamboo, used extensively in Japan for
KONO : A BIOGRAPHICAL NOTE 21
building, was immediately marketable. So at reg
ular intervals, and surreptitiously, he ordered his
father s field workers to cut and turn over to him
enough of the tall graceful growth to keep the two
of them, his friend and himself, in several hundred
yen each month, sufficient funds for very young
men about town.
This, too, was inevitably discovered at about the
time the boys were to be graduated from junior
high school. The wrath of his father knew no
bounds. Terrified, young Kono hurriedly wrote a
cousin in Seattle urging him to invite his father
to send him to America for a year. This the cousin
did, and Kono, pere, not suspecting the ruse of his
son, looked upon this letter as a direction from the
spirit of one of his ancestors. Toraichi was shipped
off to Seattle, where he remained and went to pub
lic school. At the end of the year he was allowed to
come home for another try at obedience.
If the youth had been inclined to flout tradition
before he went to America, his rebellion at au
thority was the greater now that he had tasted the
freedom of American youth. Once he had got home,
he refused to listen to his f ather s plans for him to
enter high school, go on to college, and eventually
marry the girl to whom he had been promised since
he was five, the girl, three. He felt that his former
social activities had seriously handicapped him for
the stiff examinations he must pass to enter the
upper school; he had his eyes upon a future wife
22 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
of his own choosing. His father was adamant. His
son would obey his orders or
The upshot of it was that Toraichi ran away. He
got as far as Kobe on the way to the port of Yoko
hama and sent home for money. His father sent
him one thousand yen. This was spent in five days
of riotous good time, and he wired his mother for
more. She sent him five hundred yen. He pro
ceeded to get rid of all this but a hundred. Then
he went to Yokohama, where he inquired the fare
to Seattle. First class, he was told, was over six
hundred yen; second, over four hundred; steerage,
sixty-five. He took steerage passage on the Em
press of China.
Aboard the boat he was dismayed to find that
steerage passengers were expected to bring their
own blankets. Only cots and mattresses were sup
plied. He had no blanket, nor could he wheedle one
out of a steward. What to do? He looked around
and discovered a likable young chap older than him
self but of a class beneath him, who was going to
America for the first time and who was obviously
frightened at the prospect. Putting on his most
worldly air, young Kono talked volubly of the
strange, exciting land and its agreeable customs :
talked with his mind s eye on the blankets of his
new acquaintance. Soon he saw the chap was prop
erly impressed by his volubility; in fact, he clung
to Kono, who with his English could steer him
through the narrows of the dread immigration or-
KONO : A BIOGRAPHICAL NOTE 23
deal ahead. Kono promised. And, now, how about
a division of blankets? This was effected, and each
found himself with half enough covering to keep
In his own nonchalance in embarking, Kono had
neglected to learn that no alien could enter an
American port by steerage unless he possessed the
equivalent of at least fifty dollars. He had, after
having had food sent down from the first-class
kitchen for himself on the voyage, exactly seventy-
five cents left. His new acquaintance had barely
the sum required for his own entrance. This re
quired some ingenuity. He had no wish to be sent
back steerage and blanketless to an irate father.
He decided to try at bluffing through.
Luck was with him, for upon disembarking at
Seattle he caught sight of a man he had once seen
in his father s office in Hiroshima who seemed to
be acting as interpreter. Catching his eye, young
Kono winked at him and in a rapid fire of Japanese
gave him an inkling of his plight. The interpreter
in turn gave the immigration officials a glowing
account of the respectability of the Kono family
and added that the poor boy had started out with
much money but had lost it on shipboard. His
father would send him more immediately. Kono
was passed. His protege, who had had nothing to
fear all along, had he known it, was admitted
Young Kono went directly from the boat to the
24 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
Furuye Company, Importers, in Seattle, using his
seventy-five cents for the trip into town. The mana
ger of the firm looked him over skeptically, seeing
before him a boy in short trousers. He demanded
to know why Toraichi was so far from home and
why he needed a job. Toraichi told him the whole
story. Hiding a smile, the manager agreed to give
him a job but secretly he determined to make the
work so arduous and menial that the boy would
sicken of his "freedom" and be glad to go home.
He informed the youth that his work would be
opening the store every morning, sweeping the
large rooms thoroughly before he went to school;
after school he could work as apprentice sales
man and errand boy until nine o clock at night,
when he could assist in covering stock and closing
up for the night. Kono was a bit dismayed at the
remuneration he was to receive for this only his
board and lodging but he accepted the conditions,
not, however, without a wistful backward glance at
his former good times.
Many times during the year that ensued he was
to reflect ruefully upon the price of freedom but
when he remembered that had he stayed at home he
would have lost face in his examinations and would
have had to marry, eventually, the girl of his fath
er s choice, he was somewhat reconciled. He would
stay long enough, he decided, for his father to
realize the prize he had lost.
At the end of his year s work, the Furuye Com-
KONO : A BIOGRAPHICAL NOTE 25
pany, better than their word, gave him two new
suits of clothes as bonus, one with long trousers,
the other with short, a sort of compromise between
the comical maturity of the boy and his actual
youth. He was fifteen and small for his age.
Young Kono felt by this time that a mercantile
life was not for him. He applied for a job as
houseboy in a family and got it. This also left him
time to go to school and gave him wages of one
and one-half dollars each week. He knew as little
about housework as he had known about business,
but his duties were simple. He was to get up early,
build a fire in the kitchen range, and take the
family parrot for a stroll in the garden on fine days.
He soon mastered the fire, but the bird and its new
nurse took an instant and hearty dislike to one
another. At the very sight of his enemy the parrot
would open its mouth and emit a raucous screech.
Kono did not screech back but he returned the
feeling with interest. However, he swallowed his
antipathy as best he could and, every morning, feel
ing a bit ridiculous, he walked about the kitchen
garden with the bird strutting grumblingly at his
All went well for several weeks until one rainy
morning when Kono released Polly from her cage
and allowed her to take her morning constitutional
about the kitchen. The parrot proceeded to show
lack of respect for the floor freshly mopped the
night before, and for her guardian who had mopped
26 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
it. Kono raised his foot to give Polly a long-looked-
forward-to kick when his mistress walked into the
room! Highly indignant, she berated Kono for a
heartless brute. She had suspected all along, she
told him darkly, a good reason for Polly s not liking
him. He probably kicked her every morning. Poor
dear Polly ! Kono was fired on the spot.
Another house job without parrot or other un
toward incident completed his school year. He de
cided to return to Japan and apprised his mother
of that decision. She sent him the money for first-
It was 1905, and Toraichi was seventeen.
Kono s father had given him up as a bad job,
was concentrating upon his younger brother to
carry on his name and businesses. Toraichi looked
about for something to do.
Bicycles were the luxury vehicles of Japan at the
time. Automobiles were as yet unreliable convey
ances and owned by millionaires as playthings ; jin-
rikishas were the carriages of business; bicycles
the desire of every young sportsman. Toraichi and
his old school friend wished to go into the bicycle
business. Their fathers agreed.
Each boy was given two thousand yen. They set
up shop. At the end of the first year the young
merchants divided a net profit of twenty-one thou
sand yen. This was too easy; they decided to quit
the bicycle business and do something more star
tling. They would inaugurate a bus line through
KONO : A BIOGRAPHICAL NOTE 27
the villages between Hiroshima and Kobe. They
bought a sixteen-passenger Winton motorbus.
Now the inhabitants of rural Japan had never
seen, at the time, a motorcar, to say nothing of hav
ing ridden in one. Word was bruited about that the
devil wagon was to run; the day was declared a
holiday by all and sundry in surrounding towns.
Lunches were brought to the scene and a gala time
Alas, the youthful promoters had reckoned with
out Big Business the jinrikisha corporations. The
latter would not sit idly by and allow this outland
ish encroachment upon their territory. They or
dered runners out to see that the bus did not run.
It was to appear an accident. This plot, worthy
of Chicago at its best form, the runners entered
into with such enthusiasm that the huge car was
ditched into several feet of soft mud, where it
remained bogged down to the delight of the popu
lace until the two partners could wangle machin
ery from Kobe to hoist it and move it to Hiroshima.
Kono promptly sold out his interest to some hardier
soul for eight thousand yen.
With a business career behind him, at eighteen,
he now felt that it was time to retire and see more
of the world. But his father, secretly delighted at
the recent fiasco of the bus venture, returned to the
fray. He was prepared to force the marriage con
tract between his son and the girl, made years be
fore. Toraichi must come into the family business
28 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
and prove himself superior to his younger brother
Toraichi refused on all counts. This defiance
enraged his father, who called his recalcitrant son
into his office and demanded that he sign papers
relinquishing all rights to his father s given name,
also his inheritance. Toraichi was given one thou
In complete disgrace, according to Japanese
standards, Kono left for America to attend engi
neering school in preparation for aviation, the
natural progression in ambition for modern speed.
.He sent for his fiancee, and they were married in
Seattle before setting off for California, which was
at the time the mecca for Japanese in America.
Kono enrolled in the Hub Wilson school for
aviation in Venice, a seaside suburb of Los Angeles.
A son was born to the Konos, and Mrs. Kono,
modern-minded in her ideas of a wife s rights,
demanded that Kono give up all plans for flying.
It was too risky for a husband and father. Kono, a
bit in awe of this departure from a Japanese wife s
customary meekness, acquiesced to her demand.
He consulted a friend who was in the consulate and
who advised him to learn to drive a car if he did not
wish to start in the vegetable gardens as the ma
jority of Japanese in California did.
Another friend told him that the sensational new
picture star, Charlie Chaplin, was in need of a
chauffeur. Kono applied for the job and got it.
The Road Begins
IT is A BLEAK, late afternoon in England in the year
1894. A young woman is hurrying across the
downs beyond the last fringe of London, out High-
gate way. With her are two boys, the elder strid
ing manfully along as befits his nine years; the
younger, a boy of five, shy, delicate, and wrapped
in the secret torture of his own thoughts, strug
gling to keep up with the longer steps of his mother
and brother, dread of their destination further
weighting his small feet. His is a child s face
bereft of youthf ulness, without any of the heedless
gaiety of the usual child of five.
He looks back now as if trying to catch a com
forting glimpse of the wretched huddle of buildings
of the Kennington slums whence they have just
come. But they are quite hidden; he sees only the
vast expanse of rolling downs, the hills beyond
beautiful in their grim contours and hates them.
Rain has come with the west wind. The hills are
drawn back behind thick sheets of glassy rain; the
drops of rain scud swiftly along the yellowing
grass before the wind. The young woman stops and
30 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
makes a futile attempt to gather more closely about
him the smaller lad s scant coat. She urges both
boys to a quicker pace.
At last there looms before them a building, a
huge grey pile, its Ionic columns crazily distorted
through the sheet glass of the rain. It is their
destination, the Orphanage of S , or the
"work us" school. The mother pulls the bell. The
smaller boy shrinks back behind her. An attendant
peers out, opens the door. They enter, Hannah
Chaplin and her two sons, Sydney and Charles.
There is a hurried explanation of their errand
by the mother. She kisses both boys and scurries
away out into the rain, as if to cut short the agony
of shame which engulfs her. Hannah Chaplin has
lost, temporarily, her battle with the grim, uncom
promising poverty of the London slums.
The small Charles gazes at the doorway through
which his mother has disappeared. He does not look
to his older brother for comfort nor does he see the
master who has come to induct them into the
charity home. Even in that moment when all of his
attention seems to be fixed upon the awful fact of
separation from his mother, we have the impres
sion that with his thoughts, his dreams, he is far
away and alone with them. He stands motionless,
aloof, engrossed in his own dark world and un
aware of any other ; on his delicately wrought face,
the lines of acute suffering which has nothing to
do with the happenings about him; in his great
THE ROAD BEGINS 31
dark blue eyes, the melancholy of his inner world.
Curiously discomfited by some quality in the
smaller lad, nameless and beyond his ken, the mas
ter stares at the boy before him, who will not fit
nicely, he senses, into the mold of "this is done,"
and "this isn t done." He sees a taciturn little boy
with a broad, high, splendidly arched brow beneath
a shock of unruly, almost black hair; large deep-
set blue eyes, at once questioning and rebellious; a
finely modeled straight nose and long chin, the
latter indicative of indefatigable energy. And the
mouth, the lips folded back over prominent frontal
teeth, the corners sensitive and mobile. The whole
modeling of the head and face on the undersized,
frail body is old and self-reliant a challenge to
standardization, the accustomed order.
The master bears the two boys away for registra
tion but not before he has, like all his ilk, marked
the strangeling who does not respond to his
patronizing cheerfulness, for future especial
Hannah Chaplin had been a singer and dancer in
London under the stage name of Lily Harley when
she married Sydney Hawkes, a Jewish bookmaker.
Of this marriage there was one son, Sydney
Hawkes, Junior, who was to be known later in
Hollywood as "Syd Chaplin." She divorced
Hawkes. There followed an alliance with one
Wheeler Dryden (no record of marriage could be
32 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
found), a vague and shadowy figure in the annals
of the family. Another son, Wheeler, Junior, came
of this union. A separation followed, the small
Wheeler being relegated to his father for support.
Again Hannah took to the music halls, and it was
there she met Charles Spencer Chaplin, a hand
some, debonair singer and cellist. They were mar
ried in 1888. Charles Spencer Chaplin, Junior,
was born April 16, 1889.
Chaplin, Senior, had earned them his wife and
son and stepson an existence of sorts until shortly
before his death, when ill-health and a recognition
of falling short of his high hopes in music had sent
him to the neighborhood "pub" for a certain f orget-
fulness. Hannah had accepted this uncomplaining
ly; she truly loved her gentle, music-loving hus
band. She set to work to piece out their meager
needs by home dressmaking.
When Charlie was three, he stood with his
mother in a little park across from the great City
Hospital, His somber eyes searched her face for
the meaning of her gaze as she stared at the lighted
window of the room across and above in which his
father, she told him, had just died. Too young to
grasp the finality of death, he was capable only of
a mute recognition of the suffering pictured in his
mother s face, her mien. Unable to understand the
fear mingled with that grief, fear of the actual
want that hovered, always, over the mean streets
and unsavory alleys of Kennington where he was
COURTESY OF H. T. REED, PHOTOGRAPHER, LONDON
Charles Spencer Chaplin, Sr. The only photograph extant of
Charlie s father.
THE ROAD BEGINS 33
born and where they lived, he was a little embar
rassed at her unwonted display of emotion as she
sank down upon a bench in the park and gave way
to her sorrow and despair. The small boy could
only make a show of playing about on the grass
until he heard her sobs stilled. He followed her
look to the window above. The light was out.
He took her hand, and together they went back
to the cheerless little house in Chester Street, their
Touched by this first somber tragedy of his life,
Charles Chaplin showed signs at three of the ata
vistic essence of the ancestry which had selected
him to gather up into his being all the reflections
of passions, the sensibility, the love, the capacity
for suffering which was to become the spring and
source of his genius as a melancholy wit. He even
acted out for his half-brother, Sydney, the event
of the evening to such success that Sydney howled
with grief mixed with hysterical laughter. >(
Sydney threw oif , as a normal child does, the
death of the only father he had known. He obeyed
the truism, "Time heals all." Charlie stored it
away in his consciousness as a never-to-be-forgot
ten reminder of death and the pity of love.
Installed at the Orphanage of S , there
followed for the sensitive Charlie, with his impas
sivity of countenance, who was cursed or blessed
with a capacity for feeling far in excess of that
of his fellows, two years of acute unhappiness
34 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
within the rigorous confines of a "charitable" in
Institutions for the poor in England, as late as
that time, had not rid themselves entirely of the
cruelty, both mental and physical, so vividly pic
tured by Charles Dickens a few decades before.
Discipline almost military, and not a little sadistic,
was administered to the small derelicts washed up
by the tides of ill fortune upon the shores of the
state. With fine disregard for child psychology of
which they could know nothing ; with like disregard
for the simple precepts of human kindness to the
merely unfortunate, the schools as a whole hewed to
the line of rules made for all alike. The masters,
apparently, were chosen for the quality of stern
ness rather than for a natural understanding of
the child mind and heart.
Charlie s first Christmas at the orphanage is
revealing. Huddled in the draughty hall outside
the dining room, the children try vainly to warm
themselves over the inadequate heaters. More
warming are the thoughts of the Christmas joy to
come. Each child is to be given a bag of sweets and
an orange ; of all things, an orange.
Charlie, on tiptoes, peeks over the heads of the
taller boys. He has seen oranges but never in
his short life has he tasted one. Sure enough, there
they are! A bright splash of color against the
prisonlike grey of the room. He is warned soberly
by a boy standing near that an orange comes only
THE ROAD BEGINS 35
once a year. He speculates upon the manner of
drawing the supreme pleasure from the glorious
treat. He will, he tells himself defiantly, eat the
whole orange at one time but he will save the
peel! This can be nibbled away at for days and
days to follow, bringing back the memory of the
luscious fruit. The sweets, he admonishes himself
sternly, will be hoarded and apportioned to himself
by himself one every day. He can scarcely con
tain his rapture, is quivering with joyous excite
Finally the gong is sounded. The boys crowd
toward the door, a jubilant, noisy throng. They
march in. Each child as he passes the master at the
door is handed his treat. But not Charlie! He
reaches for his orange and sweets ; the master puts
him aside. "Oh, no," he tells the boy, and Charlie
fancies now that he saw a look of unholy joy upon
the face of the man. "You ll go without for what
you did yesterday." He referred to some minor in
fraction of a house rule, by a boy of five.
There is little doubt that his experience in such
a place with, at best, its atmosphere of gloom and
implied reproach for being there at all, its stern
discouragement of laughter and joy, had a lasting
effect upon the shy, sensitive Charlie. He could not
rid himself of the implication of imprisonment, dis
grace, for many years. Poverty was indelibly
stamped upon his mind as the contributory reason
for his being there at all. The experience was at
36 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
one and the same time the root of his later penuri-
ousness and the source of his tragic laughter and
the purging melancholy of his wit.
That this interlude, and her subsequent strug
gles to provide food and shelter for them, had its
effect upon their mother, is proved by the tragedy
of her later years. Hannah Chaplin was to live to
see her son the screen idol of millions, to be sur
rounded by every material comfort that money
could buy, but she would not be able to take in the
true import of her son s greatness or her own good
fortune. Her mind already fogged by a mild in
sanity when she was fetched by Tom Harrington
to California in the early nineteen-twenties, in
stalled in a comfortable cottage in Hollywood, and
tended by nurses and servants, she grew steadily
worse until her death in the Glendale Sanitarium
in August, 1928.
Hannah Chaplin, though of immediate Cockney
origin, was not of pure Anglo-Saxon lineage. She
was blonde, of the coloring of northern Spain,
whence her forbears came.
Charlie s father, whose origin was surely
French, was less English than his wife. Capeline,
from which the name Chaplin is derived, can be
traced back to the horde of French-Norman in
vaders and conquerors of the Saxons. The name
denotes "mailed hood." There is the implication of
aristocratic blcfod in his father s name.
The alchemy of birth and proof of environment
THE ROAD BEGINS 37
are enigmatic now as always. But reaching back
four or five generations, both his mother and his
father seem to have given Charlie features curi
ously Latin, as well as a mastery of the Latin style
in his art. In studying the French portrait painters
whose conceptions hang on the walls of the smaller
rooms of the Louvre, Henry III, Francis I ; from
Jean de Paris down to Clouet, it is not hard to
discern a procession of such faces as Charlie Chap
lin s. Subtle, ironic, both sensual and sentimental;
at once acute and unheeding a sardonic wit over
There is no premise for the popular belief that
Charlie Chaplin has Jewish blood.
He inherited the gift of mimicry from his
mother. Throughout her life she retained her sense
of the dramatic in the simple everyday acts of
people about her. "I often wonder if I should ever
have made a success of pantomime," he has said,
"if it had not been for my mother s driving its
value into my consciousness." As a small boy he
would watch her, fascinated, for hours, as she sat
at a window, gazing at people in the street and re
producing to his intense delight, with her hands,
her facial expressions, all that occurred. Observing
her, he learned the possibility of translating simple
actions into significant meaning.
One morning when she was at her favorite diver
sion, she saw a neighbor come down the street.
"There goes Bill Smith," she told her small son.
38 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
"He s dragging his feet, and his boots aren t clean.
He is angry. His walk is dejected. Til wager he s
had a row with his wife and come away without his
breakfast. Look, he must have ! He s turning into
the baker s for a roll." Sure enough, in the course
of the day, it would become general neighborhood
knowledge that Bill Smith and his wife had had a
row. And, more important to the embryonic and
atavistic young future mimer, he was able to grasp
that this interest on the part of his mother had
significance beyond the idle curiosity of neighbor
hood gossip, that it was an outlet for her own
frustrated ambitions for the stage.
Mentally and physically ill-nourished, too poorly
clad to go regularly to school, Charlie and his
brothers found most of their early education as
well as their amusements in the back streets of
London. Their infrequent baths were had, in sum
mer, from an old wooden tub outside a livery stable
near their home. The tub is still there. What were
Charlie Chaplin s thoughts when he retraced his
steps over the scenes of his boyhood in 1921? Well-
clad, from luxurious living quarters, the world at
his feet, he stood before the old tub and caught the
nostalgic flavor of the days of hunger and misery
so long ago.
The average man who has attained worldly suc
cess uses each remembered privation of his earlier
struggle to savor more completely the happier cir
cumstances materially of his present life. Charlie
THE ROAD BEGINS 39
Chaplin appreciates the freedom his wealth gives
him, the right to eat when he pleases, to come and
go as he will. And there the analogy ends.
The sordidness of his surroundings penetrated
the senses of the boy, Charlie, to another contra
dictory degree. He was never to feel the longing
of the average Londoner brought up in city squalor
for the English countryside and its natural beauty.
His one conscious urge was to escape the ugliness
and fetters of poverty. His deeper and unconscious
urge was to express himself. That he was marked
by a curious insensitiveness to the beauty of the
countryside has had nothing to do with his art.
He became the sculptor who works in a garret from
living subjects; in the way that Frangois Villon
was the poet, he modeled his own body, his own
features, from their impassivity into the living pic
ture of the melancholy and the ironic wit of the
world. And all the while there lay in his eyes the
somber tragedy of yet unfathomed life.
Even as the young Shakespeare had held the
heads of horses for the theatergoers of London long
before him, young Chaplin earned a few pence
each evening by opening carriage doors of the per
sonages who drove up to these same theaters.
Bringing his instinct of mimicry into play, he
would send the other boys into hilarious, if stifled,
laughter at his imitations of the pompous figures
entering the lobby. There was no one quite like
young Chaplin, they agreed, but they could not
40 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
guess that the half-starved lad s mimicry, even
then, contained the seeds of his later perfection in
The themes of pantomime are as limited as those
of the great tragedies of the world. Agamemnon
and Electra, worked on for upwards of three thou
sands of years by our greatest poets, remain the
fundamental tragedies that they are : pantomime
works away on the simple themes of its imagery to
remain the true portrayals of the foibles of exter
nal worth. The tragicomedy of the singer who gets
ready to sing but never does ; the dignified drunk
who is so pathetically desirous of proving that he
is not drunk; the wistful spawn of poverty who
looks at the rich or great with a sardonic clarity of
perception that strips them of their accoutrements
and shows them as they actually are : all these are
the themes of imagery reduced to its fundamentals
When time came for young Charles Chaplin to
go into steady employment, there were no funds
and little inclination upon the part of his mother
to apprentice him to a trade which would meet the
demands of his station cobbling, barbering, or
the like. For a short time, however, driven by the
immediate necessity of eating and the stark want
of his family, he did serve as lather boy in a neigh
borhood barbership. But the urge to act was deep
within him and the work of lathering men s faces
was hateful to him who, by his gift of genius, saw
THE ROAD BEGINS 41
so clearly into their minds and hearts. He must, he
felt, somehow escape. But how? There were no
influential friends, no patron to aid him in that
first essential step above the level to which he was,
It was only natural that he should turn, while
yet a child, to the music hall, the cheapest and most
poorly paid form of the theater but the only ave
nue at all accessible.
By sheer persistence he won a try-out with a
group of juvenile dancers known as the Eight
Lancashire Lads. Blindly at first and with no other
thoughts than the escape from apprenticeship to
trade and the few pence he could bring home to his
mother, Charlie worked long hours in the hall and
longer ones at home, practicing for the perfection
which marked him from the beginning. He was
eight years old.
Years later in Sunny side, one of his earlier films,
he can be seen dancing with the light grace of a
faun; this was learned from his mother in an un-
heated house in the cold of a London winter by a
boy of eight who tired easily because of insufficient
Within four years the seriousness with which he
approached his work and his tireless perseverance
for perfection of detail were recognized. This rec
ognition proved to be one of those happy accidents
which give managers the reputation for having a
certain flair in discerning talent.
42 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
At the Duke of York s Theater in St. Martin s
Lane, Charles Frohman presented Clarice, a
comedy starring William Gillette, who was sup
ported by such memorable names in the theater
as Lucille La Verne, Adelaide Prince, Marie Doro,
and Thomas H. Burns. The premiere performance
was dated October 17, 1905, and the programme
was of heavy white satin, heavily fringed with
Preceding the play at eight-thirty was a piece,
The Painful Predicament of Sherlock Holmes, with
the cast of William Gillette, Irene Vanbrugh, and
the new find, Master Charles Chaplin. The part
of Billy the page boy gave young Chaplin full scope
for portraying a crafty young rascal who under
stands his master perfectly and accords him a sort
of critical devotion. He was a natural for the
It soon came about that theater lovers were
going again and again to St. Martin s Lane and
were in their seats well before time for the curtain
on the opening skit. As for Charlie, for the first
time he won bursts of spontaneous applause and
ripples of anticipatory laughter each time he, not
seven other dancers and himself, appeared on the
stage. It was sweet to his ears, and this approba
tion did much to build up his confidence in himself.
But at the same time he strove for more minute
perfection of "business" to drain the last drop of
artistry from the slender part. The volume of
THE ROAD BEGINS 43
applause grew commensurately with his efforts.
He was a success ! He was gloriously happy!
Charlie was but thirteen when Sir Arthur Conan
Doyle, author of the Sherlock Holmes books,
dropped in one day at rehearsal. He singled out for
a bit of chaffing the youngster who stood out with
such clarity as the page boy. In the course of the
conversation, Charlie, with gamin insouciance,
astounded the writer with the suggestion that they,
Sir Arthur and he, enter into an agreement on
the spot to divide equally their incomes for the
rest of their lives. (Charlie was getting two pounds
a week.) Sir Arthur burst into delighted guffaws
as he declined the ridiculous offer. But his laughter,
no doubt, turned a little sour in later years when
he ruminated upon half the income from fifteen
millions of dollars which the former page boy was
enjoying. It is interesting to indulge in conjecture
as to the probable effect of this quixotic proposal
upon Charlie s career as an artist.
Though he was not yet fourteen when the run of
Sherlock Holmes ended, we see the forerunner of
the originality which must create its own peculiar
outlet an the melancholy, sardonic humor of
which he was to become master in later years.
Small wonder that Charlie Chaplin has held fast
to his faith in the art of pantomime. He became a
member of a variety company that, after a certain
success in the cheaper halls of London, was to tour
the Channel Islands. The members of the troupe,
44 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
all impressionable youths in their teens had high
notions of bringing their London sophistication to
the benighted Islanders.
What was their surprise and humiliation, there
fore, to find in their first Island performance that
their acts fell quite flat ; their witty sallies, couched
in Cockney slang, were met with stolid indifference
and never a smile.
Charlie s spirits sank with the rest of the boys ,
but unlike the others who chafed to get back to
London, where their colloquial catch phrases and
jokes elicited noisy appreciation from a Cockney
audience, he must dig into the cause of this unre-
sponsiveness. He found it purely a matter of
language! The Islanders who spote a patois, a
curious mixture of French and English, simply had
not understood a word of the dialogue of the acts !
Charlie assumed leadership and called a meeting in
their dressing room. He explained to the restless,
uninterested cast that if words were useless, they
would use gestures.
All that day he sweated and struggled with the
boys who were, after all, only boys; they could not
see that their mentor, who was actually younger
than most of them, was "as old as a thousand yes
terdays." He did not falter. Here was something
he could create.
He dug back into his memory for his mother s
interpretation of emotion by gesture; he called into
play a sort of slithering walk he had learned from
THE ROAD BEGINS 45
an old cabby in Kennington Road. The old fellow
had had bad feet, wore boots of enormous size, and
slipped along in the street in a painful manner
ludicrous to the cruel sense of humor of youth.
Straight through the acts, he substituted panto
mime for the spoken word, throwing himself into
his creations with fervor until the others caught his
enthusiasm and followed suit. Their tour of the
Channel Islands was an unqualified success.
So, by accident, by determination and keen per
ception, by creative instinct, or what you will, this
callow and inexperienced youth of the music halls
had hit upon the oldest art of expression, the panto
mime. And Charlie Chaplin s pictures, today, are
primarily an appeal to the simplest of human emo
tions, which after all may be the basis for their
greatness. In each country of the entire civilized
and half -civilized world, they speak the language
which the natives of these countries can under
stand. The lift of an eyebrow, the hitch of a shoul
der, the outward fling of hands, perhaps most of
all the remarkable flexibility of facial expressions,
can say with no words more than the speaking
actor can convey through reels of dialogue. The
interpretation of this pantomime is a challenge to
sophisticated audiences. They must bring their
own lines to the theater.
Returning to London, Charlie felt that his pro
fession was definitely chosen. All half-hearted
intent on the part of his mother to seek some means
46 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
of apprenticing him to a trade was forgotten. What
more natural than that Charlie should succeed in
the work of the theater? His father had been, in
his youth, a prime favorite with music-hall audi
ences ; she herself had enjoyed her brief career in
Charlie threw himself wholeheartedly into the
business of provoking laughter. Applause was
music to his ears. The color and a certain glamor
of the music halls crept into his veins. He loved the
theater. The money he earned, though pitifully
little, was lessening the cramped poverty of the
He eventually obtained booking with the Fred
Karno Comedy Company and, before he was
eighteen, had taken rooms with his mother and
brothers in Glenshore Mansions, in Brixton Road,
a more prosperous neighborhood and more re
spectable than that of Chester Street in Kenning-
ton. Of his new quarters, he said, "Glenshore Man
sions was a step up for me. I had my Turkish
carpet and my red lights. It was the beginning of
All credit must be given to the weedy, half-
nourished youth who had achieved his "Turkish
carpet." The streets and a cheerless hovel had been
his school of dramatic art; the passers-by had af
forded the only models of his mimicry.
IN 1908, when Charlie was nineteen and playing
the halls of suburban London as a "vaudeville
sketch artist," as they were termed in that day,
there began for him the one real and idealistic
romance of his life.
Perhaps it was because of his socially starved
existence that the episode took on more than the
usual significance of such first, or "puppy" loves.
Perhaps it was because the object of this first ro
mantic desire became to him the symbol of the un
attainable which is, many times, the fixation of a
mind carrying the weight of genius.
At any rate, Charlie, with the other members of
his act, was standing in the wings of the theater
one night, awaiting his turn to go on. A troupe of
girls was dancing on the stage. One of them slipped,
almost fell; the rest smiled, appearing to take the
audience into their confidence to cover the break in
the rhythm of the number. One girl, dark and
graceful and slender, with laughing brown eyes,
glancing into the wings, caught Charlie s eyes and
smiled at him.
48 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
It seemed to the lonely youth that there was an
especial significance to that smile. He was sud
denly enthralled, lifted up from the actual cheap
ness of his surroundings. His exaltation must have
shown in his face, for the girl, flushing with em
barrassment, turned her glance quickly away.
When she came off the stage, however, before she
ran back for the finale of their act, she threw her
wrap to Charlie, asking him rather breathlessly,
to take care of it until her return. Charlie could
not believe that it was he who had been singled out
for this honor. He stammered his willingness to
mind the cloak. When, he was sure there was no
one looking, he buried his face in the lavender-
scented garment which had so recently enfolded
this heavenly creature.
When she came to reclaim her cloak, the girl
thanked him provocatively, but Charlie was speech
less. They stood and smiled at each other, the girl
waiting for him to grasp the opportunity for
further acquaintance, Charlie too timid to do more
than grin inanely.
The manager of the girls troupe hurried them
away to another theater in a near-by suburb where
they were to go on immediately. Charlie, seeing
in her departure an act of finality, came to life, and
sprang to open the door for her. "See you tomorrow
night/ she said to him shyly. Charlie could only
nod wordlessly. "Don t forget/ she flung over her
shoulder more boldly, now that she was disappear-
YOUNG LOVE 49
ing through the doorway. Charlie found words at
last. "I won t forget/ he repeated soberly.
Leaving the theater for his rooms in Glenshore
Mansions, he trod on clouds; all his life, he was
sure he would remember her look, her smile, the
shy words, and the scent of lavender that clung to
For weeks there was no meeting with Hetty
Kelly (he learned her name from others of the
troupe) other than the few passing moments in
the theater each evening. He had learned that she
lived with her mother and brother and another
sister. He wanted desperately to ask her to go
somewhere with him. At long last he screwed his
courage to the sticking point; he did not fail. She
agreed to meet him at Kennington Gate on the next
Sunday afternoon. Her ready acceptance of his
invitation sent him into a flurry of mixed emotions,
contempt for his cowardice of the past weeks and
a new fear that he would not please her on further
The appointment was for four o clock; Charlie
was at the gate well before the time. He was dressed
in the height of theatrical fashion of the time
double-breasted coat pinched in at the waist, bowler
hat, stick, and yellow gloves. He rattled thirty
shillings in his pocket.
As he waited, he became the prey of vague ap
prehensions about the girl. What would she look
like in the daylight without makeup? Would he
50 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
even be able to recognize her? People looked dif
ferent off stage. Was she really as beautiful, as
ethereal as she had seemed in the glamor of lights
and makeup? He discovered to his dismay that
he could not even actualize her features. His im
pression was a mist of scent and laughing brown
eyes and personality. That must be it.
On the alert, despite these fearful musings, he
saw a young woman approaching. She was the size,
the build of Hetty, he was sure. She came nearer.
His heart sank. There were the brown eyes and the
dark hair, but the girl was homely, without a trace
of the beauty he had visualized. He squared his
shoulders. The incident must be met and got
through somehow; the girl must never suspect his
disillusionment. He looked up, saw her looking at
him, prepared to smile, and after a brief, in
curious glance she walked on.
The suspense, beginning again, seemed to last
hours, but in reality it was only a few minutes
until a tram approached and stopped. Among the
passengers alighting Charlie was overjoyed to
recognize one, a radiantly beautiful creature in a
neatly tailored navy-blue suit. It was Hetty. She
was far more lovely in the harsh light of the
blustery afternoon than she had been in the half-
light of the theater.
That night after seeing her home Charlie s heart
was bursting with the emotion of a dreamer of
dreams. Hetty liked him ! He wanted to run along
YOUNG LOVE 51
the Thames embankment and shout his happiness
to the world. He looked about him and found an
outlet for his exuberance the derelicts hanging
wistfully about the coffee stall across from the
great quiet buildings that were sleeping by the
river. The hungry-eyed down-and-outers obvious
ly did not have the price of the steaming coffee or
tea which sent their aromas out into the dank, chill
night. He called them about him and ordered the
vender to hand out hot drinks and buns until the
nineteen shillings remaining from his evening with
Hetty were exhausted, and all the money he would
have for a week was spent.
Perhaps Charlie s love for Hetty was for her
but an episode, a not unusual incident; but to
Charlie, the recent waif of the streets, the youth
starved for tangible beauty, it was as if he had
never been wholly alive until now. His exuberance
probably wearied her, for she was too young to
understand that she was the vessel for the outpour
ing of all his lonely years. She was too inexperi
enced to feel the adoration underlying his clumsy
attempts to show her that she was a goddess and
he her slave. Young girls are apt to grow impa
tient with slaves and slavish worship; they are
more often flattered by older men, suave men of
the world. Hetty tired of Charlie.
The youth suffered all the pangs, real and
imaginary, of unrequited love. Hetty left for the
Continent with her troupe. They did not see one
52 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
another again for two years. But never for a
moment did the delicious agony of his passion for
Crossing Piccadilly Circus one day, about two
years after Hetty had left London, Charlie was
aware of the insistent screech of an automobile
horn. He looked to see who was in the path of a
car. No one. He glanced at the car, a long, shining
town car with liveried chauffeur and footman on
the box. Certain that the horn was not meant to
attract his attention, he passed on. As he did so,
he caught a glimpse of a small gloved hand waving
to him from the window. A well-known voice
called, "Charlie!" It was Hetty!
Dazed over this evidence of wealth and bitterly
certain that the worst had happened, he reluctantly
got into the car at her insistence. As they drove
through the streets toward the suburbs in which
her mother lived, she laughingly explained her lux
ury to the grimly suffering Charlie. Her sister, she
told him, had married an American millionaire.
That was all. Charlie, released from his fears,
was buoyantly happy that, his Hetty was still the
creature of his dreams, even though there per
sisted the disturbing thought that the glitter with
which she was surrounded served only to push
them more hopelessly apart.
"Now, tell me about yourself/ she commanded,
looking at him with affection.
"There is very little to tell," he replied. "I am
YOUNG LOVE 53
still at the same old grind, trying to be funny. I
think I shall try my luck in America soon."
"Then, I shall see you there," was Hetty s
prompt rejoinder. "I m going to New York with
my sister and her husband."
Charlie fancied he saw an eagerness in her man
ner. Perhaps but then she had tired of him, he
remembered, and sank into gloom. He roused him
self, assumed a cynical air. "I ll have my secretary
fix that up," he said, and laughed to hide his own
"But, Charlie, I mean it," Hetty insisted, ap
parently hurt by his ironical tone. "You know I ve
thought of you a great deal since the good old
(It struck neither of them as absurd, this refer
ence to the dim past of two years ago. They were
both very young.)
Charlie was lifted again into the ecstasy of hope.
She had really missed him. Someday perhaps
He must restrain himself.
He spent the evening with the Kellys Hetty,
her mother, and her brother, Arthur Kelly, known
to his intimates as "Sonny." None of them could
guess, that evening, that Charlie was to become the
sensational impetus to motion pictures or that
Sonny would come to Hollywood to work for Char
lie, become foreign manager for United Artists in
Europe, and eventually vice-president of the
wealthy corporation organized by the ineffectual,
54 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
shy-appearing youth who sat now before their fire,
inarticulate and ill at ease.
Hetty and Charlie said good-by once more. She
was to return to Paris the next day. She promised
to write, but after a desultory exchange of letters
the correspondence died.
Charlie left for America with the Fred Karno
Company. Soon after his arrival he read of Hetty s
being in New York; she was staying with her sister
and new brother-in-law in the house in Fifth Ave
nue opened up for their residence in America. He
wanted terribly to telephone her or send her a note
but was overcome with shyness. After all he was
only a vaudeville "artist," while she, with her
sister s marriage for background, was thrown with
the most eligible men of Manhattan and of Long
Many nights after he had finished his stint at
the theater, he walked up and down, back and
forth, before the imposing town house, never quite
able to summon the courage to ring the bell and ask
for Hetty. Finally A Night in a London Music Hall,
his act, left for the road, and, at least, the torture
of his indecision was brought to a stop. He tried
to put all thought of her away.
There followed then, within three years, Char
lie s miraculous rise to motion-picture fame. He
arrived in New York to sign the first and note
worthy "million dollar contract." Now, he thought,
I can meet Hetty on her own ground, on an equal
YOUNG LOVE 55
footing. I will look her up and can offer her the
things she should have.
All very well for this decision made in his hotel
rooms ; diffidence and indecision had their way. He
was unable to bring himself to the point of seeking
Because of his sudden and spectacular f ame, it
had been necessary to register himself incognito at
his hotel as a protection against a constant stream
of interviewers from the newspapers and motion-
picture magazines. Most of the days when avid
young men and young women were scurrying mad
ly about in pursuit of the elusive star in order to
give to a gasping public the momentous news as to
whether or not he liked cabbage and purple ties,
Charlie might have been found, had anyone looked,
sitting in a taxi, across the street from the house in
Fifth Avenue. He hoped to meet Hetty and at the
same time, have the meeting "accidental."
At last his patience was rewarded to a degree.
For, not Hetty, but Sonny, one evening about six,
came out of the front door and through the grilled
gate to the street. Telling his driver to give him
a few steps, then overtake him, Charlie hailed
Sonny "by accident." Sonny was genuinely glad
to see him, invited him to dinner at a restaurant.
Throughout the first courses, the name of Hetty
was studiously avoided by them both, Charlie be
cause he wished to appear indifferent, Sonny for
the reason that he knew Charlie s feeling for his
56 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
sister. Over their coffee, Charlie could stand it no
longer. Assuming a grand indifference, he asked
casually, "By the way, how is your sister? Hetty,
Sonny, as if glad to have it over, drew a long
breath. "She is quite well. Of course you knew
that she was married, and living in England ?"
The blow that Charlie had dreaded for years had
fallen. Hetty was married. The shock was none
the less sharp for its having been half -expected all
along. Somehow, he got through the remainder of
his visit with Sonny. He rushed to his hotel, threw
his things into his bags, and left on the first train
for Hollywood. His sensational triumph over
poverty and obscurity had lost its meaning for
him. Hetty would not share it.
Every day of the year that ensued, Charlie ex
amined the envelope of each of the hundreds of
letters that came to him daily searching for the
peculiar "e," the outstanding characteristic of
Hetty s writing. One day he found it. With trem
bling fingers he opened the letter. Sure enough the
signature was "Hetty" with "Mrs. " in
Hopelessness seized him anew, and it was quick
ly turned into futile regret, and contempt, once
more for his cowardice. "I have thought of you so
often, dear Charlie, but never had the courage to
write. And you? Perhaps it was that you did not
care to see me again " The irony of it ! She
YOUNG LOVE 57
had been waiting for him to take the initiative,
and he, because of his miserable inferiority com
plex, had let slip without an aggressive move the
one thing he wanted most in life. Hetty was not
happy, he was sure. Though she did not say as
much, everything in the letter signified dissatis
faction with her marriage, to the highly imagina
tive Charlie. "When you come to London/ the
letter went on, "as you will, one day, look me up."
Though he would not admit it to his associates,
hardly to himself, and though he had been married
and divorced, seeing Hetty was the underlying
motive of his visit to London in 1922 the first
time since he had left it in 1911. All the way across
the Atlantic as he walked interminable miles
around the deck, his arguments with himself con
vinced him, almost, that Hetty was happily mar
ried, that her letters had been just kind, friendly.
He tried desperately to prepare himself for another
in the series of disappointments which seemed in
evitable in his clinging to the ephemeral dream of
happiness with Hetty. And then, he argued with
himself, he had grown up, matured; he had be
come an international celebrity. Women were
throwing themselves at his head. Why, he could
have his choice of a hundred beauties for a wife.
He didn t want them; he wanted Hetty. But she
was married, perhaps happily married. Still, run
ning through the cool philosophical reasoning,
there persisted the words from Hetty s letter, "I
58 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
have so often thought of you, dear Charlie/ which
set his heart pounding and his imagination aflame.
At Southhampton, his port of disembarkation in
England, the welcome to Charlie was noisy and
exciting; never had such crowds assembled to wel
come anyone, save England s royalty, as greeted
Charlie at the port and all along the way to Lon
don. Hundreds of letters and telegrams were
handed him, thousands of people broke through the
police cordons in a hysterical mass, attempting
frantically to see him, speak to him, touch him. In
the melee he felt a firm hand upon his arm and
found himself in a railway carriage on his way to
London. He turned, curious as to who had been so
dexterous; it was Sonny Kelly. Sonny talking ner
vously about the excitement of being a world cele
brity, of the crowds lining the streets in London
on the route from the station to the hotel. All this
while Charlie sat preoccupied, trying to savor the
thrill beforehand of seeing Hetty once more. Stern
ly he reminded himself that he must be a man of
the world, that he was no supplicating vaudeville
artist now; he was a success. He would be natural
and disarming. He had learned that, once one is a
famous personage, one can afford to be his simple
He jerked his thoughts back to the present, to
Sonny, who was, now, he noticed, wearing an air
of strain, sadness. Something was wrong. He ven
tured to ask, "Is Hetty in town?"
YOUNG LOVE 59
And then he watched Sonny s eyes shadow over
with grief and he knew. "I thought you d heard,"
Sonny said quietly. "Hetty died three weeks
Charlie was to know in that moment the differ
ence between mere separation with its hope that
sometime, somewhere, there might come the reali
zation of the dream he had held so long and to
which he had desperately clung; and the awful
finality of death. He sat stunned, the fine flavor of
his holiday gone, his wealth and success become
ashes in his mouth. He realized in that brief jour
ney into London, with piercing clarity, the power-
lessness of money and fame to bring to him the
simple happiness accorded the average man. He
knew the futility of success when weighed against
the joys of the spirit.
London welcomed him warmly and entertained
him generously, the little waif of Kennington who
had come home to them, the screen idol of the
world. He found himself playing to London the
hardest role of his life, that of a celebrity who by
casual standards had everything money, fame,
public affection. Yet all his life he knew he would
long for the clean, happy dreams of the years when
he had been too young to know they would not
CHARLIE S ADVENT in America came about, as he
had predicted to Hetty with such bravado, in 1911,
though it was more the accident of circumstance
than his own doing. At seventeen he had by dint of
hard work become a member of Fred Karno s well-
known, almost classic, pantomime troupe. In 1910
Karno had sent out a series of vaudeville acts from
London, known to the profession as The Birdies.
There was The Early Bird, The Mumming Birds,
and "numerous other groups, since forgotten, all
tagged with "bird."
The Mumming Birds were the first to become
popular in America, but in deference to a different
audience angle, they were billed as A Night in a
London Music Hall. The act made its first New
York appearance at Hammerstein s Victoria Mu
sic Hall, later to become the Rialto Theater. Billy
Reeves, brother of Alfred Reeves, present manager
of the Chaplin studios in Hollywood, was star of
the act. Reeves played the drunk in the box who
heckled the cast on the stage and constantly in
terrupted the show, to the huge delight of the
Charlie (in center) as one of the "Eight Lancashire Lads." Their
skit at this time was called "Casey s Circus.
Charlie at the age of twenty-one as a member of the Fred Karno
"Mumming Bird" troupe (1910).
TO AMERICA 61
audience. The set itself depicted a stage within a
At about this time, that genius at glorifying the
American girl, the late Flo Ziegfeld, was casting
about for comic talent to enliven his first Follies.
He dropped into the Victoria and saw Billy Eeeves
in his hilarious comedy work. He knew no rest
until he had lured him away from the Karno
Company at a breath-taking salary, according to
English standards. This, of course, disrupted the
act. Alfred Reeves, who was acting as American
manager of the troupe, left for London to recruit
a comic to take his brother s place. He realized that
as Billy was making a tremendous hit in the Follies,
he was forever lost to them.
The wistful albeit humorous pantomime of the
young Chaplin recurred to Alfred Reeves s mind.
He suggested his name to Karno, who demurred :
"Why, Alf, you know we ve got to have a finished
actor for that role. Chaplin won t do. He s too
young and callow for the part."
Reeves was insistent. "Nonsense/ he argued.
"Young Chaplin has something in greater degree
than my brother originality. The boy s going
Upon such slender threads of chance are great
careers woven. Reeves had his way, and Charlie
was rushed to America by the first boat, to take
his place in the stage box and annoy the performers
in the act proper, of A Night in a London Music
62 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
. Hall Oddly enough, this was just after Hetty had
arrived in New York with her sister. Shortly after
ward the act was routed over the Sullivan and
Considine circuit which extended to the Pacific
Coast. Charlie left New York.
In 1913 motion pictures were struggling to
emerge from the stage of crude, one-reel thrillers :
Buffalo Bill pursuing strange-looking Indians over
the plains, or the subtle and durable story of the
sheriff in hot pursuit of the bloodthirsty cattle
rustlers of the cow country. When the pursued of
either plot was captured, the picture died of mal
The Karno troupe drifted down the circuit well
received, and eventually reached Los Angeles.
Mack Sennett, who was directing the crude come
dies of the loosely thrown together organization
later to be known as Keystone Comedies, missing
an appointment with a friend one evening, dropped
into a vaudeville house. His eye, trained to catch
possibilities for the screen, picked out the over
weening dignity of the little drunk in the box and
stored it away in his mind for future reference.
Mack Sennett had the vision to see that pictures
would not always be the disjointed, jerky records
of a chase.
A year passed. A Night in a London Music Hall
was playing in the suburbs of Philadelphia. One
night a telegram came to Charlie Chaplin reading :
"ARE YOU THE MAN WHO PLAYED THE DRUNK IN
TO AMERICA 63
THE BOX IN THE ORPHEUM THEATRE THREE YEARS
AGO STOP IF SO WILL YOU GET IN TOUCH WITH KES-
SEL AND BAUMANN LONGACRE BUILDING NEW
YORK." It was signed by Mack Sennett.
Charlie was puzzled. He inferred that Kessell
and Baumann were solicitors. Perhaps some rela
tive of his in France or Spain had died and left
him a legacy. Upon his arrival in New York, he
went to see Mr. Kessell and was considerably let
down to find that he was a motion-picture producer.
Mr. Kessel told him that Mack Sennett, one of his
directors, had assured him that he, Charlie Chap
lin, had a future in pictures.
Charlie went home to his hotel and thought over
the offer he felt Mr. Kessel was sure to make him
the next day. He consulted with Alf Reeves, always
"I hate to leave the troupe/ he told Reeves. "How
do I know that pictures are going to be a successful
medium for pantomime? Suppose I don t make
good? I ll be stranded in a strange country."
Reeves tried to calm his fears. "Pictures are
here to stay," he assured the slightly frightened
and bewildered Charlie. "You ll never get any
where in vaudeville. You ve reached the top now
and what have you? Seventy-five dollars a week
and no outlet for your talent."
The next day Charlie was asked what salary he
was getting with the Karno Company. "Two hun
dred and fifty dollars a week," he told Kessel
64 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
shamelessly. After a bit of haggling he agreed to
accept $150 a week for his year s tryout in pic
tures, though he assured Mr. Kessel solemnly that
only the prospect of life in the open air in sunny,
mild, southern California could induce him to
make such a monetary sacrifice.
Mack Sennett, by this time, was directing stories
containing slightly more plot than the first
"chases" but still far removed from convincing
human action and reaction. It was the day of the
"custard-pie" school of comedy, still the "knock-
the-hell-out-of- em" stage of dramatics on the
It was 1914 when Sennett attempted the ambi
tious film of two reels, Tillie s Punctured Romance,
in which Mabel Normand was starred. Marie
Dressier was co-star. A slight wisp of a comic,
affording a ridiculous contrast to her size, was
slipped into the part opposite her. Sad-eyed and
wistful, Charlie Chaplin began his film career,
stopping custard pies with his face.
All Europe was in the throes of war, the most
horrible and devastating carnage in history.
America sat restively on the sidelines bursing her
jittery nerves. The world wanted desperately to
laugh; the soldiers, when they came out of the
trenches for a brief respite, were eager for some
thing which would take them, if only for an hour,
from the mud and horror of war. Tillie s Punctured
Romance was a decided hit both in America and
TO AMERICA 65
Europe. In the pantomime of the little chap shrug
ging his narrow shoulders at the futility of his
struggles against fate; at his occasional triumphs,
however brief, over the handsome romantic lead of
the piece, the man in the trenches and the man in
the street alike found a tragicomic symbol of their
own attempts to retain some semblance of dignity
and battered faith in a world suddenly gone mad.
Charlie s belief in his own ability, a natural con
ceit compatible with genius, came near to precipi
tating a small riot in the Keystone studios and his
dismissal from the lot. He felt, and rightly, too,
as has been proved, that he knew better than any
director the "business" he wanted to use to portray
the soul of the character he was gradually evolving
for the screen. As he himself expressed it, "The
little chap I want to show wears the air of romantic
hunger, is forever seeking romance, but his feet
won t let him."
Scripts not being written in those days, it being
unheard of to film a published story or book, the
scenarios were, for the most part, like children s
make-believe, made up as they went along. The
director had in mind some hazy thread of con
tinuity, and the balance was left to chance. It
followed that everyone on the lot, technical men,
"props," on down to the office boy, stood around
watching each sequence "shot" and feeling quite
privileged to offer suggestions. In comedies, the
success of the sequence was determined by whether
66 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
or not the assorted onlookers laughed as the scene
was enacted for the camera.
Making a Living was the first one-reel picture in
which Charlie appeared on the screen. In it he
played the part of a reporter, in the conventional
garb of the day. During production of this picture,
he timorously suggested some bit of business. The
director tried it out, just as he would have tried
the suggestion of anyone interested enough to
speak up. Actors as well as people might have an
idea occasionally. Charlie went through the se
quence; the group hanging about laughed heartily;
the scene was left in.
Encouraged by this and possessed of the deep-
seated conviction that he was his own guiding
genius, Charlie made further suggestions. The
director decided that he was fresh. Actors were
just a necessary evil to a picture anyway. He ig
nored Charlie s suggestions.
This did not deter Charlie from advancing more
and more ideas that were rank heresy at the time.
He thought it quite unnecessary, for instance, for
half the cast to chase the other half over miles of
country and hundreds of feet of film to inflict upon
them the ignominy of suffocation in custard pie.
Secretly he considered the custard pie superfluous,
but realized that he must not question its impor
tance as yet. However, he dared to tell the directors
and anyone else who would listen that comedy
could be more convincingly enacted standing still !
TO AMERICA 67
His theory was met with incredulous stares. It was
unheard of! It was too much! The ire of the
director toward that "fresh little vaudeville ham"
was unconfined. He was reported to Mack Sennett,
who was now production head of Keystone.
Sennett, exasperated with Charlie, called him in
and laid him off for a week, reminding him that
he was an unimportant factor in the business of
making comedies. He went on to say that after
his disciplinary period had ended, he must be less
difficult to handle, must do simply what he was
told to do, no more. Sennett could not be expected
to know that his words were falling upon the
crystallized belief of an artist in himself and were
bouncing off even as water off the proverbial duck s
Charlie, not in the least convinced that he was
at fault, was merely noncommittal. At the end of
his week s punishment (his salary had not been
suspended), he was put to work in the picture,
Tillie s Punctured Romance.
For some time now, Charlie had been toying
with tentative costume combinations, seeking to
evolve one which would be permanent. Selecting a
garment now and then from the studio wardrobe,
trying this combination and that, laying them
aside and saying nothing. He was not going to lay
his ideas upon costume open to condemnation until
he had an ensemble which satisfied him; then he
would have something definite to fight for. He was
68 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
sure there would be a fight. Finally he appeared
in full regalia of the oddly assorted and bedraggled
garments he had assembled. An Oxford grey cut
away coat bound in black tape, one size too small;
under this a brown and yellow checked gingham
waistcoat over a cotton shirt of black stripes on
white; white stiff wing collar held by a blue and
white polka-dot bow tie.
Trousers, light grey and bouffant from the fact
that they were much too large for him ; patched tan
shoes almost twice the size of his feet clad the
The nervous little mustache, the small bowler,
the soiled pink carnation as a boutonniere, the
crumpled rag of a handkerchief peeping from his
breast pocket, and fine jointed bamboo cane com
pleted the ridiculous ensemble.
To Charlie the costume spoke with fine restraint
of the man who is debonair and man of the world
though his club consist of the sidewalks, his haber
dashery, the ashcan.
The costume was previewed by all and sundry
and pronounced not extreme enough ! Charlie stuck
to his convictions and the outfit came to be an in
tegral part of his famous single characterization.
Today the original is on a wax dummy of Charlie
in the Los Angeles Museum.
The director assigned to the film being made
complained bitterly of Charlie s continued dis
obedience. Serenely Charlie persisted in directing
TO AMERICA 69
himself in this picture, letting the other members
of the cast fall where they might. It was agreed
upon the lot that he was "difficult," "an upstart/
Soon the matter of his recalcitrance came again
to a head ; Sennett felt that something drastic about
it had to be done. He called Charlie into his office.
"Now, listen, Chaplin, I ve had enough of this
rowing. You d better decide to do what you re told,
or quit," he told him curtly. Charlie, in spite of
his convictions that he was right, was terror-
stricken. His imagination played him direful
tricks. What if he were fired? Could he even get
back with the Karno Company? He drooped. He
went back on the set to try to be as inconspicuous
and unassuming as possible. His inner rebellion
at taking direction that he knew was all wrong
made him unhappy. But he shivered with appre
Somehow that day was endured. He changed
into his street clothes and started home, the per
sonification of dejection. Mack Sennett waylaid
him. Charlie was wrathful at this second inter
view, was about to tell him he didn t give a damn
what he did in the picture or how rotten it was and
where he could put the whole industry, when he
sensed something in Sennett s manner. It was not
the blustering wrath of that morning. He was
placating, almost friendly ! Charlie waited.
"Look here, Charlie," Sennett choked over his
70 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
overtures, "you d n ^ want to ra * se ^ e antagonism
of all these directors. They like your work and
they like you personally. Whatever they tell you
is for your own good. If you could just accept that,
everything would be all right."
Charlie had no intention of accepting their ideas,
which were contrary to those he knew to be better,
but he was at a loss to understand this sudden
change of front on the part of Sennett. He put off
going home, strolled nonchalantly in and out of
offices only to find the same tolerance, almost ad
miration expressed by the directors. Surely the
atmosphere had changed. It was as if some gal
vanic current had run through the studio on wires,
toward him. Privately he reflected that if they all
had liked him, they had used a peculiar method of
expressing it. Still he sensed something, definitely,
some force working for him.
It was not until long afterward that Sennett
cleared up the mystery for Charlfe, He told him
that a telegram from Kessel and Baumann in New
York had come that day, ordering the studio to
"make more pictures with the little fellow with the
big feet and the baggy pants" as there was a loud
and increasing demand for these pictures from
exhibitors all over the country.
That evening, still not knowing his firm footing,
Charlie bearded Sennett in his office. "I want to
try directing my own pictures," he told the aston
ished producer, who was struck speechless but who
TO AMERICA 71
remembered he was between two fires. This was
too much ! It was all right to give out orders for the
directors to get along with Chaplin, the strange
little fellow who was so conceited, but direct his
own pictures, forsooth!
"Who s going to pay for the negatives if you
spoil them?" Sennett demanded. Ah, he had him
there! He was totally unprepared for the faith
of creative urge in itself.
"I will," came the prompt and succinct reply.
Sennett did some quick thinking. "Box office"
in New York demanded more pictures of "Baggy-
Pants." "Baggy-Pants" couldn t or wouldn t
get along with the directors. Why not let him run
his own show for one picture ? It would either teach
him he didn t know as much as he thought he did or
there would be more pictures, because half the
time now was consumed in quarreling. He gave his
Charlie, elated over his chance to show them,
quickly recruited his first cast and props. A few
Keystone cops, a pretty nursemaid and a handsome
soldier, some of the hated custard pies. He ordered
the dubious camera crew and his company to follow
him to a near-by park. They caught some of his
enthusiasm as he worked furiously.
Within a few days In the Park was completed.
The film had not much plot, was crude in construc
tion, to be sure, but it was, nonetheless, a vast
improvement on the comedies turned out by "ex-
72 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
perienced" directors. Charlie s speed of production
impressed Mack Sennett.
Charlie, inarticulate, could not explain his help
lessness in conveying to them all his own inner
knowledge. He was in the first epoch of his art. He
was not an actor as were those delineators of
character soon to follow : William S. Hart, Douglas
Fairbanks, Lillian Gish, Mabel Normand, Ford
Sterling, and Jean Hersholt, the finest of them all.
They could not have understood, had he found
words to tell them that, like Nijinski in the dance,
he interpreted himself; that even as Nijinski gath
ered up into his being the frenzy of all the passions
of the world and flung them into the dance, so he,
Charlie Chaplin, ached to gather up all the sadness
and frustration and pathos in the hearts and lives
of men and release it in his portrayal of humor!
Nijinski is mad. Directors who had been "shoe
salesmen, wholesale grocers, soda-jerkers," ac
cording to Grover Jones, now one of the foremost
scenarists in Hollywood, then a painter of sets in
the studios, could not be expected to do otherwise
than characterize Charlie as "crazy," the usual
epithet applied by the practical soul to whom art is
a vague term and artists, anathema. They could
not be expected to think other than that Charlie
was a little mad; and they were right. He has the
off-balance of genius, the somber nature of the
artist in humor. But in- his pictures, as in the com
pleted work of all genius, there is perfect balance.
TO AMERICA 73
Mrs. Jones, of Poughkeepsie, does not know why
she comes away from a Chaplin picture with a
sense of incredible rhythm, perhaps does not know
that she has that sense of rhythm at all. But it is
When In The Park was to be run off in the pro
jection room, most of the directors on the lot as
well as technicians came to see Charlie s downfall,
to watch the discomfiture of "that fresh little squirt
put back where he belonged." But within a few
minutes the small room rang with their involuntary
laughter. Charlie, seated modestly in the rear of
the room, looking about surreptitiously, saw that
even those who disliked him most were laughing
heartily. He detected a sort of awe in their laugh
ter. Sennett was laughing most uproariously of all.
When the short comedy was received with in
creased public enthusiasm, Charlie grew in self-
confidence, was strengthened in his determination
to do things his way. He had proved to his own
satisfaction the importance of the technical pre
cision of a creative- work. Perhaps the basis of all
his work, reduced to its simplest terms, can be ex
pressed as putting in a ridiculous and embarras
sing position, a man of outer dignity, what we are
pleased to term a "stuffed shirt" ; and oppose him
to the little fellow with innate dignity who is des
perately serious about getting out of the awkward
situations in which he has been placed through no
fault of his own. You will notice that Charlie s
74 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
chief concern, when extricating himself from a
position, however painful, is to pick up his stick,
straighten his tie and retrieve his battered bowler
even if he has just arisen from a fall on his head.
Restraint and more restraint, the direct oppo
site of the other pictures of the time, became his
watchword, not only for himself but for the others
in his company. His views, thought insane at first,
were listened to with respect, once his popularity
on the screen was noised about. He tried to make
. the others feel, as he did, the mirth of a situation
wherein the person in a ludicrous position refused
to admit anything out of the ordinary was hap
pening and was pathetically obstinate about one
thing preserving his dignity.
The intoxicated gentleman who, though quite
betrayed by his speech and walk and actions, wants
to convince us that he has not taken a drop, is far
funnier than the frankly squiffy gentleman who
acknowledges it and laughs with abandon with
you at his own condition. The latter condition is
likely to induce pity or contempt instead of
sympathy leavened by laughter.
Charlie took his small size into consideration in
working out his effects. This brought an inclina
tion to sympathy from the crowd. A bigger chap
would have been deemed competent to look out for
himself. He accentuates this weakness by working
his shoulders, assuming a pathetic expression, a
whole frightened air when confronted by the law
TO AMERICA 75
or any superior force and captures his audience.
There is always, of course, the direct tendency of
an audience to feel within itself the same emotions
as the actor on the screen or stage.
He had made great strides in showing himself
to be the first full-fledged creator of the living pic
ture. Of plastic expression, old as the world, he
was becoming master.
Nothing was more natural than that Charlie,
instead of accepting the young actresses who had
already come before the film public and were es
tablished as types by other directors, should feel
himself creative in this respect too.
His selection of Edna Purviance for the picture
Adventure was something more than merely at
traction to a pretty face, of which he has been
accused. He continued throughout twenty years
the practice of choosing raw material for his fem
inine leads, and this is consistent with his tempera
ment. He, the sculptor, sees the clay, often of no
fine texture, which he can mold into something
approaching the perfection of his dream. That he
has followed this course in each picture and that
each leading woman who plays opposite him has
failed to find success in her own right afterwards
only confirms this fact. When the picture is fin
ished, he is the true artist who cares not what be
comes of the work which has served his purpose.
He is the servant once more of the driving urge to
76 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
With Charlie established as his own director, it
was inevitable that a battle for larger salary for
the coming year should ensue. Sennett offered him
$250 a week, which he scorned.
Thus the matter stood, with Mack Sennett tak
ing every precaution to guard his treasure from
the onslaughts of rival film companies, when, one
day, there rode up to the Keystone studios in Glen-
dale Boulevard, in Los Angeles, a cowboy. Dis
mounting from his horse, he demanded to see Mr.
Sennett. This aroused no suspicion in the minds
of the special guards posted at the studio gate.
After all, the cowboy had not asked to see Charlie
Mack interviewed the debonair cowboy, who ad
mitted that he was an excellent actor as well as
cowboy. Sennett agreed to give him a test. And
when the test was run off in the projection room,
the unsuspecting producer gave him a job. Just
two days later this same cowboy who had proved
his claim to "hard ridin ," and who was "Broncho
Billy" Anderson, telegraphed his bosses in Chicago,
the Essanay Company, that he could secure for
them the services of the new and sensational
comedian of the screen, Charlie Chaplin, for one
thousand dollars a week. Without further ado,
Charlie was signed to such a contract. This was on
January 12, 1915. We can well imagine the tearful
chagrin of Mack Sennett afterwards as he watched
the meteoric zoom to fortune and world-wide fame
TO AMERICA 77
of the treasure he had let slip through his fingers.
Charlie left Keystone Comedies with fifty films
to his credit, none of them more than a short two
thousand feet of negative, and not all of them
having been intended primarily for Charlie s char
acterization. Nevertheless, these comedies are re
membered today with the star, the leading man,
the whole cast and story merely a background for
his inimitable miming.
He had learned the most valuable lesson a cre
ative artist can learn ; for in the fifty pictures for
Keystone he had found that those in which he had
tried to please the public were mediocre, failed to
please, while those in which he strove to satisfy
his own high standards, in other words, to please
himself, were unfailingly popular.
With the Essanay Company aware of the value
of his universal popularity, his pictures under
their banner were wisely titled with the magic of
his name. Charlie s Night Out, Champion Charlie,
Charlie the Tramp, Charlie at the Show, to name
a few, were simple studies of human emotions fil
tered through the personality of Charlie Chaplin s
wistful little vagabond.
As soon as Charlie began to enjoy his spectacular
success with Essanay, imitators of him sprang up
in other studios. Billie Ritchie, Billy West, and
Charles Amador were the most formidable, but at
best they were only inferior impersonations of the
character. It was not difficult, of course, to copy
78 CHAKLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
the clothes and the make-up, but it was not only
difficult, it was impossible, to be the somber, intro
spective little personality, bred in poverty and
schooled in sorrow, with that certain gift of pro
jecting himself into men s hearts. The mechanics
of his personification were carefully copied the
slithering walk, the timid approach, but as with
all imitations, the soul of their effort was conspicu
ous by its absence. It is to the everlasting credit
of motion-picture audiences that they rejected
such imitators and soon sent these plagiarists
scurrying into less sacred fields.
An amusing incident came about, however, be
fore the public awakened to the fact that these
imitators were not Charlie Chaplin. Nat Spitzer,
that imp of producers, who just a few years ago
had all picturedom by the ears with Ingagi, the
glorious hoax which laid Tarzan in the deep, deep
shade; the picture so astounding as to give feature
pictures released at the same time bad cases of
box-office malnutrition; this same Nat Spitzer
made a series of pictures in which he starred Billy
West with the exact make-up and costume of
Charlie and his antics copied to a nice degree.
Spitzer s contract called for twenty-six Billy West
films. He made twenty-four and tired of it all. It
had been borne in upon him that there was some
thing to Chaplin besides mere external effect.
Spitzer s partner wired him frantically long
after Billy West had been allowed to depart that
TO AMERICA 79
they must turn over the other two comedies to the
releasing company or they would be sued for their
Spitzer sent out calls for West; they were in
vain; he was not to be found. Spitzer was in a
dither. He had two weeks in which to deliver the
completed pictures. Grover Jones, painter-scenar
ist mentioned before, although he had a profound
respect for Charlie s work, hated to see Spitzer in
trouble and realized that two more of these pic
tures after twenty-four had been perpetrated
would have no additional effect upon Charlie s
career, so he suggested a young chap, Charles
Amador, who was, in his opinion, the best of all.
the imitators of Chaplin.
Spitzer begged Jones to direct the two comedies.
This Jones reluctantly agreed to do and was prom
ised a substantial bonus for finishing them in time
to save Spitzer s financial neck. So, Grover Jones
made two comedies starring Charles Amador, who
imitated Billy West imitating Charlie Chaplin.
This, they hoped, ended the incident, but
Amador, attempting to cash in on this fluke, got
hold of a print of one of the films and toured the
country calling himself "Charles Aplin." This
reached Charlie in Hollywood, and he finally arose
in his indignation and went to court. It was not
long before his most flagrant imitator was ex
plaining things to a judge. This skirmish left
Charlie in sole possession, not only of any deriva-
80 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
tions of his name, but of the costume which he had
When the year s contract at Essanay came to
an end, Charlie refused to listen to any proposal
for re-signing. He had enough money for his
needs. He felt that his work at Essanay was at
stagnation. He would not have been Charlie Chap
lin if he had not reached out for swifter, more
dangerous whirlpools of experiment.
He was given a contract by the Mutual Film
Company, embodying a cash payment of $150,000
and $10,000 a week for twelve pictures during
the ensuing year, a total of $670,000 for the year
Though this was a step forward in his develop
ment and though the Mutual studio was willing,
even eager, for him to try out his own ideas, it
was not until he acquired his own studio that he
could indulge his "infinite capacity for taking
pains" and approach the perfection of technique
that was his constant aim. When that time came,
he could with impunity use 36,000 feet of negative
to achieve 1,800 feet of completed picture; he could
spend two months and "shoot" every scene twenty
times if he liked. There would be no one to say no.
Charlie s reaction to his astounding good for
tune of the famous so-called "million dollar" con
tract with Mutual was pathetic while amusing.
He simply could not take in the meaning of such a
TO AMERICA 81
sum. Fingering the check for the bonus, $150,000,
he remarked to his brother, Syd, "Well, I ve got
this much if I don t ever get another cent."
Syd, who had come over to assume charge of his
impractical brother, had received $75,000 for his
share in arranging the deal.
Charlie remembered a small boy with his nose
pressed against the show window of the Burling
ton Arcade in London. This boy had promised
himself that if ever he got rich he would recklessly
buy the whole window display of colorful gar
ments. He went out in New York and bought him
self a dozen neckties.
It was then that he began to haunt the street in
which Hetty lived with her sister.
CHARLIE RETURNED from New York still dazed by
his almost unbelievable wealth and unable to take
in the full import of his popularity with the public.
Shy and self-conscious, he shrank from his fellow
motion-picture actors; he continued to live in a
small room in the old Stowell Hotel in Spring
Street, downtown Los Angeles. And at night after
his stint before the camera he invariably escaped
from his co-workers to wander the humbler por
tions of the town. Strolling abstractedly, gazing
into the windows of secondhand stores and pawn
shops, he would stop for pancakes or a cup of
coffee in haunts where a dime meant a meal to
their habitues, avoiding the imposing uptown
shops where he might have had anything they had
to offer and avoiding especially the Hof brau House,
the restaurant where stage luminaries from New
York met and patronized the new and uncer
tain stars of the cinema. It was as if he had vague
premonition of the world of false social values
which because of his quick rise to fame must in
evitably claim him, and here in the district nearest
EDNA PURVIANCE 83
the sordid actualities of his youth he could escape
for a while.
Julian Eltinge, noted female impersonator, came
to Los Angeles at this time, fresh from his tri
umphs in New York and on the road in Cousin
Lucy. He was under contract to Jesse Lasky*for
three pictures, The Widow s Mite, Countess
Charming, and The Clever Mrs. Carfax.
Eltinge, together with all established stars of
the legitimate stage, looked upon moving pictures
as something to make hurriedly and try to forget.
The attitude of the theater toward the new medium
of expression was much that of merchants, a few
decades before, toward the upstart five-and-ten-
cent stores; these five-and-ten-cent movie houses
offered a shoddy imitation of the more valuable
Ford Sterling, the outstanding comedian of
films until Charlie came along, Raymond Hitch
cock, and William Farnum became Eltinge s
cronies at the Hofbrau House. Charlie Chaplin,
the new and exciting personality who had just re
turned from New York where "foolish" Essanay
had presented him with almost two thirds of a
million dollars, was not in evidence. Eltinge s
curiosity was aroused. He had seen some of
Charlie s comedies, and there lay in the back of
his mind the conviction that here, in the despised
medium, was something one could not discard with
the epithet, tawdry. He asked after Charlie and
84 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
was rewarded with the information that he was
a lone wolf, avoided his fellows, and hung about
the meaner districts of the town.
Coming away from the Hof brau House late one
night, Eltinge saw the slight, inconspicuous figure
standing before a secondhand shop window, his
hands clasped behind his back, his whole attitude
one of unawareness of where he was. Eltinge
stopped and spoke to him, asked him to have a
drink. Charlie uncertainly accompanied him to
a near-by bar.
They became friends. Eltinge s friend, a Mrs.
Slater, an Englishwoman, gave a party. Sir Beer-
bohm Tree was guest of honor. Eltinge escorted
Geraldine Farrar and the little comic he had asked
permission of his hostess to bring. Sir Beerbohm
was immediately attracted to Charlie, pronounced
him a "very intelligent young chap." As for
Charlie, this impact of esteem from a knight of
England, a great actor, was as a decoration of
merit. It gave him a confidence in himself which
adulation from the American public had failed to
achieve. He expanded ; he bloomed. He was grate
ful to Eltinge for his sponsorship and clung to
Most of all, this consideration in the flesh of the
people who had reached realization of their powers
had its effect upon his work. For, while criticism
and opposition had never disturbed his tranquility,
his sureness of craftsmanship, this human appro-
EDNA PURVIANCE 85
bation warmed and encouraged him to outstrip
One rainy evening soon after Charlie s introduc
tion socially, at Sunset Inn overlooking the sea at
Santa Monica, Gus Kerner, maitre d hotel of the
resort, was discontentedly surveying the almost
deserted dining room. (The place was usually
filled with motion-picture people and their
Mayor Berkeley, Chief of Police Ferguson, and
Captain Clarence Webb, with Police Judge King,
all of Santa Monica, sat at a corner table. At the
other end of the large room another party occu
pied a table with a view of the Pacific. The officials
called Gus over.
"We notice you re permitting that woman over
there to smoke, Gus," said the Mayor. "You know
it s against the law for a woman to smoke in a
public place in this town." He looked toward the
other party, where a smartly groomed woman
puffed on a cigarette held in a long golden holder.
Mr. Kerner s gaze followed the Mayor s. He
hesitated. He stammered, "B-but, gentlemen,
that s Mrs. William K. Vanderbilt, and the lady
and gentleman with her are Sir Beerbohm Tree
and his daughter Miss Iris."
Chief Ferguson looked a little startled. He
cleared his throat.
"Well, Gus, the law s the law. I m sworn to up
86 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
Gus sighed. All he needed to round off a stupid
evening was to insult prominent guests. "Okay,
gentlemen, I ll I ll go right over " He stopped
and clutched at what turned out to be a brickf ul
of straws. "That other one, the little fellow at the
table, is Charlie Chaplin!" he blurted out.
Official Santa Monica raked the little one with
a strangely unofficial look. "Oh !" they chorused.
"Why didn t you say so? We didn t recognize him
without his make-up."
Chief Ferguson added sheepishly, "I guess,
fellows, it ll be all right to make a sort of excep
tion to the rule in this case. What do you say?"
But the others had forgotten the blue laws and
were intently watching every move of Charlie s.
Unable to understand why Charlie clung to his
dingy quarters in an obscure hotel, Julian Eltinge
urged him to move to a better district. Finally in
the fall of 1916, Charlie gave in to his importun-
ings and took rooms in the Los Angeles Athletic
Club. Syd Chaplin persuaded him to buy a motor
car and take on a secretary.
So it was at the Club that Toraichi Kono applied
to Tom Harrington, the new secretary, for the
job of driving the big Locomobile touring car
Charlie had acquired.
Harrington satisfied himself as to Kono s cre
dentials, then took him into the bedroom to see
"I found a nice-looking, black-haired young
EDNA PURVIANCE 87
chap in bed, eating his breakfast," says Kono.
"When Mr. Harrington told him what I wanted,
Charlie stopped chewing long enough to ask me
if I could drive a car. I assured him I could. Well,
I can t/ he said and grinned. You re smart/ He
then turned to Mr. Harrington and said, Take him
out for a try/ and went on eating.
"We drove about Los Angeles, which wasn t
very crowded, for a few minutes, and Mr. Har
rington informed me I was hired. My wife and I
were to live near by, between the Club and the
Engstrom Hotel where Miss Purviance, Charlie s
leading lady, lived. I was to start at wages of
thirty dollars a week."
The arrangement which was to take Kono into
far countries as confidential secretary to Charlie
Chaplin, to mingle with nobility and royalty; to
drag them both through wells of tragedy and offer
him association with the best minds of the civilized
world, for almost eighteen years, began as simply
as that. That Kono remained stolidly indifferent
to these minds and their ideas; that he was not
able during all that time to learn to speak English
intelligibly; and that he has regarded Charlie as
little more than a Cockney upstart, speaks volumes
for Charlie s lack of discrimination in choosing
his immediate associates. Or it proves, perhaps,
the unassimilability of the Japanese.
Kono is a materialist. Genius, art, and tempera
ment leave him unmoved. He did have a certain
88 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
respect for Charlie s earning power, but secretly
considered the public fools to shower him with
their adulation and money.
It is not to be denied that Kono s care of Charlie s
personal affairs was excellent; that he never for a
moment forgot his duty; that in every instance he
put the well-being of his employer, as he saw it,
above his own. He was trusted -by Charlie to a
greater degree than any previous or contemporary
employe. Personal letters and telegrams were al
ways addressed to Kono, instead of to Charlie.
Telephone numbers of Charlie s intimates were
never kept by the star but by Kono. He was per
sonal ambassador representing Charlie even to
his wives, in instances that, could they be told in
cold print, would be as funny as anything the
master of comedy has ever portrayed on the screen.
Kono s apprenticeship for the confidential po
sition he was to enjoy later was exhausting, the
hours long and uncertain. Underneath he bore
resentment at being ordered about, for had he not
given orders to servants in his father s household?
At a few minutes to nine, each morning, he
called for Tom Harrington and drove him to the
Los Angeles Stock Exchange. Harrington held
power of attorney for Charlie, to buy and sell on
Change, transacting all trading with the strictest
honesty and efficiency.
Eeturning to the Athletic Club, Kono would
pick up Charlie ; they would then drive to the hotel
EDNA PURVIANCE 89
for Edna Purviance and proceed to the Mutual
studios in Lillian Way, Hollywood.
Staying about the studio most of the day await
ing orders for occasional errands, Kono imbibed
a fair knowledge of the externals, at least, of the
madhouses of that day politely called studios. He
acquired a surface acquaintance with that intangi
ble, all-important attribute of his artist-employer,
The motion-picture industry was growing by
leaps and bounds; its scope was widening faster
than the actors and actresses, the directors and
technicians, or even the producers could follow.
Not the least striking was the evolution of the
Chaplin comedies from the most elemental slap
stick violence into an expression of restrained
drama embodying that humor which is so deeply
woven into the fabric of human life.
The change was gradual but sure; Charlie knew
that no sharp break could be made with the tra
ditions of picture making, young as they were.
With infinite pains he imposed upon himself more
and more restraint, discouraging overacting, or
acting at all, as he was wont to put it, on the part
of other members of his casts. True humorist that
he is, he studied laughter and its contrast, pathos,
until he knew how to provoke the former with rare
precision; how to give it the irony of the latter.
Subtle, wistful, always charged with the under
lying vein of pathos, the humor of each succeed-
90 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
ing picture satiric and tender, stinging and ardent,
dug more deeply beneath the surface of funda
mental humon emotions and brought up for the
vast and increasing audience for films, a savor of
the sweetness of adversity, a taste of the frail
triumph of the spirit over the forces of evil and
superior physical strength. True, there has always
remained an earthiness, a strong vein of vulgarity,
Rabelaisian in its simplicity, in Charlie s pictures,
with which there should be no quarrel. It brings
into sharper relief the delicate, spirituelle mean
ing of the basic theme, the spiritual and romantic
hunger of the little chap who is "forever seeking
romance, but his feet won t let him."*
His astonishing progress was based upon no
new and untried premise, but the proof of his
originality was that he did not know the Italian
comedies of the seventeenth century or the British
pantomime of the eighteenth; he simply was sure
that the custard-pie, blow-for-blow, senseless ac
tions of a group of types brought together for just
any film was no form of expression for an artist.
And he constantly fumbled and blundered forward
toward an intelligent ensemble of plausible char
acters who portrayed living, breathing human
Edna Purviance had come from Reno, Nevada,
where she had been a typist, to seek a job in pic-
J ? e al T*y s speaks of his characterization in the third person.
Me must be coaxed into doing what Chaplin the director wants
mm to do.
EDNA PURVIANCE 91
tures. There were hundreds of young girls from
over the country, coming to Hollywood and clam
oring at the gates of the studios, and a need for
them in inverse proportion.
After months of discouragement and dwindling
funds she had wandered into a crowd gathered be
fore the gate of the Mutual studios. She gave in to
an impulse born of desperation, demanded an in
terview with Mr. Chaplin himself.
Something in her manner arrested the attention
of Charlie s secretary, and she, alone of the liberal
sprinkling of girls in the crowd, was admitted
and taken directly to Charlie.
She was beautiful, Charlie saw at once, but so
were many others. It was not that. There was
something about her not actually existent but
buried within her which he alone could sense. With
the swift decision that is his invariable habit, he
oif ered her a screen test.
In the projection room he witnessed the test run
off. She was terrible! Clumsy and self-conscious
before the camera, no sense of dramatic values.
But he was more interested than if she had been
good. Here was a challenge to take her on, mold
her to the form he must have.
Patiently he persevered, and Edna, who was
soon violently in love with him, strove hard to do
as he bade. Together their efforts were, in good
measure, successful, for in The Count, The Pawn
broker, and Adventure she justified his belief in
92 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
the plastic quality of her substance under his mod
Kono embarked on his own acting career in the
picture Adventure, which was filmed at Santa
Monica Beach. In this film Charlie is an escaped
convict walking along the beach in his stripes,
trying to find a suit left by some bather on the
sand, when he hears cries of distress from a girl
(Edna Purviance) floundering among the break
ers. He plunges into the surf and rescues the girl.
But the hero (?) of the piece (Alex Campbell)
resents Charlie s bravery he is afraid to save her
himself and promptly kicks him back into the
ocean. It is here that Edna wrings her hands in
sympathy for the brave little chap who has saved
her and calls for her chauffeur to rescue Charlie,
who, his strength gone with that one spurt of ef
fort, is helpless against the force of the waves.
Kono was given the part of the chauffeur at
fifteen dollars a day. He was delighted. He could
earn in two days the amount of a whole week s
wages. But here the screen lost an actor and
Charlie gained a future private secretary. For
some friend of Mrs. Kono s told her of having seen
her husband s features on the screen. Mrs. Kono
went to view Adventure and then went on a search
for her husband with fire in her eye. She reminded
him that in Japan actors were rated the lowest
form of animal life. She reminded him also of his
ancestors who could not speak to him and of her
EDNA PURVIANCE 93
family who would not if he pursued this disgrace
ful line of action. Kono retired from the screen
after a very brief career, indeed.
The Fireman, The Vagabond, The Rink, Easy
Street, The Immigrant, The Cure, Behind the
Screen, and One AM. completed Charlie s year s
work at Mutual. By almost Herculean effort he
accomplished them, for he had, by leaps and
bounds, outgrown the simple two-reeler themes,
and "in his head," as he does most of his "writing/
was forming the skeleton of a much more ambi
At the end of the year he refused to re-sign with
Mutual studios or with any other. Startling them
all, he formed his own production company, the
Chaplin studios, and contracted with First Na
tional Exhibitors for the release of eight films
during the year for a total consideration of one
million dollars. Alfred Reeves, the former man
ager of the Karno unit, whose moral support had
been Charlie s from the first step, was put in as
studio manager, which position he holds with ef
ficiency and loyalty today.
Charlie now had the two things he had yearned
for, financial independence and with it the free
dom to work out his own destiny. He reveled in
his right to be himself, unfettered for the first
time in his life.
His first films under his own banner, daring
expansions of the former two-reelers, A Dog s
94 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
Life, Shoulder Arms, Surmyside, and A Day s
Pleasure, are proof of his right to grow in his own
way to the climax of the picture that will live,
Edna Purviance followed him as leading lady
through The Kid. She had been Charlie s constant
companion, mothering him as almost every woman
desired to do, once she laid eyes upon him. Charlie
tired of her, but he wanted to do something to
show his appreciation of her companionship even
though he had lifted her from obscurity and fash
ioned her into a creditable actress under his sur
veillance. He knew that she had no career ahead
of her, realized, what he could not explain to her,
that only under his tutelage could she act. Yet he
was the type that must walk alone; could not suffer
the cloying sweetness of a permanent tie.
He cast about for a means of compensating Edna
for what some inner driving force was compelling
him to do, break his engagement with the woman
who, had he not been Charlie Chaplin, destined to
walk in lonely reaches, might have made him an
excellent wife and, what is as important, a kindly
counselor and sincere friend for the rest of his life.
Charlie prepared a story for Edna, Woman of
Paris. In this, her first starring vehicle which
was to be her last picture, Edna Purviance was to
reach a height of dramatic acting unknown on the
screen at that time. She gave a splendid delinea
tion of a Parisian woman of joy. Adolphe Menjou,
EDNA PURVIANCE 95
playing opposite her, was started upon his own suc
If Charlie felt any qualms after seeing Woman
of Paris, over what he was determined to do, he
gave no sign. Perhaps he knew better than anyone
else that Edna was only Trilby to his Svengali.
At any rate, he put through the plan to incorporate
the picture under the name of "Regent Film Com
pany/ 9 allotting Edna certain shares which would
give her an income of $250 a week. Though the
royalties from the film have run out through the
past ten years, she still receives a comfortable re
mittance from the Chaplin Film Studio.
Apparently Edna was glad to leave pictures.
Perhaps she recognized the truth of Charlie s eval
uation of her as having no inborn talent as an
actress. She went abroad to live.
Miss Purviance has latterly returned to Cali
fornia and now lives at Manhattan Beach, near
Hollywood. True to her promise given Charlie at
the time, she has demanded nothing from her for
mer idol neither money nor influence.
To BE THE OBJECT of national, even international
affection and adulation at the age of twenty-eight,
surrounded by all the outward expressions of ad
miration and a little envy is a pleasant enough
experience for the average man. Charlie Chaplin
did not bask and preen himself in public acclaim
as lesser stars were wont to do.
Within a bare four years much had happened.
Lured from the comparative obscurity of an
English vaudeville troupe by an opportunity he
had failed to recognize as such, pulled up by the
bootstraps of his own genius to an expression on
the screen which placed him above the component
parts of "a suburb [Hollywood] which has suc
cessfully striven through the years to make a fine
art of mediocrity,"* Charlie was now, if he chose,
one of them, the idols of the day, Mary Pickf ord,
Owen Moore, Mabel Normand, Helen Ferguson,
Lew Cody, Ford Sterling, Charles Ray, and others.
He was at all odds the best, even in the, as yet,
* Cedric Belf rage in Black & White, a magazine ably edited by
Wilbur Needham, critic on the Los Angeles Times.
Charlie in a still from The Rink.
J. D. Williams, Edna Purviance, and Charlie in 1917.
FIRST MARRIAGE 97
meager outlet he had found for the flame within
him. He was not understood, of course; was not
considered a "good fellow," but he was accepted
for his obvious success with the motion-picture
public and for the money he commanded.
In the summer of 1917, Charlie, Mary Pickford,
and Douglas Farbanks toured the larger cities of
the United States, paying their own expenses, for
the Liberty Loan. Together the three charmed
hundreds of thousands of dollars from socks and
from under mattresses, from bank accounts, to buy
the government bonds which did much toward the
successful outcome of the war for the Allies.
Upon their return, Charlie was invited to the
home of Mary and Owen Moore on Del Key Beach.
It was there that he met Mildred Harris. She was
fifteen at the time and had enjoyed an indifferent
success in pictures as a child actress. Her best
effort had been the role of a small sister to William
S. Hart in Cold Deck, his starring film, in which
Sylvia Breamer and Alma Rubens played the two
feminine leads. Hart had picked up the youngster,
Mildred, from her play about Triangle Studios,
where he was under contract and where her mother
was forelady of the sewing room, a part of the
studio now dignified by the title "wardrobe."
Mildred was under contract, at the time of her
meeting with Charlie, to the late Lois Weber,
then director of children s films. She photographed
well; her golden hair and large blue eyes pictured
98 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
child innocence; hers was the charm of extreme
Here, as in the case of Edna Purviance, was no
great actress in the making, simply an average
young girl with a certain -regularity of feature
and nice coloring; and here she would have re
mained, in all probability, until she became too
mature for such parts and subsequently slipped
back into the obscurity whence she came, had not
Charlie Chaplin attended the party on that mem
orable night at Owen Moore s. And the irony of
the whole tragedy to ensue was that Charlie merely
dropped in occasionally at such gatherings that he
might not be considered an unsociable boor.
Driven remorselessly by his mistress, Humor,
Chaplin has lived a double life from the start of
his achievements in Hollywood : the group life of
the studio where he became a reasonable employer,
producer, and director as well as star, inviting the
co-operation of all of his assistants; and, under
neath, another life, secret, passionate, and intense,
involving a succession of bad-tempered days and
troubled nights until the idea upon which he is
working has emerged from its mental incubation
and can be brought into the cold light of day. The
underlying motif of the latter phase of his ex
istence is escape. Always must he run away,
break out of the net of circumstances which his
own desires and actions have woven about him. He
is assailed periodically by the realization that hu-
FIRST MARRIAGE 99
man relationships can never be wholly satisfying,
but they are the tragic necessity of his life.
Charlie has never, in the deeper sense of the
term, been in love, save once, and that was the
idealistic episode of his adoration for Hetty Kelly.
But there is no doubt that he was infatuated with
Mildred Harris at their first meeting. She was en
raptured by the attention paid her by the richly
gifted genius of the screen, in love more with the
idea of being loved by one so famous and rich than
with the man himself. Perhaps, in her youth and
with her shallow nature, she was not only incapable
of penetrating the dark, secret places of his mind;
but it is doubtful if she even realized there were
those recesses of his inner life.
Charlie threw himself into his courtship of
Mildred with all the ardor of the idealist who be
lieves each time that perhaps this is the one. He
endowed her with qualities, in his own mind, with
which she did not have speaking acquaintance. She
was content with surface appearances.
Charlie s manner with women, attractive ones,
has always been engagingly diffident. He has the
air of a small boy with freshly scrubbed face and
carefully brushed hair who has just escaped from
the capable hands of his mother, and he engenders
in each woman to whom he is especially attractive,
the desire to continue the motherly ministrations
apparently so recently left off .
Mildred lived with her mother in the Cadillac
100 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
Hotel in Venice. Charlie sent great mountains of
flowers each day to their rooms. The girl was no
proof against this display of devotion. Her mother
liked Charlie, admired him, but was worried about
their association, especially when rumors reached
her of Charlie s sitting for hours in his car in front
of her studio, in the cold and rain, waiting for her
to appear. Mrs. Harris was frankly averse to a
marriage of any sort for Mildred, who was barely
sixteen, and she told Charlie this.
There is no certainty, of course, that marriage
entered Charlie s plans at this juncture. However,
it came about that in the fall of 1917 Mildred
Harris and Charlie Chaplin were married. To this
marriage a baby was born, a malformed infant
which lived only a few hours.
Miss Harris has stated that with the death of
this baby Charlie s love for her died. This is far
from the truth. But it is a conviction consistent
with her desire to mold her husband into a typical
man of family. Perhaps she shrank from ac
knowledging to herself that this marriage was a
sordid failure from the outset. Kono, who was
bound by no sentiment, declares that Charlie s
"love" for Mildred was dead long before their mar
riage. Be that as it may, Charlie was irritable and
apprehensive over the idea of parenthood and the
responsibility it entailed. And he strained at the
bonds which held him in semblance of the usual
man from the start.
FIRST MARRIAGE 101
It would be easy for the average critic to cry,
"Kotter!" at all this, but the truth remains that
Mildred s white and gold beauty had betrayed him
into something intolerable for him the dead level
of the average.
Charlie loves children, the child mind. He works
for hours, days, to perfect one scene which he
knows will delight the hearts of thousands of chil
dren. Any genius loves humanity in the abstract,
but historical biography proves to us the incapacity
of the artist for normal companionship with the
majority of his fellows. The trap of fatherhood and
marriage was almost more than Charlie could con
template with sanity. The path of the average he
rebelled against instinctively with all his might.
The situation for both Mildred and Charlie soon
became intolerable. Frivolous and headstrong and
emotionally undeveloped, Mildred expected an im
mediate transformation into the average, common
place husband, of the strange, melancholy, lonely
soul she interpreted as "cold and indifferent."
Charlie sulked and brooded over their mutual
mistake. He wanted to escape; Mildred wanted to
hold him, not as he actually was but as something
she fancied he should be.
A house at 2000 DeMille Drive in Lachman Park,
on a lonely hillside, was leased as a home for Mild
red and her mother. Charlie made a genuine effort
to become one of the household. The young wife
did not like the isolation of their home, wanted to
102 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
be in the center of the gaiety of the movie colony,
have parties and fun. Charlie ignored these wishes.
The house was adequately staffed with servants, a
car and her own chauffeur provided for Mildred.
She was given unlimited credit at the stores and
shops for the household and for clothes and luxu
ries. What she did not realize, would not accept,
Fas that this was all he could give her.
Charlie rose early before daylight in the morn
ings and walked. Often Kono would be called to
come and get him, from the Biltmore Hotel, a dis
tance of perhaps ten miles from his home. He had
walked all the way.
Mildred and her mother were left to rattle about
the large house, breakfast alone, perhaps not see
Charlie for two days at a time. Mildred was preg
nant and more sensitive, thereby, to such cavalier
treatment; her mother was worried over the prob
able consequences of her unhappiness, the ill effects
of grief upon the health of the prospective mother
and child. Charlie, upon the rare occasions when
he did dine with them, was irritable and moody, his
mind upon one thing escape. Altogether not the
idyllic dream of romance which had the sentimental
women of the nation sighing !
Mildred tried to think of ways which might
bring Charlie back to the fire of their early rela
tionship, not realizing that she had been merely the
symbol of something he was seeking, would always
seek, and for which he would ever be condemned
FIRST MARRIAGE 103
by the unthinking. She telephoned his studio daily
when he began staying overnight at his club. Tom
Harrington was instructed by Charlie not to call
him from his work, to tell Mildred that he was busy,
could not be disturbed.
The long weeks of unhappiness, her extreme
youth, demanded their toll of Mildred and the child.
The infant was born, its stomach upside down. Too
frail to withstand an operation, it died after a few
The six-month lease on the house in Lachman
Park expired. Charlie leased another at 674 South
Oxford Drive, near Wilshire Boulevard, in Beverly
Hills. Mildred still was given everything in ma
terial comforts and luxuries for which she could
wish. Charlie moved permanently to his club.
After the death of the child which, paradoxically,
saddened Charlie, he pursued his relentless efforts
to goad Mildred into suing him for divorce.
Mildred pursued, just as stubbornly, her idea of
breaking him in to the role of husband. They got
nowhere. Charlie began to be seen with various
girls in public; he would drive Mildred, for her
pride s sake, to divorcing him. She would, he be
lieved, before long, take steps to extricate herself
from the intolerable position of being wife and
When Charlie had bought the property at the
corner of Sunset Boulevard and La Brea Avenue,
in Hollywood, as the site for the Chaplin studio,
104 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
he had acquired with it the large house fronting
Sunset Boulevard. It had been his plan to demolish
the house and build offices in its stead, but he ran
afoul of some building restrictions which pro
hibited such offices within that distance from the
Hollywood High School, several blocks away. He
furnished the house expensively, then decided
against living in it; it was too close to the studio.
He preferred living at his club.
Kono, with his wife and small son, was prevailed
upon to occupy the huge house. It was soon appar
ent to Kono that Charlie was guilty of an ulterior
motive in wanting him to live in the house. He
would arrive with various girls, ask Kono to pre
pare them dinner, and serve it before the great
fireplace in the living room.
Mildred moped in her home. Many nights she
would get into her car and have her chauffeur drive
her to the corner of Oxford and Wilshire Boule
vard, through which it was Charlie s custom to be
driven by Kono to the Athletic Club in Los Angeles.
Charlie, huddled in the tonneau of his car, would
see the forlorn figure of his wife in the other, wait
ing for a glimpse of him, perhaps a word with him.
Rage at himself, at her, at the world, and at the
futility of life, would overwhelm him. He would
order Kono to "drive like hell." And Kono, torn
with sympathy for Mildred separated from Charlie
by eons rather than by mere physical distance,
would, of necessity, "drive like hell." All this
FIRST MARRIAGE 105
intensified Mildred s role of the neglected wife.
Accounts of Charlie s supposed erotic, nocturnal
adventures seeped through to Mildred as he had
intended. Finally she succumbed to the oft-repeated
suggestion of Anita Stewart, her best friend, that
she attempt to make Charlie jealous. She must
invite some man to the house regularly, insisted
Anita, let Charlie get wind of it, and see what effect
that would have. Perhaps it would make him re
alize what he was losing. It was the one sure way
to wake up an indifferent husband, Anita naively
assured her friend.
Mildred half-heartedly agreed to the proposal.
Together they hit upon Anita s brother, George
Stewart. It would be safer, they agreed, to keep
it, after a fashion, in the family. So, George good-
naturedly came, with Anita and her current ad
mirer, to dine several nights each week at Mildred s
home. They saw to it that Charlie was apprised of
the "goings-on." The plan worked, but not as they
had intended. Charlie, hearing of Mildred s sup
posed interest in another man, was cheered by this
news. The brooding shadows which had pursued
him for months were partly dispelled; he hated
himself and the whole usual world less. For he
wanted to believe that Mildred was infatuated with
George Stewart. And he pounced upon this half-
truth as the evidence he might be able to use to
extricate himself from a marriage hateful to his
106 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
Kono was driving him home to his club one eve
ning, when Charlie proposed that they do a bit of
detective work, sneak up in the yard of Mildred s
home, and see for themselves what was going on.
Kono remonstrated with him. If he really wanted
evidence, he argued, why did he not go about it
in the regular Hollywood way, get a private detec
tive? But Charlie, less from penuriousness than
from the fact that he wanted his drama, insisted
upon their playing the sleuth. Kono gave in; he
realized that Charlie must do certain things to see
what would be the results. He stopped the car,
got out, and hesitated.
"Take off your shoes," Charlie ordered. Kono
did so. "Now, you go ahead," Charlie continued
generously. "Fll follow."
"That s good of you," Kono muttered to himself.
"If there are any bullets to be stopped, your skin
will be safe."
With catlike tread they reached the rear court of
the house. There was not a car in sight. All was
quiet about the place. There was a light burning
only in Mildred s bedroom upstairs. They returned
to their car.
On three separate nights this performance was
repeated, before final success (?) was theirs.
Charlie was elated to see the house brilliantly
lighted on this occasion. In stockinged soles he and
Kono walked noiselessly into the court; sure
enough there were two cars in the drive !
FIRST MARRIAGE 107
Keeping well behind Kono, Charlie made his way
toward a side door of the house. It was a glass
French door, and they could see, he whispered,
through the filmy curtains, but
As they approached the door a heavy masculine
voice rang out, peremptorily ordering them to stop
where they were. Kono heard a scurry of stock
inged feet behind him and knew that Charlie had
scampered away, leaving him to face the music.
He looked up into the gleaming muzzle of a
wicked-looking revolver and made out dimly be
hind it a sardonic smile on the face of what was
practically the largest man he had ever seen outside
of a circus. A detective!
"What are you doing here?" the detective
"Why why this is my home," Kono stammered.
"Oh, yeah? Well, you don t live here any more.
Get the hell out and tell that little runt you work
for, to get out, too."
Kono got. He transmitted the highly compli
mentary message to Charlie, who grinned appreci
atively at the man s description of him and prompt
ly ordered Kono to put on his shoes and go back
and talk to the detective, offer him money to come
over to his side.
Kono gingerly approached the door once more.
He knew that Mildred s guard could shoot him
and make it plausible in court, by designating him
a prowler. The detective was on the watch.
108 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
"What do you want now?" The words rang out
like a shot.
"Mr. Chaplin wants to see you/ Kono replied in
what he hoped was a soothing voice.
"Well, I don t want to talk to Mr. Chaplin or
you either. His wife don t want him around here
a-tall, so both of you git !"
"But you don t understand/ Kono expostulated.
"Mr. Chaplin will pay you money if you ll just tell
him what his wife is doing and "
"You tell Mr. Chaplin to go plumb to hell," was
the emphatic rejoinder. "I ve took on the job of
protectin this little lady, and that skunk of a actor
hasn t got money enough to make me double-cross
Kono retired from the scene with the best grace
he could muster. Perhaps, he comforted himself,
this fiasco would bring Charlie to his senses, show
him that discretion, in the end, would be best. He
relayed the unflattering sentiments of the officer to
Charlie, who was, he suddenly realized, enjoying
the whole thing. However, for several weeks Kono
heard no more of their becoming eminent detec
tives. Charlie, he hoped, had dismissed the whole
matter from his mind. But such was not the case.
He rushed into Kono s home a few weeks later,
excited. Mildred had chartered a yacht, he told
him, and her party of eight had stayed out all
night. He had learned the names of some of the
guests which included Anita Stewart and her
FIRST MARRIAGE 109
brother George. He had telephoned his attorney,
Arthur Wright (the brother, now deceased, of his
present attorney, Lloyd Wright), and Tom Har
rington, told them to be on hand. They were all
going to San Pedro, the harbor town of Los An
geles, and get some information from the skipper
of the boat.
The three of them drove to San Pedro, where
after a great deal of questioning of boat agents,
they learned the name of the Norwegian captain
and owner of the yacht. They dug him out of his
home and asked him to come out on the boat where
they could talk undisturbed.
The captain gathered the crew together at
Charlie s suggestion, and they all repaired to the
small craft tied up to the dock. They sat about a
table in the dining room, and Charlie broached with
diffidence, using more finesse than he had with
Mildred s protector-detective, the purpose of their
visit. He was struck with the thought that liquor
might succeed where he could not, and dispatched
Kono back to the studio for whisky and champagne.
That was the glorious era of Prohibition in Ameri
ca, and he was loath to drink the firewater and
varnish remover they might find down some of
the back alleys of San Pedro. Perhaps if he could
loosen the tongues of the seamen they would be
more susceptible to his importunings.
It was a stormy late afternoon. Kono reached
the studio, some thirty miles away, without mishap,
110 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
but as he reached the Union Railway viaduct, on
his return, near Torrance, a huge ttee crashed
down directly across his path- He jammed on the
brakes, but the car skidded and, swinging about
parallel with the fallen tree trunk, in some unac
countable manner, straddled it. He was helpless
to go either one way or the other.
Remembering the liquor he had in the tonneau,
loosely covered with a blanket, Kono shuddered.
He pictured himself in jail.
Dozens of cars had come up but were stuck in
the congestion started by Kono s mishap. Police
men on motorcycles appeared as if by magic and,
together with a few stout-hearted motorists, finally
succeeded in pulling the tree out from under the
Locomobile. Now, thought Kono, this is where the
fun starts. But, much to his relief, they waved him
on without even a casual survey of the interior of
Arriving in San Pedro after an hour s delay, he
found Charlie indifferent to the load of liquor, ap
parently not even interested in getting the infor
mation on Mildred s supposed unfaithfulness. He
and Tom Harrington and Arthur Wright were
having a wonderful time, listening to the old salt s
tales of sailing the high seas. Kono served the
drinks and more drinks. Charlie informed Kono
that the Captain had assured him there was noth
ing to tell about Mildred s party. Miss Harris had
conducted herself with the utmost propriety. No
FIRST MARRIAGE 111
one had been drunk on board; they had eaten din
ner, danced to a gramophone, and gone quietly to
bed at a decent hour, the young women pairing off
together m. cabins, the men likewise.
Kono heard no more of personal sleuthing.
Charlie went about his*wdrk of making pictures,
relieved somewhat, apparently, by the thought of
Mildred s getting some enjoyment apart from him.
TOWARD THE EI
riage Mildred Cl
that the desire
thoughts was abed
pendent upon pul
quite well, an unst
at the slightest
riot too much bac
brities in Hollywo|
this, by advice of
by their own ment
more dramatic and
settlement into a
arlie s fortui
j^ frightened ah
his wealth, j
one thing: how mi
scond year of their mar-
suit for divorce. Now
lain so heavily in his
a reality, Charlie was
| of a public figure de
lation was, a& he knew
; at best, ready to topple
Young women "witli
o married rich cele-
pt to take advantage of
^rupulous attorneys or
Their charges, often
lal than true, resolved
divorce and property
l form of the ugly
Ipractically aware of
ag since, passed the
parked by penurious-
y threat of onslaught
; thoughts dwell upon
| he have to give Mil-
DIVORCE THE KID
|at effect would the sensational
[ to his attorney. Mr. Wrigl
He urged Charlie to k
attorneys for a genei
mrred. He was
spirit of f i
ime convinced 1
idvice in this tre|
on all visible I
for a wifel
prop^HwHHa, at this
lonths of recri
Bf used to lisl^HHHHkood
|rs cash balance
it. Wright advis
to fight it out,
lediately, to the ac
It, beyond the reach o:
Id seem that Tom Ha
le to accept the respo:
tut whether he -refused to
pher Charlie did not sugge
?rate, the hundred thousand f e
114 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
of a yditog writer employed at the ChapMp studio,
who ireadfly agreed to the transfer, toq pfeafUy, as
Charlie could see afterward, looking bad.
Then there was the matter of The K td^tito^^gt
eight-reel picture in which Charlie was stored and
which he directed and produced the film ixt w|aieh
four-year-old Jackie Coogan rose to almost over
"Painstakingly and laboriously, Charlie /had
workBd on The Kid. He was m full realfcatiop of
his own power, his ability to ! give otit that ulystieal
quality ^hich, for want of a bfettc?r name^^1#jm
His own invention of himself *yn& m-
by time or expense or any
0s ,f ervor to escape Jjato, the f rustr^^i-
Igurfi f ;df*his characterfeatlan on the
intqr dimax of expression
What r if he did ^pd|d two weeks sho^fe^ fJie
ill Which tfefa sBfall Jackie stirs up
Ms stepfather^ 0iarlie, who reclii^ I
in f rleka^.firon bed, spread
%^kets? Two cameras
n^fe^t of negative daily;
Tthoipid feet of film in all were ,to
fbef precigiQii 4 of the seventy-five feet
as Charlie arises f r
him as if for his fur-lined
his head through the
DIVORCE THE KID
|orth the fortune spent in its making?
iCoogan, who could not act, was proof
Charlie s creative genius. With his large,
[he looked the part, and Charlie fashioned
f ong hours of patient labor into the per-
or his own inimitable artistry. Jackie
I Paramount, in a^^j^iffi^J^me, with
pas under contract, as has been stated,
itional for eight pictures to be released
iip sum of one million dollars within the
|n had been completed and distributed:
f e, Shoulder Arms, Sunnyside, A Day s
Day, The Pilgrim, and Woman of
1st National expected The Kid to com-
|explained to them the high plane of
jit he had reached in this picture without
ense, that he had spent in making The
116 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
would immediately give them the eighth
but it most certainly would not be
National was puzzled as to how this cot*J*|
complished, but they soon found out ! * * ;
Charlie, in impish glee, gathered
scraps cut from the seven preceding
were pieced |ogether into
and the i^jffifrwatf, pi
room. First National, siMnefi %K %j
yelled, "Chicanery!" Hollywood lau,
Charlie s pantomime, involving nose
directed at them, was explicit in its
While the releasing company was
digest this, Charlie was busy. He gather*
Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks,
Griffith, producer of Birth of a Natio*
riedly organized United Artists, a cor
the release of pictures.*? First Natio
again in protest. Charlie smiled. If t
to pay him a sum commensurate with tl
4$* wife, at the age of sixteen.
DIVORCE THE KID 117
First National agreed to pay a million and a half
dollars for the picture and at this figure made a
substantial profit from its world release.
The Kid was just barely completed, had not been
"cut"* when Mildred sued for divorce and division
of property. Charlie was warned by his attorney
that an attachment would in all probability be
clamped on the negative from which numerous
copies are made for distribution. He must remove
it from the state of California.
Kono was sleeping soundly in his bedroom on
the second floor of the studio house, one night,
when he awoke with a start to hear someone calling
his name from the garden below. He stuck his head
out of the window. It was Charlie in a high state
"Come on down/ Charlie called in a stage whis
per. "We re going for a ride."
Dazedly, Kono hurried into his clothes and,
leaving a note for his wife to expect him when she
saw him, he joined Charlie at the garage in the
rear of the house.
"We ve got to get The Kid out of the state,"
Charlie went on to explain. "I thought of Mexico,
but the attorneys say to keep it in this country, but
to get it as far as Utah."
Together they jammed the reels into the first
thing at hand, an old suitcase of imitation leather.
* Many sequences are cut from the liberal footage of film shot for
each picture. Film cutters work from the script and the director s
118 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
But when they lifted it, to carry it out to the car,
the handle broke under the heavy weight. Kono
quickly caught up some rope and wound it round
and round the suitcase. They hoisted it into the
back of the car and, jumping in, drove out through
the back streets of Hollywood, peering into the
night for possible followers, through Los Angeles
to the state highway leading to Barstow.
It was the summer of 1919. Gasoline conserva
tion laid down for the public, that year, allowed
the purchase of only three gallons of gasoline at the
time; if the tank had as many as three gallons in
it when measured by the rulestick kept handy at all
service stations, the driver could not buy more.
Charlie and Kono were in constant fear of running
out of fuel between stations, for the big car con
sumed it at a fearful rate. They were also haunted
by the constant fear of pursuit by deputy sheriffs
ready to serve Charlie with papers and bring him
back to Los Angeles. And the heat through Im
perial Valley and the desert was well-nigh in
No one appeared to be following them, however,
as they crossed the California state line and slowed
down to take stock of their situation. They realized
that neither of them had a change of clothes and,
worse, neither was supplied with enough money
to reach Salt Lake City, Utah, or to feed the car
and themselves adequately. Moreover it was nerve-
racking trying to keep the automobile fueled be-
DIVORCE THE KID 119
tween scattered stations. They decided to pool
their remaining cash and buy railway tickets for
Salt Lake City.
They arrived in the Utah city, a seedy, rumpled,
unshaven pair, their only luggage the disreputable-
looking suitcase tied about with rope. Taking a
taxi to the Hotel Utah, a hostelry noted for its
splendor of appointments, they found, after paying
the taxi fare, that eight cents was their total re
maining assets. Even shaves were out of the ques
The hotel clerk took one look at the unshaven
pair approaching the desk, followed by a bellboy
carrying a battered rope-trimmed paper suitcase,
and hurried into the manager s office. He reap
peared reinforced by that worthy resplendent in
morning coat, white piping on waistcoat and
striped trousers. There was a significant look ex
changed between them after a glance by the mana
ger at the prospective guests. It was evident that
Charlie and Kono were a superb composite picture
of everything they did not want in their hotel. "I m
sorry," said the clerk, "but we have no cheap
This was too much for Charlie, who strolled
away striving to control his mirth.
"Nobody asked for cheap rooms," Kono tried
snubbing the sartorial elegance before him, but
felt that the odds were against him. The manager
eyed him speculatively. The assurance in Kono s
120 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
manner did not go with his beard. He gave the
clerk a signal. The latter pushed a registry card
toward Kono, doubtfully. Kono signed "Charles
Hill and "Toraichi Kono."
He then hoisted the suitcase containing the
precious contents into view.
"Put this in your vault. It s worth a million dol
lars/ he laconically told the astonished clerk. The
clerk took hold of it gingerly as if he expected it
to go off any minute, and placed it under the desk.
"No, no !" Kono protested. "Put it away in your
The clerk lifted a haughty eyebrow and ignored
Kono s protestations. "The rooms will be fifteen
dollars a day apiece," he informed Kono, "payable
"What you mean in advance ?" Kono came back
indignantly. "We got baggage !" He heard a muf
fled snort from Charlie s direction. The remem
brance of the impressive luggage had been too much
for him. Kono sent him a reproachful look.
Looking dubiously from the suitcase to Kono, as
if he expected the former to explode under his feet,
the clerk gave up and struck a bell for a boy to show
these two tramps or crooks to their rooms.
Still worrying a bit about the safety of The Kid
kicking about under the hotel desk, Charlie and
Kono found themselves in two back rooms facing a
dreary court. "And fifteen dollars a day," sput
tered Charlie through his laughter. They took
DIVORCE THE KID 121
stock of their finances again, searching every
pocket, turning them inside out. Still eight cents !
And not until they had obtained legal advice on the
safety of the precious lead-encased reels in the
"luggage" could they risk disclosing Charlie s
After much-needed baths, but putting on the
same soiled linen and rumpled coats, they ordered
a hearty lunch and cigarettes sent up to their
"I think I ll tip the waiter a dollar," Kono said
"Yes, do," returned Charlie. "What do we care
So Kono signed the luncheon check with a flourish
after adding to the items on it, a dollar. "They re
going to be madder n hell," he reflected comfort
ably. Charlie nodded complacently.
Replete with the first satisfying meal in days,
Kono went down to the desk and with the same
grand manner he had employed in informing the
clerk that the ratty-looking suitcase was worth a
million dollars, he now asked for the name and
address of the best, most prominent attorney in the
city. It was difficult for him to keep a straight face
now as the clerk s horrified expression told him
only too plainly that it had been a grave mistake to
harbor two such suspicious-looking characters,
whose first need was a lawyer. However, instinc
tively obeying the unwritten law of hotels, "the
122 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
guest is always right/ he grudgingly gave Kono
the name of the outstanding attorney of Salt Lake
City. Kono set out, on foot, for his office.
It may be wondered why Charlie delegated to
his chauffeur a mission of such importance, but
Kono had demonstrated already an ability to con
duct business which, though not brilliant, was su
perior to Charlie s in grasp of details, and Kono s
patience and Oriental fatalism were a balance to
his own volatile temperament. It was scarcely a
year later that Tom Harrington resigned as con
fidential secretary to Charlie and Kono took over
the post to hold it until 1934.
The attorney, after he had spent the better part
of an hour consulting impressive tomes of law,
assured Kono that The Kid was safe from any legal
proceedings instituted in California. Kono hurried
back as fast as five cents of the eight would carry
him on the streetcar; he and Charlie sprang into
action. Wires were sent to the studio, collect, for
money, for film cutters, and for a projection man,
but even this was not accomplished until after a
final battle between Kono and the hotel clerk, aug
mented by the manager. The victory was Kono s;
the hotel would stand for the telegrams if they
were refused at the other end.
Revenge was sweet. Kono enjoyed writing the
telegram requesting the studio to forward to
Charles Hill, Hotel Utah, Salt Lake City, a large
sum of money; another asking for clothes to be
DIVORCE THE KID 123
sent for both of them. Of course, the telegrams
were read at the desk before being sent, and the
members of the hotel staff were impressed in spite
of themselves, albeit still a bit skeptical.
A money order for ten thousand dollars was duly
received the next morning, and it was necessary
to disclose Charlie s identity to cash such a sum
at the bank. The bank teller telephoned the hotel,
and the management of the latter awoke with a
shock to the fact that they had, in the person of
the diffident-looking figure who had walked timidly
about their lobby and whom they had relegated to
back rooms facing a court, the one and only Charlie
The best suite in the hotel was proffered them at
once, at no advance in price, with fear and trem
bling by the management. Charlie maintained a
straight face and accepted this attempt at amends
graciously, but back in his room he enjoyed the dis
comfiture of the staff, imitating them for Kono s
amusement and ending up with howls of glee.
Wasn t this proof of his pictures? Human reac
tions to money and influence? They dashed out for
Upon their return to the hotel they found the
lobby swarming with reporters from every sheet
in the vicinity. What a story! And what was that
color on the face of the manager? And of the clerk?
Brisk, well-groomed studio technicians arrived
by the first possible train, carrying good bags.
124 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
Charlie and Kono blossomed out in well-pressed
suits and clean linen.
Cutters were set to work under the direct super
vision of Charlie on the stupendous job of reducing
a half million feet of negative to nine thousand
feet of picture. A temporary projection room was
rigged up in the hotel ballroom and the film run off
repeatedly to show each step of progress. At last
it was accomplished to Charlie s satisfaction; the
hotel staff and their families were invited to a
sub rosa preview of The Kid.
Mildred, as it turned out, was not overgrasping.
Arthur Wright apprised Charlie, from Hollywood,
of her agreement to a reasonable financial settle
ment out of court. The amount involved was only
one hundred thousand dollars, a fair share of any
community property the court officers had been
able to find. There were flurries of adverse pub
licity in the newspapers, but on the whole Mildred
had been rather discreet and not vindictive in the
Charlie wired Tom Harrington to retrieve the
hundred thousand dollars in the keeping of a studio
writer. But when Harrington went to collect, the
writer returned only ninety thousand, keeping ten
thousand as fee or perhaps as balm for his under
paid feelings, writers being looked upon, at the
time, as super office boys and paid but slightly more
than the actual flunkey. Charlie, when he learned
of this loss, merely shrugged. It was all in the day s
Charlie and Jackie Coogan in The Kid.
DIVORCE THE KID 125
work of being a target at whom anyone who had a
weapon was privileged to shoot.
Another financial blow descended upon Charlie
when the attorney in Salt Lake City presented his
bill. Lawyers apparently in some cases fix their
fees according to the value of the property under
litigation or discussion rather than according to
the amount of time and labor spent. Twenty thou
sand dollars seemed a large amount for less than
an hour s work. Charlie objected and naturally
to the fee, but in the end he had to pay or be
subjected to more unfavorable publicity just when
the debut of The Kid was to be held in New York.
Kono returned to Hollywood, and Charlie and
his small company, with The Kid properly housed
in good crating, proceeded on to New York for the
The overwhelming success of the picture added
new and exciting laurels to the already firmly
placed crown of the King of Comedy. He was the
hysteria of the moment; New York practically
mobbed him as the newspapers with psychic powers
of prediction reported the places in which he could
be seen each day. Crowds followed him in the
streets, robbing him of the privacy of an individual.
At intervals this expression of public approval and
affection was welcomed by Charlie. It was the
stamp of appreciation of all his months of exhaust
ing work at such cost to his physical resistance. But
always after just so much of it, he must escape
126 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY .
from the overpowering attention of the crowds.
He realizes, as a more superficial celebrity does not,
that he is only the tangible symbol of his art. To
retain the capacity for that art he must lose himself
either in work or in the normal companionship of
a few congenial fellows.
Charlie went back to Hollywood imbued with the
idea for another picture a short one to be named
The Idle Class. The company was engaged, the
picture cast, Charlie s hieroglyphics jotted down
on reams of Los Angeles Athletic Club or Chaplin
studio paper, arranged into the semblance of a
script. Sets were hurriedly prepared. It was to be
the first picture since his own company was formed
not carefully "written" and worked out with pains
taking preliminary care.
This procedure can be credited to nervous ex
haustion rather than an inclination to revert to his
former length and style of picture. It was, he dis
covered, as preparations went ahead, against the
grain. Never again would he make a "quickie,"
which is a picture thrown together within a few
weeks in which, usually, a star on the peak of popu
larity is "borrowed," the "name" giving impetus to
an otherwise cheap production. He abandoned the
making of The Idle Class. We shall never know
whether this picture was to be his conception of
the wealthy "lion hunters" who had captured him
in New York, Connecticut, and Long Island, or a
portrayal of the actual idle class of America, the
DIVORCE THE KID 127
hoboes who roam the country stopping in woods or
on the banks of streams to rest and cook their
mulligan, a stew concocted of meat and vegetables
past their pristine freshness and donated by kindly
Charlie was tired. An attack of influenza had
weakened him. Depression of the spirit followed
the impulse he had been guilty of to cheapen his
work. Underlying all this was the gnawing desire
to see Hetty again. He could not accept the tricks
of fate which separated them, could not forgive
himself his own lack of courage. He went to bed.
New York and London
THE LATE MONTAGUE GLASS, author of Potash and
Perlmutter, invited Charlie to dinner at his home
in Pasadena. There was, besides the happy family
atmosphere of the Glass home, a steak and kidney
pie for dinner which evoked with its aroma memo
ries of occasional "good days" in Kennington Road,
and added to his nostalgia for England.
Driving back to Hollywood, he took stock of him
self. He was restless and irritable, unsatisfied by
the grind of picture making relieved only by an
occasional trip to New York.
The Kid was to have a gala English premiere.
He had never seen one of his pictures outside a
studio projection room, felt that he had missed
something vital and stimulating. He wanted to
be patted on the back by his fellow countrymen in
England; to meet his contemporary fellow artists
there. Why not? And who could tell what emo
tional upheaval had occurred which might give
Hetty back to him? As he sat slumped in the back
seat of his car he even dared picture to himself,
Chaplin, the man, married to Hetty Kelly; wind-
NEW YORK AND LONDON 129
ing the clock at night, putting out the cat, even as
the genial Montague Glass, who had certainly made
a success of his life both artistically and domesti
cally, had done that night. He thought of the small
daughter of Glass who had come in for a few
minutes to say good night. He remembered the
little pat Glass had given his wife, the look of per
fect understanding they exchanged.
"I m going abroad!" he yelled to Kono. "I m
going to see England and let England see me. I m
going to France and Germany and Russia."
Preparations were rushed, and the next night
Charlie, accompanied by Tom Harrington and Carl
Robinson, took the train for New York. Carl Rob
inson, stepson of William Fox, one-time owner of
The Police Gazette, was to act as his publicity
Most of Hollywood was at the station. Charlie
Chaplin was suddenly going abroad! Reporters
beseiged him. Why was he going? What had hap
He was going on a secret mission, he told them
gleefully.* There, that would give them pause.
They wouldn t believe him anyhow if he told them
the truth, that he was simply going for an emo
They pounced upon the words "secret mission."
* Charlie s propensity for giving out information dictated by his
moods led to an article in Collier s, March 16, 1940, replete with
misinformation, and a subsequent break in diplomatic relations
with its author, Kyle Crichton.
130 CHAELIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
They dashed for telephones. Charlie Chaplin was
going to Russia, they informed their avid editors.
He was a Bolshevik. He was going on a mission
for the United States Government !
The train finally pulled out, Syd Chaplin shout
ing, to the amusement of the crowd, Tor God s
sake, don t let him get married, Carl !"
More reporters, all along the line, tipped off by
the news over Associated Press that Charlie Chap
lin was coming through, besieged him. Charlie
Chaplin, the man, trying to escape from Charlie
Chaplin, the celebrity.
"Mr. Chaplin, why are you going to Europe?"
"Just for a vacation."
"Are you going to make an pictures in Europe?"
"Are you going to get married in England?"
"What do you do with your old moustaches?"
"I throw them away."
"What do you do with your old walking sticks?"
"Throw them away, too."
"Have you got your costumes with you?"
Charlie smiled at the absurdity of the questions.
"No," he replied.
"Why not?" was the query.
"I don t think I ll need them."
One reporter yelled louder than the rest. "Mr.
Chaplin, do you ever expect to get married again?"
NEW YORK AND LONDON 131
"I m sure I don t know/
"Mr. Chaplin, are you a Bolshevik as reported?"
another inquisitor dared. "Now, watch the guy
clam up," he threw as an aside to a colleague.
But Charlie met this with equal imperturbabil
ity. "I am an artist. I am interested in life. Bol
shevism is a new and challenging phase of life.
Therefore I must be interested in it."
There were more dashes for telephones. Charlie
Chaplin is not taking his hat and stick and mous
tache with him. Charlie says, "I won t need them
in Buckingham Palace." Charlie Chaplin is, by
his own admission, a Bolshevist. Charlie Chaplin
is going to Europe in search of a wife. He says
Hollywood girls are not beautiful enough. Charlie
Chaplin will make pictures after this in Russia !
In New York he found Mary Pickford and
Douglas Fairbanks, who had not been married
long. They were anxious for his vacation to be a
success. He must get away from pictures, they
told him. Why not come with them tonight to see
Doug s new picture, The Three Musketeers?
Charlie sighed; he was nettled; he did not want to
see anybody s new picture, any picture at all. He
went with them to The Three Musketeers. Doug
explained earnestly that he wanted Charlie s hon
est, unprejudiced criticism. Charlie gave it. Doug
las listened politely and let the picture remain as
132 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
Next, he was invited to see Mary s new picture,
Little Lord Fauntleroy; was again asked to give
his honest opinion. Weakly he went. The changes
he suggested were smilingly ignored. He finally
escaped his good friends, the Fairbankses, and
turned his efforts toward escaping New York, but
that was not easy.
Word had got about that he was in town and
ready to play. There were old friends eager to
help him, new acquaintances to be met. He must
see Eva LeGallienne and Joseph Schildkraut, both
of them splendid artists, in Liliom; there was a
breakfast for him at the Coffee House Club where
he met Heywood Broun, Frank Crowninshield, and
Edward Knoblock, Conde Nast, and the lovable
if caustic critic-wit, Alexander Woollcott. He
lunched next day with Max Eastman, radical and
editor of The Liberal, an old friend. There was a
party that evening at Eastman s.
Charlie gave a party at the Cafe iSlysee. The
Coffee House list was augmented by the Fair
bankses, whom he had forgiven, Neysa McMein,
who wanted Charlie for a subject of one of her
distinctive portraits, and Madame Maeterlinck.
Madame Maeterlinck, who had been Georgette
Leblanc, a great dramatic actress until she sub
merged her talent to become the ideal mate of
Maurice Maeterlinck, was no longer with the poet.
A woman of rare intellect and charm, aside from
her dramatic gifts, she had produced The Blue
NEW YORK AND LONDON 133
Bird when no other producer would touch it, and
to great success. She herself had played the part
of "Light." A young girl, fifteen, one Renee Lahon,
had played "Cold in the Head." Despite the un-
romantic appellation of this latter part, Maeter
linck had been strongly attracted to this lovely
child, and, eight years later, in 1919, two years
before this meeting with Charlie, Georgette
Maeterlinck, her great heart broken, had moved
aside to make way for Renee Lahon as the young
wife of the middle-aged poet.
Through the pages of Wisdom and Destiny, his
book which may yet be posterity s declaration of
Maeterlinck s highest genius, there moves a wom
an so gracious, so loved, that one can only think
of the Maeterlincks as the Brownings of this cen
tury. This is Georgette Leblanc, who stood be
tween her poet-mate and the warring world in the
early days of his struggle for recognition, inspiring
him and strengthening him in his belief in him
self. Maeterlinck, who was to feel the loss of such
a love when it was too late, has written, "Man is
granted in his short life, only one love."
The high light of Charlie s party at the filysee
was the impromptu rendition of Camille with
Georgette Maeterlinck in the title role and Charlie,
asArmand. It was well different! In the great
death scene, Camille coughed as she had done
through countless vivid declines, but as she
coughed, Armand unexpectedly caught the dread
134 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
disease and died before Camille, completely taken
by surprise, could really go into her death. This
turn of the tables, to which Georgette played with
rare comedy, sent the party into convulsions. It
is at these spontaneous outbursts of parody that
Charlie is at his social best.
The next morning, the day of sailing, a reporter
yelled through his hotel room door, "Mr. Chaplin,
why are you going to Europe?" It had begun all
An exasperated Charlie shouted back, "To get
away from you damned pests!" That was not
Once on the boat, Charlie consoled himself, he
would be alone and obscure, a man free and alone
with the sea and the sky and his thoughts. But he
had reckoned without the newspaper cameramen !
There were droves of them assigned to catch his
every mood and action until they must take the
pilot boat back to shore. Charlie hated "stills,"
had no use for cameramen except when they were
on the lot recording the sequences for his pictures.
He eluded them, as he thought, and went to the
promenade deck from where Edward Knoblock,
whom he had met at the Coffee House Club, was
watching the maneuvers with some amusement.
Knoblock s play Cherry, recently produced, had
brought him a measure of recognition, but Lullaby,
on which he was working and which was to be
produced in 1923, was to increase that measure.
NEW YORK AND LONDON 135
They talked of plays. A news photographer found
them and asked Charlie to pose waving and throw
ing kisses to the Statue of Liberty. Charlie, en
raged at being asked to do anything so obvious and
cheap, refused fierily. Knoblock tried to shoo away
the ubiquitous photographer before Charlie flared
into a state promising him bodily harm.
Other newsmen swarmed upon them, and the
ordeal lasted until the pilot boat drew away and
set out for the pier. Relaxing, thinking that at
last he could be himself, he turned to find, of all
things, a photographer who had been assigned to
cross the ocean with him! The man talked fast.
Charlie listened with growing resentment.
"Listen, Charlie, Fm sorry; but it s my job. We
may as well get together on this thing. It will
make it easier for both of us. Let s see, today I ll
take you with the third-class passengers. That ll
show you re democratic, see? Then the second-
class playing games with "
"You go to hell," was Charlie s succinct reply.
He called for reinforcements. Knoblock and Rob
inson responded. They explained to the newsman
that it would be a violation of Charlie s contract
with United Artists to allow exclusive photograph
ing. The photographer was unimpressed. He was
sent by his paper to get him and get him he would
in spite of hell and a great deal of water. Charlie
flared up at his effrontery. He would, he informed
him, stay locked in his stateroom the whole way
136 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
across. The press-appointed recorder of his actions
smiled knowingly. Mere walls of a stateroom
would not dismay him, he declared. Hadn t he been
assigned to get the King of England at one time?
And had the walls and guards of Buckingham
Palace stopped him? They had not!
A compromise was effected eventually. The
newsman would have to catch his own poses, but
Charlie would not deliberately avoid him.
Charlie forgot the cameraman. He was ap
proaching England and Hetty.
Southampton and its welcome! Charlie in
England at last! Overcome by the spontaneous
affection of the crowd, he forgot his carefully re
hearsed speech of reply to the mayor s declama
tion of welcome. He was rescued from the good-
natured crowd, the jostling, milling mass of ad
mirers. Then came the dread news from Sonny.
Hetty was dead.
Gone was the happy anticipation of being lion
ized by the England he loved. He took refuge in
the melancholy pleasure derived from hours spent
in his childhood haunts.
Kennington Gate. It was here that Hetty
stepped down from the tram that first time, and
sent him so close to heaven that he came back to
earth with a handful of stars !
Kennington Cross. It was here that music first
entered his being, wakened him to its beauty and
NEW YORK AND LONDON 137
meaning. On that night so long ago, he had wan
dered, alone, an adolescent youth, dreaming
dreams far up and beyond the sordid actualities
of his existence. Suddenly the strains of a clarinet
and harmonica drifted out from a house. He
stopped and tried to capture the lilting rhythm of
The Honeysuckle and the Bee. He hummed it to
himself, became conscious of some sweet mystery
of sound of which he had been, hitherto, unaware.
Years later, in The Vagabond, he takes a violin
from the gypsies he has stumbled across in camp,
and plays. * He moves them, with their own instru
ment, to tears. He is thinking and feeling all the
great music in which he has immersed himself
since that awakening. He is drawing great round
ed, sobbing tones from the violin. The music which
had come to him from his father s being had been
lying dormant in his consciousness until that night
in Kennington Cross.
It was arranged, soon after his arrival in Lon
don, for Charlie to meet Sir James Barrie. It was
on common ground that these two men trod.
Barrie, more infallibly an artist in his comedy
than in his pathos, like Hans Christian Andersen,
blends the everyday world with the fairyland of
his own imagination. Yet, like Dickens with his
kindly humanity, he entices us to a borderland of
* The instrument is strung in reverse, for Chaplin is a left-
138 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
laughter very near tears. His characters invari
ably display a tendency to make life a game with
the angels. Barrie always preferred a heavenly
failure to a too-worldly success.
In Peter Pan, a poetical pantomime, he more
nearly approaches the perfect balance of fantasy.
The ruling idea was an infinite tenderness for the
child with stars in his eyes, not the depiction of
the problem play. Yet Robert Louis Stevenson has
written perhaps the aptest criticism of his con
temporary, the author, "There was genius in him,
but there was a journalist on his elbow."
Charlie was taken aback when Barrie informed
him that he wished him to play Peter Pan. He
was immensely flattered. He appreciated Barrie s
genial if not incisive satire, his bizarre fancy.
But he was also frightened at the very thought of
attempting a part so delicate and fragile, a part
to which Maude Adams had given an unearthly
poesy; a part which he himself had not created.
Charlie was less flattered but not at all fright
ened at the unmerciful lashing Sir James gave
The Kid. "The heaven scene was entirely unnec
essary and crudely done," Barrie declared. "It
should have been suggested rather than portrayed.
You stressed that to the undoing of other fine sit
uations. And why the meeting of the mother and
father? It was the child s story and yours. The
other was dragged in "
"I cannot agree with you, Sir James "
NEW YORK AND LONDON 139
Charlie, stung to defense of his dramatic con
struction, lost his self -consciousness, forgot to be
embarrassed. He enjoyed Barrie; they became
good friends upon Charlie s return to England
ten years later.
The high light, perhaps, of his London stay was
the meeting with Thomas Burke of Limehouse
Nights fame. Through his love for Burke s stories,
he had a strong feeling of kinship with the man;
saw London through the same glasses, as it were.
They arranged to spend a whole night roaming
the Limehouse district together.
From Burke s books, his accounts of lusts and
elemental passions, Charlie expected to see a man
of larger physical size. He was mildly astonished,
therefore, when he beheld a slight, nervous chap
with a thin, almost peaked face. His mouth was
mobile and sensitive, his eyes glowing with a warm
tenderness for the foibles of the human species.
Charlie imagined he detected a twinkle of amuse
ment buried in their depths as Burke regarded him
"You don t care much for motion-picture actors,
do you?" Charlie inquired with directness.
"I d hardly say that," was Burke s rejoinder.
"And you re not just another actor. But I ve been
reading of your hectic doings, and I ve always
wondered at people s inordinate passion for meet
ing celebrities. To me, it s a sort of admission of
140 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
"My God, I hate it all/ 7 was Charlie s fervent
exclamation. And, at the time, he meant it.
"I think/ Burke continued as if Charlie had
not spoken, "it s simply being able to tell their
friends they have met So-and-so, to acquire a vi
"And the irony of it is," Charlie pointed out
glumly, "that they never see the real chap. They
see only a mask oh, sometimes an impressive one
but never know the human being behind it."
Burke nodded agreement. There was silence for
a while as they strolled toward the starting point
of their exploration. Charlie found himself unable
to control for much longer, though, his praise of
Burke s stories of the districts which beat a strange
pulse in the heart of London. Burke retreated
from this onslaught of appreciation behind a wall
of reserve. And Charlie, fresh from the hyperbole
and superlatives of Hollywood, caught himself up,
remembered that writers in England were Eng
lishmen first, then writers. His enthusiasm did
sound fulsome, he realized, but it was sincere. He
They walked on in silence, in a communion of
feeling, a sort of intimate desolation together not
withstanding the verbal barrier, into the narrow
streets and shadows of Limehouse. There slipped
noiselessly by the timorous, secretive, or skulking
forms of all Burke s characters from out Lime-
house Nights. There in the murky gloom, fresh-
NEW YORK AND LONDON 141
ened by the tang of the river, touched by a remote
promise of the sea, Charlie became aware of some
thing moving and vital that had its being only in
a district where white and yellow and brown
swarmed in conglomerate mass yet were unassim-
ilable. Behind the dim lights of attic windows
were taking place the actual dramas of the place
where love goes hand in hand with death; where
poetry, exquisite and yearning, sings in the hearts
of ugly Mongolian outcasts; where knives are
buried in white breasts or in swarthy necks with
never a backward, fleeting regret. Limehouse.
The place of pity and terror; of degradation and
beauty; and the wonder of primitive love which
has nothing to do with the laws or morals of the
Slowly they walked, Burke occasionally lifting
his stick to point out some seemingly meaningless
happening which took on for Charlie the deepest
significance. Burke seemed to know that Charlie
took in his impressions through feeling rather
than seeing, and spoke no word to disturb the
subtlety of his absorption through the senses.
All night they walked, stopping occasionally in
some dark niche for a cup of coffee. Toward morn
ing, as a grey dawn, hardly less forbidding than
the night, lightened the eastern sky, they retraced
their steps toward Highgate, coming out into
streets brightly lighted and normal and bustling
which relegated all the strange and heart-stirring
142 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
adventure of the night to between the covers of a
They talked now of more usual things. Burke
confided in Charlie the narrow physical boundaries
of his own life ; he had never been outside of Lon
don. "Why go?" he asked simply. "All life is here
in this one city. I have not time in the years allotted
me to explore its half." All of Burke s books are
concerned with the London he constantly searches
for its vital characters.
Charlie and Thomas Burke separated, Charlie
reflecting upon the curious sweetness in the heart
of the man he had just left. Burke saw, he said to
himself, the beauty which grew in filth, what we
are pleased to call the lowest. Charlie was aware,
as never before, of the clear fragile tracery of the
things of the spirit against the murky, bestial
background of the deepest slums.
Charlie met H. G. Wells. He was disappointed,
not in Wells but in the manner of their meeting.
He was told by his publicity director that Mr. Wells
would be glad to see him one afternoon at Stoll s,
one of the agencies of United Artists. Expecting
a quiet talk with Wells, Charlie was amazed and
annoyed to find a dense mass of humanity wedged
into the narrow street fronting Stoll s. His heart
sank. It would not be a chat with Wells, but a
prearranged personal appearance, the snapping
of camera shutters, interviews everything that
NEW YORK AND LONDON 143
made a vacation and companionship with stimu
lating minds impossible.
He recognized Wells immediately by the likeness
of his rugged features to his photographs and
looked into eyes dark and stormy blue. Wells was
The camera brigade swooped down upon them.
Would Mr. Chaplin and Mr. Wells pose together?
Thank you. Now, with their hats off. Thank you
again. Now sitting enjoying a chat the irony
Autograph seekers filled the space left by the
departing cameramen. Wells and Charlie signed
until their hands ached. And now, a quick-sketch
artist. The two unwilling models exchanged a few
superficial remarks while posing. They escaped as
soon as possible, separated, and an hour later
Charlie received a note from Wells :
"Come to dinner. Wrap up in a cloak if neces
sary and slip in about seven-thirty. We can at
least dine in peace."
Charlie followed this advice, forgetting to tell
his company associates where he was going. They
dined alone. And Charlie, who had been a great
admirer of the prolific writer and his incisive pic
tures of the compromises and vicissitudes of the
Victorian middle class, was deeply impressed with
the poignant sympathy and the rich, robust humor
of the man.
H. G. Wells has a quick judgment which lacks
144 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
patience toward slow democratic developments in
progress. He is strikingly intolerant of modern
education. His own strong personal convictions
carry an impatience of the opinions or convictions
of others. Charlie, no less impatient toward the
bunglings of democracy, is more the artist, less the
sociologist. Wells s dicta antagonized him, and he,
usually so tolerant of another s ideas, was moved
to render verdicts where merely opinions were in
dicated. It was an evening of "fire at will" and no
quarter given, a forerunner of the vein of friendly
antagonism which ran through their subsequent
Getting up the next morning completely out of
sorts, Charlie made a sudden decision to escape
Paris, Berlin, and London
CHARLIE, accompanied by Carl Robinson, left for
Paris. Tom Harrington was left in London. The
apartment at the Ritz was kept for their return,
and six stenographers were installed under the di
rection of Harrington to handle the hundreds of
letters pouring in for Charlie with every post.
Ill from the channel crossing to Calais, they ar
rived in Paris to find it raining. It did not matter
to Charlie. He was in France. The crowds at the
station shouting, "Vive le Chariot! Bravo, Char-
lot!" told him that his arrival had not been un
heralded. He braved the avalanche of reporters
and cameramen, and at last it was over. Now he
could see Paris, meet Cami, the French cartoonist
with whom he had built quite a friendship by a
weird correspondence Cami sending him occa
sional drawings, Charlie responding with "stills"
from his various pictures. Charlie saw him far
back in the crowd. They made a rush for each
other, but when they met they were brought up
standing. Cami had neglected to learn English,
and Charlie knew not a word of French! They
146 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
laughed as they realized the situation. Language
stood between them, and even pantomimists and
cartoonists cannot chat face to face with drawings
and pictures. They grasped one another s hands
in mutual understanding. Charlie was borne off
to the Claridge Hotel.
Dudley Field Malone, the New York lawyer who
has tried some of the most famous cases in Amer
ican legal history, and Waldo Frank, the writer,
captured Charlie next day for luncheon. They
promised him Paris by early morning, by late
With Frank he sat on a bench in the Champs
filysees at dawn and watched the heavy market
wagons rumble by, the housewives and servants
with the long loaves of bread unwrapped under
their arms, the young girls and men walking
briskly out to work. Paris was very beautiful in
the soft natural light of the early day. Charlie
gazed about him, deeply absorbed, striving for the
feeling of Paris. He told himself he had got it.
Gay and spontaneous, seeking to hide its war scars
underneath song and laughter.
They strolled along a boulevard, passed a church.
There an old woman slept on the steps, but, unlike
the old women of London, she was not worn or
haggard. There were in her face no ravages of
drink. To Charlie, behind the half -smile of her
sleep, she seemed to be saying, "Do I not live in
PARIS, BERLIN, AND LONDON 147
Sir Philip Sassoon, whose mother was Aline de
Rothschild, and who was confidential secretary to
Lloyd George, Prime Minister of England, was in
Paris. Enormously rich, hard working, and most
intelligent, Sir Philip was a personable young
man. He came to call upon Charlie, bringing with
him Georges Carpentier, pugilistic idol of France.
But here again reporters and photographers broke
through the lines of the hotel and urged the three
of them to pose for pictures and give interviews,
which all of them did with as much grace as pos
sible. Sir Philip and Carpentier left after the
former had invited Charlie to come to his home
near London upon his return from Germany.
Montmartre was the selection of Malone for
Charlie s first excursion into a Paris night. They
began at the Cafe Palais Royale. The tango was
in its vogue, the music a dreamy cadence of mo
notonous, broken rhythm. Among the poets, sight
seers, students, cocottes, and flower vendors,
Charlie descried Iris Tree, the English poet and
actress, daughter of Beerbohm Tree.
"Marvelous!" was his exclamation. She was a
picture in the gleaming tavern lights, her golden
hair straight bobbed, her face and slender boyish
figure that of a beautiful page boy of medieval
times. She joined them for a drink. The three
of them then got into Malone s car and bowled
along the avenues and boulevards singing lustily
the old songs of the music halls.
148 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
Another tavern was visited, because their car
had suddenly refused to go. A pale youth came up
and ordered wine for the party as his guests.
Charlie inferred from his sardonic manner that
he guessed his identity, but if this were true he
kept it to himself. Charlie was glad. It was good
to have fun, incognito.
The youth, named Kene Chedecal, they learned
later, played the violin. Charlie recognized, or
thought he recognized in his playing, surprising
talent. He was enraptured. The sculpture of the
boy s face, his eyes sad and haunted, the music
gay and yearning and passionate, left him speech
less with the wonder of genius breeding in strange
and humble places. He rushed to the youth and
grasped his hand. The returned pressure, the low-
voiced "Merci, Chariot" told him he was recog
nized, but their reception of him had been a blessed
stroke of tact that none but those far removed
from the herd could confer.
As they were leaving, the patron, old and white-
bearded, approached with diffidence and asked that
they sign his guest book, a curious jumble of the
names of the obscure and the great. Charlie drew
his hat and stick and boots, adding the inscription,
"I d rather be a gypsy than a movie man," and
signed his name.
Waldo Frank appeared next day with Jacques
Copeau, foremost French dramatist and Director
of the Vieux Colombier Theatre at the time. They
PARIS, BERLIN, AND LONDON 149
went to the circus. The sad-faced clown of the
French circus fascinated him. There was the
charm and approaching classicism of his own
miming. He sat wondering how many in the vast
audience were able to analyze the source of their
laughter, the always underlying pathos of the
clown. Out of the wracked agony of the deepest
suffering of generations has come, always, the
greatest genius for humor.
Charlie Chaplin has within him that sort of
Latin grace which gives him kinship with the
drama of sentiment. But had he not known in
stinctively the value of true expression, it would
have availed him nothing. He had learned back
in those days with the Fred Karno company that,
fling his limbs about in no matter what frenzy of
action, it came to nothing unless he could perfect
the movements or lack of movements of the
It was in cafe life that Charlie felt he would
find the real Paris, not the stage set for tourists,
not the fashionable cafe, but the casual one where
artists and students came for their aperitif, their
coffee, and stayed to engage in heated argument
over this or that master of painting, the newest
book, or to relax in the gaiety of their models or
other feminine companions.
With Waldo Frank he set out for the Quartier
Latin. The afternoon and evening were spent in
drifting from one small cafe to another. Beneath
150 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
the chatter and drinking he felt that he touched
briefly the soul of the Quartier. Convention, he
decided, had nothing to do with art. The lifted
eyebrow, the tolerant smile of fashionable Paris,
had no power to break the rhythm of creation flow
ing from the pens, the brushes of these impe
cunious scamps, into the drawing rooms, the
galleries of Paris, of the world, and eventually into
Charlie and Carl Robinson proceeded on to
The Chaplin films since the contretemps of
Shoulder Arms, that delightful satire upon all
wars which had grossly offended the Germans,
were practically unknown in Germany. In this
picture, which was banned from the country after
the first showing, it will be remembered that
Charlie, as a soldier of the Allies, was captured
by the enemy, the Germans. He escaped from the
wire stockade and, knocking out the Kaiser s
chauffeur, donned his uniform and by himself
captured the Kaiser ! He drove him protesting and
struggling straight into the Allied lines and into
the clutches of the hated poilus, doughboys, and
tommies, as he thought, but actually into the Ger
Syd Chaplin had played the brief role of the
Kaiser, also that of an officer who arrested Charlie
and hustled him out of the enemy s clutches to
PARIS, BERLIN, AND LONDON 151
save his life, Henry Bergeman, the stout, jovial
host of Henry s in Hollywood Boulevard, near
Vine, the cafe for so many years the rendezvous
for movie folk, played the part of von Hindenburg ;
Jack Wilson, the Crown Prince WiUielm. The
Germans had thought the picture Shoulder Arms
When Charlie arrived in Berlin in the autumn
of 1921 and found one city in which he could wan
der about at will, unrecognized and unlauded, he
was at first immensely relieved, then astounded,
and finally annoyed. Where were the cries of
"Charlie !" Where were the flattering cordons of
police to protect him from the often rough but
good-natured enthusiasm of the crowds? There
were no crowds.
After a few days of wandering about the city
unheeded, he demanded of Robinson that he seek
out some place where he could at least meet some
of the stage and screen people of Berlin. Robinson
learned from the porter of the Adlon, where they
were staying, that the Palais Hemroth was the
smart gathering place for theatrical people as well
as for those of fashion. Surely the habitues of the
Hemroth would recognize him.
The master of ceremonies, however, showed no
interest in the little chap who came in with his
tall companion and demanded a good table. Charlie
and Robinson were not in evening dress, and in
Berlin, at the time, that stamped them obscure
152 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
tourists. It was evident that the manager consid
ered them nothing that would affect his future.
They were shown to a back table and left to their
Charlie was now exceedingly nettled. He looked
about him at the dazzling brilliance of the club.
The room was lavishly ostentatious, paneled in
gold leaf, the hangings of satin and velvet in deep
red, the favorite color scheme of the old order in
Germany when they wished to express the ultra
in luxury. The champagne buckets were of gold
plate and the "silver" on the tables, also. The
waiters were dressed in the livery of royal serv-
ants knee breeches of black satin, white silk
stockings, buckled shoes, red velvet tail coats, and
frills at neck and wrists. Champagne corks were
popping; an excellent orchestra was playing the
jazz melodies of the day; the red-shaded lamps
threw a soft glamorous light over the whole.
No one seemed aware of their existence save the
waiter who brought their champagne. One was
not asked whether he would have champagne at
the Hemroth; it was brought as often as deemed
fit by the waiter, and one liked it. And paid for it.
Charlie and Robinson sipped a glass or two, then
rose to go, when they heard "Charlie!" called out
with some gusto from across the room. Charlie s
mouth dropped open. It was Al Kaufmann, man
ager of the Famous Players-Lasky Company in
PARIS, BERLIN, AND LONDON 153
"Come over to our table," shouted Kaufmann.
"Pola Negri" wants to meet you!" The Berliners
stared in amazement at the effrontery of those
astonishing Amerikanischers. Charlie made his
way in some embarrassment through the narrow
winding lanes among the tables, vaguely wonder
ing where he had heard the name Pola Negri. Oh,
of course, the Polish stage star of several recent
hits in Berlin.
Kaufmann s party was a large one of studio
stars and representatives of various American
companies in Europe. Charlie was warmly re
ceived and placed at table next to Pola, whose
English hurriedly acquired in a stage whisper
from Kaufmann for the occasion consisted of
" Jazz Boy Charlie !" repeated again and again as
they clinked their glasses. The Germans in the
cafe watched with puzzled frowns the loud acclaim
accorded the slight little chap whom they tried
vainly to recall to memory.
Charlie, inclined to dark-eyed, exotic types of
women, liked Pola immediately. His own words
best express his impressions of the actress. "Pola
Negri is really beautiful," he writes. "She is
Polish and true to type. Beautiful jet-black hair;
white, even teeth and wonderful coloring. She is
the centre of attraction in Berlin. I am introduced.
What a voice she has! A soft mellow quality with
He saw Pola only twice after this before return-
154 CHAELIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
ing to Paris, thence to London. But he learned that
she would be in Hollywood when he returned to
America. She had signed a contract with Para
mount Pictures, the executives of which company
were to refer to her always as "The Polish Situ
ation" because of her volatile moods and excess of
temperament. Charlie assured her he would secure
valuable advance publicity for her, which promise
he kept. It was only necessary to release to the
press his opinions of Pola and accounts of their
Back in London once more, Charlie attended the
garden party in his honor at the country seat of
Sir Philip Sassoon in Kent. He had flown from
Le Bourget Field in Paris and had been landed by
special dispensation at Lympe, in Kent, to avoid
the crowds awaiting the plane and himself in
Charlie was asked by Sir Philip to stay over for
a ceremonial next day in the village school, at
which a memorial to the young men of the village
who had fallen in battle was to be unveiled. He was
afraid that his presence might act as a counter-
attraction and spoil the solemnity of the occasion,
but he hesitated to say as much to Sir Philip. When
he did voice a mild reluctance, his host brushed
it aside, assured him that the villagers would be
disappointed if they did not get a glimpse of him.
They drove to the school. The streets and lanes
PARIS, BERLIN, AND LONDON 155
were crowded along their way. Shouts of "Hurrah
for Charlie" filled the air. It did not take any
psychic to infer that the unveiling was of second
ary import to the crowd. Charlie suffered keenly,
feeling himself an incongruity in the spirit of the
day. The enthusiasm of his reception was in com
plete discord with reverence for the dead. He
wished heartily he had not come.
Somehow the ceremony was got through, and
Charlie went with Sir Philip to the Star and Garter
Hospital to visit the wounded still billeted there
three years after the war had ended. The sheer
tragedy of the hopelessly and permanently wound
ed, the ghastly suffering borne cheerfully, sent his
spirits further down.
An invitation came from H. G. Wells for a week
end at his country home, Easton Glebe, in Essex,
near Warwick Castle. This incursion into the
family life of a group of individualists as striking
as the Wellses was a heartening experience, though
he was still dogged by a consciousness of his lack
of education. Emerging from the seven years
grind of making pictures, he must be content in
his quest for exploring the world of other minds
with the bits garnered through the fog of his own
Charlie felt no more at ease with his host than
he had on their previous meeting. Blond, stocky,
with drooping cavalry moustache, Wells was in the
habit of communing with himself in little snorts,
156 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
his bright blue beady glance darting here and
there. He allowed his hearers to say a word or
two and then with extraordinary conversational
agility, suppressed them either with a flat nega
tive or a lightning flash to a fresh course of dis
cussion. No one could resist his sincerity or his
vital charm, but there could be no exchange of
Mrs. Wells was cordial and charming. Their
son Charles, whom Charlie dubbed Junior, was
immediately Charlie s friend. Mr. Wells took him
to inspect his workshop in the process of being
newly decorated after serving as birthplace for
the Outline of History. There they looked at the
old desk, paintings done by both Wells and his wife
around the fireplace, and a tapestry, of which he
was very proud, woven by Wells s mother. The
furniture was sparse but good, solid English cot
tage. Books lining the walls, deep soft carpets,
and comfortable armchairs made it a delightful
place in which to work.
Charlie was amused during luncheon at the pro
found, analytical discussion between Wells and
his son, of the sting of a wasp, one of the creatures
buzzing over their heads. They were lunching on
the terrace. Charlie suspected Wells of playing up
to Junior; it was evident that he was proud of his
St. John Ervine, author of John Ferguson, came
in during the afternoon. The possibility of syn-
PARIS, BERLIN, AND LONDON 157
chronizing the voice with motion pictures came into
the conversation. Ervine was frankly interested
at the prospect; Charlie heatedly contended that
it was as absurd as painting statuary, rouging
marble cheeks. Pictures were, he maintained, and
should remain, solely a pantomimic art, leaving un
spoken thoughts to be interpreted by the audience
from gesture and expression. Charlie has been
consistent in his belief; he has had, in the face of
repeatedly predicted failure with the advent of
talkies, the courage to continue his silent pictures*
Long walks about the countryside; a visit to
Warwick Castle (the owners were not in resi
dence) ; another visit to an eleventh-century
church; an incredibly funny game of baseball
taught the Wellses by Charlie and played by them
all, and the visit was ended. It was a pleasant stay
with the family, but Charlie left for London won
dering whether Wells really wanted to know him,
his inner life ; or whether his desire was for Charlie
Chaplin to know Mm. Perhaps, he reflected, Wells
did not count mere entertainers important in the
Charlie rejoined Robinson in London, and back
to Paris they went for the premiere of The Kid.
Upon his arrival at the Ritz, he found notes from
Mary and Douglas Fairbanks, who were stopping
at the Crillon. Charlie telephoned them demand
ing retaliation; they must show up at his picture
158 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
at the Trocadero Theatre. He would have his re
venge for his New York "vacation" from pictures.
They both promised to come.
Paris had declared a holiday for the gala occa
sion of the first showing of The Kid. The proceeds
from the premiere were to be given to the fund
for devastated France.
Threading his way with difficulty through the
mass of humanity which, that evening, blocked
the streets leading to the theater, Charlie chuckled
in anticipation of the effect of this upon the
Ambassador Myron T. Herrick, the man who
more than any American of his time, save perhaps
Walter H. Page, loved France and understood her,
was on hand that evening to greet Charlie. Min
isters of the Cabinet and notables from all depart
ments of government were present. M. Menard,
representing President Millerand, who, through
illness, was unable to attend; Jules Jusserand; le
Marquis de Talleyrand-Perigord ; le Marquis and
la Marquise de Chambrun; the Loebs; the Vander-
bilts; Prince George of Greece; Princess Xenia;
Prince Christopher; Mme, Cecile Sorel; Elsa Max
well the list read like a combination of Who s
Who and several Blue Books.
Charlie s box was draped with the American
and the British flags. He entered his box to the
Marseillaise; the applause was deafening and
PARIS, BERLIN, AND LONDON 159
He had autographed two hundred and fifty
souvenir programmes that afternoon at the re
quest of the committee. These had sold out quickly
at one hundred francs each. More were brought
to him, and, between flashes of camera lights and
attentions of celebrities, he autographed these.
At last the lights went down; the picture was
on. There was no whisper to disturb his concen
tration as he watched the fellow who was himself
draw laughter, tears, an occasional spontaneous
burst of applause from the great audience. All
self-consciousness lost, he was alone, the artist
looking upon his work and finding it good.
At the end of the film, a messenger appeared
from the Ministers box. Would Mr. Chaplin please
come to their box to be decorated? This was a
complete surprise to Charlie. He almost fell out
of his own box. A wave of shyness, self-conscious
ness, engulfed him. He grew positively ill. What
would he say in response to the speech somebody-
was sure to make? He had had no warning, no
time to prepare anything gracious in either French
or English. He cursed himself for ever attending
the premiere, for being a motion-picture actor at
all. But go he must. The messenger was waiting
politely and patiently. There was nothing to do
With much the same feeling as a poor wretch
going to a guillotine party given in his honor,
Charlie stepped into the box of State. The Minister
160 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
of Public Instruction and Beaux Arts made a short
speech, which was translated by someone. Charlie
was too dazed to know. The decoration was pinned
upon his coat, and Charlie, overcome, could only
stammer, "Merci" which he used in both its
French and English meanings.
The applause in the theater following this little
ceremony was deafening and continuous. Charlie
realized that it would not stop until he said some
thing, so he turned, smiled, and said in English
that it was a privilege for him to have a part in
the rehabilitation of the devastated regions of
France. His evident sincerity was rewarded by
a tremendous ovation, and before he escaped from
the box he was soundly kissed by several enthusi
astic and appreciative gentlemen.
Spirited out of the theater through a side door
after the lights were turned out and most of the
crowd had dispersed, Charlie went to the Crillon
with Cami, who was waiting at his car to con
gratulate him. Mary and Douglas had not braved
the crowds of the premiere. They were on vaca
tion. They were waiting for him at the hotel,
however, and told him that General Pershing was
in the next room, wished to meet him.
They joined the General, champagne was or
dered, and until three in the morning they sat
and talked of art and battles.
Charlie went back to his hotel feeling this the
high point in his career. Had he not seen his own
PARIS, BERLIN, AND LONDON 161
greatest picture? And had he not been made by
France an Offitier de V Instruction Publique?
Elsie de Wolfe, noted interior decorator and a no
less noted personality, was hostess to Charlie next
day at her home, the Villa Trianon at Versailles.
A dinner with Garni, Georges Carpentier, Henri
Letellier, and an interpreter, that evening, and
early to bed. There was a luncheon scheduled with
Lloyd George in London for the next day.
Next morning Charlie boarded a plane and con
gratulated himself that if all went well he would
be in London in ample time for the meeting with
Lloyd George as arranged by Sassoon. But all did
not go well. Before they had been up more than a
few minutes, they were completely lost in a fog
over the Channel. The pilot turned back and
eventually made a forced landing on the French
coast. There they stayed until the fog had lifted,
a delay of two hours. Charlie was dismayed at the
thought of keeping the Prime Minister waiting.
Arriving finally at the Croydon airdrome,
Charlie was in an advanced stage of jitters. He
caught sight, through the crowd jamming the field,
of a large limousine about which the crowd was
particularly dense. A lane from the airplane to
the car was cleared, and the police held back the
mob. They hustled him into the waiting car.
The driver threw the car into gear, deaf to
Charlie s shouted insistence that they wait for
Robinson lost somewhere in the mass. Charlie
162 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
became angry and a little mystified. These feelings
grew into positive anxiety as he realized before
very long that he was being taken not to the Ritz,
but through unfamiliar streets. A kidnapping in
England? Unheard of ! They drew up before the
Majestic Theatre in Clapham! He demanded to
know the meaning of this impertinence. The im
perturbable driver turned and, pulling off his
moustache with all the flourish of a villain of
"I am Castleton Knight. You remember me.
Some time ago you promised to visit my theater.
My patrons were told and expected you. You
didn t keep that promise. I promised them you d
be here today if I had to kidnap you. Please con
sider yourself kidnapped."
"But but the police, the lane cleared to the
car I don t understand. How did you manage?"
"Oh, that was easy. I just got a more impres
sive-looking car than the one sent for you, and put
on an act."
"You re good," Charlie admitted, amusement
overcoming his annoyance. He admired Knight s
strategy and felt a bit guilty for having let him
down before. It was too late anyway, he consoled
himself, to hope to make the luncheon with Lloyd
George. He chuckled as he pictured the furor at
the Carlton when Robinson got there without him.
At the Majestic Theatre, Charlie made a speech
and greeted the audience with great good humor.
PARIS, BERLIN, AND LONDON 163
They were wild with joy. They knew Charlie
Chaplin would appear at few, if any, theaters in
London. The manager of the Majestic was truly
a wonderful man.
Mr. Knight drove him to the hotel but discreetly
refused to go up to his rooms with him. "No,
thanks, old man, I prefer to keep a whole skin, if
you don t mind. Thanks and cheerio !"
There was a to-do! Robinson, Harrington, all
of the United Artist executives, had assembled in
his rooms and were preparing to notify the police.
When Charlie told them of his kidnapping they
shouted with laughter. Castleton Knight was an
excellent businessman, they agreed.
On the morrow Charlie and Harrington and
Robinson were sailing from Southampton for
home. Charlie had promised H. G. Wells to dine
with him that night and meet Chaliapin, the great
Russian baritone. In the confusion he had also
promised his cousin Aubrey at least one evening
before his departure. He telephoned Wells and
explained his dilemma. Wells understood and re
leased him from the engagement
Aubrey called for Charlie in a taxicab about
dusk. When getting into the cab, Charlie noticed
a number of people standing in the murky shadows
of a building across the street. He was immedi
ately upset, visualized reporters waiting to pounce
upon him and dramatize his visit with his humble
kin. He said as much to Aubrey, who hastened to
164 CHAELIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
calm his fears with the explanation that it was
merely some friends of his, Aubrey s, who wanted
very much to see Charlie but did not wish to an
noy him. Charlie was ashamed, but grateful, for
the delicacy of his own people, from whom appar
ently he had come a long way but, actually, only
in the measure by which he had always been set
apart from all his fellows. He insisted that Aubrey
call them over; he wanted to meet them. Aubrey
did so, and diffidently they approached and stam
mered responses to Charlie s remarks, offered their
hands awkwardly. They were left standing tremu
lous, with a warm and heartened feeling that
their Aubrey s cousin had not, after all, become
At the home of his cousin, Charlie suggested
that they repair to Aubrey s public house which,
out of deference to Charlie s new status, Aubrey
had been trying to call a hotel. Aubrey demurred ;
he was a little shocked that Charlie, who could
drink champagne with the "toffs" of London,
should want to go to a pub in Bayswater. Charlie
insisted. Aubrey weakened, finally gave in, and
they departed for the saloon.
The place was clean and warm and redolent of
the wine- and ale-soaked wood of generations. It
was filled with regular customers, there for their
stout or half-and-half before going home to supper
The men eyed Charlie questioningly ; none
PARIS, BERLIN, AND LONDON 165
seemed to recognize him. They merely stared at
his well-cut suit and topcoat, knew that he did
Charlie felt stealing upon him a mood of reck
lessness, amplified, no doubt, by the wine he had
drunk and the sweeping realization of "There,
but for the grace of talent, go I." With a sweep
of his arm he invited them all to the bar for a
drink, announced that he was Charlie Chaplin,
cousin to Aubrey, and that though he might have
traveled far, he was still one of them, Charlie of
The men frankly doubted his identity, eyed him
resentfully, while Aubrey explained to a few that
this was actually Charlie Chaplin. This could not
be the man who shunned crowds, the solitary
genius who had been catapulted beyond their ken.
Perhaps it was one of old Aubrey s jokes. They
would not be taken in.
At last they approached hesitantly and took
their drinks, drawing away again in groups. They
drank. They bade him a reserved goodnight when
he left. Aubrey was frankly discomfited. He was
also confused. The line of class is drawn finely in
England, and often the greengrocer is more dis
turbed by the marriage of his daughter (who is
in the chorus) to a titled man than is the family
of the latter.
As to Charlie s vulgar behavior in the tavern,
which he himself admits, the following from
166 CHARUE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
George Jean Nathan is apt: "In every thoroughly
charming and effective personality one finds a sug
gestion, however small, of the gutter. This trace
of finished vulgarity is essential to a completely
winning manner. The suavest and most highly
polished man or woman becomes uninteresting
save as he or she possesses it*"
Back in the home of his cousin, after dinner,
the family photograph album was brought out for
Charlie s delectation. He was impressed by the
pictures of his immediate ancestors, to which he
had given little thought: a great-grandfather who
had been a French general, some uncles who were
prosperous cattle ranchers in South Africa. It
pleased him, now that it was brought to his notice,
that there were other career makers, besides
impecunious tradesmen and music-hall actors, in
the family. He experienced his first consciousness
of pride in his family.
Charlie became momentarily interested in
Aubrey s son, aged twelve. He seemed a bright
boy, a fine, upstanding lad. He proposed educat
ing him for the army, for ranching, something
toward the trend of his forebears. Aubrey was
touched but perhaps a little fearful, too. How
ever, nothing came of it. With the prerogative of
genius, Charlie soon forgot his cousin s family
and their problems. He was too far removed from
their world to entertain a real and lasting sympa
thy for them.
PARIS, BERLIN, AND LONDON 167
When Charlie, accompanied by Harrington and
Robinson, boarded the train for Southampton
next morning, there were, among the crowd at the
station, old friends of his youth whom he had been
too busy or too careless to see. He felt a twinge
of remorse for his seeming indifference toward the
familiar figures of his past who had in spirit
shared his success. In their content at simply
catching a glimpse of him as he left, he imagined
no reproach but only an understanding of the
onerous burden of being a celebrity; he imagined
no jealousy, for he knew his Cockneys and their
reluctance to break the barrier of class, but he
knew that he should have made time to see them,
visit with them. He was very sad.
There were cries of "Love to Alf and Amy"
Alfred Reeves and his wife. Charlie smiled down
at them through tears. He shouted promises to
come back the next summer. It was to be ten years
before he saw London again.
At the boat in Southampton, Sonny Kelly was
waiting to see him off. Sonny was, as always,
matter-of-fact, but as Charlie stepped onto the
gangplank, he slipped a parcel into his hand. He
leaned over and whispered, "I thought you d like
Charlie held the square, flat parcel in his hand.
Without unwrapping it he knew what it was. A
picture of Hetty! One of her latest. There was
a lump in his throat; he looked at Sonny through
168 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
tears that would well up. "Thank you, Sonny.
You re always kind." He turned away that Sonny
might not see his remembered grief.
He stood watching the crowds waving to him
from the dock. But with his mind s eye he saw his
desk at home in Hollywood with Hetty s picture
as it would stand, always, whatever women came
or went. And he was going home.
ON THE TRAIN from New York to Los Angeles, at
Denver, Colorado, Charlie received a telegram
from Abe Lehr in Hollywood- Lehr* was chief
lieutenant and "no man" for Samuel Goldwyn.
Most of the producers in Hollywood had, at the
time, a staff of consistent "yes men/ The great
and only Goldwyn was different. He recognized,
long ago, the value of sincere disagreement. Aided
by Lehr s "no s" he has fought his way to an envi
able position in the realm of unusual pictures,
unusual first of all because, for each picture, Sam
Goldwyn carves a bit from his own great heart.
Lehr is no mean personality himself. He was the
son of the glove manufacturer for whom young
Goldwyn first went to work. And as a stimulus to
Goldwyn he has been invaluable.
Abe Lehr telegraphed Charlie telling him he had
the one other free and untrammeled spirit who
had struck Hollywood in many moons Clare
Sheridan. Clare was cousin to Winston Churchill
* Goldwyn started his business career as salesman for Abe Lehr s
father in his glove factory. When he went into production of motion
pictures he took Lehr s son with him.
170 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
and widow of Richard Brinsley Sheridan s grand
son, Wilfred Sheridan, who had been killed in
action in the World War in 1915. She was also a
sculptress of note. Lehr invited Charlie to his
home for dinner to meet Clare Sheridan.
Torn Harrington dispatched an answer to Lehr
accepting the invitation. Charlie was always in
terested in meeting any woman of striking per
sonality. He admired Clare Sheridan for her
courage to defy the complacency of her immediate
family and be an artist.
It was a group of four at the Lehr s, the host
and hostess, and Clare and Charlie. The mutual
interests of the two developed into a delightful
and immediate friendship. They talked the same
language. Clare had just returned from Eussia,
and they were both intensely interested in the
Russian attempt to create an ideal from raw ma
terial, its initial inception under Kerensky and
its development by Lenin.
Equally significant, both were agreed upon the
importance of the never-ending exploration into
the world of created beauty, art.
Each had the sixth sense of an artist, that in
tuitive ability to grasp an experience that he has
never had and make it his; each the sensitive, in
stant comprehension of the other s intent. Each
possessed to a nice degree the mystical sense of
Charlie, a firm believer in the school of "The
CLARE SHERIDAN 171
world s my oyster," advised Clare with a firmness
which surprised her, "Don t get lost on the path
of propaganda. Live your life as an artist. The
other goes on always."
Clare soon found that Charlie was not an avowed
Communist as the press had tried to impress upon
its American readers. He was, and is, sympathetic
to its ideology. He has given large sums of money
to the cause which he sincerely believes to be that
of freedom. For freedom is to Charlie of para
mount importance, and a country which is gradu
ally but surely establishing an aristocracy of
achievement by its creative workers cannot fail to
hold his interest and support. He is an individ
ualist, with all the artist s intolerance of stupidity
and insincerity and narrow prejudice.
Clare Sheridan found in Charlie Chaplin, to
her delight, a sincerity without affectation, an
almost feminine intuition, his opinions arrived at
by his own processes of thought and uncolored by
popular acceptance or rejection.
During the evening, Clare found herself grow
ing eager to make a portrait bust of Charlie. She
had modeled Kemal Ataturk, Mussolini, Primo de
Rivera, in clay to be cast in bronze; she had sculp
tured in marble Lord Oxford and Asquith for the
Oxford Union. Lord Birkenhead and Count Key-
serling had sat for their busts.
She was afraid to suggest to Charlie that he
pose for her, catching glimpses of his shyness. So
172 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
she approached the subject indirectly, complain
ing of her difficulty in persuading American men
"They re so modest," she said. "They consider
it a vanity to sit for a bust."
Charlie looked at her with sly humor. She felt
at once that he had uncovered her strategy.
"I m vain/ 7 he declared. "Thank God, I have
It was settled that he was to pose for her.
Clare Sheridan left the Lehrs that evening con
vinced, she said later in her American Diary, that
she had met a man with a great soul. She fancied
she divined the reason for the universality of his
art. If she could just capture that in his face, to
be cast in bronze that and the subconscious and
driving search for happiness he held locked in his
Charlie invited Clare and her young son Richard
Brinsley Sheridan III to see The Kid next day at
his studio. He was much interested in young Dick,
who was seven and a curious mixture of the young
English gentleman and the naive, unconventional
child. Charlie watched him throughout the picture,
and when the moment came that the Kid was to
be taken away from his stepfather (Charlie) , Dick
threw his arms about his mother s neck and
sobbed, "Don t let them do it! I can t bear it. I
can t look till the end." Charlie was visibly affected
by the genuineness of the youngster s emotions;
CLARE SHEKIDAN 173
he comforted him, assuring him it would come
right in the end, but he was unable to resist tip
toeing to the small harmonium in the projection
room and playing Chopin preludes that dripped
from his fingers even as Dick s tears fell from
Above all, Charlie was the artist who must draw
the last drop of response from his audience, come
The three of them lunched together at Charlie s
home and later went for a long walk into the
Hollywood hills, Dick scrambling nimbly up steep
banks while Charlie and Clare walked round and
up the gently sloping paths to the summit of the
hills. They talked. Charlie explained his conclu
sions on the ultimate aims of the artist. "There
must be no dreams of posterity," he declared, "no
desire for admiration. There is only one end : to
please one s inner self, to be able to look upon one s
efforts and say, That is mine my conception of
what is beauty, mine the satisfaction that it is the
best I can do with my present growth. It is good/ "
Clare reminded him that she was a mother, that
she wanted her children someday to be proud of
her. Charlie upbraided her for this attitude. "You
should want them only to love you to love you
in a perfectly primitive, animal way. To love you
because you are their mother, not for what you
may do. They must love you even if you are
174 CHAELIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
"But if I felt I had nothing to work for," she
protested, "no end, no aim of continuity, only my
own satisfaction, I should feel inclined to suicide."
Charlie stopped dead in his tracks, horrified.
"My God! How can you say that?" he exclaimed.
"How could anyone with such vitality as yours
entertain, even for a moment, the thought of
suicide?" He threw his arms wide to the horizon.
"It s all so beautiful I" he cried, "and it s all mine."
Immediately he laughed at his own seriousness
and at Clare s.
Back at the house Charlie asked Dick if he
would like to stay for tea. "Yes, Charlie," came
the prompt reply, "and all night, too. D you know,
Charlie, I think you re quite the funniest and nicest
man I know," he added.
Charlie was properly touched by this but forced
a compromise by driving them home and talking
to Dick all the way. The boy was left at the Holly
wood Hotel with his nurse, and Charlie and Clare
went to dine at Cocoanut Grove, the gay spot of
the Ambassador Hotel. There, in a huge room,
under synthetic palm trees, with the blare of jazz,
drinking and dancing going on about them, Charlie
told Clare of his childhood. Simply, yet with elo
quent words, he painted the stark realisnci of his
suffering and with a complete detachment that
robbed it of the stigma of self-pity. It was the
story of a child of sorrows who had taught a whole
world to laugh.
CLARE SHERIDAN 175
Work started on the bust of Charlie and went
on apace. Early each morning Clare would go
over to his house in Beachwood Drive and work,
with brief intervals for rest and food for both of
them, the whole day through.
Charlie, in pyjamas and dressing gown which
he changed occasionally to match his mood, leaving
the room in purple and black to reappear in a
blaze of orange and primrose, posed patiently, for
him. True, he talked volubly, throwing back his
head, flinging out his hands. Clare let him be.
This was the way to catch the nuances of the whole
man, she knew.
As an outlet for his nervous energy he would
occasionally leap off the revolving stand, grab up
a violin which was strung in reverse for his left-
handed playing, and walk slowly up and down
the room playing improvisations that might have
been taken for the polished work of masters of
composition had not the mood changed them
abruptly from melancholy to a gay rollicking satire
Another time he would turn on the gramophone
and with all of the grace and temperament of a
Stokowski, wield an imaginary baton to an in
Claire Windsor, to whom Charlie was reported
engaged, was in and out during the day, but did
not interfere in the work or the long talks they
enjoyed. Charlie confided that he, as a lonely
176 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
youth in London and on the vaudeville circuit in
America, even in his first days in Hollywood, had
longed to know people, but now that he knew so
many, he was lonelier than ever. "When one is
young and undeveloped/ he said, "one looks up
to people as having some mysterious bigness, and
he wants to know those people and their thoughts,
but as he, himself, grows he learns the fallacy of
this. All artists are lonely; it is useless to expect
anything else, it is inevitable."
Feverishly for three days Clare worked on the
bust, completing it within this time. She realized
how fortunate she was to have captured something
of his restlessness, something of his hunger. She
was fortunate also in having been able to ensnare
him immediately upon his return from Europe
before he had become engulfed in work. And a
man in pyjamas and dressing gown does not jump
into his car and dash off somewhere else.
It had not been easy to do, this face of the man
of so many moods. So much of subtlety, so much
of varying and conflicting passions; the self -chas
tisement of unbridled will, the ascent from the
childlike to the higher stage, the development of
the improviser into the master of form all this
must be transmuted to the clay by the knowing
fingers of the sculptress. She looked upon her
work at the end of the third day and called it good.
Did Charlie like it?
He said, "I wish this were not me, so that I could
CLARE SHERIDAN 177
admire it as I please. I find him very interesting,
this fellow you have made." And then, studying
it with half -closed eyes, he launched into an aston
ishing speech. "It might be the head of a criminal,
mightn t it? Criminals, you know, and artists are
psychologically akin,* both have a burning flame
of impulse, a vision, a deep sense of unlawfulness."
Charlie was in no hurry to get back to work.
Clare Sheridan s many-faceted personality inter
ested him. It was May, and the outdoors called
the Englishman. They decided to go on a camping
trip. Charlie telephoned Kono and asked him to
get things ready.
Tents and all the paraphernalia of camping,
including food for two weeks, were hurriedly got
"You can do the cooking," Charlie informed
"Yes? I can t boil an egg without reflecting dis
credit on its progenitor."
"Well, you ought to be ashamed," Charlie re
torted in mock reproof. "We ll take along the
They set off, a merry cavalcade, to find a suit
able location away from the crowded beaches.
Clare, young Dick, and Charlie were driven by
Kono in the large car; the cook and Mexican driver
* Somerset Maugham in The Summing Up says, "It is only the
artist, and maybe the criminal, who can make his own [life]."
178 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
with the camping equipment followed in a smaller
It was Sunday. They found to their dismay,
after starting, that the road up the coast through
Santa Monica to Santa Barbara was humming
with cars, most of them filled with families racing
somewhere not to be alone but with crowds of
other families which jam the beaches about Los
Angeles on week ends. On and on they sped, never
leaving the crowds until Clare, becoming quite
cross with the American tendency of herding, ac
cused Charlie of lack of foresight in not having
had a spot located for them before they started.
Charlie mopped his brow. "Shut up/ he snapped,
with the privilege of the camaraderie they enjoyed.
"Surely there must be some place, some lovely
peaceful spot unmarred by people?" she persisted.
"No, if it is at all accessible, someone will have
discovered it," he said.
"Then," said Clare, "we must content ourselves
with a horrid place no one else wants."
Charlie did not reply, merely instructed Kono
to drive on. Daylight was fading.
At long last, between Ventura and Oxnard, they
spied a clump of trees by the sea. They plunged
off the paved road and into sand for a mile or two
and brought up before a sign : "Private Property
No Trespassing No Camping No Hunting."
They looked at the tall eucalyptus trees, dark
plumes against the reddened sky.
CLARE SHERIDAN 179
"There !" exclaimed Charlie triumphantly, look
ing as pleased as a small boy who has found the
key to the jam closet. "There is our home for a
"B-but the sign/ Clare reminded him. He
brushed this aside.
The spot was perfect, everything they had hoped
for but not dared to expect. The sun sank suddenly
out of sight. Darkness came upon them, as it does
in California, like a tired old man going quickly
to bed instead of the reluctant drawing away
of a child, the twilight interim of the North and
East. The brief afterglow sent a warm radiance
over the beach and sky and sea. The wood was
fragrant with scent of eucalyptus trees mingled
with the salt tang of the sea, the sand a white
carpet of fine silt beneath their feet.
Throwing off their shoes and stockings, Clare
and Charlie and Dick ran, with whoops of joy,
down to the surf which was breaking in little
crimson and indigo waves upon the shore. They
stopped breathless before the wonder of it all.
Kono had been dispatched (as an afterthought)
to the farmhouse above to ask for permission to
make camp. The Japanese cook and the Mexican
driver, chattering harmoniously, set about pitch
ing five tents, hanging colored lanterns among the
trees, and building two campfires, one by the cook
tent, the other a "drawing-room" fire a short dis
tance away for Charlie and his guests.
180 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
Kono returned and announced that Charlie s
name had opened the way; it was as if the forbid
ding sign were obliterated. They were to remain
as long as they liked.
After a delicious dinner upon which all of them
had fallen with keen appetites, young Dick was
sent off to bed, into the tent made ready for him
and his mother. Clare and Charlie settled down
cross-legged before the fire that was burned down
by now and fragrant with the scent of eucalyptus
leaves thrown on by the thoughtful Kono. A half-
moon rose. The naked shining trunks of the trees
cast slender black shadows on the white sand. The
cries of night birds were shrill and sweet against
the booming rhythm of the waves beating against
the shore. Clare looked at Charlie huddled before
the fire, an elfin creature with gleaming eyes and
tousled hair. She shook off her impatience with
herself for neglecting to bring her modeling tools.
Here in this flickering light, the mystery of night
sounds, she could catch the sense of him. And then
emerging from the warm shadows of their isola
tion there came the confused anguish for the har
monies they both, as artists, sought. Charlie looked
up at her. He said, "Why are we here, Clare?
What is the meaning of it all?"
Clare shook her head wordlessly. Her mind
warned her of the futility of capitulation to his
eternal seeking and hers. And yet a profound
emotion, primal as the trees and rocks about them,
Charlie weaves fanciful stories of the wrecked hull on the beach and
the lands it has touched, for young Dick Sheridan, descendant of
Richard Brinsley Sheridan.
CLARE SHERIDAN 181
held them both, she knew; an obscure agitation of
hitherto unrecognized impulse toward one an
other. She grew frightened of herself, and then
Dick, who, torn by the excitement of the day, was
unable to get to sleep, emerged wide-eyed and
flushed from the tent and came up to Clare. She
took the small boy s hand in hers. Deliberately she
broke the moment. "Good night, dear Charlie/
she said with soft finality and followed her son
into their tent.
Like three happy, primitive children the three
of them passed the days following, joyous in their
seclusion. Barefooted they catapulted headfirst
down the steep slopes of the sand dunes, Charlie
to the delight of Clare who pointed it out to Dick,
bringing to his dives the grace of a dancer. He
danced for them with wild abandon, danced in
imitation of Nijinski but putting into each pas seuL
the peculiar intensity of combined tragedy and
comedy with which every separate expression of
his art is marked.
One day he found a wrecked boat far down the
beach, a shell of grey, abandoned driftwood. In
viting young Dick to sit beside him on its upturned
hull, he wove fanciful stories of the lands it liad
touched and the peoples it had seen, holding the
small boy enthralled for hours.
Charlie, with a rifle, wounded a duck, and it
flopped about on the sand. He was in a panic.
Turning his face away from its agony of thrash-
182 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
ing, he wailed to Clare, "You ll have to kill it. I
can t! I simply can t! My God, why was I such a
Clare, hardier by nature, grabbed an oar and
performed the distasteful task. Charlie, relieved
that the fowl was out of pain and at peace, for
(He has an unreasoning fear of physical pain,
not through any experience but from imagination.
He has been singularly free from disease and pain,
having built up by long walks in the open a re
sistance to the common ailments of mankind.)
Charlie was happy in these days, Clare knew.
And she was grateful for the sanity of the moment
when she had put down his impulse and hers
leaving him to draw peace from the miraculous
world of his own in which he needed no other.
Drawn from this short space from out life, to
gether, they were yet apart, each strongly indi
vidual, each free now of the remembrance, at best,
of an evanescent joy.
On the seventh day their paradise was spoiled,
as paradises inevitably are. The secret of Charlie s
presence had been whispered about among the
scattered families of the district. Hordes of chil
dren appeared seemingly out of nowhere, piling
out of ramshackle cars piloted by sheepish elders.
They surrounded Charlie, who instantly reverted
to the painful self -consciousness of his enforced
contact with people. Charlie talked with them, for
CLARE SHERIDAN 183
he could never be harsh with children, then dis
appeared alone over the dunes.
Two reporters climbed out of a car that had
just driven up and went in search of him. They
had not been able to find him at his home upon the
first night of his return to Hollywood.
He came back between them, his head hanging
in dejection. The price of advertising, incidental
to the career of an actor, must be paid. The beauty
and peace of their holiday were shattered.
They broke camp and returned to town.
That evening, Clare and Charlie sat on the ver
andah of his home and watched the lights below
that twinkled a jeweled carpet to the distant sea.
Constraint fastened upon them. Instead of a
tousle-headed elfin figure, Clare saw a smooth-
haired young man, guarded in his manner ; Charlie
saw a sophisticated woman of the world, whose
everyday association from her childhood had been
with princesses and statesmen and great writers.
Each faced a stranger.
"What is the matter with us?" Clare asked
"The matter is," Charlie replied with a superior
smile, "that we no longer know each other."
Next day Charlie saw Clare and Dick off at the
station. They were going to New York.
He returned to his home engulfed in a gloomy
conviction of the futility of expecting an unalloyed
companionship of the spirit, the hopelessness of
184 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
any attempt to escape the consequences of being.
It was a year before Charlie could have the clay
portrait Clare Sheridan had made of him cast into
bronze and placed on a pedestal in his living room.
And Clare, conscious of their incongruity of
physical height (she is fully six inches taller than
he) , has written in her autobiography, The Naked
Truth, "Dear Charlie, how funny it would have
been if. . . And on the whole not so unsuitable
but . . ." (the dots are hers) .
Pola Negri and Carlotta
CHAKLIE LEAENED that Pola Negri was on her way
to Hollywood. He described his meeting with her
in Germany once more to the press, and there was
great ballyhoo over the new star to shine in Holly
wood. For Charlie there was a pleasant expectancy
in the air which had something to do with Pola.
Meanwhile, Lila Lee, Claire Windsor, and Peggy
Joyce were constant and merely friendly visitors to
the Moorish atrocity in Beachwood Drive, Holly
wood, which Charlie had leased and which he called
home. The delectable Peggy was the most tempera
mental of these guests. On her whirlwind visits of
a day, two days, and a week end, as the impulse
struck her, she was loud in her denunciation of
Charlie s house as a "bachelor s den." "It smells
terrible," she was wont to wail, and, grabbing
Charlie s MitsuJco (by Guerlain) from his dresser,
would prance about like a priestess of old, sprin
kling the precious drops of perfume on rugs and
upholstery, drapes and cushions, with fine disre
gard for the spots she left in her wake. Kono would
ruefully contemplate the empty bottle of Mitsuko
186 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
and take himself off to a shop for another bottle
before Charlie should find it empty.
Pola arrived. She was grateful to Charlie for
his interest in. her career, the nice things he had
said about her in print. Her gratitude grew into
infatuation of Slavic intensity. Charlie showered
attentions upon her. Her marriage to her hus
band, a Polish count, was dissolved. Before many
weeks, the engagement of the new, exotic star and
Charlie Chaplin was announced.
Charlie bought an entire hill in the lower moun
tains above the estates of the millionaires and pic
ture stars in Beverly Hills. It was, he announced,
the site of his new home, his and Pola s. Miss
Negri wanted trees; large ones would have to be
uprooted somewhere and replanted, as is the cus
tom among Southern Calif ornians to whom money
is no object. Charlie was a little hazy about the
trees, so Pola wrote a check for approximately
seven thousand dollars for great shade trees of
eucalyptus and live oak from a local nursery. They
were the nucleus of landscaping the bare hill into
a private park.
Pola reveled in the excitement among the picture
colony over their engagement. She, never ham
pered by inhibitions, dramatized it, basking in the
resultant publicity. Lyrics of praise, some of them
embarrassingly intimate to Charlie, were sung by
the volatile Polish star, to interviewers and even
a few in magazines over her own signature. It
POLA NEGRI AND CARLOTTA 187
was obvious to the whole colony that Pola and
Charlie were in the heat of a violent infatuation.
Those who knew them best merely hoped the flame
would burn itself out before there were fireworks
before the disastrous culmination of marriage.
And then came the incident of the girl from
Mexico for which no one, save the girl herself,
was to blame.
Carlotta so shall she be called, mainly because
that is not her name was the headstrong, over-
romantic daughter of a noted Mexican general,
who had achieved his rank before the military title
became an opprobrium, of old and respected line
age. Running away from her home in Mexico and
crossing the border in some strategic manner
never quite explained, without formality of pass
port, she came to Los Angeles. Booking a room
at the Alexandria Hotel, at that time the largest
downtown hotel in Los Angeles, she proceeded di
rectly to the Chaplin studios in La Brea Avenue
and demanded to see Mr. Chaplin. He was, she
announced to all and sundry stragglers about the
gates and to the office secretary, the object of her
unceremonious trip, and of her affections.
Carlotta explained to Kono, who had become
Charlie s personal buffer by this time, that she
must meet Mr. Chaplin. She was, she said, in love
with his art Kono was tactful but firm. He was
so sorry, but Mr. Chaplin was working on a story
and could stop for no one. However, he assured
188 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
her, he would tell him of Miss s admiration
of his art, and he was quite sure it would please
him. He presented her with two pictures of Charlie
and sent her, as he thought, on her way.
There were many reasons why Kono decided not
to take Carlotta in to meet Charlie. He was hav
ing his troubles with the fiery Pola at the time,
and he welcomed no addition of a Mexican volcano
to the already overloaded emotional upheaval. Be
sides, it was obvious that the girl was under age,
and, of course, she was Latin ; so he congratulated
himself upon his own diplomacy.
Instead of returning to her hotel, Carlotta
hunted around in front of the studio until she
found a taxi driver who knew where the Chaplin
menage was. She appeared at the house and told
the butler, "Mr. Kono told me to come here and
wait for Mr. Chaplin." The butler, always on
guard, smelled a mouse. They were not in the
habit of sending beautiful young girls from the
studio to wait for Mr. Chaplin. He telephoned
Kono to confirm his suspicions. Turning away
from the telephone, he asked Carlotta to leave.
The girl grew hysterical. She would give him
anything. He must let her wait. She offered him
a ring containing a six-carat diamond of dazzling
whiteness. He refused to accept it, and she slipped
it from her finger and dropped it into his pocket.
He returned the ring and insisted that she go be
fore Mr. Chaplin s return. She reluctantly left,
POLA NEGRI AND CARLOTTA 189
giving no warning of what she intended to do that
As soon as he had finished his dinner, Kono,
acting upon a premonition that they had not seen
the last of Carlotta, drove to the house. As he
came in he heard voices in the dining room. Cross
ing the living room, he saw to his great relief that
all was as it should be. Pola and Dr. Cecil Rey
nolds* and Mrs. Reynolds with Charlie were lin
gering over their dessert and coffee, quite unaware
of Kono s apprehensions.
Quietly Kono started out through the hall, when
again something told him all was not right. Up
braiding himself for an overwrought fool, he
turned and slipped softly up the stairs and into
Charlie s bedroom. As he snapped on a light, a
figure in the bed jerked the covers up over its head
before he could make out who it was. He knew
the worst, however, even before he had turned to
see clothes, a woman s, flung on a chair.
He hurried downstairs and demanded of the
butler a guest list for the evening. "Why why,
nobody just the three you see in the dining room,"
said the mystified butler. Kono ran upstairs once
more and yanked the bedcovers down, disclosing
"Put your clothes on and get out as fast as you
* Dr. Reynolds, a graduate of Royal Physicians and Surgeons
of England, noted brain specialist in the film colony (where the
proportion of material to work upon, it is held by some unkind
critics, is exceedingly small), amateur actor, and brilliant conver
sationalist, is one of Charlie s friends of longest standing.
190 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
can," he commanded. Carlotta was not inclined
to obey this order, however, and only clung more
tightly to the bedclothes.
Here was a situation, innocent in actuality,
which might easily develop into scandal, adverse
publicity. Kono decided to try strategy where
authority had failed.
"If you ll put on your clothes and go down the
back stairs and out of the house, you can come to
the front door and ring the bell, and I ll tell the
butler to admit you. I ll See that you have a nice
visit with Mr. Chaplin," he promised. "Now,
Carlotta, after a moment s hesitation, was ap
parently mollified. She slipped into her clothes,
while Kono, nothing loath, watched her dress. She
followed him down the back stairs and out through
the kitchen door.
Kono called Charlie aside and explained the
drama of the afternoon and evening to him.
Charlie, his interest piqued, agreed readily that
the only thing to do was to see her.
Within a few minutes the front doorbell rang,
and Carlotta, the picture of innocence, was ad
mitted. Kono introduced her to the party of four,
but she, obviously, had eyes only for Charlie, hard
ly deigning a nod and glance to the others. Pola,
though she knew nothing of what had gone before,
was instinctively hostile to any attractive female
who visited Charlie. Her angry glances in Kono s
POLA NEGRI AND CARLOTTA 191
direction told him she suspected him of a deep-
dyed plot to take Charlie away fro^i her. Kono
shrugged it off.
Carlotta spoke excellent English with an attrac
tive accent; she was at ease in the group, her poise
was evident. And unlike most sheltered Mexican
girls of her class, she had a grasp of the world
about her, was a good conversationalist. Charlie
was delighted with her.
It was well after midnight when he suggested
that Kono drive her back to her hotel. She thanked
Charlie graciously for a nice evening and devoured
him with her eyes while Pola seethed and Dr.
Reynolds tried to conceal his huge amusement at
the whole thing.
Kono had dismissed Carlotta from his mind with
the thought that she must be well on her way back
to Mexico, when next morning the telephone rang.
It was Charlie s butler. He had just seen Carlotta
get up from an improvised bed of newspapers!
Under a large tree in the back garden ! She had left
the grounds, he added. Another call in midmorn-
ing informed Kono that Carlotta was at the house
with a big bouquet for Charlie. This was becoming
a nuisance, Kono assured himself between mild
Japanese curses. He jumped into his car and went
to the scene of what was assuming the proportions
of an endurance contest.
Carlotta greeted him, airily social in manner,
when he arrived and told him she was leaving that
192 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
day for Mexico but she wanted Mr. Chaplin to
have these flpwers in appreciation of his hospital
ity. Then having allayed his fears, she questioned
him about Pola Negri. Was she engaged to
Charlie? Was Charlie really in love with her?
Were they going to be married?
Kono assured her that they were going to be
married in the near future. As to what their emo
tions concerning each other were, he could not hope
to surmise, he added discreetly.
Carlotta s eyes blazed with jealousy. Her small
twisting fingers gave the stamp of truth to the
fire in her eyes. "I hate her !" she exclaimed. "I
will keel her some day," she added. "Now I must to
Kono agreed with her that this nonsensical pur
suit of Charlie must end.
He drove her to the corner of Western and
Hollywood Boulevard, there putting her into a
taxicab. Giving the driver three dollars, he in
structed him to take her to the Alexandria Hotel
and not to stop for anything but signal lights in
between. Carlotta bade Kono good-by with many
protestations of friendship and gratitude, and the
taxi drove away. Whew! He was glad the incident
was closed. Ticklish business, this Latin tempera
ment. Well, anyway, she was safely out of the
He had scarcely reached the studio and got down .
to work when the telephone rang and the butler
POLA NEGRI AND CARLOTTA 193
informed him gleefully that Carlotta was hanging
about the house, in front. Kono failed to appreci
ate the butler s mirth, warned him sharply that it
would cost him his job if she got into the house.
He would better, he added, lock all the doors.
Hanging up the receiver, Kono reflected ruefully
upon the powerlessness of three dollars as against
a Mexican beauty s wiles with taxi drivers.
Nervous and jumpy, Kono tried to settle down
to work. But about five o clock in the afternoon
he went to Charlie and advised him strongly
against going home that night for dinner. Charlie
agreed reluctantly to dine out. Kono called the
house about seven and was told that Carlotta had
retired from the siege. Again he allowed himself
the luxury of a sigh of relief.
All was serene on the Chaplin front next day
no sign of the glamorous Carlotta so Charlie de
cided to dine at home. Pola and the Reynoldses
were to dine with him.
At about eight that evening Kono drove up to
the house. He was taking no chances of a repeti
tion of the contretemps of the night before. Little
did he know that it would not be a repetition : it
would be a vastly improved exhibition of technique.
The first object that met his eye as he drew up
in front of the driveway gates was Carlotta, stag
gering about in a most peculiar manner in the
driveway. He jumped out of his car and rushed
toward her. She swayed and fell to the pavement.
194 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
There was a bright moon, and from its light
Kono could see dark rivulets on the pavement.
Blood ! So they were going to have a scandal after
all, in spite of everything!
Bending over the prostrate form of the girl, he
felt her hands. Icy cold! He felt for her heart
beat, could not distinguish any. Quickly summon
ing the chauffeur, the two of them carried her into
the laundry room at the back and laid her on an
improvised couch of soiled clothes.
In the bright lights of the laundry room, Kono
realized that his imagination had played him
tricks. There was no blood. The dark threads on
the pavement were tar in the irregular cracks of
They attempted to revive Carlotta from her
coma brought on by hysteria but were unsuccess
ful until the chauffeur, wiser in the ways of women
than Kono, hit upon the thought of running his
hand inside her dress. Carlotta, in a blaze of in
dignation and offended modesty, sat up ! She was
very much alive! But immediately she decided to
Kono summoned Charlie and Dr. Reynolds from
the dinner table. The doctor would know what to
do. But Kono had reckoned without his Pola. She,
sensing the suppressed excitement in the air, gath
ered up Mrs. Reynolds and followed them to the
laundry. Kono muttered curses. He had enough
on his hands without the kind of scene at which
POLA NEGRI AND CARLOTTA 195
the highly temperamental Pola was adept. He
tried to stop her. Pola pushed him aside.
Dr. Keynolds made a hasty survey of the prone
Carlotta and prescribed a pail of cold water. This
was duly sloshed over her, and she decided to come
permanently out of her faint. Pola berated Kono
for a brief moment, then turned her attention to
The battle was on ! The Mexican tigress and the
Polish lioness went at it tooth and nail. The ad
vantage was Carlotta s at first as they were fight
ing in English and her English was better than
Pola s. Pola made up for this discrepancy, how
ever, in flashing eyes, wildly flailing arms, and
Polish curses which sounded ominous, though none
of the onlookers nor Carlotta understood a word.
The odds in verbal battle now seemed to be
Pola s until Kono was inspired to throw a pail of
water on her. Diverted by the cold shower, she
turned her vituperations on him. Carlotta, taking
advantage of this brief respite between the major
combatants, grabbed an ice pick and, advancing
upon Pola, announced loudly her intention of slay
ing her on the spot.
Dr. Reynolds, who had been enjoying the drama
of the scene up to now, stepped in and disarmed
Carlotta. He looked closely at her eyes while he
held her, asked her what she had taken.
"Fve taken poison," she declared as if suddenly
remembering an unimportant incident. The doc-
196 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
tor suspected she was telling the truth but was
not alarmed; he knew that whatever she had swal
lowed could not be deadly or it would have acted
fatally before now. However, it was best to be
on the safe side. He advised Kono to call an am
bulance from the Receiving Hospital.
The laundry room was soon swarming with po
lice as well as ambulance attendants, Kono s Eng
lish on the telephone having been inadequate.
Carlotta refused to go to the hospital. The police
were obliged to carry her to the ambulance. Kono,
at Charlie s instruction, "interviewed" the police
to make reasonably sure of Charlie s name being
kept out of the report which must be made of the
The procession drove away, and Pola got down
to the serious business of berating Kono for his
stupidity. She accused him of every possible
machination of a human devil. Charlie, who knew
that Kono was slow of wit, knew also that in this
instance he could have done no more. He defended
Kono. Pola left the house in high dudgeon.
The quarrel that resulted was the prelude of the
actual breakup of the engagement of Pola Negri
and Charlie Chaplin. Charlie was beginning to
tire of Pola s dramatics and of Pola.
There was the inevitable coolness on his part;
the violent though slightly muzzled recrimination
on hers. They separated, each to go his own way.
And Charlie kept the trees.
Second Marriage The Gold Rush
IN 1923, the year of the success of Woman of Paris,
Charlie began to "write" The Gold Rush, which
was based on the epic theme of the mad dash of
eager thousands to the icebound Klondike in the
early nineties. On long walks alone, in days spent
in fishing at Catalina Island off the shore of Wil
mington, California, wrapped in contemplation of
the idea and, as he realized, faced with almost in
surmountable difficulties in actually filming such
a story, he grew more enthusiastic as the tragic
hardships endured by these early gold seekers
seized upon his imagination.
He was, he knew, treading upon dangerous
ground. Humor or satire directed at the locale of
so much tragedy could act as a boomerang. Wit
ness the success of The Cruise of the Kawa, that
delightful travesty on the tropics written by
George Chappell, Beaux Arts architect and humor
ist, under the pseudonym of "Walter Traprock,
the Intrepid Explorer," And the failure of My
Northern Exposure, from the same pen. Satiriz-
198 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
ing the grim tragedies of the Arctic, the latter book
failed in its response from the reading public.
The physical difficulties of filming such a pic
ture as The Gold Rush would have discouraged a
less daring pioneer. For Charlie, Alaska was out
of the question; the high Sierras would suffice.
But the cost and the attendant risks to men and
equipment must be considered.
With the idea for the picture still in nebulous
form, he started crews of workmen on the prelim
inary task of cutting trails through the dense,
snow-drifted forest of the selected location, to a
height of nearly ten thousand feet. When this
was completed, work was immediately begun on
the pass which was to be similar to Chilkoot Pass
of Klondike fame. This pass must run approxi
mately twenty-four hundred feet in length and
must rise to a further ascent of a thousand feet.
The whole work, started nine miles from the rail
road in the deepest snow of the winter, was a stu
pendous undertaking. The studio craftsmen lit
erally hewed the mountains and valleys into a
semblance of the Klondike region.
The breath-taking realism of the scenes in The
Gold Rush, the climax of Charlie s portrayal of
the futile, hapless character of the puny little fel
low, a deadbeat trying to pit his fragile strength
against the rugged realism of the greed for gold,
justifies Charlie s comment upon this picture:
"This is the picture I want to be remembered by/
SECOND MARRIAGE THE GOLD RUSH 199
he told his friends and fellow workers, even be
fore the critics had vociferously acclaimed his
The cost of The Gold Rush, he discovered, when
all accounts were in, was scarcely more than that
of The Kid. It was but little more costly to change
the contours of mountains, Charlie decided, than
to sit day after day using thousands of feet of
negative to elicit one bit of histrionics from a
youngster not overly burdened with the natural
instinct of an actor and none too responsive to the
creator s efforts.
A young part-Mexican girl had been brought to
the studio by her mother for a test as leading lady
in The Gold Rush. The girl was Lita Grey. The
tests were satisfactory, and could Charlie have
let it go at this, this portion of the story of his
life would have been far different. But his inabil
ity to distinguish between his art and his quest
for personal happiness clouding his judgment, the
genius fell before the man, trapped by his emotions
once more. He became engaged to Lita not long
after she had signed her contract to play opposite
him in The Gold Rush.
Before the sequences in which Lita was to ap
pear before the camera could be filmed, she fell
ill. The fanfare of press-agent publicity which
had attended her selection for the part was hushed.
Georgia Hale was quietly signed to take her place,
200 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
and Lita s sudden illness was given to the press
as the reason for the substitution.
Behind the scenes of this seemingly innocent
occurrence there was taking place a real-life drama
of more portent than the romantic thread of The
Gold Rush, with no comedy relief and with many
tears. Lita was sixteen, and she was the leading
lady, one might say, the star of the cast, and was
supported by her mother, Mrs. Lillian Spicer, her
grandparents, the Currys, as well as by an uncle,
Edwin T. McMurry, who, moreover, was an at
torney. Charlie was cast as the luckless villain of
the piece. Definitely.
Lita s kin insisted that he marry her at once.
Charlie came to the realization that he must again
be enchained by the hateful ties of a marriage
which, as in the case of his former one, was hope
less from the beginning. He and Lita had neither
tastes nor mentalities in common, nor was there
any real love upon which to build a mutual happi
ness or even content. His genius and the dark,
troubled, complex nature of the man she would
Charlie, dreading the Roman holiday the news
papers would make of their marriage, conceived
the idea of going to Guaymas, Mexico, ostensibly
to secure background pictures for a film. They got
together cameramen and technicians, a full studio
crew. Charlie, Chuck Reisner, his assistant di
rector, Kono, Lita, and her mother slipped down
& !: ^|tf|^ !
SECOND MARRIAGE THE GOLD RUSH 201
to the station in Los Angeles to take the train for
At the station they were met by Harrison Car
roll, then a reporter on the Los Angeles Times, the
large opposition paper to the Hearst-owned Ex
aminer, and later a columnist on the Herald-Ex
press. Also present was Jimmy Mitchell of the
Times. These two announced their intention of ac
companying the Chaplin party to Mexico, and no
argument Charlie or Kono could make would dis
suade them. Charlie assured them they were wast
ing their time trailing him on an uninteresting lo
cation trip. But his distraught manner only con
firmed their suspicion that there was something
more afoot. They knew he was making The Gold
Rush and could not readily believe that another
picture was to follow it so soon. And of course
there was nothing in the barren wastes of Mexico
near the California border that could have any
bearing on a Klondike picture. They, with several
other reporters who had joined them, decided to
Installed in a hotel in Guaymas, the technicians
obeyed an order from Charlie to take out, each
morning, a small fishing craft and stay out all day,
pretending to shoot scenes at sea. Kono was in
ducted as bodyguard to see that no newsmen got
to Lita, or to her mother, or to Charlie, and also
to report on the first auspicious moment at which
they could give them all the slip.
202 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
All this went on in the highest good humor, and
there was much chaffing between them. The re
porters liked Charlie and regretted their obliga
tion to their papers, for he seemed, really, to want
to be let alone with his fiancee and her mother. As
the days went by, they became bored with their
fruitless watching and grew careless.
Charlie seized upon this opportunity, and he
and Chuck Reisner, Mrs. Spicer, and Lita drove
hurriedly to Empalme in the state of Sonora, and
there on the twenty-fourth day of November, 1924,
the unhappy event of the marriage of Lita Grey
to Charlie Chaplin took place.
Kono had been left at Guaymas to assure the
tardy reporters, when they finally tore themselves
away from the various bars in the vicinity, that
Charlie and the two women were out on the boat.
Coming home from Mexico, the wedding party
took on, at Nogales, a comic-opera aspect. Every
member had to submit to fumigation to keep the
United States free from hoof-and-mouth disease.
The degerming was done outside, behind the im
migration station in crude cabinets. There were
only three cabinets; they were similar to those of
the Turkish bath. Charlie, Chuck Reisner, and
Kono were purified, three in a row, with only their
heads in view, a guard on duty, and the assembled
population of the border village a delighted audi
ence. Truly this was Charlie s most remarkable
SECOND MAKRIAGE THE GOLD RUSH 203
Once his wife and her mother were installed in
his home in Beverly Hills, Charlie gave evidence
of the distraught state of mind such an unhappy
reality was bound to incur. His marriage to Lita
Grey took on the semblance of his former one to
Mildred Harris. The moody, self-absorbed genius
was too submerged in the expression of himself to
make a satisfactory husband to any young, pleas
There is no reason to accuse Charlie Chaplin of
deliberate lack of adherence to high principles*
He simply did what hundreds of other men do in
Hollywood; but unfortunately for him, through
his fame, he was placed in a difficult position.
Concurrent with his engagement and marriage
to Lita Grey runs an episode of Charlie s life which
can be explained best as an antidote Charlie sought
for his lost freedom.
It all began on an estate not far from Hollywood,
one of those dream places beloved of the stars in
the movie colony that suggest a perfect motion-
picture set. In that lovely milieu Charlie met an
actress from whom he received a sympathy and
admiration that instantly acted as a soothing ano
dyne for his tortured state of mind and quickly
developed into what appeared to be a deep and
They met, Charlie and Maisie,* in moonlit gar-
* This is not lier name, but because this star has retired into
204 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
dens which were unquestionably an incentive to
romance, synthetic or real, to any two people not
endowed with crossed eyes or harelips.
After his marriage Charlie became a regular
guest at this home and the town home of the
actress. He often flew to her for sympathy; there
he could escape the carping recriminations of his
wife and her family. The attachment grew in
That Lita Chaplin knew of his feeling for Maisie
is evidenced by a clause in her divorce papers filed
two years later, "a certain prominent motion pic
ture actress" with whom Charlie told her he was
in love. Apparently he was quite frank with his
wife about his supposed feeling for Maisie. Partly
from a satisfaction to be gained from his inherent
love of drama, partly to goad his wife to divorce
him, he urged Lita to meet his new interest. She
refused. And she can hardly be blamed for this
So, known only to his wife, the star s secre
tary, Kono, and two of Charlie s friends, a writer
and critic, the incongruous romance progressed.
Incongruous because Maisie s most outstanding
talents consisted of wise-cracking, a hoydenish
humor, and a careless generosity with expensive
Maisie left for New York in April of 1925. But
by the time she had reached San Bernardino, a tele-
private life, she enjoys a legal "right to privacy" which it is not
the writer s wish to invade.
SECOND MARRIAGE THE GOLD RUSH 205
gram had been dispatched to Charlie asking him
to wire her at Needles where she would be at nine
o clock that evening, and saying that she was ter
Charlie replied that he talked about her all
through lunch with a friend and assured her that
"I am with you with all my love."
After Maisie s departure, Charlie was as one dis
traught. His home was an unhappy necessity
where his young wife persisted in behaving as if
she considered him a monster. Maisie had given
him a sort of lighthearted companionship in direct
contrast to the gloomy atmosphere and adverse vi
brations of his home. He was worried over the im
pending birth of his baby, by this time, which
would undoubtedly prove to be a tighter bond
against his eventual escape. The Gold Rush de
manded intense concentration of effort. Therefore
Maisie s telegrams and, later, her letters, assumed
an importance to him consistent with the circum
stances of his depression.
From Albuquerque, New Mexico, came another
telegram from Maisie. In this she gave Charlie a
New York address to which to write. An answer
duly sent by Charlie asked her to try to be happy
and assured her he loved her.
Because she loved him for his real self, or as
much of it as she was able to divine, and because
Charlie, thrown off his guard by the fact that she
was seeking no picture career through his stand-
206 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
ing, was wholehearted In his response to her seek
ing, one is likely to assume that this was the real
love of his adult life up to this time.
It was not to be long, however, before Charlie
would come to realize that in spite of the sympa
thetic companionship Maisie had given him, there
were certain depths of his nature she seemed in
capable of fathoming. And although her generos
ity and unfailing good humor had an irresistible
appeal for Charlie, it saddened him to discover
that Maisie was not able to give him that com
plete understanding of his complex and volatile
temperament he so pathetically craved.
Her letters were written on personal mono-
grammed paper and unfailingly enclosed in en
velopes addressed to Kono. They began, "Dearest,"
"My dear boy," "My dearest pal and severest
critic," and "Precious." Their context ran: "Not
having anything to do and having lost the inclina
tion to do it, I am spending my time with a bottle
of glue* thinking of you. Not that you remind me
of glue but thinking it over I sort of like the idea,
don t you?" And "I have tried hard to get away.
Fm like a person in a cage. Tonight I leave for lo
cation to be gone three days then I will be back.
I am going to keep on trying to telephone you but
if I shouldn t be able to reach you, please think of
me until I return. I will think of you always."
* Parting her picture over that of Llta s in a snapshot of Charlie
and Lita together.
SECOND MARRIAGE THE GOLD RUSH 207
An imprint of rouged lips at the top of the page
bore the label, "My soul is in this kiss."
One has only to examine the sheaf of Maisie s
letters to know that here is no George Sand-De
Musset grand passion ; no Elizabeth Barrett-Rob
ert Browning love of the spirit. There is nothing,
in fact, in any of the letters which would betray
any emotion deeper than the average housemaid s
flurry of love for the "boy friend." No intellectu
ality, no mental need or craving; no crying out of
a highly organized nature for the complete under
standing of its beloved, is evinced in any of the
letters sent during the six-year period. Rather is
there disclosed a lamentable poverty of thought
and feeling to offer to that mysterious, incalculable
inhabitant of the starry world of creative genius,
That Maisie had the wealth and leisure to pursue
the byways of self -development, of vehement as
piration to a larger life, places the burden of her
guilt upon herself alone.
In vain one looks for some evidence of a rich
and warm instinctive nature, independent of culti
vation. One sees her face, round and pink and
white, blank as a wild rose, opened. One sees her
love, presumably the one love of her life, expressed
in terms of lavish gifts. No big and contradictory
rhythms of the heart; no exalted passion; no bit-
tersweetness ; no sense of the inescapable ruin, of
208 CHAELIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
the destruction of their dissonant attachment, the
Charlie possessed the awareness that Maisie
lacked even though he was able to bury it tempo
rarily and deceive himself that here were the
attributes of escape, a sort of anodyne which
dulled his senses rather than a full warm richness
that filled the vacuity of his emotional life. He
could talk of none of his tortuous thoughts to her.
He was alone as ever in his prescience of tragedy
in which his comedy is forever rooted.
On the evening of June 27, doctors and nurses
bustled about the Chaplin home in Summit Drive,
Beverly Hills. There was every indication of an
important event about to occur.
Reporters and representatives of United and
Associated Presses had been importuning Charlie
for news of the heir. They were called in the next
morning, and Charlie, trying hard to look as if
he had just received exactly what he wanted from
Santa Glaus in June released the official date
of the birth of his first son, Charles Spencer Chap
lin, Jr., The time and date were ten minutes past
six o clock in the morning of June 28, 1925.
It was soon after this that Charlie offered Lita
$250,000 to divorce him. He would, in addition,
he assured her, provide liberally for the child.
Lita indignantly refused this sum; in fact, she
countered with a demand for three million dollars.
Charlie considered this rather steep.
SECOND MARRIAGE THE 1 GOLD RUSH 209
Charlie, who loves children in the abstract and
has often manifested keen interest in an individual
one, drew no joy from being father to his own son.
He is apparently unable to experience the primi
tive satisfaction that the average man enjoys from
Lita became restless. Being young and inexperi
enced and not knowing just what she wanted from
life, she decided to travel She went to Catalina
Island for a brief stay. Catalina is a simple resort
which can be enjoyed inexpensively. Thousands
of dollars were given her for this trip, a night s
run on a boat from Wilmington near Los Angeles.
She returned and soon afterward went to Hono
lulu. More thousands of dollars were given her
for this journey. Her credit at Los Angeles and
Hollywood stores had been unlimited, A short time
before the divorce papers were filed, she spent al
most thirty thousand dollars on jewelry and
clothes within a few days of careless shopping.
Charlie watched amazed at the pleasure anyone
could derive from senseless extravagance, which
is without the boundary of his comprehension. He
put it down to the fact that she was a simple, un
trained girl who had never had any appreciable
sums of money at her command before and who
lacked mental resources which would make such
extravagance unsatisfying. She was enjoying it;
he shrugged his shoulders and made no protest*
Production of The Gold Rush took much of his
energies and concentration.
210 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
For recreation he escorted Georgia Hale, who
had replaced Lita in The Gold Rush, to night clubs
and an occasional party. He enjoyed small intime
dinners with Maisie at her home. He appeared in
public with his wife often enough to put down news
columnists excessive speculation on their marital
There was one evening when he and Georgia
Hale were dining at the Russian Eagle, the smart
dining place of Hollywood at the time. They sat
next the table at which a member of the French
Foreign Office was host. At this table was a tall
slender woman with exquisite bone structure, so
beautiful that Sargent and many other artists
had painted her again and again for their own
delight in her "design/ A natural blonde, proud
and with an undeniable look of race, she was near
Charlie s own age but pointed the truth that beauty
often increases with age while mere prettiness may
fade into something negligible.
Heedless of his companion s annoyance and of
the angry glances sent his way by the European
host, Charlie sat in gloomy absorption for the bet
ter part of an hour devouring with his eyes the
Baronesse T . He seemed to be reaching out
to her as the symbol of all that he had missed,
would always miss. It was not hard to read his
somber thoughts: She is what I need, this woman
with her Old World charm, her grace, her inner
graciousness. A woman to whom beauty is not
diamonds and fur coats but a woman to whom
SECOND MARRIAGE THE GOLD RUSH 211
great stirring music, a sunset, a single tree flung
in silhouette against the sky, the poetry of life,
would mean more than being Charlie Chaplin s
His eyes, cloudy and dark blue, followed the
figure to the door, his dinner lay untouched on his
plate. There was hunger in his eyes, deep and
primal, a pleading for life to give him something
he had never had and which he CQuld not quite
Charlie was inspirited to repeat his detective
work on Lita as he had attempted in the case of
his former wife. He asked Kono to have a dicta
phone installed in Lita s bedroom. Whether he
hoped to catch the baritone of some hypothetical
admirer, or only the conversation of Lita and her
mother, was not clear to Kono. However, he obedi
ently had some of the studio electricians place the
transmitter of the instrument in the fireplace and
run the wires ending in a receiver to the basement
Stealthily one night, Charlie, followed by Kono,
went to the trunk room, picked up the earphones
of the contraption, and listened. His chagrin was
comical. He handed the instrument to Kono. Lita
and her mother, it is true, were having an animated
conversation, but all that came to the amateur
detectives ears was an excellent impersonation of
two indignant cats on the back fence. The dicta
phone, it seemed, was not a mechanical success.
Second Son Broken Marriage Escape
How THE BIRTH of the second child to this unhappy
union of Lita and Charlie Chaplin came about will
always be a matter of conjecture to those who took
seriously the absurd accusations made by Lita in
her divorce complaint, to say nothing of the few
who were aware of the natural antagonism be
tween the two. To these last, however, it was less
mystery than tragedy as they watched the married
life of the tragically mismated couple progress to
an inevitable and disastrous finish. But nine
months and two days after the registered date of
Charles s birth, another boy was born to them and
christened Sydney Earl Chaplin II
When little Sydney was not quite ten months
of age, in January of 1927, Lita sued Charlie for
divorce and asked for an accounting of community
property under the California law which grants
to either party of the marriage contract a claim
upon any proprety acquired while married. She
demanded that a receiver be appointed for the
Chaplin holdings and that an order pendente lite
be granted restraining her husband from: first,
SECOND SON BROKEN MARRIAGE 213
taking the children from her; second, assigning or
transferring any property to others pending the
outcome of the divorce.
This order included the picture, The Circus,
upon which Charlie was working at the time, as
producer, director, and star. Nine hundred thou
sand dollars had been expended upon the produc
tion, and although it was well on its way it was
by no means completed.
Merna Kennedy played opposite Charlie in The
Circus and was one of the few to withstand his
charm. Merna was a friend of Lita s and showed
a fine loyalty for Charlie s wife. Charlie was still
engaged in sporadic efforts to endow Maisie with
qualities of which she had never even heard.
Lita Chaplin s divorce complaint burst as a ver
itable bombshell upon the always more or less con
tinuous marital skirmishes of the ladies and gen
tlemen of the screen. Not that anyone expected
the marriage to last; but none, not even Charlie,
was prepared for the lengths to which she would
go in her accusations against the conduct and
morals of the outstanding screen luminary of the
The complaint was filed against Charles
Spencer Chaplin, Inc., a corporation; T. Kono;
Alfred Keeves, studio manager; United Artists
Corporation, and various banks and John Does.
Soon the more sensational phases of the com
plaint were common gossip. "Have you heard what
214 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
Chaplin s wife accuses him of 1" "He s a beast to
treat that young girl so/ and thus it went.
The milder accusations, such as paragraph (b)
on page 3 of the lengthy vituperation, were to be
expected. If Charlie Chaplin had not struck out
at the fate which had once more entrapped him
into a hateful marriage, he would have been more
or less than human. This paragraph follows :
"That on or about the 5th day of January, 1925,
defendant [Charlie] came home about 1 :30 o clock
A.M. and went into plaintiff s room while she was
asleep, and wakened her and commenced to up
braid her, reproach her and condemn her on ac
count of their said marriage; that at said time
plaintiff was in a delicate condition, as aforesaid,
and nervous from loss of sleep, and exhausted by
excitement and turmoil, and commenced to cry.
That she said to defendant : C I am very sorry but
it is not my fault, and I don t see how I can help
it. Please let me rest and don t talk to me any
more tonight about it, and I will talk to you in the
morning/ That defendant replied in an angry
and domineering voice, We ll talk about it right
now. That defendant thereupon remained in said
room and continued to abuse and condemn plain
tiff, as aforesaid, until five o clock."
Divorce complaints in Hollywood have become
milder and more civilized within the past fifteen
years. It is accepted by each party to the action
that neither is a beast or monster, nor is one party
SECOND SON BROKEN MARRIAGE 215
as pure as a snowdrift and the other appended
with tail and horns.
It cannot be denied that Charlie, often driven to
frenzy by all the thousand and one restraints of
an unhappy union, was at times unchivalrous;
nor was he the angel of tolerance and unfailing
courtesy which fits in with the accepted conception
of a gentleman. Being, as he believed himself to
be, in love with Maisie at the time did not increase
his good nature and patience with his wife. And
no man, far less an artist, can be expected to ig
nore his own conviction that he has been entrapped
into a marriage hateful to his very soul.
Production on The Circus was stopped by
Charlie upon receiving service of Lita s divorce
complaint. He had taken the precaution of having
his home and all studio property listed under
corporation ownership save some large cash bal
ances in various banks and Liberty bonds and
Canadian War bonds to the amount of approxi
mately three-quarters of a million dollars in value.
These were secreted at the studio.
Sensing in the first gun fired, the newspaper
furor, in an attack upon him, Charlie s impulse
was to run, to escape. He was in a dreadful state
of nerves and threatened to go to England to make
pictures before he would agree to the settlement
Lita had indicated she would demand.
While Lloyd Wright, who had succeeded Arthur
216 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
Wright, his late brother, as Charlie s attorney,
prepared his line of defense and called in Gavin
McNab, of San Francisco, as consulting attorney,
Nathan Burkan, noted lawyer of New York, was
engaged by Charlie as his personal attorney and
adviser. Lita s battery of attorneys consisted of
the firm of Young and Young, and L. R. Brigham,
and was headed by her uncle, Edwin T. McMurry.
Charlie decided to leave secretly for New York,
taking only Kono with him. A friend secured train
tickets for them under his name. Avoiding the fast
trains upon which motion-picture stars are ac
customed to travel, the reservations were made on a
"local" to Chicago.
Charlie and Kono boarded the train late at
night. There was not a reporter in sight, for the
utmost secrecy had attended their preparations for
the journey. Charlie was quickly secluded in a
drawing room, while Kono occupied a section in
the same Pullman.
It was a four-day trip to Chicago on this train,
which stopped at every small station, and at water
tanks in between. There was no diner; at meal
times stops of twenty minutes were made at the
Harvey houses along the route, and each time
Kono jumped off, ate hurriedly, and brought a tray
to Charlie, paying a deposit on the tray and silver
and dishes, to be redeemed at the next stop. This
enabled Charlie to eat leisurely as the train
SECOND SON BROKEN MARRIAGE 217
After four days of dragging time, they reached
Chicago, where a few straggling reporters meeting
the train on the chance of a little story pounced
upon them. Here was luck. Charlie, for all the
press knew, was in seclusion in his home in Beverly
Hills. Kono, seeing Charlie s lowering look, put
them off. Mr. Chaplin was very tired. He was
making a hurried trip on business. Loud guffaws
met this information. A hurried trip on this
turtle ! Well, anyway, Mr. Chaplin was very tired.
He would meet them at the Blackstone Hotel an
It is to be hoped that those reporters are not
waiting yet at the Blackstone, for Charlie and
Kono hopped into a taxi and rode to the extreme
north side of Chicago, to the Hotel Belmont, where
there were no reporters and where the blase man
ager would not have flicked an eyelash if Her
Majesty, Dowager Queen Mary herself had reg
istered at his inn.
Kono went into town to reserve accommodations
for the Twentieth Century Limited leaving for
New York that night, but there were no berths
available. Leaving his telephone number, he re
turned to the Belmont to find Charlie possessed of
a sudden appetite for Chinese food. They dined at
the noted New China Chop Suey House at the
corner of Van Buren and Clark Streets. No one
recognized Charlie sitting back in a dim corner of
the cafe. It was pleasant to be in a strange city
218 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
eating an excellent dinner in obscurity. As they
drove through the snowy night back to the hotel
Charlie was jubilant at the success of their ruse.
His joy was not long-lived.
Kono received a call from the ticket agent next
morning, A special Pullman was to be attached
to the Twentieth Century for Mr. Chaplin and his
"I hate to doubt their pure motives, but it sounds
fishy to me," Kono told Charlie as they breakfasted
in their rooms.
Charlie upbraided him for a cynic. "Why
shouldn t they put on an extra car for me?" he
asked truculently. "They didn t say we had to pay
for the whole car, did they?" he added.
"No, and that s just where the catch comes. I
don t like it." Kono was dubious. Charlie laughed
at his fears.
When they opened their door to go to the station
they were greeted by no less than thirty reporters
crowding the hall. Loud clamors for interviews
rent the air, but Charlie smiled and went deaf and
dumb, and Kono "no spik Englis" which was not
too gross an exaggeration. Finally goaded to reck
lessness by their inability to get a word out of
either, one of the reporters boasted that the whole
lot of them were accompanying the pair to New
York. A light dawned on Kono. So this was the
reason for the extreme thoughtf ulness of the rail
road. The press had bought out the car! With
SECOND SON BROKEN MARRIAGE 219
resignation he accepted the inevitable and pre
pared for the siege.
With Charlie securely locked in his drawing
room, it was a baffled group of newsmen until one
veteran reporter from the New York American,
seizing a chance when Kono came out of the state
room and left it unlocked, slipped in and overcame
Charlie s scowling displeasure by talking fast. He
only wanted to relieve Mr. Chaplin s boredom and
his own, he assured him. He suggested a game of
Kono was disturbed to find them absorbed in
the game when he returned. He cursed himself
for having left the door unlocked and sat down in
a corner apparently immersed in a magazine, and
listened. It all seemed harmless enough; there
was no talk of personalities, no attempt on the part
of the newsman to draw Charlie into a discussion
of his private affairs. And Charlie was intent up
on his cards, trying as hard to win from his op
ponent as if it were a matter of his next meal.
A little after midnight Kono got up and an
nounced flatly that it was time to go to bed. The
reporter assumed a downcast expression. He
couldn t, he confided, sleep at all on a train. Charlie
chimed in that neither could he. He would rather
go on playing than toss about in his berth. It
slowly penetrated Kono s mind that he was no
match for a keen-witted reporter. He left for his
own bed, after a warning look thrown at Charlie.
220 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
The next morning Charlie appeared distraught
and anxious. He confessed to Kono that he had
talked too much. It seemed that immediately after
Kono retired, the reporter had begun talking of
the trouble, all of it mythical, no doubt, that he
had had with women. Charlie had sympathized
with him and had responded with his views on
women in general and his current wife in particu
lar. The game had continued until daylight,
Charlie by that time having told all of his plans,
his marriage experience, and so on, ad infinitum.
He had extracted a promise, however, that he
would not be quoted.
Kono sought out the reporter and asked that
the whole confidence be kept oif the record. The
reporter laughed at him, insinuated 1^ia1;,^e was
none too bright. Kono Coffered lmx| money; the
reported waved this aside>-There wasSnothing to
worry aobut, l^ejassured Im^T^So convincing was
he in hi^ protest^ionguthat Kono, nevipr quick
witted, was inplMecT to believe it had Sail been a
pother about/notMpg. *
New York Attack Defense
IN NEW YORK Charlie and Kono went to the
bachelor apartment of Nathan Burkan to stay.
Burkan, a genial and hospitable man, put himself
out to soothe Charlie s nervous apprehension about
the outcome of the divorce. The main point, he
assured him, was that his side must maintain a
dignified silence through the press. This would
do much to swing public sentiment and sympathy
over to Charlie. Lita was not using such discretion.
Mr. Burkan suggested the theater that evening.
There was a good play, an amusing one, at the
Times Square, Anita Looses Gentlemen Prefer
Blondes. Charlie agreed to go; he wanted to put
the whole matter out of his mind, and Mr. Burkan s
attitude was comfortably reassuring.
It was a cold night in January. Gusts of snow
greeted them as they reached the theater* As Mr.
Burkan stepped up to the box office, Charlie shiv
ered with more than the cold. The newsboys were
crying his name. His heart sank, his stomach
Snatching a paper, he read just enough to see
222 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
his secrets confided the night before to the "sympa
thetic" reporter for the New York American
spread with embellishment for the delectation of
its readers always avid for "crime and under
wear." Charlie was stripped in this story to a
mere shred of undergarment. Dementia Ameri
cana was well launched.
It is hard for the average citizen to comprehend
the total absence of ethics and decency in some of
the gentlemen of the press in America. But in
fairness to the reporters must it be said that it is
the established policy of the papers which must
shoulder the blame. The writer was told by a re
porter that if it so happened that he was sent to
get a sensational story on his own sister or mother
and stopped at the border line of news, failed to
color the facts into a jumble of lying melodrama,
refused to betray confidences or steal pictures, it
would mean instant dismissal and probably
Charlie became violently ill. Mr. Burkan, dis
tressed over his indiscretion as much as over his
present reactions, hurried him to the gentlemen s
lounge in the theater where he vomited and had
to lie down for some time on a couch before he
could be taken home. Mr. Burkan was able to keep
the curious away from the violently nauseated
figure on the couch. The passers-by were men, and
fortunately there was a majority well-bred enough
to leave him quite alone. So continued was
NEW YORK ATTACK DEFENSE 223
Charlie s agitation and nausea that all thought of
seeing the play was relinquished. He was rushed
home and put to bed.
All through the night Charlie kept Kono by his
bedside. He had to have someone to whom he could
pour out his despair. He was through. He was
finished. He could never face the world again,
never make another picture, never hold up his head
after this. As the night wore on, his condition be
came more serious, his temperature rose alarm
ingly, and Mr. Burkan suggested calling in a
doctor, Gustav Tiek. Dr. Tiek pronounced his con
dition a nervous breakdown and prescribed com
plete rest in bed. He strongly recommended that
all newspapers be kept from his room.
Of this last Charlie would not hear. He insisted
upon having all of the New York papers brought
to him, seemed to derive a melancholy pleasure
from the mental lacerations the newspapers, al
most without exception, were giving him. He
learned from them that private detectives armed
with court orders had visited the studio, the man
ager, Al Reeves, and the banks where he had safety
deposit boxes, and had clamped attachments on
everything he owned except the War bonds, Ca
nadian and American, which were safely secreted
at the studio. He also had a bank account of some
twenty thousand dollars on deposit in New York.
Payrolls at the studio were held up, pictures under
production stopped; even the hat and shoes and
224 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
stick, the trademarks of his comedies, were under
The Graphic, New York scandal sheet, owned
by Bernarr MacFadden of True Story cult, came
out next day with the divorce complaint in full,
whereas even the most yellow of the other journals
had slipped in only an occasional paragraph and
hinted at the others. Copies of the notorious docu
ment were struck off on printing presses, it was
learned, and were selling in the larger cities for
sums ranging from twenty-five cents to ten dollars.
Charlie was too intelligent not to realize the dis
aster of this hue and cry to his popularity in the
Middle West, the South, and in the smaller towns
in every section of the country. Hollywood would
discount the charges; New York would shrug its
shoulders and laugh it off; Boston would ask, "Who
is Charlie Chaplin?" and Chicago would probably
announce that it didn t give a damn. But the
hinterland ! Women s clubs and church organiza
tions there would demand that a stop be put to
the showing of his pictures.
Motion pictures do not depend upon a few cities
for the enormous profit which makes possible the
spending of millions in production. America had
demonstrated during the War that she made little
distinction between an artist s private life or con-
eonvictions and his art. Witness the treatment
accorded the altruistic Fritz Kreisler when he was
overtaxing his strength to the danger point to play
NEW YORK ATTACK DEFENSE 225
a crowded schedule of benefit concerts for the fam
ilies of destitute Belgian, German, and Allied
artists. In many towns he was booed and hissed.
He was a German. England played Wagner, all
the German masters, for the duration of the war.
We were pleased to ban them for accident of birth.
Art should know no time nor place nor nation
ality. And who, possessing no standard by which
an artist can be measured, is competent to set him
self up as judge? Certainly not the hypocritical,
self-righteous "respectable citizen" ; his bourgeois
narrow gauge rule is inadequate for measure of
art or the artist.
Ambrose Bierce has said, "It is the lot of all
men of genius to suffer at the hands of mediocrity.
. . . Let a man have a thought that transcends the
commonplace and he is denounced as a neurotic or
a drunkard. . . . The expression of the thought can
be explained in no other way by the aspiring
In the hysteria of the moment, Charlie s sup
posed transgressions were counted more than mere
drunkenness or neuroticism. And communities in
Canada and in the United States were guilty of
turning thumbs down on all Chaplin pictures.
Meanwhile, for four days and nights, it was
necessary to keep a close watch upon Charlie s
every action. His despair was so great at the readi
ness of the public to accept accusations that were
despicable lies that Kono, by Mr. Burkan s instruc-
226 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
tions, stayed at his bedside, did not leave the con
fines of the suite occupied by the crushed actor.
And while he prevented any attempts at desperate
action he infuriated Charlie with his attempts at
"What do you care?" Kono asked him. "You
can retire tomorrow and enjoy everything money
can buy. You can go to England and live."
"That s all you know of what work means to
me," Charlie shouted. "What do I care? Oh, what s
the use ! You wouldn t know what I was talking
Lonely and confused, Charlie meditated upon
the contrast of justice as applied to business affairs
and to an artist s most valuable commodity, ad
miration by the public, A businessman, he reflected,
whose affairs have become involved, is protected
from the animus of creditors who wish to ruin
him outright. Even more important, he is pro
tected from the public, the receiver s books closed
to indiscriminate prying. Not so the hapless de
fendant in a divorce suit. Instead, every detail of
his wife s charges is made public before he has
an opportunity to defend himself legally. He is
pronounced guilty before he is tried, is placed in
the public stocks to be hooted at, jeered, and stoned
before he has a chance for defense and until the
populace tires of its sensation and veers off to
An artist whose existence depends upon the
NEW YORK ATTACK DEFENSE 227
personal regard of Ms audiences is doubly vulner
able in such a matter.
Wheeler Dryden, half -brother to both Charlie
and Syd, was in New York at this time. Dreamy,
somewhat ineffectual if weighed by financial suc
cess of both his brothers,* Wheeler had entered into
Charlie s life only sketchily. He is known to have
been on the Chaplin payroll, content with twenty-
five dollars a week. Dryden has dabbled in serious
legitimate drama in New York and in England.
Maintaining the serio-comic discretion of a bar-
sinister relative of a royal house, yet evincing a
brotherly loyalty withal, he sent the following let
ter to Kono :
New York City, N. Y.
(Tel. Circle 2131)
Dear Kono : Jan. 23rd, 1927.
You will remember me as a very close relative of Mr,
Chaplin s. The last time I saw you was in August 1925
at the Ritz-Carlton when I called on Mr. Chaplin to keep
a luncheon engagement with him.
Kono, please hand the enclosed note to Mr. Chaplin
personally. It is just a short note to tell him that I am
prepared to do anything in my power to do, to help him
in his present trouble. He may want to get in touch with
me at short notice so kindly make a note of my address
and telephone number in your address book. ... In any
case I shall call upon Mr. Chaplin personally within a day
or two. I am giving him time to recuperate completely
from his illness.
With best wishes
* Syd Chaplin had entered the Chaplin studio and was producing
moderately successful comedies in which he himself starred.
228 CHAELIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
Reason gradually asserted itself with Charlie.
Slowly courage had filtered through where there
had been only despair. He told himself that this
was only a phase of his life, not the whole; that it
would recede before the next wave of sensation into
a vague remembrance* Eventually his people would
not condemn him. They would know that his char
acterization on the screen was a truer picture of
him than that stirred by scandalmongers, a very
human fellow who made mistakes but who gave
them his best and who strove always to make that
Editorial writers, some of the better ones, be
gan to take up the cudgels in Charlie s behalf.
Their inky ammunition was aimed less at Lita
than against the sheeplike condemnation of him
for his private life by people whose own houses
were somewhat transparent and who had none
theless laid in a goodly supply of stones.
Livingston Lamed on the editorial pages of the
White Plains, (N. Y.) Daily Reporter was one of
the first to lash out at Charlie s self-righteous
critics. He wrote in part: "At the very first inti
mation of gossip, we zestfully rip reputations apart
and set ourselves up as moral censors of the uni
verse. ... As far as the public is concerned a vast
number of stones are being thrown by people who
live in glass houses. If the other person does some
thing, it s a crime against common decency and
civilization; if they are caught with the goods, it s
NEW YORK ATTACK DEFENSE 229
quite another matter. If they are not caught, their
moral pose is simply gorgeous. We would be im
mensely interested in a cross section of the personal
and private lives of any one hundred people who
are raising such a hullabaloo over Charlie Chaplin.
There would be enough slime to keep the pink-
petticoated tabloids in scandal broth for years to
"Charlie Chaplin has manufactured happiness,
entertainment, release from boredom It is a
vast and immeasurable record of high achievement.
The echoes of laughter and light-hearted gaiety
he has inspired can be heard around the world."
Other editors followed suit. H. L. Mencken, who
was no admirer of Charlie s "innocuous film buf
fooneries," took out his flail and lashed the news
papers for pandering to the public s avid interest in
scandal. He wrote in the Baltimore Evening Sun;
"The very morons who worshipped Charlie Chaplin
six weeks ago now prepare to dance around the
stake while he is burned; he is learning something
of the psychology of the mob A public trial in
volving sexual accusations is made a carnival
everywhere in the United States save perhaps in a
few states that are not quite one hundred per cent
American, but nowhere is there more shameless a
delight in obscenity than in California. The re
tired Iowa cow valets who swarm the state, espe
cially in the southern section thereof, are hot for
230 CHAELIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
bawdy shows, and like them best when they are
The divorce battle proceeded. On February 11,
four months before the tax trouble was known to
have been settled, the New York Sun had come out
with a story by special dispatch from Hollywood
that the prominent clubwomen of the film capital
and adjacent Los Angeles had started a fund for
"the penniless wife and children" of Charlie Chap
lin. It was, purportedly, to pay the rent on their
house and provide money for their actual necessi
ties. Lita Chaplin, it stated, had been awarded
four thousand dollars a month temporary alimony
pending the outcome of her divorce suit but had
been unable to collect a penny of it, owing to legal
technicalities at which Charlie s attorneys were
adept, and also because of claims on the Chaplin
property filed by Federal Income Tax authorities.
Charlie s formal announcement that he would not
be responsible for his wife s debts had shut off all
avenues of credit.
Charlie s lawyers had offered Lita twenty-five
dollars a week, which she had refused as inadequate
and in direct contravention of the court order is
sued by Judge Guerin.
"If Chaplin thinks he can starve his child-wife
into submission he is reckoning without the women
of Hollywood," said Mrs. M. R. Browningfield of
the Ebell Club, in a statement to a representative
of the New York Sun on that date. "Thirty women
NEW YORK ATTACK DEFENSE 231
representing twenty clubs met Thursday night last,
and we have already begun to raise the money to
pay Mrs. Chaplin s rent and to properly feed and
care for her little boys. We are not taking sides
in the divorce case but we are not willing that this
eighteen-year-old wife and mother shall suffer
from want while her husband whose superior age
and experience should have made him more toler
ant, is employing his expensive lawyers to deprive
her of use of the money the judge says she should
have and which Chaplin can well afford/ 7
Each of the women pledged to contribute one
hundred dollars by the end of the week, which
would give Lita three thousand dollars to meet
It was not the direct fault of Charlie, of course,
that the Federal Government had tied up this
temporary alimony, but it was with his full knowl
edge and consent that his own attorneys had so
clouded the proceedings with petty technicalities,
and it was with his approval that his own personal
purse strings were tightened and that his attorneys
offered Lita the meager sum of twenty-five dollars
a week, purported to come from Lloyd Wright* s
own pocket. It was admirable of neither Charlie
nor Mr. Wright that they employed such weapons
against a very young woman and two small chil
dren, Charlie s own children. Follows an excerpt
from a letter written by Mr. Wright to Mr. Nathan
Burkan under date of February 7, 1927 :
232 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
We know that the other side is getting very tired. They
have accomplished nothing and they realize that sentiment
is turning against them. They have tried to approach us
with a compromise offer but we have, thus far, refused to
entertain it. . . .
Their going to the District Attorney has cost them a
host of friends. For instance the last time they went to
him, they informed him that I was voluntarily making
these contributions to the children, and not as Chaplin s
agent. It is true that I have given them the impression,
and necessarily so, that the money was coming out of my
own funds and I will continue to do so. Otherwise if any
accumulation of moneys were permitted here, they would
try to get it under the Receiver s order or under the order
of the Federal Government or under anyone s control that
might try to embarrass us.
The interference of the clubwomen of Holly
wood and Los Angeles in the Chaplin affairs was
from a cursory glance put down to the age-old vil
lage persecution. Tar and feather the malefactor
who dares to step aside from the narrow paths of
rectitude cut through the dense forest of human
Charlie s attitude toward this gesture was a
mixture of worry over antagonizing organized
opinion, and lofty contempt that they could not
grasp the truth that he was beyond the cruelty of
which they accused him.
Charlie s statement in answer to the club
women s activities follows :
I find that I am accused of letting my children go hun
gry for lack of milk. I had heard a rumor of it before but
now I learn the charge has actually been made and is
being repeated. It seems silly to deny it but I have had
NEW YORK ATTACK DEFENSE 233
to deny so many other silly charges that I must now give
my word that this charge is not only untrue but was
manufactured for the sole purpose of injuring me and
holding me up.
I don t believe a man has ever lived who would refuse
milk to hungry children. And when you realize that I
have no other interest in the present controversy "than to
regain my children and look after them, you will also
realize the absurdity of the charge that I am letting them
go hungry. As a matter of fact, Mrs. Chaplin s lawyers
have checks of mine in their possession which could buy
milk. The reason they have not cashed them is that they
want bigger checks. [Considerably larger checks were
ordered by the court and ignored by Charlie and his at
torneys.] They do not want milk for the children. They
want to milk me I will make a fight for the sake of my
children. They will never want for anything that I can
give them. But it will be a tedious fight and you will
hear many rumors and charges. You can trust a group
of lawyers who are out to hold me up for money and pub
licity to do everything they can to intimidate the defend
ant so that he will settle with them for cash.
All I ask is that the public suspend judgment until the
case is decided. I can fight an unjust charge even though
all the lawyers of California are behind it. But I do not
think it fair to ask me to fight all gossip and all charges
and all rumors that are spread against me by people whose
only interest is to make money out of me.
"Settle for cash" is exactly what Charlie did in
the long run. Without inconvenience to himself he
could have given one million out of a probable ten
million he had and saved himself these accusations
from many sources. After a long siege, he paid
Lita six hundred thousand dollars, and large fees
to his attorneys.
Charlie made no outstanding effort to get sole
possession of his boys. They were not the issue
234 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
uppermost in his mind, for he apparently lacked
the so-called normal instincts of the usual father.
He understands the heart of a child as perhaps no
other dramatist except the late Sir James Barrie,
but it is an abstract understanding, impersonaliz-
ed, inclusive of the whole of childhood. And his
attitude, consistent with his views formerly ex
pressed to Clare Sheridan, was that the boys would
care for him because he was their father.
In a letter to Nathan Burkan from Lloyd
Wright, dated February 10, there is enlightenment
on the methods of his defense against what Charlie
sincerely believed to be a holdup. Wright wrote,
"We know from confidential sources that our con
tinued hammering at them is breaking their
morale They are ready to talk settlement but
it is our opinion that we should not yet see them
until we have continued our process of breaking
them down a little longer.
"We have wonderful contacts with what is
going on. We have every possible influence at work
for us, and frankly, we cannot see anything but
final and complete success The strongest in
fluences in the state [California] are helping us in
every particular we request."
"Final and complete" success Charlie felt was
necessary. He was sure that if his attorneys slack
ened their efforts one whit, it might cost him his
right of expression on the screen. And deprived of
this outlet, he would no doubt have sickened and
NEW YORK ATTACK DEFENSE 235
He dreaded a court trial of the divorce, hoped
for a settlement.
On July 20, 1927, Kono received the following
telegram from Lloyd Wright:
AFTER WE ACCEPTED THEffi PROPOSITION AND UPON AB
SOLUTE ASSURANCE THAT SHE WISHED IT AND APPROVED IT
WE SUBMITTED AGREEMENT AS WAS SENT YOU SUNDAY STOP
SHE NOW RAISING CERTAIN QUESTIONS AND HAS EXPRESSED
DESIRE TO DELAY FINAL APPROVAL AND SIGNATURE OF
AGREEMENT STOP WE ARE SURE THEY ARE PLAYING POKER
STOP WE ARE PROCEEDING WITH PREPARATIONS FOR TRIAL
AND HAVE NOTIFIED THEM STOP MCNAB AND I FEEL THAT
AGREEMENT WILL BE REACHED AND EXECUTED WITHIN
SHORT TIME NEVERTHELESS WE MUST MAKE BOLD FRONT
AND CARRY ON PREPARATIONS BECAUSE OF HER TREACHERY
STOP NOTHING TO BECOME ALARMED ABOUT AND WE HAVE
INFORMED NATE OUR COURSE AND HE APPROVES STOP ONE
OF THE POINTS ABOUT WHICH THE PLAINTIFF AND HER
UNCLE ARE FIGHTING IS THE STRONG PROVISIONS WE HAVE
MADE THAT IF SHE MAKES FURTHER ATTACK 1 ON DEFENDANT
AFTER SETTLEMENT SHE WILL LOSE THE POSTPONED PAY
MENT STOP THIS IS THE MOST VITAL PART OF CONTRACT
STOP ALL SEND REGARDS
Charlie was weary of hearing about the settle
ment that constantly approached the verge of com
pletion and then retreated. A recent invitation
appealed to him. It was from the Atwater-Kents in
Philadelphia, for luncheon, the horse show, and an
Interlude Divorce Settlement
THE INVITATION from Mrs. Atwater-Kent gave
explicit directions as to the train Charlie and Kono
were to take to Philadelphia and at which station
they would be met, the East-side Station.
The short trip was uneventful until just before
the train reached the outskirts of Philadelphia and
slowed down for the city traffic. Kono was a bit
apprehensive as Charlie got up with a newspaper
in his hand and disappeared into the gentlemen s
lavatory. But when some fifteen minutes passed
and they approached the East-side Station and no
sign of Charlie, he was positively anxious. He got
up, walked the length of the car, and knocked on
"Go away!" yelled Charlie. "Don t bother me!"
"But, Charlie, we re getting into the station/
"Can t help it. Not interested," was Charlie s
reply, with the indifference of a king on his throne.
Kono s heart dropped down somewhere in the
region of his boots. So Charlie was going to be
INTERLUDE DIVORCE SETTLEMENT 237
temperamental. So he was going to have trouble.
The train ground to a stop. Peeking through a
window, Kono saw the crowd surrounding the
couple who were undoubtedly the host and hostess
of the occasion; saw the cameramen with their
cameras set up on tripods; saw the dozens of re
porters sniffing the air like hounds on the scent.
He dashed back and rapped firmly on the door
of "Men/ 7 He called, "Charlie, we re in Phila
delphia, the East-side Station. We ve got to get
oif. The Atwater-Kents are here to meet you. Does
that mean anything to you?"
There was a silence of a brief moment, then:
"I can t help it," came the emphatic reply through
the door, "if the whole damned world is here. Pve
been trying to get this newspaper read all morning,
and I m going to stay here if it takes all day!"
Kono with mayhem in his heart looked around
to see the porter disappearing off the car with a
small bag of his containing valuable papers. He
jumped from the train and pushed through the
crowd, hurried after him. The reception crowd
took no notice of him ; their gaping expectant f aces
were turned toward the platform of the car from
which Charlie Chaplin should descend.
Finally when he had retrieved the bag, Kono
dashed back to re-enter the car and renew his pleas
to Charlie, only to find the steps up, the door dosed,
and the train getting under way.
The Atwater-Kents hardly noticed the little
238 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
Japanese who was running along beside the train
pounding vigorously on the car door. Charlie
Chaplin, claiming the privileges of a genius, had
disappointed them. They had been disappointed
by stars of grand opera.
Kono gave up the futile chase and returned to
the waiting group. With the type of humor tinged
with cruelty of the average Japanese he was highly
amused at their disappointment, at the leftover ex
pressions on their faces. His amusement was
short-lived, however; he realized he had a bit of
explaining to do. He was racking his mind for
something more plausible and a trifle more ele
gant than the bare facts, when there was a shout
from the crowd, "Kono! Where s Chaplin ?" And
a New York reporter who recognized him bore
down upon him. Everyone gathered round. Of
course this was Kono, Charlie s personal secretary !
They Inundated him with questions until he grew
dizzy trying to evolve some modest explanation of
Charlie s absence.
At last he took refuge in assuring them that he
would catch the elusive guest after a reporter had
told him the train made two more stops In Phila
delphia. He broke away for the nearest telephone.
He called the Dearborn Station, in the middle of
the city. No, the stationmaster had not seen
Charlie, was sure he had not got off the train. He
then called the West-side Station, the last stop in
Philadelphia. The train had not yet arrived there,
INTERLUDE DIVORCE SETTLEMENT 239
but the stationmaster assured him he would set
a good lookout for Charlie Chaplin and see that he
got the telephone number Kono left. Kono then
returned to the deluge of excited chatter outside.
After forty minutes of cooling their heels, a
loudspeaker blared out the information that Mr.
Kono was wanted on the telephone. Dashing in
and grabbing the receiver, Kono heard a plaintive,
faintly accusative voice at the other end.
"Why did you leave me? You re a hell of a
"Never mind the bawling out!" Kono shot the
words into the transmitter. "Where are you?"
"How should I know? I haven t the foggiest."
"Well, put somebody on the phone who has got
some sense," the exasperated Kono directed. There
was a brief pause, and someone who said he was
a waiter explained that Charlie was in a restau
rant a few blocks from the West-side Station.
Would Mr. Kono come and get him?
Mr. Kono would, and so would about fifty other
Charlie, unconcerned, met them all in front of
the restaurant. He had lunched, he informed them
Tightening their belts and mustering their
manners for the honor of dear old Philadelphia, the
Atwater-Kents and their guests led the way, lunch-
less, to the horse show.
The reporters found themselves in a rare spot.
240 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
They had a story but how to write it? They re
lieved their feelings somewhat by mildly lambast
ing Charlie for his lack of social grace, but even
this thrust was half-hearted.
The overnight visit, with a large dinner party,
was voted a success by all who came. The Joseph
Wideners bore Charlie off as their prize for an
other twenty-four-hour visit. And it is recorded
that once he was captured, his newspaper reading
quite completed, he was a guest who was charm
ing and witty and gay.
After a brief trip to Atlantic City, Charlie, with
Kono, returned to New York. He was beginning
to chafe again at his attorneys* delay in arriving
at definite settlement with Lita. But he decided
that they should stay in Manhattan or its environs
until they had some final word.
An invitation came from Madame Frances Alda,
red-haired member of the Metropolitan Opera,
from her estate, Casa Mia, on Long Island. Alda
had been married to Gatti-Casazza, impresario of
the Opera for about four years at this time. He
was in Europe for the summer recruiting new
Charlie and Alda got on famously. They boated
and fished and lolled under the great trees of her
private beach and talked. In the evenings she gave
dinners at which Charlie met as many of the great
names of opera as were available, or who were
INTERLUDE DIVORCE SETTLEMENT 241
speaking to Alda. She had incurred a great deal
of jealousy by marrying the director.
Madame Alda tells a little story of Charlie in
her abruptly ending memoirs that ran for two
issues in the Cosmopolitan Magazine. The fact
that she knew Charlie so casually makes her story
quite innocent of double entendre. It seems they
were fishing from the end of the pier of Casa Mia.
Charlie accorded her magnetism on the opera stage
and off, but he was, he said, skeptical about the
susceptibility of the fish. After much good-natured
chaffing, Alda challenged him to a bet to prove
her prowess as a fisherman. Charlie was to pay
her one dollar for every fish lured from the bay.
When she had hauled in her eighty-third reproach
ful-looking fish, Charlie, who had been growing
more and more worried, cried out, "Enough, the
bets are off!"
From Casa Mia, he was carried off by William
B. Leeds, Jr., the tin-plate heir, whose wife,
Princess Xenia of Russia, wished to meet him.
Here there were more parties, and Charlie was
exhibited to more socialites of Long Island.
Kono, who had stayed in town to keep in touch
with Nathan Burkan and the attorneys on the
West Coast, felt that their welcome was wearing
thin at Mr. Burkan s and moved their belongings
to the Ritz. He was staying pretty constantly in
their rooms hoping for the call from California
that would enable them to start for home.
242 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
One afternoon about five o clock, the telephone
rang. It was Mr. Leeds. He had, he told Kono,
heard so much about him, he wanted to have a
look at him. Kono, suspecting that Charlie had
been spurred by a bit of drinking into extolling
his virtues to Leeds, was reluctant to go to Long
Island as Leeds urged. Leeds became more in
sistent, so Kono agreed to come down in the speed
boat which was being sent in to the Fourteenth
The boat arrived, and Kono got aboard. He ac
cepted this mode of travel with serenity until the
chap who was running the boat confided in him
that he was a chauffeur, not a seaman. He had
never made the trip from New York to Long
Island before, he added, in any boat. He sped the
boat through the water at an alarming rate and
headed, as he hoped, for the north shore of the
For two hours they cut through the water in
the growing darkness but did not seem to get any
where, and finally the chauffeur acknowledged
that he could make out no land. It was obvious
that they were well out to sea. The boat, he replied
to Kono s inquiries, had no compass, and the head
lights were small and dim.
On they sped until a warning sputter from the
motor told them the gasoline was getting low. A
hasty examination of the tank proved it nearly
empty. Not too far away they saw the lights of
INTERLUDE DIVORCE SETTLEMENT 243
a ship and headed for it. Hailing the large boat,
they enquired their position. "You re in Connecti
cut," was the answering yell from one of the crew,
"heading toward Massachusetts !"
"Can you give a guy some gasoline?" the chauf
"Yeah, come up alongside, we ll swing it down."
The tank partially filled by the generous sailors,
the speedboat was turned and headed back toward
what both of them hoped was the Long Island
shore. It was quite dark now, and Kono weakly
suggested that they not be too fussy about what
pier they took. Just any that came along.
Meanwhile, the Leedses and Charlie, waking up
to what, in their exuberance, they had done, had
grown anxious. They built a huge bonfire on the
beach near their pier. But without the aid of
glasses it appeared as a small, flickering light to
the two men in the boat. Finally they decided that
the light had some significance for them, was a
beacon light to guide them in. The speedboat was
headed carefully in, and sure enough they found
the Leedses pier and tied up.
Kono was grateful that his seafaring experience
with a chauffeur as skipper and crew was over.
He was received with enthusiasm by Charlie and
Mr. Leeds, who had fortified themselves with ad
ditional drinks to bear up under the imagined fate
of the two Magellans.
The dinner awaiting him was excellent, and
244 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
never had Kono so appreciated hospitality. He
had pictured himself adrift with a sea biscuit and
a chauffeur-captain who, he now suspected, had
found the New York pier quite by accident.
Back in New York, Charlie s restlessness grew.
He wanted to get back to Hollywood and complete
The Circus, held up so long by his marital tangle.
He took long walks as an outlet for repressed en
ergy. As he wandered about New York at this
time, the central idea for his next picture, City
Lights, began taking nebulous shape in his mind.
Irrelevant to pictures, however, there was oc
casional amusement to be found on these walks.
He came back to the hotel one day after a four
hours stroll, excited over a find in an optical shop.
"It s marvelous ! Marvelous ! I told the man you d
be down to get it/ he exclaimed to Kono.
"Get what?" Kono inquired irritably.
"Why, the telescope, of course. It s marvelous,
I tell you. A German lens, I think. I ve never seen
anything like it."
"If you could just give me some idea where,"
Kono suggested. "Did you get a card?" Perhaps
the proprietor had thrust one on him and he had
pocketed it without thinking.
"I haven t the foggiest idea, except " he bright
ened, " except that it s down town."
"That s a big help. On the Avenue? On a side
INTERLUDE DIVORCE SETTLEMENT 245
"Not on a side street," Charlie announced tri
umphantly. He was a help after all "I must
have that telescope," he added. "It s marvelous,
"How much is it?" Kono asked.
"About $780. It s second hand."
Kono, realizing he had elicited as specific direc
tions as were to be had, put on his hat and took a
last look around the apartment; it might be a
long, long time before he saw it again. Oh, well, it
was just after noon.
Down Broadway, up Madison Avenue, down
Fifth, up Lexington, Kono trudged, visiting
twenty-five or thirty optical stores on his itinerary.
"Did Mr. Chaplin come in here today? And see a
telescope?" It began to sound like a refrain. He
was hard put to it toward the last to keep from
Some of the salesmen were skeptical, thinking
it was a gag; others looked as if they wished it
were true; one was doubtful, drew Kono out fur
ther, and then put forward a telescope, new and
not of German make. Kono departed angrily from
the shop. He went back to Fifth Avenue, entered
a small shop opposite the Library. "Did Mr. Chap
lin " He got no further. The proprietor, Mr.
"It s all ready to go," he told Kono, who took
one look at the enormous, bulky parcel and tried to
lift it. Visions of adding this to their voluminous
246 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
luggage prompted him to ask, "Will you crate it
and ship it to us at Los Angeles?" Of course. Kono
wrote him a check for it. The freight would be
collected on delivery.
Hailing a taxi, Kono sank back and rested his
tired legs; he was no athlete. When he got back to
the hotel Charlie was disappointed at not having
his toy in New York, but when Kono explained
that unless they installed it on the roof of the hotel,
there would be little perspective, he gave in.
Months later when Charlie had got home, the
telescope was set up in his bedroom, at the window
overlooking John Barrymore s home about a mile
opposite, and adjustable to the hills beyond. The
powerful telescope was a revelation to the few
friends admitted to his room. And Barrymore will
no doubt be surprised to learn that he enjoyed the
relative privacy of a goldfish until the trees (Pola s
trees) about Charlie s house grew to a height
shutting off John s house, Charlie s favorite thea
ter. There should be a law or something. . . .
There remained the hills. A picnic couple driv
ing up the winding road to a spot overlooking San
Fernando Valley beyond could be watched taking
their blankets, car seat, and lunch- baskets from
the car. The remarkable lens enabled the watchers
from Charlie s window to distinguish the comic
section of the Sunday newspaper from the news
When the Graf Zeppelin was moored in Ingle-
INTERLUDE DIVORCE SETTLEMENT 247
wood, at least fourteen miles from the house,
squinting into the telescope revealed details of
dress, the actions of the people milling about the
dirigible outside the limit rope, and the dirigible
itself, with more clarity than a view from the
In August word came from Lloyd Wright that
Charlie was to meet him and Gavin McNab in
San Francisco for final signing of papers in the
settlement with Lita. She had agreed in writing
to refrain from any further requests or annoyances
in the future. She would receive six hundred thou
sand dollars and would have possession of the
children. There was the provision that the boys
would be accessible to their father whenever he
wished to visit them or have them as his guests.
He must provide separately for them.
Lita has said that after her attorneys and the
expenses of her divorce action were paid, her bal
ance was approximately two hundred thousand
dollars. A trust fund of one hundred thousand
dollars for each of his sons was established by
Charlie, the income from them to be used exclu
sively for their living and education.
Charlie and Kono reached San Francisco, glad
to escape the heat and humidity of New York in
summer. Charlie was in a fever to get back to
Hollywood and shoot the remaining sequences of
The Circus. This he would be able to do, since the
248 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
courts were releasing studio payrolls and equip
ment. The long battle was over. Presently he
would be at work.
Nearly four years later Charlie paid a fine and
back taxes to the Federal Government of
In San Francisco, Charlie and Kono were given
the Presidential suite at the Palace Hotel. While
dressing for dinner, Kono noticed that Charlie
was preoccupied. Ha, a mood ! he thought. Charlie
turned in the act of tying his black tie. "I remem
ber something about President Harding and this
suite," he told Kono. "You re dressed; go down
and find out if he died in these rooms."
Kono gave him a look which was the facial equiv
alent of an Alaskan winter, but he went to the
desk. Charlie s suspicion was confirmed reluc
tantly by the clerk. The information was relayed
to Charlie, who was in a state of nerves by this
"What does it matter?" asked the material
"Fm not a fatalist. You make me tired," was
Charlie s retort. He was hurriedly throwing things
into his bag as he spoke.
"Telephone Douglas Gerrard," he directed. "I
saw him in the lobby as we came up. He s going
on to Del Monte to the polo games. I ll go with
Min. Tell the lawyers to come on to Los Angeles."
He dashed out of the room, leaving Kono to the
INTERLUDE DIVORCE SETTLEMENT 249
lone majestic splendor of the rooms of the
The Circus was completed at last. The preview
was watched from a suburban theater, the final
snipping and piecing accomplished. It was ready
for the premiere at Grauman s Chinese Theatre
in Hollywood Boulevard.
The enormous lights of Otto K. Olsen s inven
tion, pivoting from their trucks lined up in front
of the theater and across the street, threw their
beams skyward; other floodlights brought a day
time brightness to the whole block surrounding
the theater. Limousines dashed up to discharge
the luminaries of the motion-picture world, pro
ducers, directors, and stars galore from every
studio in Hollywood, all paying five dollars a seat
to do honor to Charlie s new picture and to tell
him that whatever untoward happened, he be
longed in their hearts.
Charlie escorted Merna Kennedy to the first
night; Maisie was there with a party. A micro
phone, set up on the court with a master of cere
monies presiding, lured various stars to chirp
bromides to the world waiting at the radio, the
inane, "Hello, everybody. I m so thrilled to be here
and know you will be, too, when you see this wonr
derf ul picture/ This has gradually been laughed
out of practice.
The prologue to The Circus as staged by Sid
250 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
Grauman, that master showman, was in itself
worth the price of admission. Three rings of
circus acts concentrated on the large stage gave
the illusion of a full-fledged circus in action. Bare
back riders, the noted Paddleford family, trapeze
performers, the sawdust, the sideshows, and the
barkers overflowed from the stage into the spacious
front court and completed the illusion. The ornate
gaudiness of the Chinese Theatre fitted the transi
tory atmosphere of the night.
It is said that when Harry K. Thaw on a visit
to Hollywood first viewed the Chinese Theatre,
fresh from its wrappings of billboards, he stopped
in his tracks and, clapping his hand to his head,
exclaimed, "My God! I shot the wrong architect!"
The test of a picture comes not from its Holly
wood or even its New York premiere but from the
reception accorded it by thousands of smaller
theater audiences over the nation. The Circus
was warmly received, a complete success. No story
selected from thousands of themes could have re
established Charlie Chaplin in the affections and
esteem of the public so decisively. And the story
had been written long before there was a hint of
the publicity of divorce.
The final glimpse of the comedian in the picture
is of a wistful, ill-favored little chap "seeking
romance but his feet won t let him," to a degree of
pathos not reached in former pictures. The circus
moves on to another town, the girl he loves is mar-
INTERLUDE DIVORCE SETTLEMENT 251
ried to the handsome young chap who comes near
to being the villain, who but for Charlie s interven
tion would have broken the heart of the girl Chap
lin loved and who could never love him. Charlie
picks himself up from the crash of his vain hopes,
struggling valiantly and with bravado to preserve
It is doubtful whether the average star playing
the romantic hero could have survived one half the
adverse publicity accorded Charlie in his recent
trouble. But so closely do people blend the actual
personality with that of the screen in his case, that
the lonely little figure shrugging off the buffetings
of an unkind fate in The Circus was a masterful
appeal to the tolerance, the chivalry, and the un
derstanding of the civilized.
Occasionally other cavil at the "worm plots" as
framework for Chaplin s pictures. The plots do
not matter. We remember the characters created
by Dickens, the Mr. Micawbers, the Uriah Heeps,
the Scrooges, though the story surrounding each
be forgotten. And perhaps, in spite of the big
shoes, the tight little coat, the bowler, and the
ridiculous moustache, rather than because of them,
Chaplin s characterization stands as the man of
great heart, fine sensibilities, and unselfish love,
bolstered by a courage unsuspected by the less ill-
favored in appearance.
Charlie received the 1928 award from the Acad
emy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences "for his
252 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TEAGEDY
versatility in writing, acting and producing" The
Appended, with apologies for the free transla
tion, are some verses published in the Berliner
Tageblatt of February 17, 1929 :
PACK OF HOUNDS
By ARNOLD ULITZ
Get out the dogs! Hunting time is here!
Many against one ! The greatest sport of dogs !
Today you are at liberty, not only to bite,
But tear piece by piece, the highest game.
Let the Philistines come, the day of judgment is here!
The crowd is entitled, today, to put a knife in the heart
Of a great personality; as now Chaplin is down
At the mercy of all.
He put his name, the best of crowns, on a doll s head ;
The little mouth of the doll opens
And asks for gold.
The people listen to the sweet little mouth
And spit in the face of the king.
She throws a wonderful name, as food, to the dogs,
She drags a great personality through the mud,
She sits at her dainty little writing table
And writes a diary; on Monday, threats;
On Tuesday, a curse; on Wednesday, a deadly curse;
On Thursday, a forbidden drink and false declaration
He trampled on me! Let him pay millions!
Let out the dogs! Call out the Philistines!
You can stone and torture . . . and whom?
He made a billion people happy,
But made sad the single soul of a doll;
He has given happiness to a world,
INTERLUDE DIVORCE SETTLEMENT 253
But cheated the government of taxes ;
He has revealed the depths of existence to mortals,
But he has offended a doll.
Get out the hounds, let them bark about morals.
Only an actual Christian scourge is allowed.
The spirit must be broken;
The doll accorded the attributes of a saint!
Down with Charles Chaplin!
Mother s Death City Lights
THE NEXT three years were spent in writing and
filming City Lights. The romance with Maisie en
dured, but as the three years progressed, Charlie
became, gradually, more of the observer, less the
actor in a drama in which he had accepted a part
as a means for escape. There was no marriage to
escape from ; the romance with Maisie had resolved
itself into a routine, scarcely less irksome than an
unfortunate marriage could be.
Reporters unaware of his secret involvement
with Maisie, pressed him for the date of his mar
riage to Georgia Hale, with whom he was con
stantly seen in public. In fact, he had invited
Georgia and her mother to live in his home, as his
guests, and it was inferred by the newsgatherers
that the marriage of Georgia and Charlie was
Harry Crocker had been on the Chaplin studio
payroll as assistant to Charlie during production
of The Circus. Descendant of Charles Crocker of
the Big Pour of the Central Pacific Railroad,
Crocker was seeking a qareer of his own making.
MOTHER S DEATH CITY LIGHTS
He became the victim of an outburst of displeasure
from Charlie while they were preparing City
Lights for production. Charlie, always childlike
in his flurries of anger, saw fit to say several un
complimentary things about Harry, to his face.
"Well, why don t you fire me?" Crocker de
Charlie stopped in his tirade, as if struck by a
new and attractive idea. "I will!" he shouted.
"You re fired ! How do you like that?"
Crocker did not like it at all, but he would
wave no white flag. He applied for a job on the
Los Angeles Examiner and got it. Eventually he
became a columnist on the paper, writing the col
umn, Among the Angels. Hampered somewhat by
lack of something to say and a terse, pungent style
in which to say it, he became a target for the abler
columnists of Los Angeles. In 1939 he relinquished
the role of a Boswell toward Those Who Count
and became conductor of Behind the Make-up on
the same paper. He and Charlie became reconciled.
Charlie rarely clings to a grudge.
Charlie s emotional life which is his real life
can be said to hold in its tragic complexity the
elements of a storm. Avid, adventurous, filled with
a sort of dizzying uncertainty as to whether de
struction or fair weather lies ahead. Nothing
with him is ever static. Eagerness for the next
quest overcomes the ennui of the waning one;
256 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
beauty for him must be always just ahead and
quite out of reach.
It was doubly hard for such a nature to watch
his mother, whom he loved with a pitying tender
ness, follow the slow, tortuous process of increas
ing insanity. He could have borne with equanimity
a sudden violent madness with a climax of suicide
or death. But he fled from the knowledge of that
which he was powerless to change, the slow, subtle,
almost imperceptible disintegration of his moth
er s mind. He shrank from the sight of her return
to childishness she was not old which is rarely
a beautiful or peaceful transition to watch. He
provided her with every imaginable comfort and
protection, but he had to lash himself for days
before he could get his own consent to visit her at
the sanitarium in Glendale (about fifteen miles
from his home), where she was under restraint.
And for more days after his visit, he would be
sunk in a mood of melancholy which frightened
those nearest him about his own mental health.
It was Kono who was delegated to take Hannah
Chaplin on long drives, to the ostrich farm, to the
zoo, and to sit by the roadside with her in the car
and eat ice-cream cones.
And then, in 1928, about five years after she had
been brought to California from England, Hannah
Chaplin died. And Charlie was released from the
dull, agonizing pain that had lain underneath his
shai-per sorrows and occasional joy. He was as
MOTHER S DEATH CITY LIGHTS 257
suddenly unfettered. He could think of her now
with tender sentiment as she had been before the
first signs of mental sickness had sent tiny quiver
ing fears into the interstices of his very soul. He
could visit her grave and reflect upon the essentials
which had bound their lives together, mother and
son : the illogical, bewildering, and completely en
igmatic alchemy of birth and its consequences.
There has been criticism of Charlie for not visit
ing his mother oftener when she was alive. Was
David Belasco less the fine, sensitive, adoring son
or more the artist for the incident of his
mother s death?
Belasco was, so the story goes, in his study
laboring over the script of a new play when the
news of his mother s passing was brought him.
He stopped in his work, went rigid from shock
and grief, emitted a cry from the heart, a cry
more indicative of a mortal wound than had been
heard in his long career in the theater. Instead
of rushing into the room where his mother had
breathed her .last, he went to a mirror and prac
ticed the cry ! And not until he had securely fixed
in his memory the sound and throat contortions
for achieving this perfection of technique, did he
enter the room where lay the warm but lifeless
body of the one he loved best on earth.
In the summer of 1929 when City Lights was
nearing readiness for production, Charlie, who
258 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
has always sought the sea for healing of tired
nerves, leased Mary Pickford s house at Santa
Monica Beach for the season. It was a roomy,
rambling old structure with exclusive beach as
suring privacy or so he hoped.
One day soon after they had moved in, Kono s
attention was attracted to a group of men in front
of the house with cameras. Suspecting news pho
tographers, he went upstairs to a vantage point
and looked them over. They were not newsmen
but technicians and cameramen from Paramount
Film Company, he discovered. He strolled out up
on the beach and was, hailed by Alice White, di
minutive, blonde whirlwind under contract to
Paramount that year.
"Hi ? Kono! How s about a drink when I get
through being mugged?"
"Sure, sure," Kono agreed. "Come in the side
door so you won t disturb Charlie. He s upstairs
Alice appeared after a few minutes followed by
another girl, the latter a little bewildered by the
hush signs Alice was making as she pushed her
through a side doorway and slipped in behind her.
Alice was in awe of Charlie, as who wasn t in
Hollywood? For it was well known that when he
was interrupted in the process of thinking or
writing, he could display all the temperament of
five combined stars.
The young woman with Alice White was the
MOTHER S DEATH CITY LIGHTS 259
tall, lovely blonde, Virginia CherrilL Miss Cherrill
came from Chicago, was a socialite divorcee from
that city. She was receiving her alimony checks
with comfortable regularity and was unique in
Hollywood She did not want to get into pic
tures ! No guile was in Alice White s mind, either,
on that warm sunny afternoon.
Kono asked the butler to prepare drinks for the
girls. While they were sipping their tall, cool re
freshment and Alice was chaffing Kono for a Japa
nese Puritan because he did not drink, who should
come softly down the stairs and into the dining
room but Charlie himself. He joined them in a
highball while he eyed Virginia steadily. He con
tinued his scrutiny for a brief time, then put down
his glass and said, "You re the blind girl in City
"But but I m not blind, and I don t know
what city lights are is," stammered Miss
"You re just what I ve been looking for," Charlie
continued, not bothering to clear up her confusion.
"You ll do," he summed up with satisfaction. His
attitude was one of relief,
"Here, wait a minute!" she remonstrated, a
light dawning. "I suppose you mean a picture.
Well, Mr. Chaplin, you re looking right now at
probably the only girl in captivity who does not
want to be a movie star."
"Nonsense," Charlie returned. He spoke to
260 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
Kono. "Take Miss Cherrill to the studio tomorrow
for a test."
Virginia grinned helplessly. What could you do
against such assurance? "But I can t act/ she
"You ll act for me/ was Charlie s reply, and
apparently he had dismissed the matter.
Alice gave her a nudge and said under her
breath, "Don t be dumb. That s Charlie Chaplin,
you egg. Offering you a screen test. You ve heard
Virginia laughed off her sarcasm. She d duck
out of the visit to the studio tomorrow, she con
The screen test was successful, quite satisfactory
to Charlie, and Miss Cherrill was signed to a con
tract calling for $100 a week for the duration of
production on City Lights.
Virginia had never been before a motion-picture
camera. She was tall and, so it seemed to her,
had a tendency to go all to arms and legs before
this one. She had not heard of the nine-o clock
bedtime routine of screen actresses. She had an
ample income without her salary. Her screen op
portunity had come too easily; she could not ap
preciate as could an actress who had struggled for
years and eaten one meal a day, the opportunity
offered to burst upon the screen as Charlie Chap
lin s leading lady. Charlie knew she was crude in
form but he preferred her that way. He could
CtarHe and Ms mother, Hannah Chaplin, on the terrace of his home
in Sunamitt Drive.
MOTHER S DEATH CITY LIGHTS 261
mold her to Ms pattern. But what he had not
counted on was her night life.
She stayed at parties until daylight and ap
peared on the set looking a bit the worse for wear,
unfit for the camera, which catches every drink,
every lost hour of sleep, as ably as a special
Shooting of sequences in which Virginia ap
peared went on for a month with Charlie becom
ing more and more disgruntled. Finally the in
evitable occurred. He flew into a veritable rage
one day in the projection room. He wouldn t have
it! She was no good! He was going to fire her!
Where was she, so he could fire her now !
Kono soothed him as best he could and suggested
that he go ahead with the sequences in which Vir
ginia did not appear. In the meantime, he re
minded him, they could find the right girL Secretly
he decided to give Virginia a lecture. It was all in
line with his abhorrence of drinking.
He went to see hen
"You re foolish to do this," he admonished her.
"You re getting Charlie so nobody can stay near
him." He went on to explain the cost of producing
one of Charlie s pictures and the strain that he
Virginia, chagrined to know that she was un
wittingly doing her best to ruin something that
was costing the studio a million dollars, promised
to take her work more seriously.
262 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
Much to Charlie s surprise, she came on the set
the next morning she was called, looking fresh and
rested, her eyes clear, her hands steady. He
watched her carefully through the particular se
quence shot that morning and heaved a great sigh
of relief. Immediately he gave orders for retakes
of the past months production.
After her triumph as the blind girl in City
Lights, Virginia followed the precedent of the
others Charlie had chosen and fashioned into the
guise he must have. A -brief contract with Para
mount and as an actress she was heard from no
A marriage to Gary Grant, and their divorce
ensued. And on August 9, 1937, she was married
in London to the Earl of Jersey.
Always exhausted at the completion of each
picture in which the combined burden of produc
ing, directing, and starring in it is almost too
onerous for one human mind and nervous system,
Charlie found himself more than usually depleted
when City Lights was at last released. It was the
first picture in which he had made any concession
to the new mode, sound. Still convinced that panto
mime was his only metier as an actor, he had ca
pitulated on the picture to the extent of music
synchronized with the action of the film and sound
effects in all save the human voice.
He was apprehensive of his venture into the
MOTHER S DEATH CITY LIGHTS 263
untried technique all during the making of the
picture but had considered it wise to conform to
this extent lest the public put down his lack to
Added to these demands upon his strength were
the continued secret meetings with Maisie, whom
he was beginning to regard with the accurate ap
praisal of unclouded perception.
Charlie shut himself in his room at home, went
to bed, saw no one but Kono. His meals were
brought to him on a tray. But after a week of
this he felt no better; something more was needed
for his recuperation. He tried to think of an outlet
but was invaded by a mass of mingled emotions,
confused images, out of which only one objective
emerged distinguishable escape.
"I think I m going mad/ he told Kono.
"You re just tired of everything and every
body," Kono said to him. "Why don t you get out
of it get away?"
After a few more days of retrospection in which
a melancholy, a taste of ashes in the mouth, fits
of despair with life itself, possessed him, Charlie
felt rather than saw the only panacea for himself.
He must escape, escape not only from Maisie s
deadly bromides but from his own inner, secret
life into an external life which had been suspended
and which must be taken up again to preserve
the fine balance of his being.
He got up from his bed and looked over the let-
264 CHAELIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
ters that had been pouring in from Europe : Lon
don, Paris, Monte Carlo, inviting him to be present
for the first showing of City Lights. There! that
was what he wanted to do. It was very simple. He
would go abroad.
Kono was instructed to go about the business of
trains and booking their passage from New York.
Charlie decided to take Kono with him, and Carl
Robinson was assigned to him by the studio as
Charlie dreaded telling Maisie of his decision, but
when he did she accepted it good-naturedly. She
agreed that he needed a change. She would go to
Europe, too. Perhaps when they returned they
could work out an expedient plan of marriage.
What Maisie could not divine was that Charlie
had come to his senses, saw her now as an amusing
companion, at times no more. She did not go
deeply enough to know his propensities for idealiz
ing every woman he met whose physical charms
appealed to his love of beauty, into the embodiment
of all the qualities of mind and heart he wished
them to have. Nor did she surmise his stubborn
ness in clinging to the illusion once built up by his
vivid imagination and supported by his passion
for an ideal. She did not suspect, even, his powers
for complete destruction of this building.
* A publicity director in such a capacity is useful for the news
lie keeps out of the papers rather than for the stimulation of more
stories. A certain twist to an innocent happening can be bad
MOTHER S DEATH CITY LIGHTS 265
None of the women Charlie singled out for un
conscious trial by fire could be prepared for the
time when the cold, clear light of his intelligence
would floodlight the whole substance of his dream,
clarifying his own unwisdom as well as illumi
nating the glaring lacks of the recent subject of
That this realization had been delayed for six
years in the case of Maisie was due in part to causes
beyond his control, among them the fact of their
necessarily intermittent association. The hours
stolen with one another, away from the public
gaze and, more necessary, without the knowledge
of his rival for Maisie s affections, gave the ro
mance a verve that marriage no doubt would have
destroyed long before.
Had Charlie not decided to escape and allow the
attachment to languish from malnutrition, the af
fair might have continued for several years. Yet,
in the superficial communion of spirits to which
Maisie s lightheadedness limited their association,
there was little upon which Charlie s need for com
plete companionship could have been nurtured.
But in every artist s growth there is a mercurylike
transference of ideals, friendships, and affections
into the planes in which he is currently moving.
Just as his first love fed upon the idealism of his
younger days until it was made an impossible
dreamr because of the reticence that that idealism
provoked ; so did the casual and intermittent affair
266 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
with Malsie feed upon Charlie s present need for a
sympathetic companion, until his need, seemingly
impossible to fulfill, was drained of its emotional
But a sudden intervention of the rival in a comic
incident which has long been an after-dinner story
in Hollywood terminated the affair in a manner
that might have been an emotional cataclysm, had
not Charlie s ardor reached so low an ebb that the
incident seemed amusing even to him.
IN NEW YORK Charlie ran across his old friend,
Ralph Barton, who, because his wife whom he loved
desperately but whom, by his own confession, he
could not make happy, had left him. Barton was
in that arid state of despair which comes at times
to every artist. He was, he told Charlie, exhausted
of every creative incentive. Charlie, emerging
from the state of subjectivity into the objective,
understood this want.
"Leave off trying, Ralph," he urged him. "Come
along to England with me. What you need is a
complete change of scene."
Barton demurred and then, because there was
nothing he actually cared to do and because he had
reached the stage where he was afraid to be alone,
finally agreed to go. He had a genuine admiration
and fondness for Charlie. Perhaps absorption in
Charlie s ventures would prove an anodyne.
On the Mauretania they sat out on deck late into
each night fighting the battle of America versus
France versus England. With a good word from
each for Russia, which under the Soviet regime
268 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
was definitely fostering and rewarding largely,
"France is more civilized/ Barton declared,
"than America and England, who keep their
artists sublimated to the level of their filthy
Puritanism. . . ."
Charlie thought this vitriolic attack a good sign
that Ralph was coming out of his lethargy.
"The English are a cold people/ Barton com
plained. "All bound up in archaic traditions and
prehistoric customs. The tight little Isle. They re
damn snobbish, too."
"Huh, talk about snobbishness," Charlie coun
tered. "You ll go far to beat America with its
social registers and its exclusive clubs. They re
so busy excluding they find themselves left with
a flock of bores. If you can claim two generations
of polo-playing in your family, your social position
is practically unassailable. In England, at least
you ve got to stand for some integrity, some value
to your fellows "
And so the battle went on, Charlie and Ralph
staying much to themselves on the ship. Charlie
had given Kono and Carl Robinson strict orders
that he was to be protected from autograph seekers
and the curious.
In London the riotous scenes of welcome of ten
years before, multiplied rather than diminished,
greeted Charlie at Southampton. A battery of
NOSTALGIC JOURNEY 269
cameras, hundreds of reporters fighting to get
near enough for just one statement from him, the
frenzied excitement of the mob pushing and shout
ing, all this warmed him in an affectionate em
brace. He loved it. For it is characteristic of him
that each time he is inundated by a wave of adu
lation, it is a new and pleasurable sensation, until
his nerves, not his heart, tire of the clamor and
Mingled feelings of pity and joy clutched his
heart as he was half -dragged, half-carried through
the boisterous enthusiasm of his own people, the
Cockneys, who could in the anonymity of the
crowd lose their class inhibitions; he felt joy at
the wholehearted welcome after so many years,
compassion for the starved lives in which his fame
could mean so much.
"These are my people," he murmured to Barton
when at last they were safe in their car. "My
God I I had almost forgotten how little, aside from
the hopeless routine of their existence, comes into
their lives I had forgotten the hunger. . . ."
He turned to find Ralph s eyes filled with tears.
The Cockneys* affection for Charlie was to him,
too, a beautiful pain. Barton saw beside him in
the car now, not the grave, impassive man he had
known, his composure leavened with occasional
flashes of brilliant, ironic humor, but the little
urchin of Kennington Road, come home again.
Once Charlie s party was installed at the Carl-
270 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OP TRAGEDY
ton, the avalanche of mail that descended upon
them spoke for itself as to his increased popularity
since his visit of ten years before. In addition to
the to-be-expected notes from the artistic and so
cial world, invitations from great country houses
and the letters of friendliness from his fellow
artists, there were over sixty thousand letters and
telegrams which can be classified only as fan mail,
an outpouring from the public who loved him on
Carl Robinson, who was supposed to take charge
of this mail, found its volume, in addition to his
duties as director of public relations, too cumber
some for any one man. He engaged a young wom
an, May Shepherd, who seven years before had
handled fan mail for Mary Pickford and Douglas
Fairbanks in London. She, in turn, was instructed
to employ a number of girls to assist her. This
left Robinson free for his press work.
Robinson had himself measured for a morning
suit and topper and new dinner jacket from Bond
Street and assumed the difficult task of interpret
ing Charlie s every action into terms of good read
ing for the press, a task not so difficult in England
as in America. Charlie was not fond of Robinson,
who was the son of a wealthy, indulgent mother,
but was inclined to accept him from the studio
personnel for the reason that Carl did not demand
the substantial salary asked by most publicity
NOSTALGIC JOURNEY 271
Kono s time was filled with telephone calls and
Charlie s schedule of engagements.
Sir Philip Sassoon, whom Charlie remembered
with affection from his former visit, and who was
a trustee of the National Gallery and a collector
of art himself/ offered his services and his hos
pitality again. Charlie and Ralph dined at his
home in Park Lane the night of their arrival. Sir
Philip, though no longer secretary to the Prime
Minister, Lloyd George having been succeeded by
Ramsay MacDonald, was Undersecretary for Air
in the latter s cabinet. He hoped to interest Charlie
in some of the constructive problems of England.
Perhaps, he thought, he could even persuade him
to take up residence in his native country. Coupled
with these underlying purposes was a genuine
liking for Charlie and the desire to make his sec
ond homecoming a delightful experience. He had
asked Lady Astor, the former Nancy Langhorne
of Virginia and now a member of the House of
Commons, to meet him. She invited Charlie and
Barton to a luncheon at her home on the following
Bernard Shaw, of whom Charlie was a little
wary, was a guest at the Astors. When the ladies
had repaired, after luncheon, to the drawing room,
leaving the men at table, Charlie saw that an en
counter with Shaw was inevitable, so he braced
himself for the attack, determined to keep silent
insofar as was possible, and let Shaw carry the
272 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
weight of the conversation. But when Shaw, glee
ful at the sight of a new adversary, made a direct
assault upon him for his lack of propaganda in
his pictures, Charlie bristled; he waited. All art,
Shaw declared, should have a message and a con
structive one. Charlie replied just as emphatically
that the object of art as he saw it was to intensify
feeling, not to appeal to the moral sense. The
conversation died in its brief staccatic intensity,
and Charlie was glad to sit back and study the
fearless Irishman in his jousts with the statesmen
Sometimes accompanied by Barton, often alone,
Charlie escaped from the social round and the
calendar of public appearances and wandered the
city, reveling in the romantic tradition of the Lon
don he was better equipped to appreciate than
ever before. For in the ten years intervening be
tween his return home, he had through reading
and study reached a maturity of knowledge, yet
approached it with the fresh enthusiasm of youth.
The urge to discover for himself the wealth of
literature and history had been implanted in his
mind by his timid, self-conscious association with
men of letters on his former stay in Europe. He
had shut himself away from the interminable dis
cussions of pictures, their making, and personali
ties, in Hollywood, and at the cost of being touted
as unsocial had read omnivorously. Homer, Herod
otus, Aristotle, Euripides ;Horace, Virgil, Seneca;
NOSTALGIC JOURNEY 273
Dante and Petrarch and Tasso; Moliere, Verlaine,
Voltaire, Rousseau, and Balzac; Shakespeare,
Macaulay, Gibbon, Carlyle never stopping as
one suggested another, and not mechanically as
one seeking a formal education or a mere covering
of culture, but eagerly and hungrily and with the
freedom of pleasure in ranging through the very
stuff of knowledge and seeing for himself how it
lived and moved and had its being.
And because Charlie Chaplin, the waif of Ken-
nington, had been born with a knowledge of men s
hearts and highest aspirations and basest motives
the world of greatness and of degradation opened
swiftly before him, and his delight in all of it was
He was now able to project himself into the be
ings who had made the rich history of England,
becoming for the time, Charles I, and suffering
with that hapless king the agony of being beheaded,
or with equal facility he could become the wistful
figure of the Lady Jane Grey, sitting alone with
her melancholy child thoughts, in the Tower of
"I suppose I ve just the soul of a tourist," he
apologized to Ralph Barton, who was eyeing him,
on one of these excursions, with envy. Barton as
sured him gravely in reply that he was a fool not
to recognize his own attributes as an artist.
Charlie went alone to Lambeth and Kennington
Road and Wast Square, the locale too reminiscent
274 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
of his raw, shy suffering as a youth to permit the
intrusion of a friend. And there he threw himself,
not into the lives of kings and nobles who had be
come dim marionettes of the distant past, but into
the being of a small boy, grubby and lonely and
eager for beauty and marked irrevocably by mel
ancholy, a boy who had spent hours with his small
nose pressed against shop windows, seeing in each
item of the meager enough display of tawdry lux
uries and toys for children of the very poor, the
unattainable; and his imagination playing with
the remote but ecstatic possiblity of appropriating
these mysterious and colorful things to his own
small, beauty-starved life.
Saddened now by the realization that there was
nothing in any shop window in the world which
could bring him even a fleeting pleasure, he en
tered a stationer s in West Square where there
lay in the window a gaily painted Noah s ark. He
bought the toy as amends to the child of so long
ago who had wanted passionately, a Noah s ark.
Alastair MacDonald, son of Ramsay MacDon-
ald, First Minister, called and invited Charlie to
go down with him to dinner at Chequers, the his
torical seat of England s prime ministers. Charlie
had met Alastair in Hollywood and had looked
forward to knowing his father, the Labour Min
ister* He had read with interest MacDonald s
writings on socialism in government.
His disappointment was keen therefore when
NOSTALGIC JOURNEY 275
MacDonald, already beginning to repudiate many
of his former tenets, refused to be drawn out on
politics, was dour, preoccupied, and did not seem
to think it mattered at all what the beliefs of an
actor, even one so famous as Charlie Chaplin, were.
A climb to the top of a hill from which they could
see miles of the verdant Buckinghamshire coun
try, an almost silent dinner with Alastair trying
vainly to entice his father out of his preoccupation
and into conversation, and Charlie and Alastair
motored back to London, the former depressed
from his visit.
Sir Philip laughed at Charlie s annoyance with
MacDonald. "He was worried, no doubt, over
something that came up today," he told him. "What
you want is to meet my chief, Lloyd George. No
body ever accused him of having nothing to say
upon any occasion."
Charlie went with Sir Philip to take tea with
Lloyd George in his chambers. The volatile little
Welshman was more to Charlie s liking despite
their widely divergent views upon political pana
ceas. Lloyd George listened with ill-concealed en
thusiasm when Charlie made suggestions for re
building the whole southwest quarter of London.
Perhaps he expected Charlie to follow his plan with
an offer of a million dollars or so as impetus for
such an undertaking, for which England would,
no doubt, have rewarded him with knighthood.
But Charlie has entertained no ambitions for a
276 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
title. And in his isolation as an artist, his day
dreams are so significant to him that it is the
world of actuality that is vague and unreal. Com
pelled to enter it by an effort of will, he lives by
least resistance in his own shadowy world of
Lloyd George, fiery little man of action, listened
to Charlie until he sensed that with Charlie this
talk was nothing more than a satisfaction of his
emotional needs, a fulfillment of his frustration
as a boy. He fidgeted and suppressed a yawn. Sir
Philip took out his watch and reminded Charlie
that they must not keep him from his many social
Lady Astor gave a dinner for Charlie at her
home, Cliveden. The American-born member of
the House of Commons and first woman ever to sit
in the Imperial Parliament was first elected in
1919. She has made Cliveden the meeting point for
the ablest minds of the age, regardless of views or
political creeds. Accused of fomenting sentiment
against the straight course of the limited monarchy
in England, she has spiritedly denied these accu
sations and gone serenely ahead playing hostess to
widely divergent types and ideas but holding to a
Liberal course. She gathered, on this occasion, rep
resentatives of each political party at her table,
Conservative, Liberal, Labour, Socialist, and Com
munist Facing Lloyd George on this evening sat
Kirkwood, the Scots Communist, whom L. G., as
NOSTALGIC JOUENEY 277
he is known to his intimates, had caused to be im
prisoned during the World War. All political en
mities were forgotten at Lady Astor s.
Speeches were made by everyone who had some
thing to say or thought he had. Charlie, as guest
of honor, was called upon first. He rose and, con
quering his self -consciousness to a degree, pro
ceeded to paint a comprehensive word picture of
the Utopia he would create had he the power of a
Mussolini. He gradually forgot his audience as he
threw himself into the speech, which developed
into a piercing diatribe against the increase of
His audience was taken aback. The growth of
the machine age had been accepted as a natural
growth of civilization. Charlie s viewpoint was a
departure from this acceptance. They could not
know, of course, that here and now was germinated
the seed of work within him for the ultimate
flowering of his picture, Modern Times, the de
lightful satire on the cruelty of modern invention
to man. An artist among statesmen, he felt his
isolation and his impotence to joust with them on
their own field, but there was some stubbornness
in him which would not let him yield.
As he created for the screen for his own satisfac
tion, so must he talk then from an urge for expres
sion of his dream for an ideal state.
The unbalanced of genius are subject to singular
actions which have their origin in the subconscious
278 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
inind. Thus, there arise, from the unconscious into
the conscious, imperative ideas which insist upon
recognition, however malapropos they may appear
to the average.
Accompanied by Ralph Barton, Charlie went to
visit the orphanage of S , where he had spent
two years tragic in effect in his boyhood. He
was gratified to find that in the almost forty
years since his incarceration there, existence for
the inmates had been bettered by more intelli
gent administration. The children looked better
fed, less harshly disciplined, happier. There even
appeared to be an effort to create the illusion of a
home for the small unfortunates.
Charlie was deeply affected by this reminder of
his poverty-ridden childhood. He has much to
forgive for the evil fear of poverty that had its in
ception there at the age of five and has marked him
with a penuriousness which is one of his less ad
mirable qualities. He wanted to do something gra
cious for the children of the orphanage, in remem
brance of the little boy who was gone and for the
man who, no matter the millions he had, could
never buy a single hour of unalloyed happiness for
the child he had been.
He spoke to the Head of his impulse. A hurried
consultation was held with Barton, and the Head
called the children about him. Charlie Chaplin
he announced, the same Charlie whom they
watched on the screen and who used to live in the
NOSTALGIC JOURNEY 279
orphanage when he was a boy, would come to see
them again, would bring them a cinema projection
machine for their very own so that on certain eve-
nings through the kindness of United Artists and
other film distributors, they could have pictures,
even Charlie Chaplin pictures.
The youngsters, gazing awe-struck at Charlie
but finding it difficult to reconcile this smooth
faced, well-dressed gentleman before them with the
Charlie they knew to be a funny tramp, raised a
jubilant huzza at the mention of his pictures. That
part they could understand. This was not all, the
Head continued, after another whispered word
with Charlie. Mr. Chaplin would bring them, each
child, a large bag of oranges, a bag of sweets, and
a shilling ! on his next visit, which would be soon.
Charlie left with tears in his eyes, silent, wrapped
in thought and in remembered feeling.
Kono was told to get from United Artists the
finest projection machine that could be had. When
several days had passed and Charlie avoided any
discussion of his return visit to the orphanage,
Barton advised Kono to say nothing further to Mm
about it, but to go ahead and present the gifts in
Charlie s name. Ralph Barton understood, as Kono
could not, the anguish which had seized him and
driven him back into the arid days of Ms childhood ;
he knew it was too deep to be fed deliberately with
another image of that hurt.
When Kono and Robinson returned to the hotel
280 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
after giving the children their treats and recounted
the excitement and unaffected gratitude of the
youngsters over their oranges, their sweets, and
their strange machine that was to give them pic
tures of their beloved Charlie Chaplin, there stole
over Charlie s face an expression resembling peace.
There are those who criticize Charlie for mak
ing no gesture toward the permanent well-being of
the orphans of S . On the surface, it would seem
that a clinic, or perhaps an endowment so that the
boys of outstanding talent might have a better
chance, would be indicated. Better housing condi
tions for Lambeth and Kennington, educational
scholarships for some of their boys and girls
Any of these might be had for just one of his sever
Most men, it is argued, when they have reached
a goal of wealth in excess of their needs, look about
for some practical expression of encouragement
for their fellows. Of course this gesture is not al
ways above the implication of lulling a conscience
which has reason to give its possessor a bit of
Charlie Chaplin has had no need to buy off his
conscience from himself; he has trodden no heads
or hearts into the dust, ground out no sweatshop
profits for his own aggrandizement; and he is not
a financier. Neither is he the average Horatio
Alger hero who started at the bottom and arrived
at the top, filled with noble conceptions of his duty
NOSTALGIC JOURNEY 281
toward his fellow man. He is an artist, with all of
the selfishness, the self as center of the universe,
that the word implies.
That he has achieved success and has not found
happiness is not conducive to association of the
two in his consciousness. And it is because he is
amazingly sensitive to poverty and suffering and
because he has a finely drawn appreciation of hu
man values that, conversely, he affirms the futility
of any effort toward the preservation of the merely
But what of his attitude toward other struggling
artists whom he recognizes as having gifts as
great, or greater, than his own? For his unconcern
in these instances, is there excuse?
He has a friend to whom his own gifts of mind
and heart make obeisance; Sadakichi Hartmann,
Japanese-German poet and playwright, whose
work a hundred years from now will be handled
reverently. Charlie knows of the battle against
illness and poverty of this great mind embittered
by his struggle against almost unsurmountable
odds* and of his fearless battle against mediocrity
in the face of these odds. Believing Hartmann s
Last Thirty Days of Christ to be one of the greatest
satires ever written, Charlie has lifted no hand to
further the work of the play s creator.
* Hartmann s eariy works were pronounced too revelatory by
publishers in his early life (he is in his late seventies). And it
appears that he has been consistently punished for his presumption
of publishing privately.
282 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
By sheer persistence and with the assurance of
an artist who knows his own worth, Hartmann was
able occasionally to draw the price of one of his
books (which sold for from ten to twenty-five dol
lars) from Charlie. This letter sent from the Hotel
Acacia, West Sixth Street, Los Angeles, brought
the return of the books. Charlie already owned a
Lend me your ear !
I talked with Kono this afternoon and I do not know
whether he was serious or joking. At any rate I don t
know whether or not you ever saw the books I left last
Monday evening. Kono was inclined to make fun of the
price. Of course I do not expect him to know anything
about first editions.
The copies in question are almost impossible to get,
they belong to my own private set and I sell them only
because As I hoped to get rid of them this week, will
you if you do not want them by chance give orders to
return them by special messenger at my expense as I may
have an opportunity to dispose of them on Sunday.
To avoid the genial mobbing which often includ
ed partial disrobing at his public appearances, it
was decided that Charlie and Ralph Barton would
slip unobtrusively into the Dominion Theater dur
ing the afternoon of the evening scheduled for the
opening of City Lights. There they would have din
ner sent in to them from a near-by chophouse and
then dress back stage for the performance.
NOSTALGIC JOURNEY 283
Charlie grumbled lustily at this curtailment of
his liberty but he got no sympathy from the perspi
cacious Barton. "You d feel cheated of your nat
ural due if by chance you did arrive at a public
function without your tie and your coattails in
ribbons," he declared. "Of course I wouldn t be
in your shoes, the big ones or the very small neat
ones of your dress clothes, for a million dollars/ 1
he added with a sardonic grin.
"If you re going to be crass/ Charlie grinned,
"the reward has been slightly more than a million.
But seriously, old man, I do hate this fuss, I "
"You know you love it," Ralph contradicted.
"You wouldn t change places with the Prince of
Wales right now."
Charlie grinned sheepishly. The wine he had
had with his dinner had drowned his usual modesty
which commodity is, for the artist, put on in a
concession to the social amenities, anyway.
"Of course not," he admitted. "The Prince is a
great gentleman and a great personality but I
why I irradiate life! I give new life to people
that sorrow and weakness and discouragement
have withered. Other men would deny it. I don t
Never deny genius, my boy. It is my joy, it "
"Hire a hall/ Ralph advised him curtly and then
burst into uncontrollable laughter. Tour reti
cence overwhelms me. You think you re pretty
swell, don t you?"
"Of course/ Charlie returned simply. "Only
284 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
I don t think it; I know it. There s a vast differ
Just before the curtain swept back for City
Lights, they felt their way through the half-light
of the auditorium, where they were met by Mr.
Gillespie, the manager of the theater. He seated
Charlie next to Bernard Shaw!
Charlie sweated in anticipation of Shaw s in
cisive invective, but to his amazement Shaw seemed
to be enjoying the picture. He was affable, even
courteous, all through its showing and refrained
from criticizing its lack of "message."
On the way back to the hotel, after the cheers for
Charlie had died away and they had been spirited
out a side door to their cab, Ralph told Charlie that
he was curious to know his honest opinion of Shaw.
"Well, I don t see him as the Mephistopheles
the press tries to make him," Charlie replied
thoughtfully. "He s just a benign old gentleman
with a great mind who uses his piercing intellect
to hide his Irish sentiment."
"Humph," was all Barton was able to muster.
"You see," Charlie went on, "all his approach to
letters indicates it those published letters to
Frank Harris, for instance. He let sentiment get
the better of his relentless judgment."
Carl Robinson and Kono had arranged a large
party at the Carlton, after the picture, at which
Charlie was to play host to about two hundred
guests. Lady Astor, Sir Philip Sassoon, Winston
NOSTALGIC JOURNEY 285
Churchill and Sybil, Lady Cholmondeley, were
There were speeches after supper, the first by
Winston Churchill, who paid a graceful tribute to
Charlie s value to the world. "Winston" as he is
affectionately known and called by taxicab driver
and duchess, in England, spoke with brilliant vig
or. His personality has been described by Vincent
Sheean as "an army with banners."* In fine fettle
that night, he brought out from his "arsenal of
words" the precise gun for his MIL
(Mr. Sheean goes on to say, "Mr. Churchiirs
ordinary speech is on an intellectual and literary
level which is bound to intimidate less accomplished
Charlie, for whom the excitement and cham
pagne had proved a bit heady, was tremen
dously impressed but not intimidated. He had
listened closely to Churchill s beginning and
thought it rather neat. "My Lords, ladies, and
Presently it was Charlie s turn to respond. He
rose to his feet. "My Lords, ladies, and gentle
men " he negotiated nicely and then, with
grandiloquence, looking straight at Churchill as
if for inspiration "my friend, the late Chancellor
of the Exchequer." He got no further. There were
shouts of laughter through which Mr. Churchill s
voice boomed with simulated indignation. "I like
* "Old Man in a Htirry Winston QmrchiH" in Saturday
nmff Post of October 21, 1939.
286 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
that! The late, the late! So you ve killed me off,
have you? Ha!"
Charlie was inundated with confusion. He
"I mean the ess-Chancellor of the Exchequer," he
stammered. "Oh, hang it all, I mean my friend
Winston Churchill "
This by-play was put down to Charlie s wit. At
any rate, it had broken the ice of formality, and the
party was a hilarious success from that moment.
There was dancing after supper, and Charlie
was in his glory because he had met a young dancer
brought to the party by Carl Robinson, who danced
the tango exceptionally well. He danced with her
until Kono sought him out and slipped him a bit
of advice. "Let up, let up," he warned him. "The
papers will have you engaged by morning, and I
haven t got time to spend denying it" But Charlie
laughed at him and shrugged off the warning. He
was having a good time. Let the papers say what
they would. He was going to do as he wished for
this brief time. The dark-eyed, exotic dancer was
the embodiment of rhythm. Perhaps this woman
who divined his love of rhythm was the one
Ralph Barton lost interest in the excitement of
Charlie s visit in London, grew more moody and
introspective as the days went on. It was all right
for Charlie, he told him, this empty thing called
fame ; it was quite all right for him, heart-free to
play with the fires of surface romance, but when a
NOSTALGIC JOURNEY 287
chap s very life had stopped because the one woman
he loved better than his life did not want to be with
him, when the need of that woman consumed him,
it was no use pretending to himself. He was going
home where he could look at her occasionally if
Charlie understood Ralph s hunger. It was some
thing that had companioned him most of his life.
He told him about Hetty, hoping to quiet his over
wrought nerves by letting him see that Life had
not stopped with him at the loss of Hetty. He
begged Ralph to stay with him until time could get
in its healing. A prescience of tragedy, in which
his friend seemed cast for the leading role, de
pressed him. If he could only keep him there!
Barton, deaf to Charlie s pleads, sailed for New
York and within a few weeks was dead by his own
hand. Charlie grieved for a real friend and for
the loss of a facile artist to the world.
Charlie was invited to the House of Commons to
hear Ramsay MacDonald speak on the subject he
had hoped to hear him discuss on his recent visit
to Chequers, socialism in government. It had been
suggested to the Prime Minister that he give a
dinner and a reception a few days later, at which
many members of both houses of Parliament could
Disappointment marked Charlie s ill-concealed
reaction to MacDonald s speech. Couched in
smooth, almost reactionary phrases, the expressed
288 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
beliefs of the Minister irritated him to the point
of dislike for the speaker. He informed Kono that
evening that he did not care to go to the dinner
which was being arranged for his honor. Kono
relayed this information to Sir Philip Sassoon.
Now Sir Philip, who seemed to have been pe
culiarly fashioned to understand men s behavior
and the underlying reasons for it, knew that it was
not only MacDonald s defection, that it was a num
ber of things, among them Ralph Barton s depar
ture and an impulsive entanglement with the sloe-
eyed dancer who had tangoed too well which were
all the combined cause for Charlie s discontent.
The dinner and reception date approached, and
Charlie displayed an outburst of temperament at
each mention of the event. Sir Philip patiently ex
plained that an invitation to dinner from Eng
land s First Minister was almost equivalent to a
command from the Palace. He got nowhere. Char
lie was adamant; he simply would not go.
Sir Philip, though highly amused, as he has said,
at this impasse was in a quandary. There could
develop from this situation, he told Kono, an inci
dent. And an incident, he added wryly, was the
bete noir of every diplomat, amateur or profes
sional; more disturbing and sometimes more far-
reaching in consequence than a nice, clean murder.
Sir Philip further explained to Kono that he
might pass this information on to Charlie and re
mind him of the danger of bringing down the house
NOSTALGIC JOURNEY 289
of cards so carefully builded about him, his popu
larity. And, when after a few days it was quite
apparent that none of these arguments would
weigh a gnat s eyelash against the fact that Charlie
did not want to go, he told him bluntly that he could
not stay in London and at the same time decline
Charlie brightened at this suggestion escape.
The Chaplin party left for Berlin.
La Jana Sociological Awakening
IN BERLIN, Charlie and Carl Robinson and Kono
were given the suite in the Hotel Adlon reserved
for lesser royalty and the higher nobility in Im
perialistic days. Charlie s reaction to this was
amusing in its mixture of childlike pleasure and
an uncanny penetration of its flattery. He was
no vain fool to put undue emphasis on the sem
blance of rank, nor has he ever been fooled for a
moment by sycophancy and the adulation of para
sites. Nonetheless, he was put in good humor by
this tactful implication by the hosts of the Adlon.
Carl Robinson was irritating Charlie simply
by his existence and proximity. The result of this
was that he was rarely about when needed and,
instead of being an asset to the party, was fast
becoming a drag and a worry.
Charlie liked Berlin in spite of the fact that not
since the ban on Shoulder Arms, during the World
War, had Germany shown any of his pictures.
He liked the polished streets, the comfortable
buildings, and the shining door plates. He felt the
need of a long walk to clear his head of the jumble
LA JANA SOCIOLOGICAL AWAKENING 291
of the last few days in London; he knew it was
hopeless to try to entice Kono on one of his "little
walks," so on the afternoon of their arrival, he
accepted Carl s offer to go with him, with fairly
good grace. Kono had long since been initiated
into the endurance contests which Charlie mis
(One day in New York, while they were guests
of Nathan Burkan, he had started out bravely
enough with Charlie from Ninety-sixth Street and
had even kept up, once across Manhattan. At the
Battery Kono had drawn a sigh of accomplishment,
feeling himself quite a hiker and was innocently
looking out for a taxicab when he discovered to his
dismay that Charlie had merely stopped for a
minute, wheeled and started back uptown!
Kono s pride was aroused. No guy was going to
walk him off his feet. He d stick. He caught up
with Charlie, trying to emulate his British swing
from the hips.
In midtown Charlie looked about for a Child s
restaurant sufficiently uncrowded for them to
stop and eat pancakes [a favorite dish of his]
without danger of being mobbed. Kono prayed to
all of Ms Nipponese gods for some excuse for food
or rest; his legs moved automatically by this time,
seemed to have no connection with the rest of him.
But he was doomed to disappointment. There were
too many people in the cafe whose plate-glass win
dows showed heads turned excitedly toward them.
292 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
Charlie strode along, no trace of tiring in his
Eventually they reached Ninety-fourth Street,
just two blocks from home, when Kono gave out,
collapsed on the steps of a friendly house. Charlie
came out of his absorption and was all contrition
and helpful suggestions. "We ll get a taxi," he
said. Kono laughed hysterically. "For two blocks?"
he sputtered. "Go away. Leave me here. Fllwalk.
If Fm not back by tomorrow, send a hearse."
Charlie, relieved of his weakling companion,
wheeled and started back toward Forty-second
Street to get pancakes ! After half an hour s rest
on the steps of the strange house, Kono was able to
stagger home. He stayed in bed all the next day.)
Kono, now left alone in the Adlon suite, was
ordering himself a simple dinner when there came
a knock at the door. Thinking it was another of
the hotel staff coming to see if they were comfort
able, he called "Herein !" his lone German vocabu
lary. The door opened, and it was no prosaic mem
ber of the hotel staff who came in, but two beautiful
and smartly groomed young women. They were
actresses, they informed Kono, mentioning their
names, which, it was apparent to him, they ex
pected him to recognize. One of them spoke Eng
lish, the other misled by Kono s erudite "herein"
let fly a barrage of German that left him be
wildered. The former announced that they had
come to call upon Mr. Chaplin.
LA JANA SOCIOLOGICAL AWAKENING 293
Kono s fatigue vanished, as did all thoughts of
an early retirement. He invited the girls to dine
with him, assuring them that Mr. Chaplin would
be back eventually. They accepted, and he ordered
an elaborate dinner with wines for the three of
them sent to the salon. He chuckled to himself as he
anticipated Charlie s surprise when he returned.
Within the hour Charlie appeared, ill-humored
over his enforced companionship with Robinson,
brooding over and magnifying to a dramatic point,
his supposed defections. He burst into his bed
room shouting to Kono, "I want him fired. He s
a nice guy, but I don t like him. My God! Why
do I have to have people around me I don t like?"
"Sh-sh!" Kono held his finger to Ms lips. "Look
what s here." Charlie followed him into the salon
where he looked inquiringly at the girls, then bade
at Kono. He was introduced after a fashion and
his manner showed no trace of the irascibility of a
moment before. He charmed the young actresses
into hilarity, without benefit of German, slyly pok
ing fun at Kono the while for having, as soon as
his back was turned, appropriated so much that
was ornamental to himself without stirring from
The dinner finished, it became apparent to Kono
by means of eyebrow telegraph that Charlie would
like to have him take the actress who spoke no Eng
lish but who was somewhat a linguist in smiles,
and get the hell out, leaving him alone with the
294 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
other who, it developed, was La Jana, a Viennese
dancer of some note.
Kono suffered an innocuous evening of smiles
between the acts of a play of which he understood
not a word. He was relieved to deposit his share
of Nordic beauty at her home.
Not so, Charlie. La Jana was adept at social
dances as well as professional ones. They had spent
the evening at a night club, and Charlie came back
to the hotel even better pleased with Berlin.
La Jana was included thereafter in the parties
Charlie attended. Karl von Vollmueller, the poet
known popularly for his Miracle, which brought
fame to Max Reinhardt as producer, invited Char
lie to the theater and to supper afterward in his
apartment. It was the sort of party at which
Charlie is at his best. There was no formality.
Composers of musical comedies gave sketches, and
snatches of their melodies at the piano; von Voll
mueller read them his exquisite verse; La Jana
danced solo to a gramophone. And Charlie was
prevailed upon to give his inimitable impersona
tion of a timid matador at a bullfight. This char
acterization, done with abandon before a group
of broadmined intelligentsia is about as waggish
a bit of buffoonery as one could see, on or off stage.
The whole group at von Vollmueller s were reduced
to helpless laughter.
Sir Philip arrived in Berlin, ostensibly for an
innocent visit with Charlie, but actually in the
LA JANA SOCIOLOGICAL AWAKENING 295
role of a mentor to see that a message to the Prime
Minister of England was properly worded and
promptly dispatched. He was a keen judge of
people and knew well that Charlie would not, and
Kono and Eobinson could not, handle this delicate
situation with the subtlety for which it called. He
concocted a wireless saying that Mr. Chaplin had
been called away to Germany on urgent business
and couched it in such language as to make plaus
ible Charlie s unceremonious departure from Lon
don, though he was quite aware that no excuse
would be accepted with full pardon.
Sir Philip then accompanied Charlie and Kono
to Potsdam as guests of Prince Henry of Prussia,
nephew of the former Kaiser. They lunched in the
picturesque town which had lost much of its
glamor with the departure of Germany s royalty
and then proceeded to the Palace, the erstwhile
second residence of the German Crown.
Charlie was frank in his disapproval of the huge
seventeenth-century quadrangular pile. "It would
be beautiful," he told Prince Henry, "but for those
ridiculous figures that teeter on the cornices.
They re for all the world like acrobats and not well
balanced, therefore not art."
Prince Henry was amused.
"You re quite right, old man. They re rather
Mdeous, but you ll have to blame old Wilhelm I for
that Frederick the Great thought the palace bad,
too, and built himself a retreat in the eighteenth
296 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
century which, I am sure you will agree with me, is
very nice. Though he and Voltaire both lived in
your acrobats pedes."
They strolled across the Havel, into the terraced
gardens of Sans Souci and Charlie immediately
recognized the prototype of many self-conscious
eastern American estates. Great was his glee over
Voltaire s room, which Frederick had caused to
be papered with parrots, when he had become
weary of the latter s interminable talk.
Browsing among the personal relics of the great
Frederick, Charlie felt the glories and the tragedies
of the man, who, though he was Emperor, had the
courage to be, also, a musician. He could see with
his mind s eye the reign of that unhappy monarch,
the intrigue, the music and letters which he fos
tered; could people the palace with men who had,
with lace at their wrists, filmy handkerchiefs
tucked in their sleeves, and the sheerest of silk
stockings encasing their legs, left much that is
virile and great in German art.
Charlie was awed by the gardens in which man
had captured nature, as any unformed material,
and fashioned it into line and proportion and
Charlie s next excursion was aimed at a cafe.
He writes : "There are all sorts of wild rumors as
to what goes on in these cafes, men dressed as
women. ... So we arranged to go to a certain cafe
where we could see things unprintable."
LA JANA SOCIOLOGICAL AWAKENING 297
This from a dweller in Hollywood!
"I must say I was disappointed," he complains
naively in a women s magazine. "It was a most
feeble entertainment and very self-conscious in its
naughtiness. As we entered the band struck up
and two effeminate youths danced together. This
was the big noise, the something unspeakable we
were privileged to see "
Charlie, though essentially normal himself,
could not be the creative person that he is and not
have an understanding of many of his fellow
artists. He knows that it has been these exponents
of the intermediate sex who have dominated art
through the centuries, that it is these
"... hearts washed marvelously with sorrow, swift
Dawn is theirs and sunset, and the colors of the
who have stirred men s highest emotions and
quickened their hearts with the gathered radiance
of immortal art,
Charlie s evening at the Berlin cafe was a flop*
The Cook s tour of iniquity is seldom amusing,
Charlie was invited to have tea with Einstein,
whom he had entertained in Hollywood. He was
faintly surprised to find that the eminent scientist,
who was honored by the greatest minds in science
and who was the friend of kings, should live in the
small but comfortable flat of the average German
298 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
workman. Here were no superficialities, no devia
tion from the simplest living. Einstein is of a
genial nature, and his late wife was essentially a
motherly person and a charming hostess.
He was served home-baked tarts by Mrs. Ein
stein. The son and daughter of the house came in,
the latter, Margot Einstein, a sculptress of note,
the boy still in college. Young Einstein remarked
upon the psychology of the popularity of his father
and that of Charlie. "You are popular," he told
Charlie, "because you are understood by the
masses. On the other hand, my father is popular
with the masses because they do not understand
"How do you account for that?" Charlie in
quired. "I have seen it demonstrated that people
are suspicious of anything they do not understand
and are prone to condemn, without hearing, the
man who is beyond their understanding."
Young Einstein smiled. "Ah, but you forget.
. . . Naturlich, science to the layman is a vast enig
ma. They accept as a whole the publicized great
ness of my father in a field of which they can know
Frau Einstein, at home and feeling less restraint
than when she had been overwhelmed by the lavish
entertainment of Hollywood, was utterly lovable.
Charlie felt that he was in the presence of a woman
no less great of heart than her famous husband.
She was warmed by Charlie s obvious admiration
LA JANA SOCIOLOGICAL AWAKENING 299
of her and was encouraged by him to talk of Herr
Einstein s sensational discovery of the principle
of Relativity. "You see, my dear husband is very
lazy," she said in her rich, warm voice. "When he
is not working, he putters about with his sailboat,
or the piano. But when he has an idea, he shuts
himself up in his study for days at a time, alone.
One morning he came out after such a time, looking
worn and tired. He sat down at the piano and ran
his fingers over the keys. I did not speak nor did
I make any wifely suggestions as to what he should
do ... did not suggest that he bathe or rest, or even
offer him coffee . . . just waited. . . . Suddenly he
turned to me, his eyes shining with excitement.
Do you know, Mama, I have just got a wonderful
idea V he exclaimed. (You see he is something like
a novelist fumbling for a long time for a plot while
everybody says, "What a lazy fellow P) He went
back to his study with no further word to me and
came out two days later with his theory of Rela
tivity developed. He is like that." She beamed at
her husband, who obviously adored her. There was
the feeling of GemuUichkeit in the room*
Prohibition was discussed, and Einstein, who
has a sharply drawn sense of humor, was still
chuckling over the advice of Eugene P. Brown in
the Los Angeles Times wherein he suggested that
William Randolph Hearst employ Einstein to get
rid of Prohibition in America. "Anyone who can
repeal the law of gravity/ quoth Mr. Brown.
300 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
"ought to be able to do a little damage to the
The conversation veered toward the economics of
the world, the depression. Charlie was possessed
of the ideas which had taken root in his mind on
his travels and he must try them out on statesmen
and scientists alike. There was a touch of bravado
in his taking to himself the temerity of expounding
proposed cures for the ills of the world. He has that
childlike quality of the artist who says to himself,
"It is not enough that I am an artist. I will prove
to these people that I am a many-faceted fellow, at
home in any field/ 9
"These are dangerous times/ * Einstein ad
mitted, "what with the depression and growing un
"England was hopeless of paying her national
debt after the battle of Waterloo because of lack of
trade," Charlie offered. He enjoyed listening to his
own reflections quite as much as he expected others
to enjoy them. "But steam came along and started
new industries; then electricity was developed and
put more men at work. Depressions came periodi
cally in the past, but new enterprises cropped up
the automobile, the radio, aviation and for a time
absorbed the surplus workers/
The Herr Professor listened gravely.
* It did not occur to any of the group that before many years, the
great scientist would be deprived of his property by the Nazi gov
ernment and forced into exile from the country to which he had
brought so large a measure of honor.
LA JANA SOCIOLOGICAL AWAKENING 301
"The trouble is that the population has quite out
numbered the need for workers," Charlie went on.
"Modern machinery has decreased the need for
manpower. Therefore, since man s only means of
buying what machinery produces, is money made
from work at those machines, our problem becomes
a difficult one."
"A radical change of some sort is necessary,"
Einstein agreed, "to keep men from starving."
"The business world has welcomed the change
from manpower to machine which, in cheapening
the cost of our commodities, has put the luxuries of
yesterday within the reach of the man of moderate
means today. But the business world stands reso
lute against any fundamental change in the capi
talistic system which might cheapen money."
Einstein smiled. Charlie s radical leanings
though he usually held them in check were well
known to his friends.
"They insist upon using the gold standard,"
Charlie complained, "and at the same time doing
business with credit. These two mediums of ex
change credit and gold will never stabilize
prices, for credit is more elastic than gold."
The professor smiled again. "You are not a
comedian, Charlie; you are an economist. How
would you cure these ills?"
"With three things," replied Charlie, promptly.
"Reduce the hours of labor, print more money, and
302 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
"I m not much of a business mathematician/
Einstein conf essed, "but I do hold that every living
man should be clothed and fed and have a roof over
his head. There is enough for all."
On Charlie s last evening in Berlin, La Jana, Sir
Philip Sassoon, and Charlie made up a small party
for dining and dancing at a club where the music
was good and the floor not too crowded for the
swaying gestures of the tango. Charlie loved tan
going and he was enamored not so much of the
dancer as of her dancing. To him La Jana "wore at
her heart the white fire of her art," and her least
movement was a melody.
Their farewell came at the end of the evening.
Sir Philip had left for London. Charlie and La
Jana sat and talked, each an artist, each weighted
with the loneliness at the core of his life. Their
thoughts had touched for a brief moment; there
was no jealousy, no culmination of an affaire to
mar the grave joy of two artists face to face. La
Jana sat quietly while Charlie searched for the
right words in which to put his appreciation of her
"In your dance," he said, "you express an exotic
loneliness, as if none was capable of following your
rhythmic perfection. ..."
Much affected, La Jana finally spoke. "Charlie,
I love you. I find so little real appreciation of what
I am trying to express. Although we may never
see each other again, I am content. We have met,
LA JANA SOCIOLOGICAL AWAKENING 303
two lonely souls, In a confused pilgrimage . . .
where? But it is good to know you are in the
Charlie, Robinson, and Kono moved on to
Vienna. Outside the Hotel Imperial, when they ar
rived, thousands crowded about under the bal
conies, clamoring for a glimpse of their Charlie.
He appeared on a balcony, waved and bowed and
shouted to them. The Viennese were satisfied and
dispersed as quickly as they had gathered when the
evening papers had heralded the news of his
The Austrian capital, connected in Charlie s
mind with light-hearted gaiety, was, in the next
few days, a disappointment To him Vienna was
imbued with the desolation of a ballroom with the
dancers gone. As in Prussia, much of the glamor
had faded with the discarded throne; the colorful
pageantry of royalty and its attributes was miss
ing; the people saddened and depressed and strug
gling against an economic upheaval with its result
ant bitter poverty. Always sensitive to moods of
people and cities, Charlie s imagination intensified
the gloom. He saw in it a personal adversary ready
to hurl itself upon him.
Escape was offered when a member of the French
Legation at Vienna called and told him that Aris-
tide Briand, premier of France, was eager to meet
him as soon as he could arrange to come to Paris.
304 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
So, instead of a comprehensive tour of Italy as he
had planned for this time, he prepared to return to
France, stopping for only a day or so in Venice.
Charlie had heard nothing from Maisie since
he left New York but he half expected to find her
in Venice. It would follow her concept of the pat
tern of romance, he told Kono. But she was not
there. He drew a sigh of relief.
Maisie s absence, however, was not enough to
soothe his frayed nerves. Carl Robinson, probably
through little fault of his own, was becoming more
of an annoyance to Charlie. Charlie was tired of
the inevitable excitement attending his tour of
Europe, of the sensation of each fresh arrival to a
country, of being constantly on exhibition. He
heartily and audibly wished himself back in the
quiet seclusion of his California home, where Kono
with rocklike stolidity could stand between him
and the invading public, without offense to, per
haps, a whole nation. "What," he inquired fret
fully of Kono, "did I come on this damned holiday
"To get away from love," was Kono s blunt re
joinder, keeping a weather eye out for a hurled
book or cushion. "Go to bed for a day or two," Kono
advised him. Charlie who realized that life to Kono
was translated into few outlets making money,
eating, and sleeping ignored this advice. He
countered with his own remedy: a little walk.
Kono, doggedly faithful to the charge he so little
LA JANA SOCIOLOGICAL AWAKENING 305
understood, offered himself as sacrifice, and they
started an exploration of Venice with occasional
stops for refreshment. For hours Charlie walked
in silence, drinking in the medieval architecture of
Venetian line and color, feeling the dark potency
of its retrospective glamor, peopling the town with
the cruelty and elegance of the Doges reign.
Venice, despite his mood of restlessness, began
to take hold upon him. He walked the next night
with Kono and a friend who spoke Italian. He
says of this walk that evening: "The streets of
Venice are just as beautiful as its canals. We wan
dered through the labyrinth of narrow thorough
fares, some so narrow they barely permitted the
three of us to walk abreast The day noises had
ceased, the hour was midnight. There was only
the lapping of the water disturbed by some late
gondola, the sound of an occasional footfall In
the dim lights of the old street lamps, we could see
the outline of a cloaked figure passing into the
shadows. We came out into a palazza where there
were groups of young men standing in animated
conversation. I lag behind the others to watch one
group which from their intense interest must be
discussing the charms of woman. I call my friend
and ask him to translate just one remark which
will give me the key to their conversation. This is
the phrase I got, Art is the treatment applied to
work, I tell you, and has nothing to do with the
306 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
"I went to bed that night encouraged with life
and possessed of a passionate belief in the Italian
Charlie wanted to get on to Paris. Kono was
somewhat at a loss to understand his feverish im
patience to see another prime minister when he
had been hardly extricated from the toils of the
first. Charlie disclosed his reason on the train to
Paris. The Legation members in Vienna had
hinted that it was the intent of France to decorate
him with the ribbon of Chevalier de la Legion
d Honneur. They wanted to express their homage
to him as an outstanding contributor to the happi
ness of the world.
The Duke and Duchess of Westminster had also
boarded the train in Venice, en route to their hunt
ing lodge in Normandy. Learning from train offi
cials that Charlie was in another carriage, they
sent to ask if they might present themselves to
him. Charlie was gracious, and the Duke invited
him to his annual boar hunt. In spite of a warning
nudge from Kono, Charlie fell headlong in with
this suggestion, agreed to let them know when he
could conveniently get away from Paris for a few
"We ll have a boar steak or something," he in
formed Kono enthusiastically when their graces
had returned to their own carriage.
"Oh, yeah?" Kono retorted. "You mean the
LA JANA SOCIOLOGICAL AWAKENING 307
boars will have Chaplin steak. What the hell do
you know about hunting?"
Charlie sulked. It was never quite clear to him
why he put up with a secretary who never soared
above the level of the earth. He could hunt boars,
he muttered, and probably shine at it, too.
Paris again ! A repetition of crowds stampeding
the barriers erected by the watchful police. Even
tually the party reached the Crillon, though some
where along the way Charlie had lost his hat and
part of his necktie. They were given the rooms
which had been occupied by the late President
Wilson on his League of Nations pilgrimage, just
after the World War.
While awaiting word of the ceremony of decora
tion, Charlie was informed by the Belgian Embassy
that Albert, King of the Belgians, in temporary
residence at the Embassy, had expressed a desire
to meet him. Charlie readily agreed to accompany
ing the messenger to Albert s quarters.
After signing the guest book in the anteroom,
Charlie was ushered into the royal presence. King
Albert acknowledged the introduction briefly, then
pointed to a chair for Charlie and drew one for
ward for himself before the usher could spring to
do so, Then King Albert said nothing.
Charlie, unschooled in the etiquette of court,
even a temporary one, and not counting it impor
tant anyhow, then had the temerity to attempt to
put the King at his ease. "It s a great honor, a
308 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TEAGEDY
pleasure to meet you," he said. The King merely
nodded. Charlie, nothing daunted, tried again.
"You re not staying long in Paris 1" he asked.
"No," replied Albert.
"I understand you flew here," Charlie further
"Yes," said Albert.
Charlie was a little annoyed by now. He
squirmed. After all, an enforced monologue can
be disconcerting. He essayed a few tentative re
marks on airplanes. Albert looked dreamy, ignored
them. And at long last, quite as if Charlie had
not spoken, His Majesty, Albert of Belgium, began
"Do you make all your pictures in California?"
he inquired with a cordial smile.
Charlie, after stammering an affirmative, sat
back. He had received a full education, in one
lesson, in royal etiquette. He was soon at ease with
the genial, and beloved by all the world, Albert of
Belgium. For an hour they talked easily and com-
panionably of pictures, science, and art. Charlie
left with the conviction that King Albert was not
only a great king but also a man of parts.
Napoleon s tomb, in fact, any and all Napole-
onana, had always held an especial fascination for
Charlie. Perhaps it was the slight physical size of
the mad genius of battle which had first attracted
his interest. He spent hours now on the balcony
LA JANA SOCIOLOGICAL AWAKENING 309
overlooking the catafalque of the Emperor, rumi
nating on the dramatic splendor of his sweep
through Europe, upon the acute unhappiness and
loneliness of the man, For years Charlie has cher
ished the hope of playing Napoleon on the screen.
But he is afraid. He has seen comedians of the first
water laughed out of their attempted serious roles.
A Boar Hunt
CHARLIE soon found himself at the Normandy
chateau of the Duke of Westminster, though why
he had accepted the invitation, he began to wonder.
He certainly regretted his rash decision to join in
the hunt of the boar, an ugly-tempered animal,
almost as soon as he was comfortably ensconced
at His Grace s hunting box. It was bitter cold
weather, but this was not the reason for the mys
terious chills that crawled up his spine as they sat,
a goodly number of guests and their host, around a
great fire the first evening, sipping Scotch and
"Of course you can ride," the Duke remarked.
"Oh, of course that is I haven t for ten
years." Charlie thought he detected a note of con
cern in the Duke s manner and hastened to reas
sure him. "You see, Fve never really fallen oif a
The boar hunt was explained to the only novice
in the group. Men are first sent out to ferret out
the tracks of the boar. The hunters then ride to a
spot near the locale of the animal s hideaway as
A BOAR HUNT 311
determined by its tracks. The hounds are loosed,
and when it becomes apparent that they have
caught the scent, the horn sounds and the hunters
gallop full upon the hounds, each one intent upon
being the first to be upon the brute and drive
home the spearlike knife he carries.
"You get off your horse for this," the Duke ex
plained. "But be sure not to dismount until the
boar is securely pinned down by the dogs."
"Oh, quite," Charlie muttered. "One does not
want to rob the dogs of their share of the fun."
Why am I such a jackass? he inquired of himself.
"The boar is a ferocious animal, most dangerous.
If the dogs haven t him down securely, he s apt to
jump up and attack you."
Charlie gulped. He was sure by now he should
have stayed safely in Paris.
"In fact," the I>uke continued, "Fve known
them to attack a horse, but there, Fm talking too
muck We may not get even a glimpse of a boar
tomorrow, and then you ll be disappointed."
"Oh, no I mean yes, yes, of course. Oh, no,
not at all," Charlie stammered his confused
Everyone retired early in order to be up and
f resfa at six o clock the next morning.
Poor Charlie, with visions of a boar he d seen
one in a book romping across his inind, slept not
a wink. By morning he was in condition for noth
ing but a hot bath, a sedative, and a long nap. His
312 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TEAGEDY
bones ached, his eyes smarted, and he was sure his
brain had gone from his cranial cavity leaving only
a small piece of lead in the vacuum. Calling upon
all his reserves of fortitude, he dressed and went
downstairs, where he was cheered with the news
that the boar tracks had been found. But boars and
their tracks were forgotten for the moment when
the assembled guests and the host beheld the ap
parition that was Charlie ! His hunting costume !
True, they struggled against rising mirth, but
when Charlie actually caught a glimpse of his en
semble in a long mirror, he roared with laughter
and thus allowed the choked merriment of the
assembly to burst its chains of politeness.
He had bought breeches and boots which fitted
him as well as stock sizes could be expected to fit.
But, having no coat or helmet or yellow waistcoat
without which no true son of Britain would be
caught dead at a hunt he had made up his cos
tume from here and there. Sem, the French carica
turist, had left his pink coat at the chateau from a
previous hunt, and Sem was several sizes smaller
than Charlie. The Duke, who was about three
inches over six feet, and broad proportionately, had
sent up one of his waistcoats, also his helmet and
The ensemble was so ludicrous that Charlie
seriously considered its possibilities in a picture
a hunting picture. Sem s coat barely met about his
middle, the voluminous waistcoat under the but-
A BOAR HUNT 313
toned coat reached almost to his knees and pinched
in by the coat, had a ballet-skirt flare. "When I
reached for a match/ Charlie said, "I looked as if
I were pulling up my socks." The Duke s gloves
were so large that his hands looked like small hams,
and he could double up his fists inside them without
disturbing the fingers. He looked out from under
a helmet which, relative to his size, could have
served for a tent.
Once on the horse, Charlie found that the Duke s
secretary had been assigned to him as mentor and
guard. They jogged placidly enough along through
the brisk morning air across the smooth downs,
until Charlie began to feel that a hunt was a pleas
ant affair after all. However, he bowed to his ap
prehension of the unknown enough to hazard a
"I suppose we go er faster than this?"
"Oh, quite. When the horn sounds, y know."
They were approaching a lane flanked by tall
oaks when, without warning, bugle notes ripped
the morning stillness. Charlie s horse broke and
was off to a flying start, Clutching vainly for his
paraphernalia of whip and spear and reins, he lost
them all, lost everything but a desperate grip about
the horse s neck He choked, and he was sure it
was on the horse s ear.
Through the forest, around trees, over ditches
and small streams the horse sped, with Charlie
clinging for dear life to his embrace. Finally he
314 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
came up with his companion, who had stopped his
mount. He retrieved his reins, and as soon as he
was able to think, he decided that he was an ex
cellent rider after all Was he not still on the horse?
He confided this discovery to the secretary.
"I wouldn t ride too hard/ that worthy advised.
"I wish you d tell that to the horse," was Char
lie s quick retort.
For hours days, it seemed to Charlie the
whole forest was thrashed for the elusive boar. The
brief respites while waiting for the next sound of
the horn, were savored by Charlie as the last sweet
moments of life, he felt, must be, by the condemned.
At long last, when he was beginning to be sure that
it was a horrible nightmare and he could not wake
up, the Duke rode up and exclaimed, apologetically,
"It looks bad. I m afraid we re out of luck, today."
Charlie tried valiantly to look disappointed but
apparently succeeded only in looking ill. "Look
here, old man," the Duke said solicitously. "You re
tired. Don t overdo it. Take my car and go to the
Commutation from the guillotine to life sentence
could not have been sweeter in Charlie s ears. He
turned his mount and requested him with soothing
words to walk down the lane to the car. Happily
the horn did not sound.
Awaiting him at the car was a reporter. Charlie
was furious. Well, he d show him. Aifecting a
jaunty air, he nonchalantly threw his right leg
A BOAR HUNT 315
back from the saddle and jumped lightly to the
ground. His knees gave way completely. He sat
down suddenly and hard ! Struggling for dignity,
he tried to stand, but again they buckled and down
he went. With effort he struggled to a comparative
upright position, but the muscles of his back, pun
ished by hard riding, refused to support him. He
flopped in a crumpled heap to the earth. Half-
crawling, half -sliding, he managed to reach the
running board of the car and sat down. His ima
gination tortured him. Would he ever walk again?
The reporter, suppressing his laughter, came up,
notebook in hand. "Did you enjoy the hunt, Mr.
"Rather/" Charlie answered with what he hoped
"Did you see a boar?" was the next question.
Charlie looked at him, said nothing. He wished
for just one moment of the privileges of a private
citizen, the glorious right to be rude, as he stifled
the reply, "No, but I m looking at one, right now."
Rescued by the Duke s chauffeur, he was taken
to the chateau, where Kono had been taking his
exercise in a chair. After dinner they left for
Paris, and Charlie disappeared into a Turkish
bath and emerged from the hands of a masseur at
four the next morning. Even then, it was a matter
of three days before he could sit or stand without
groaning. He would confine his participation in
sports in the future, he declared, to tiddlywinks.
The Riviera May Reeves Marseilles
To CHARLIE from the Frank Jay Goulds in Nice
came an invitation to visit them at the Majestic
Hotel, which with the Casino was owned by Gould.
The Casino rivalled Monte Carlo near by with its
lavish appointments and the added attraction of
a floor show. The gay season of the Riviera was in
full momentum, and Frank Gould s resort was the
mecca of the American expatriates and English
visitors to the Mediterranean.
Syd Chaplin and his wife, Minnie, had been
living in Nice for the past six months, but as they
had only a small apartment, Charlie was glad to
accept the proffered hospitality of the Goulds.
Syd had ended a moderately successful film
career in Hollywood when income tax investigators
began to imply that his tax returns were not ade
quate. He had gone first to England but soon saw
there no surcease from the annoying matter of
taxes, and had decided that the climate of southern
France was more conducive to well-being. Posses
sing a comfortable fortune though nothing to
compare with Charlie s millions he decided that
THE RIVIERA MAY REEVES 317
if he could just keep what he had, it would be dis
creet to retire from public life.
Charlie and Carl Robinson and Kono arrived in
Nice and were greeted with an enthusiasm which,
for Charlie, was taking on staleness from repeti
tion, but which astounded the Goulds. "It must
make you very happy to be so admired," said Frank
Gould after they had escaped, breathless and di
sheveled, into the lobby of the Majestic. Charlie
made no comment, but after luncheon he impishly
invited Gould to go with him to a shop for tennis
racquets. As they walked, a crowd assembled out
of nowhere, growing in volume with each few steps
advanced until its proportions had stopped all the
traffic and the streets were a hubbub of pushing,
milling people shouting, "Chariot ! Hurrah ! Char-
lot!" The mass became so dense that it was with
difficulty that either of them moved forward a step.
Charlie stole a look at Gould s face and saw grow
ing annoyance and alarm and extreme concern for
him. When they had eventually reached the shop
as exhausted as football players, Gould mopped his
face and declared fervently, "Whew! I wouldn t
be you, my dear Charlie, for all the gold of the
Charlie was taken that afternoon to the Casino
for tea. He discovered many of the well-known
names of America scattered about him. The main
topic of conversation seemed to be a loud denuncia
tion of Prohibition and other must-nots of or-
318 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
ganized Puritanism. The Europeans who had
taken these freer souls to their hearts agreed that
though they watched America with interest always,
her contributions to science and inventions, it was
surely no country for those of the monde.
There was, starred on the bill of entertainment
at the Casino, a young dancer, French-English and
of an exotic Latin beauty. She was billed as May
May s face was heart-shaped, her eyes soft brown
and luminous, her hair dark, and her figure sinu
ous. Her dancing was grace itself. She appeared to
the fashionable habitues of the winter playground
as a young woman of complete sophistication, but
in reality, as Charlie was to learn, she was lacking
in experience to deserve this characterization. It
was all a pose.
Charlie was bored with the Casino life as it ap
peared to him that first afternoon, thought it rather
dull and silly, but he was instantly struck with the
charm of May Reeves. Syd assured him that he
knew her and could bring her to see him. It was
decided to show her no marked attention at the
Casino. It would not be tactful to show too much
attention to one of his host s employees. So, just
before luncheon the next morning, Syd and Carl
Robinson appeared with May. Charlie was charmed
by her English, spoken with quaint accent and an
attractively awkward arrangement of phrases,
as well as by her youth and naivete. He discerned
THE RIVIERA MAY REEVES 319
that for all her air of sophistication, she was shy,
unworldly, in a word, amazingly innocent.
Charlie grew interested in May Reeves, in her
fresh, unspoiled beauty, and most of all, in her
dancing. His interest was sustained by her aloof
ness. He played tennis* with her every morning,
and she gave him an excellent game. He watched
her dance in the evening at the Casino, invited her
occasionally to their table for a drink and a chat
and that was all. Finally he asked her to go with
them to Morocco and Algiers. She consented. Why
not? The season .on the Riviera was ending. She
needed a rest, and there would be chaperones.
Mary Garden and the Duke of Connaught, great
uncle to the then Prince of Wales, each invited
Charlie to tea, at Cap Ferrat.
Another renewal of friendship delighted him; it
was with Elsa Maxwell, that unique impresarianne
of the party whose originality had resulted in
changing dull and stately receptions and balls into
wacky gatherings somewhat resembling mild riots,
but, withal, a lot of fun. Miss Maxwell, short, stout
and pudding-featured, impeccably frocked by
Europe s famous couturiers and still a frump
is a triumph of personality over bank balance.
She ruthlessly jarred American society loose from
its fond convictions that three generations of
dubiously gotten wealth presupposed charm and
* Tennis has long been Charlie s only form of exercise aside from
walking. He is a spectator at all the national tennis matches.
320 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
other ingredients for social superiority. She con
vinced them that personal achievement in the arts,
and professional distinction, or even just being
amusing, were more logical entrance cards to the
charmed circle in a supposedly democratic country
than mere riches.
On the barren canvases of parties, Elsa Maxwell
splashed and still splashes lavish color. As a
beginning she flung her repertoire of songs (of
her own composition) not to the favored few, the
artists who revel in an occasional abandonment to
Rabelaisian humor as a divagation from their ef
fete pursuits, but to the stuffed shirts who could
take her downright, spontaneous hell-raising or
go home. They did not go home.
She was the prototype for Dwight Fiske, who
afterward set the sophisticated world a-chuckling
over his sly and delightful naughtiness.
City Lights was to have its Riviera premiere at
Monte Carlo, capital of the world s smallest prin
cipality, Monaco. Charlie was asked to be the
guest of Prince Louis Honore Charles Antoine,
ruler of the neat, unreal little country (395 acres) .
He was interested in the economic aspect of the
principality whose subjects, the Monegasques, paid
no taxes. The Casino supported the "nation."
An aide-de-camp trimmed in pounds of gold
braid and gold buttons appeared at Charlie s hotel
in the afternoon and made it known that he was
expected to dine with the Sovereign of Monaco that
THE RIVIERA MAY REEVES 321
evening in the seven-hundred-year-old palace in
which Prince Louis and his court made their home.
After dinner, royalty and Charlie, augmented by
the British consul, who was to conduct him to the
palace, would repair to the theater and enjoy City
Lights from the royal box.
Charlie, accompanied by the consul, arrived at
the palace at seven o clock, only to be told that
several urgent matters had come up which de
manded the Prince s undivided attention; hence,
he could not dine with Mr. Chaplin but would join
them at the theater later. Charlie, somewhat taken
aback at this news, tried hard to imagine one affair
of the toy kingdom which would carry half the
importance of his own presence that evening.
The hostless dinner was certainly not a hilarious
one. The consul was the only other guest who spoke
English. But somehow they struggled through,
Charlie looking, as he declared later, "sweetly
idiotic" at everyone, especially the various gov
ernment officials who were stiffer, more exagger
atedly formal than like representatives of larger
After finishing the innumerable courses of an
excellent dinner, the consul was informed by a
Monacan minister that they were not expected at
the theater until ten o clock. City Lights, he ex
plained, would go on the screen at that time.
Charlie, who was definitely nettled over the
whole proceedings by now, suggested sotto voce to
322 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
the consul that they do as they damn well pleased,
leave early, take a walk do anything rather than
sit and wriggle on the griddle of court etiquette;
but the consul, of necessity a stickler for the pro
prieties, squelched him and held him down. They
must wait for the ruler to give word for their
At long last the permission came through by
telephone to the minister, and they set out for the
theater. What was their surprise and Charlie s
rage to find the royal family, consisting of the
Prince and his daughter, already seated in the box.
Amusement at the coolness of their reception broke
through his ill-humor. After all the boredom and
obedience of the early evening they had committed
the unpardonable offense of arriving at the theater
after royalty was seated.
The picture was got through, Charlie feeling
much like a small boy who, having been scrubbed
and brushed and put into a pew and told to stay
there, could jolly well expect a good hiding after
church, no matter how well he behaved. He could
see with his mind s eye the front pages of the
newspapers making a Roman holiday out of the
fact that he had kept the Prince waiting.
His surmises proved correct. The papers had a
story. His Highness was deeply offended. Had
Charlie had a command of French, he could have
enlightened him, no doubt, as to the blunders for
which his own ministers were solely responsible,
THE RIVIERA MAY REEVES 323
but, having to depend upon the consul, he found
himself at a disadvantage. So he shrugged it off
as merely another instance when the public figure
Emil Ludwig, noted biographer, stopped in Nice
for a day on his way to America. Charlie, who had
first been attracted to him by his able Napoleon,
arranged a program for Ludwig s stay. They had
a quiet lunch together at the Palm Beach Casino
opposite the island of Sainte Marguerite, the re
puted site of the prison made famous by The Man
in the Iron Mask.
Ludwig, who has a genuine fondness for .Char
lie, was charmed by the latter s wish to monopolize
him. And Charlie in turn was like a small boy let
out of school to have a visit with his idol. During
the luncheon, Ludwig gravely produced a bay leaf
from his pocket and presented it to Charlie with
solemn formality. "It was the custom of the ancient
Greeks," he said, "to bestow a laurel leaf upon
those whom they admired, and I want you to keep
this leaf as a token of my esteem."
Discovering in each other an inordinate love of
beauty, their talk grew into a discussion of the
beauty of motion each had found in simple, natural
acts of people. Charlie held out for Helen Wills
Moody s tennis playing, or a man plowing a field
in Flanders after its devastation by the War. He
pantomimed for Ludwig, the stoop of the man s
back, his determination and dauntless courage
324 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
in setting out to wrest life once more from the
Ludwig countered with something he had seen
in Florida; the red glow of the sinking sun, a
motorcar rolling slowly along the beach with a girl
in a bathing suit lying on the running board lightly
trailing one toe over the smooth surface of the
They spoke of children. Ludwig confessed him
self intensely personal in his love for his son;
Charlie gazed at him wistfully with the envy of
the lonely soul wanting terribly to feel these things
but somehow doomed to failure.
"I have a great deal to live up to/ Ludwig de
clared. "The little chap has heard that his father
writes books and, loving books, he looks up to me
as to God."
Charlie, as always when the subject of home-
keeping happiness and its joys came up, tried to
consider impersonally his own path of aloneness.
Whether he liked it or not, he had to pursue his own
way, sometimes wondering fearfully whether, by
walking alone, he had missed the true meaning of
life. Eventually his subconscious mind reassured
him. He was free of all fetters. His eyes were
opened to the great comedy with its underlying
tragedy of the human race.
Ludwig evinced interest in the books Charlie
read and liked. "The self-educated man is far
more interesting than the product of schools and
THE RIVIERA MAY REEVES 325
tutors and colleges/ he told him. Charlie was
gratified at this opinion. He admitted he read
slowly, therefore had not covered as much ground
as he could have wished. But, wasting none of his
time on trash, he had encompassed the Bible, a
great deal of Shakespeare, biography, and history,
as well as the philosophers, Emerson, Nietzsche,
They fell upon the subject of Christ in literature.
Charlie was emphatic in his appreciation of Sada-
kichi Hartmann s Last Thirty Days of Christ.
This play (never produced on Broadway) embodies
a rare and, to the strictly orthodox, sacrilegious
vein of satire. It portrays Jesus as the mystic,
the lone philosopher in an age of materialism, eons
ahead of his own disciples, an "old soul" far above
the understanding of his closest followers. But it
shows him as a cynic, also, divining the syco
phancy of his disciples.
Hartmann, one of the few geniuses, in the nar
rower sense of the term, of our day, has by the
iconoclastic trend of his writing confined himself
to a comparatively small audience of readers. The
commonplace mind is so outraged by his themes
that it overlooks the subtle poetry of those themes
and his exquisite handling of words. Like the mas
ters of old, Sadakichi goes his way, seeking pa
tronage from the rich, his inferiors. That this pa
tronage is more often denied than given is incon
trovertible in a world in which prize fighting and
326 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
football games are more vital to the life of the
community than the saga of an intellectual and
spiritual giant working, unobtrusively, for im
The time came to proceed on their travels, to
Algiers and Morocco. Charlie, May Reeves, Rob
inson, and Kono, accompanied by Boris Evelinoff,
Frank Gould s personal representative everywhere
and foreign correspondent for the Paris Soir, set
While in Morocco, Charlie received a wire from
Maisie urging him to come to Venice for a large
party she was to give. Charlie smiled at the cor
rectness of his surmises about Maisie. And though
he held the friendliest feeling for her, he was glad
that he had escaped an evening in Venice to be
done, no doubt, in the Hollywood manner. He had
Kono wire their regrets.
Again Charlie grew irritable, plagued by somber
thoughts on the futility of running about Europe
in such prescribed fashion. If one could go abso
lutely alone, he complained but this being on
show was stupid and utterly futile.
May, who was merely a guest of the party, un
derstood this need to be alone. She suggested her
going back to Paris to await them there. Kono sug
gested that Charlie come to some decision about
Carl Robinson, whom he actively disliked by now.
Charlie fell in with both suggestions and as May
THE RIVIERA MAY REEVES 327
left for Paris, Robinson was sent back to Holly
wood, where his connection with the Chaplin studio
was permanently severed.
Returning to the south of France after a cursory
view of Algiers and Morocco, Charlie continued to
be irritated by the penalties of his fame. With H.
G. Wells he visited Grasse, the sleepy, lovely old
town with twelfth-century atmosphere high above
the Mediterranean. They were on their way to the
cathedral when, climbing the narrow streets,
Charlie s garter broke. They turned back toward
a shop where he might get a new pair, Wells for a
time extolling the wonders of Grasse, all unmindful
of the crowd trailing them at a discreet distance.
Finally Charlie turned and laughed through his an
noyance. "Look!" he directed Wells s attention,
"How would you like to be the Pied Piper of Hame-
lin?" Wells was visibly alarmed. "I think you d
better go on alone," he suggested hastily. "I ll meet
you at the car, later." "Oh, no, you don t," Charlie
returned emphatically. "You ll see it through, get
a taste of the whole damned, insane business."
They took refuge in a shop too small to admit
the crowd, which, instead of dispersing, grew
larger by the moment, and when Charlie-and Wells
dodged out a back door into the alley, the mob
dodged also and, quickly catching up, marched
solemnly along behind them.
To visit the cathedral was now impossible.
"You ll have to postpone it until you ve grown a
328 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
beard/ Wells said. They reached their car and
Charlie s irritation grew. At first, though in
convenienced by this untoward attention, he had
looked beyond his comfort and had been touched
by the reaction of the masses to his presence in the
flesh, but now his worn nerves made him impatient
with all of its manifestations. He decided that a
celebrity rarely, if ever, gets a normal reaction
from even the individual he meets. People are in
terested or bored beforehand at the necessity of
doing homage. They assume, as the case may be,
a fawning or a defensive attitude.
Charlie and Kono moved on to Marseilles. There
they were quartered in the royal suite of the Hotel
Noailles, the rooms often occupied by the King of
Spain on his visits to the French seaport. Charlie
went for long walks alone, trying to recapture the
savor of his holiday.
One day Kono, alone in their rooms, received a
visit from Aimee Semple McPherson, the red-
haired stormy petrel of Angelus Temple in Los
Angeles. She had stopped over in Marseilles on the
first leg of a round-the-world jaunt, objective the
Holy Land, with her daughter Roberta. She had
always wished to meet Mr. Chaplin, she told the
amazed Kono, and now was the appointed time.
Kono, although he had long since learned to expect
the unexpected, tried to discourage her painlessly,
but when Aimee, a strong-minded person who was
THE RIVIERA MAY REEVES 329
used to accomplish her desires, refused to be dis
couraged, Kono invited her to stay for tea. Per
haps, he assured her, Charlie would come in. One
Over their tea she told Kono of her dissatisfac
tion with her daughter Roberta s recent marriage
to the young assistant purser of the ship that had
brought them to the continent. Kono then inferred
that she was lonely, the honeymooners leaving her
much to herself, no doubt, or at the worst, that she
wanted merely a firsthand glimpse of a star away
from the prejudices of her followers who consider
the theater and all of its appurtenances the work
of a very special devil, working overtime.
As the visit wore on and still Charlie did not
put in an appearance, Kono admits that he was able
to feel Aimee McPherson s especial magnetism
without which no evangelist is apt to succeed. Hers
is a radiant, vibrant charm which projects itself
into the very air about her. Kono s curiosity as to
how Charlie would receive her was at the boiling
point by this time.
At last Charlie came in. He stopped short at
sight of his visitor, gulped and recovered himself,
determined to make his manner warm if his feet
were cold. He was secretly convulsed that the
charming devil-pelter who had "got a white nightie
and started a new religion"* had got her own con-
* This must be credited to John Colton, playwright of Rain and
Shanghai Gesture. Colton attempted a play based on Aimee s life
but made the mistake of trying to work with her. Their ideas did
not jell when combined.
330 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
sent to come within range of his deviltry. He tried
to fathom her reasons for looking him up. Surely
she must know that he rejected fundamentalism in
religion and, he reflected, she must know also that
he, and all artists, stood for original sin according
to the tenets of the Four-Square gospel. He pre
vailed upon her to dine with them,, and Aimee was
Throughout the dinner Charlie twitted her good-
humoredly about the mental age of her audiences
(she inquired if he was aware of the mental age
of a motion-picture audience), her success as an
evangelist, and declared that she would have made
a great actress.
Aimee did not seem off ended, let him have his
"Fve been to your Temple to hear you/ he told
her, "and half your success is due to your magnetic
appeal, half due to the props and lights. Oh, yes,
whether you like it or not, you re an actress/
Aimee McPherson smiled.
"Now, theater in all its forms is anathema to
your audiences," Charlie continued, thoroughly en
joying himself, "so you give to your drama-starved
people (for all of us must have drama) who absent
themselves through fear, a theater which they can
reconcile with their narrow beliefs, don t you?"
Aimee smiled warily.
"Religion orthodox religion," he went on, "is
based on fear, fear of doing something on earth
THE RIVIERA MAY REEVES 331
which will keep them out of heaven. My God, they
miss out on all the glorious freedom of life in order
to reach a mythical heaven where they can walk
on golden streets and play a harp a bait of pure
boredom, if you ask me."
Aimee had not asked him, and she looked a little
"Our worlds are different," she said, "vastly
This mannerly riposte drew no blood. Charlie
retired from the one-sided duel.
Next evening Charlie announced that he was
escorting Aimee to the colorful, picturesque water
front of Marseilles.
He came back from their excursion gay, his mood
of irritation with the world gone. Next evening
they set out for a long walk about the city proper.
And so it went until time for Aimee s sailing. The
incongruous interlude ended. The evangelist pro
ceeded on her pilgrimage to the Holy Land.
Edward, Prince of Wales
SPRING was approaching. Charlie wanted to go to
Juan-les-Pins, the gay seaside resort which was
ultra vogue that year. He had Kono wire May
Reeves to meet them there.
May joined them and proved herself a whole
some, jolly companion. Proficient in water sports
and blessed with a sunny nature and a capacity
for simple pleasures, she whipped Charlie s flag
ging spirits to a matching gaiety.
No illness had marred their journeyings so far,
but suddenly some fish eaten at the hotel brought
Kono low with ptomaine poisoning. Charlie, who
is never ill and who attributes his good health to his
brisk, long walks, was terrified. He was helpless
in the practical exigencies of everyday living. He
was sure Kono was going to die.
May, realizing his nervous apprehensions,
promptly put him out of Kono s room and took
charge of the nursing. She missed Charlie for a
time, and when three doctors, besides the hotel
physician and two nurses, showed up, she under
stood his absence. Charlie was a believer in the
EDWARD, PRINCE OF WALES 333
strength of numbers. He had corralled all the
available doctors and nurses in the village. It was
just as well, for May had two patients on her hands
instead of one. Charlie became actually ill but he
firmly refused to go to bed until Kono was out
"Follow him around," May instructed one of
the nurses. "Give him sedatives as often as you
can. And keep him out of here." She referred to
Kono s room, where she had taken up a constant
On the third day the real patient was out of
danger, but convalescence was slow. Charlie de
cided that Kono must stay in Juan-les-Pins until
the effects of the poisoning were completely worked
Count Harry d Arrast came from Paris and
persuaded Charlie to motor back to Paris with him,
leaving Kono and May to follow later by train.
After another week, they took the train for Paris,
May and Kono and the Siamese cat.
Two of these valuable and eccentric cats with
their mink-colored coats and light blue eyes had
been given to May by an admirer in Paris. One
had met an untimely death while May s attention
was taken up with nursing Kono. Siamese cats are
great jumpers, it seems, and they are not mindful
of the old adage to look before one leaps; they leap
first, and occasionally do not live to look. Kitty I
had taken a flying leap through an open window of
334 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
the sickroom to the ground seven floors below.
May was saddened by its untimely demise and
cherished the other, keeping it by her side on the
journey back to Paris.
Count d Arrast urged Charlie to go next to
Biarritz, the seaside playground near the French
border in Spain. The four of them, May, Charlie,
d Arrast, and Kitty II motored there, leaving Kono
to follow with the luggage by train.
Winston Churchill was vacationing in Biarritz.
He invited Charlie to lunch. The next day Harry
bore Charlie off for an overnight visit with the
former s mother, who lived at the family seat, fifty
Kono, left alone with May, took her to the Cafe
de Paris for luncheon and over the table she dis
cussed frankly her feeling for Charlie. She had
fallen deeply in love with him and while she was
modest -about her qualifications as a wife, she was
older in background, more agreed upon what was
and was not important than the other young
women to whom Charlie had given ftis interest.
Kono told her that he would be pleased to see them
married, but he warned her of Charlie s recurrent
desire to escape.
On the evening of Charlie s return to Biarritz,
Kono, dining with friends at the Club Casanova,
recognized the Prince of Wales at a near-by table
with, as his friends pointed out, Lord and Lady
Auckland (who had a home in the Basses-Pyre-
EDWARD, PRINCE OF WALES 335
nees) and Thehna Morgan Converse, Lady Fur-
ness, sister to Gloria Morgan Vanderbilt.
Kono hurried back to their hotel to tell Charlie
the news, glad, he says, to escape the cloying atten
tions of the wife of a certain noted wine maker of
France, who thought he was "cute."
Charlie was delighted. Edward, England s
charming Wales, was the one person he really
wished to know as who did not? He felt that in
his democratic Royal Highness he could come closer
to the England of his romantic ideals than by any
other measure. He instructed Kono to telephone
Lady Furness, whom he knew, and apprise her of
the fact that he was there. Lady Furness imme
diately, after a hurried consultation with their
hosts, invited him to dinner.
Charlie was almost overcome by self -conscious
ness when the time actually came to enter the
Aucklands gate. But he found only Lady Furness
in the drawing room and was soon put at ease by
her, so that when the Prince came into the room
he was able to get through his informal presenta
tion with some degree of composure.
It was Lady Furness who, later, was to serve as
the unwitting and indirect cause of King Edward s
abdication. She it was who introduced him to his
future wife, Wallis Warfield Simpson. Thelma
Morgan had been, since they first met, one of
Edward s good and understanding friends. She
had regarded him as a human being, rather than
336 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
as a puppet of the traditional marionette show of
As the dinner wore on and champagne merci
fully released Charlie from his self-consicousness,
the Prince and Charlie progressed from "Mr.
Chaplin" and "Sire" to "Charlie" and "Eddie."
A few days later Charlie gave a dinner party at
the Hotel Miramar for Prince Edward. The latter s
party left by plane for London shortly afterward.
Charlie decided to stay on for a month.
It was while they were still in Biarritz that mail
from London of a disturbing nature began to catch
up with them. May Shepherd, the temporary sec
retary engaged by Carl Robinson when they first
arrived in England, who had stayed on at the hotel
in London to finish up the correspondence, was
demanding more salary than she had agreed to
accept. Five pounds a week, approximately twenty-
five dollars, she averred, was not adequate for the
onerous duties that had developed. She wanted
about five times that salary. The studio, awaiting
Charlie s instructions in the matter, were quite
willing to pay that sum, but Charlie, always pe
nurious in such matters, stuck to the original
agreement. He would not be taken for a good
thing, he declared. The sometime stubborn and
always impetuous Charlie was angry.
Kono s practical nature asserted itself in agree
ment with the studio. He advised Charlie to allow
Miss Shepherd the additional money and save him-
EDWARD, PRINCE OF WALES 337
self annoyance. He reminded him that women,
some of the best names of England had written
him notes, which, while innocent in intent, might
sound indiscreet if Charlie were short-sighted
enough to allow the matter to come to the law
courts. Charlie held out. He would go to London
himself and settle the matter.
Stopping off in Paris, Kono received a letter
from Wheeler Dryden:
52 Rue Frangois I
August 14, 1931.
Dear Kono :
My fiancee, Miss Dorothy Cevaley, tells me that she
has had a little chat with you in Paris and that you are
looking- very well. I am glad to know it and to know that
you have benefited from your stay in San Juan les Pins.
I did not hear from Mr. Chaplin in reply to the letter
I sent him before I left New York. The matter about
which I wrote him (the advance of the remainder of my
salary for this year) * is most important to me Kono, as
this money will enable me to get married when Dorothy
and I go to London which we plan to do soon so if
you could call Mr. Chaplin s attention to the letter I am
sending by this post, I would greatly appreciate it.
I spoke with Mr. Sidney on the long distance telephone
about a week ago and he was rather anxious about an
important letter he had written Mr. Charlie; it concerned
a law suit some one has instigated.! Did he receive this
letter? If not, please ask the hotel in Versailles to send
it on to you.
Best wishes to you, Kono, from
* Twenty-five dollars a week,
f The May Shepherd suit.
338 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
Two months later, after Kono had made desul
tory efforts to have Charlie take notice of his half-
brother s request, Dryden wrote again with less
formality and more urgent tone:
October 14, 1981.
How are you these days? Hope that stye has disap
peared from your eye!
Have waited to hear from you with news about a defi
nite appointment for Dorothy and me to see Charlie.
Surely he is not so rushed for time, now, is he? Can t
you contrive to mention me to him, again making sure
to tell him I don t want to bother him about financial
matters. Just a quiet little visit. Please try to fix it,
Indicating that Charlie s attitude about money
is an unconscious one and inconsistent, two inci
dents of variant moods are pertinent and may be
On one of his rare inspections of his kitchen, in
his home in Summit Drive, Beverly Hills, he com
plained bitterly to Kono of the "extravagant"
stock of cold meats in the refrigerator. Kono,
wishing to keep contented the excellent staff of
servants he had recruited the chef, butler, valet,
and chauffeur did not contest the point but quiet
ly bought another ice box, which he had installed on
the service porch. The meats were kept in this*
EDWARD, PRINCE OF WALES 339
Thus a bill of thin fare rewarded Charlie s next
preview of the culinary department.
In contrast to this, Charlie had been troubled
many nights by insomnia (during the filming of
City Lights). Finally after a ten-mile walk, late
at night, he tumbled into bed and enjoyed ten
hours of refreshing sleep. At the studio next
morning Alf Reeves met him with the news that
he had dropped eighty thousand dollars the day
before in the market. Charlie waved a negligent
hand. "What s eighty thousand dollars?" he
shouted loftily. "I have slept!"
Back in London, Charlie fancied he detected a
lack of cordiality from official England, due he
believed to his having run away from Prime Min
ister Ramsay MacDonald. And then, he had un
wittingly ignored a sort of unofficial command to
appear at a benefit vaudeville performance at
which Their Majesties, King George and Queen
Mary, would be present. Unused to attending to
these communications himself, he had, while Kono
was sick in San Juan les Pins, given it a cursory
examination and tossed it into the waste basket.
When the furor aroused over his supposed churl
ishness in refusing to give his services to such a
cause, and his discourtesy to Their Majesties,
reached him through the press, it was too late to
do anything about it except delegate Sir Philip
to explain it, which he did.
Sir Philip Sassoon declared that England s ap-
340 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
parent lack of official recognition of him upon his
return was a desire to allow him to mingle freely
and unattended by publicity with the group of
people who fostered all that was new and gay and
smart in London, in other words a freedom of
action which is dear to every Englishman s heart.
This seems the most plausible explanation of the
Having met the Prince of Wales, who was un-
princely only in that he was courageous enough
to turn his back on the dull and prosaic and seek
his companions among the moderns, Charlie was
not at a loss for entertainment. Lady Cholmonde-
ley, Bassoon s sister, introduced him to the inter
esting set later to be frowned upon and condemned
by the Archbishop of Canterbury for their lack of
conformity to outmoded standards. Lady Cunard,
widow of Sir Bache Cunard, Lady Oxford (Margot
Asquith), and Sybil, Lady Coif ax all three re
nowned London hostesses were happy to enter
tain for Charlie. In their homes he met the intelli
gentsia, successors to the "Bright Young Things"
of the immediate postwar period.
Meanwhile the officers of British United Artists
Corporation, Ltd., were growing more perturbed
over the urgency of May Shepherd s demands.
Arthur Kelly, president of the company (the
Sonny of Charlie s youth, and Hetty s brother),
and Mr. Murray Silverstone, managing director,
asked Kono to use his powers of persuasion with
EDWARD, PRINCE OF WALES 341
Charlie to settle the affair. But Kono assured
them that Charlie had gone temperamental and
that it was useless. They explained to Kono that
their positions as employees of United Artists
engendered a certain diffidence in importuning
their most important star and one of the owners
of the company to behave.
"Hooey," was Kono s cynical comment on this
to himself. "I get the dirty work, as usual."
He returned to the hotel to find a letter from
Miss Shepherd in which she recounted her indig
nities, complaining that Charlie ignored her de
mands and that when she had seen Mr. Silverstone
he had referred her to Carl Kobinson, who in turn
had referred her to Charlie or Mr. Silverstone.
She was going to sue. She characterized the whole
situation as ridiculous and added that she honestly
thought he did not understand her position.
She, on the other hand, could not understand
Charlie s reluctance to part with small sums which
could not in any way affect his well-being. It is
one of the enigmas of his complex nature, induced
by his early privations.
Kono urged Charlie to settle. Charlie s reply
was to engage Guedalla, Jacobson and Spyer, a
firm of solicitors in Old Broad Street, to fight the
case! He signed a retainer on October 23 after
repeated reminders by the firm, through Kono.
Meanwhile, Charlie had accepted an invitation
from Winston Churchill for a week end at his
342 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
home, Chartwell Manor, in Wilshire-Kent. Arriv
ing on Friday, he was restless and nervous. He
retired behind a wall of silence which Kono had
come to recognize as the incubation of a story idea
for his next picture. He forgot the impending suit
against him, nor was he at pains to conceal his
impatience to get back to town and be alone, but
Churchill, a man of great tolerance and under
standing, was consistently gracious and accepted
Charlie s mood for what it was the vagaries of
the creative mind.
When they were once more in London, Charlie
told Kono that May Reeves s presence annoyed
him, demanded that he send her away, at once, to
Paris. She could wait for him there. May under
stood this turn of events and amiably agreed to go.
Tired by now of the small furor over the May
Shepherd suit, Charlie instructed his solicitors to
settle in full without further ado. He had had his
little hour of childlike protest against a world
which was trying to take from him a toy, an in
significant toy, to be sure, but his.
TIRING OF LONDON, Charlie hit upon the idea of
going to Switzerland, in spite of Kono s reminder
that he did not care for mountains. Upon occa
sions, it is Charlie s wont to blame this aversion
to mountains upon the purely hypothetical Romany
strain in his blood. Douglas Fairbanks was in
St.-Moritz, and letters from him had been urging
Charlie to come on for winter sports.
It was December 12 when Charlie, Lady Chol-
mondeley, and Kono arrived in the winter play
ground of the Swiss Alps. Charlie confided in
Lady Cholmondeley his feeling for May Reeves,
told her he had dismissed her summarily from
London, and wanted to make amends. She insisted
that he send for the girl at once to join them there.
Syd Chaplin came on from Nice.
May, by this time, was hopelessly in love with
Charlie. Every word of his was, to her, important ;
his moods were to be, above any inconvenience of
It was evident to any interested onlooker now
that she would make him an admirable wife. Her
344 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
youth and buoyant spirits, yet lack of frivolity;
her poise and good breeding, gay charm and dark
beauty, her understanding of the tortuous paths
of his thoughts, all fitted her more to be his wife
than any of the women who had preceded her.
Yet Charlie gave no sign of offering marriage to
her. Lady Cholmondeley, who genuinely liked
May, did what she could to point his thoughts in
that direction. To no avail.
Charlie had, in the first heat of his infatuation,
promised May everything from a kimono from
Japan, their next destination, to a screen career
in Hollywood, but it was apparent that to May
none of these things weighed importantly beyond
the simple fact that through the weeks of their
association she had grown to care deeply for
Charlie s actual reasons for failing to ask May
to be his wife are not known, for he sank into an
aloof silence when approached on the subject. And
presumably he did not offer her a screen career
because, first, he was not making a picture and,
second, he sensed her superiority to the raw plastic
material from which he was wont to fashion his
creations. And it is true that he had begun to tire
of May for no reason at all, save that the quality
of his affection is ever fragile and its duration
Douglas Fairbanks had gone; Lady Cholmon
deley, puzzled over Charlie s sudden change of
Charlie, May Reeves, and Siamese Kitty II, in San Juan les Pins.
i ii ^
spirits and withdrawal from their sports, had re
turned to London. Syd Chaplin had left for Nice.
Before he went, however, Syd had urged Kono
to arrange for him to accompany them to the
Orient. Kono did suggest it to Charlie, who, after
a few days hesitation, finally consented to take
him along. Syd was informed by telegraph at Nice
that he was to join them at Naples. They, Charlie,
May, and Kono, left for Italy.
From Milan they pushed on to Rome, where at
Charlie s half-hearted request an attempt was
made by United Artists representatives to have
him meet Mussolini. II Duce, it chanced, had no
free hours of appointment until the following
week. The idea was discarded. They entrained
for Naples, where they were to sail within a few
days, on March 5, on the S.S. Suwa Maru for the
To May, who understood Charlie s moods and
his fear of realities, the approaching separation
was a tragedy. She "knew that she would never
see him again. She yearned over his lovable quali
ties; over the lack of understanding of his true
nature by those closest to him, Syd and Kono ; over
his helplessness to defend for himself, most of all
over his aloneness.
She stood on the Naples dock, a pathetic figure,
smiling valiantly as their boat drew out into the
harbor. She was sad because she recognized that
Charlie was bound down and held captive by his
846 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
necessity to serve, at whatever cost to himself and
to those who love him^ the bitter, quenchless flame
in his heart; that neither she nor anyone could
fill, for any length of time, his hunger.
Her prescience was right. Once she had disap
peared from view into the murky gloom of the
pier, May had ceased to be a living, breathing per
sonality to Charlie. She became an incident, and
an unimportant one, along his dark and troubled
IT IS NECESSARY to retrogress into the year pre
ceding this European tour to understand the rea
sons Charlie had for wanting to visit Japan. He
had met many prominent figures from that coun
try, among them, Prince Tokigawa, Head of the
House of Peers; Debuchi, Ambassador to Wash
ington ; Prince Nakagawa, President of the Jap
anese Peace Society; Japanese admirals, generals,
and motion-picture stars. But not until he had
seen the Japanese Kengeki (analagous to our
Shakespearean tragedies) performed in Los Ange
les had he evinced any interest in visiting his
secretary s native land.
In 1929, the Association of Japanese Theater
Promotion had produced their famous Kengeki in
a makeshift theater in downtown Los Angeles.
The plays, stately and heroic portrayals of the
classic legends of old Japan, involve the historical
two-bladed sword fights and are part of the esthetic
education of every Japanese with any claim to
Through Kono, Charlie had been invited to at-
348 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
tend the Kengeki. Doctor Cecil Reynolds, Harry
Crocker, Count Harry d Arrast, and Georgia Hale
were included in the invitation.
Charlie was enthralled by the enactment of the
tragedies. After the performance he wished to go
backstage and meet the actors. Kono demurred.
He explained that the producers might be met but
never the actors. It is hard for the Occidental to
understand that actors, in Japan, are a caste apart.
The Japanese middle or upper class attends his
theater, admires their performances while he holds
the performers in supreme contempt. There is an
expression, "Kawara no Kojiki," "beggars of the
river bed," applied to actors in Japan, today.
Charlie insisted, and Kono, to appease him and
at the same time save face with his Japanese as
sociates, managed a quick, furtive meeting with
the cast and hurried Charlie on to meet, more
openly, the men responsible for bringing the plays
Charlie was warm in his praise to the producers
and, upon an impulse of enthusiasm, declared he
would arrange for a Hollywood showing of the
tragedies. The motion-picture people must have
an opportunity to see these heroic, and at the same
time fragile, traceries of the idealism of a splendid
Weeks went by, and Charlie (engrossed in the
production of City Lights) gave no further sign
that he remembered the existence of the Kengeki.
Kono jogged his memory at several times, but
Charlie had retreated into one of his somber with
drawals from all realities. And Kono, eventually
recognizing the futility of pressing the matter,
was angered by Charlie s indifference to "losing
face" and more perturbed by its causing Kono
himself to lose with his fellow countrymen, a
generous measure of the same commodity.
Kono had little grasp of the prerogatives of
genius which takes where it may and gives when
it pleases. He did not know that genius consists,
in part, of the instinctive absorption, in fleeting
contact, of all that is great, making it greater still.
He expected a practical, tangible return for what
Charlie had, with the inalienable privilege of
genius, appropriated to himself.
Kono went in agitation to Sid Grauman, the
outstanding impresario of motion-picture pre
mieres and their elaborate prologues at the time.
He knew Grauman, as the latter was a friend and
admirer of Charlie s. He told him of his predica
ment. And Grauman, essentially a showman,
brushing aside the threatened minus-countenance
of both Charlie and Kono, grasped the essence of
the matter. He even waived the memory of an
indignity he had recently suffered at Charlie s
This was a casualty at which all Hollywood had
been chuckling. One of Charlie s personal vagaries
has always been strict avoidance of a barber s
350 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
chair. Perhaps this aversion is rooted in his early,
hateful experience as a lather boy in the Kenning-
ton shop. * It may be partly due, also, to his leaning
toward small economies and further supported by
his belief that he can cut his own hair better than
any barber can do it. Whatever the reason, he
has a barber s chair in his dressing room, and
while he snips and cuts, turning this way and
that before a large mirror, he is wont to entertain
his more intimate male friends.
Sid Grauman, whose long, bushy locks have been
for years the target for many good-natured gibes
from friends and columnists, appeared on the
scene one day as Charlie was engaged in feather-
edging his own neckline. In the mirror, Charlie
spied Sid s long bob. He talked fast to allay any
suspicion of the foul intent in his mind, complet
ing his work. Then, jumping down from the chair,
he pounced upon the unwary Sid, urging him to
let him "trim some of those uneven ends a little."
Sid climbed into the chair, cautioning Charlie to
"go easy." Charlie snatched up the electric clip
pers and, before Sid could stay his hand, buzzed
a neatly mowed path through the forest of Sid s
Fiji-Islanderish locks. Then whirling the chair so
Sid could glimpse the havoc, and the picture of
penitence, he explained that the clippers had
"slipped." So there was nothing to do but cut the
whole head to match. Sid took one despairing look
* Page 40.
and slumped speechless deeper into the chair, curs
ing himself silently for a trusting fool.
When the slaughter was complete, Charlie drew
back with a flourish. "Now," he exclaimed, "you
look like something !" But he did not specify what.
Sid refused to look at the utter ruin to his prized
locks. He gazed sadly at Charlie, ruminating upon
the perfidy of friends. And then he climbed out of
the chair and stalked out of the house without so
much as a backward glance at the copious mattress
stuffing lying on the floor.
For months Sid had avoided Charlie while he
grew a new crop of hair, passed him by quickly and
without speaking when they met; but when Kono
submitted the possibility of producing the Kengeki,
he was all showman, his grudge forgotten. If
Charlie said they were worth while they must be
good. He decided upon a midnight matinee in the
Chinese Theatre in Hollywood Boulevard, of which
he was owner.
Meanwhile the troupe had moved on to San
Francisco. Kono notified the local manager of
Grauman s plan, and the company was recalled to
Los Angeles, all dates in the north canceled.
Sid Grauman sent out invitations to the more
important members of the picture colony. Sam
Goldwyn, Joseph Schenck, Cecil B. DeMille, were
among the producers. Stars, both feminine and
masculine, were notified, and when the sets were
moved in after the evening showing of the picture
352 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
then on the boards at the Chinese Theatre, few
invitations had been disregarded. The Kengeki
were performed by the cast as an inspired unit;
they were playing, that night, they knew, to the
When the last tragic death was died, there were
shouts of "Marvelous!" "Bravo!" "This must be
shown to every lover of good theater in Holly
wood !" The chosen few had been brought together
for a moment in the exaltation of perfection. Sid
Grauman arranged on the spot for a presentation
in the old Windsor Square Theater, now the semi-
private playhouse of the Ebell Club.
Mr. Grauman s publicity director, Ed Perkins,
was given the task of spreading the word, and an
excellent job he made of it, too. Grauman bought
fifty tickets for himself and sent them out to
friends who had not seen the plays. He refused to
accept any share of the profit for himself.
Fourteen hundred people filled the Windsor
Square on the opening night. Charlie was there
and quite as appreciative as he had been before.
Los Angeles city and county officials, including the
Mayor and Chief of Police, were guests of the
management. * Sid Grauman acted as master of
ceremonies and explained the motifs, enough of
their backgrounds to make the tragedies compre
hensible to the audience.
L. E. Behymer, the grand old man of Los Ange
les, promoter of almost every cultural treat for
Los Angeleans for many years, was present and
was afterwards introduced to the producers. He
immediately arranged for a two weeks run of the
Kengeki at the Music Box Theater in Hollywood.
Grauman entered into the project with Mr. Behy-
mer and enlisted the aid of the stars in attracting
attention to the Japanese plays. Each night was
designated as sponsored by an established star.
There was Charlie Chaplin night, Mary Pickford
night, Jackie Cooper night, and so on. The two
weeks were a tremendous success.
So, indirectly, because of his secretary s reluc
tance to lose face, Charlie became a contributor to
Art in the Japanese colony of Los Angeles. A
dinner was arranged by leading Japanese business
and professional men to show their appreciation
of Charlie s furtherance of the Kengeki. Three
hundred guests assembled to pay their respects
In the cafe in East First Street, softly lighted
and lavishly decorated with synthetic cherry blos
soms so real to the eye that the guests involuntarily
drew in deep breaths to catch their perfume, they
were served with the infinitesimal dabs of food
constituting each course of a ceremonial dinner,
their palates warmed by sake of the correct age
and temperature. Toward the end of the courses
there was champagne, and into the heady, exqui
site atmosphere there came dancers recruited from
various Japanese theaters.
354 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
With the sensation of disembarking from an
enchanted isle, Charlie came out into the garish
lights of the city and declared himself possessed
of nostalgia for the unknown land, to him, of the
v Charlie and Syd arrived in Japan after two
months of touring Ceylon, Singapore, Java, and
Bali. Kono, who had gone directly to Tokyo, re
turned to the port of Kobe to meet them.
The welcome at Kobe equaled in volume any
which had greeted Charlie in his travels. Thou
sands crowded the docks and the near-by streets.
From airplanes circling overhead dropped gaily
decorative posters of welcome, floating down upon
the heads of the cheering throngs.
The Japanese Government had extended to
Charlie the freedom of all railways in the country.
Charlie and Syd and Kono took train for Tokyo.
As the train had been ordered to stop for a few
minutes at each station along the route, the trip
was a triumphal procession equalled by nothing
in the annals of Japan except the journeying
abroad of their royalty. Gifts of rare sort were
proffered Charlie from the officials of the towns,
by geisha girls (comparable to the better type of
our show girls) , the most beautiful of their number
having been chosen for this honor.
In Tokyo the storm of adulation reached its
climax. Four hundred policemen who had been
detailed to control the crowds were barely suffi
cient to force a passage for Charlie through the
dense jam of humanity. The procession, headed
by a large motorcar containing the ministers of
police, worked its way at a snail s pace through
Tokyo s streets, stopping before the Emperor s
palace to make brief obeisance.
Cartloads of exquisite gifts and letters poured
into the Hotel Imperial, that marvel of modern
achievement designed in 1916-20 by Frank Lloyd
Wright, the patriarchal genius of American archi
tecture. Japanese secretaries were employed to
A bodyguard of plain-clothes men was assigned
to accompany Charlie whenever he ventured forth
into the city. These were troublous times in Japan,
politically the temper of the masses was uncertain,
and alert government officials were fearful lest
some unsettled mind select Charlie as the figure
head of privilege and wealth and do him some
On the morning after their arrival in Tokyo,
Kensuke Imugai, son of Tsuyoshi Imugai, Premier
of Japan, telephoned that he was going to the
Stadium to arrange for Charlie s party to witness
the famous Sumo wrestling matches that after
After lunch they drove to the Stadium, where a
tremendous ovation greeted Charlie s appearance.
The crowd was not aware, no more than were
356 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
members of Charlie s party, that tragedy had
struck down, scarcely two hours before, its national
hero, the Prime Minister. But upon emerging
from the Stadium, Kono was handed a message
by a breathless courier, saying that Imugai had
been shot at the very time while his son was away
from home arranging Charlie s attendance at the
wrestling matches. The message begged Kono to
co-operate with the bodyguard to take every pre
caution of protection for Charlie. Japan wanted
no situation to arise which might strain the (at
that time) excellent relations between themselves
and the United States.
The tragedy of the assassination of the states
man and philosopher, Imugai, struck deep at the
heart of Japan. Loved and respected by his people,
save by a few ruthless fanatics, he was approach
ing an advanced age when he might lay down the
gavel of public life and retire to his books and
On this last morning of his life, he was at his
ease in his sitting room, surrounded by his wife
and daughters. The assassins, disguised as sol
diers of the guard, forced their way into the palace,
killing the actual guards. They appeared in the sit
ting room with guns drawn. Imugai, who knew in
stantly the significance of their unceremonious en
trance, simply rose and with quiet dignity and no
outward show of fear, explained to his family that
the gentlemen who had just come had some griev-
ances, imagined or true, to present to him; then
he turned and, bidding the intruders follow him,
walked slowly down a corridor to a room at the
farthest end of the passage. Inside the room he
confronted them. What, he asked, was their plea
sure? Without a word they poured the contents
of their guns into the unarmed, aged premier.
Had his son not gone to the Stadium in a gesture
of courtesy to Charlie, without doubt he, too, would
have been brutally murdered.
Charlie had been told that he was to meet the
Prime Minister on the following day. Hearing the
news of his death, he was unstrung, depressed that
this catastrophe should have followed so closely his
arrival. With characteristic volatility his imagina
tion seized upon the assassination as an ill omen
for his visit to Japan.
Kono, seeking to divert his mind from the calami
ty, reminded him of his pleasure, the year before,
in the KengekL He assured him that he would be
equally interested in performance of the Kafouki.
Tickets were procured for the entire series, and
Charlie apparently put down his impulse to rush
away after only a few days in Japan.
The plays of the Kabuki, more modern in theme,
were impressive in their native setting. The
Kabuki-za Theater had a seating capacity of two
thousand, and every seat was filled for each per
formance. The plays began at three o clock in the
afternoon and lasted until eleven in the evening.
358 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
The first play of six acts was broken after the third
act by a musical posture drama or pantomime
dance. All female parts were taken by men who
conveyed all the delicacy of feminine gestures with
out the exaggerated mincing and fluttering of the
Anglo-Saxon in like roles. It was as if the men im
personating women had no sex; there was the sex-
lessness of Ted Shawn s dancing, allowing, of
course, for the variance of the Oriental from the
Greek in form.
Runways, associated in our minds with revues
or burlesque, extended from the front of the theater
to the stage, and from these the actors made their
entrances and exits while the audience loudly
shouted their names instead of applauding. Shouts
and cries of approval lasted for many minutes after
the cast had reached the stage while the performers
waited with patient calm for their cessation.
It was explained to Charlie that the Japanese
take their theater seriously. Every child with any
claim to cultural background is versed in the lore
of the plays given year after year, yet always, to
them, vividly fresh. The props are not mere papier-
mache shams to be used a few times and cast aside.
The swords used in the plays are cast and tempered
by swordmakers who from father to son for genera
tions have produced the weapons of warfare and
those of ceremonials. Charlie was intensely in
terested in the evolution of the Kabuki, and even
more interested in the audience reaction to the
plays which they, probably, could have chanted as
prompters, had any actor "gone up" in his lines.
Charlie expressed a desire to witness the tea
ceremony, training for which is part of the educa
tion of every gently born Japanese girl. He was
taken to the school in Tokyo, presided over by a
woman gracious and charming, Madame Horiko-
shi, who supports the school from her own funds.
Charlie sat in awed fascination before the mean
ingful simplicity of the tea ceremony. He told Kono
that it revealed to him as nothing else could, the
character, perhaps the soul, of Japan Japan as
it was before it became tinged with Western cus
We who hastily rinse a teapot with hot water,
dump in a spoonful of tea, and pour freshly boiling
water over it, might well be awed by the meticulous^
almost ritual, care attending each successive move
ment of the preparation of tea by a Japanese lady;
by the poise of the waiting guest, his silence to aid
in creating tranquility of mind ; and by their appre
ciation of the beauty of human hands in gesture.
One watches in quiet until a series of poetry of
motion converts the green tea into liquid jade for
the refreshment of the body after the refreshment
of the spirit.
The writer, who has been privileged to watch
pale hands like lilies deftly brewing tea for troubled
men of affairs who gazed in calm joy at this simple
act, has ventured the belief that the variant atti-
360 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
tudes toward this ceremony can be taken as indica
tive of the wide misunderstanding between East
and West. Though artists of both hemispheres may
come together in regarding beauty not as some
thing merely purchased with great wealth but,
"white hyacinths" plucked from the simple, com
monplace acts of daily living, the Nordic is gener
ally intolerant of such meticulous obeisance to the
art of living.
Charlie wanted all of Japan to be consistent with
the tea ceremony; he resented their inconsistencies,
the intrusion of Western customs and dress. He
was always annoyed by the materialism of Kono,
even while he found it helpful in his practical life.
He spent hours before the pictures of the ancient
masters of the color print, Hokusai, Utamaro,
Harunobu, and Hiroshige, to mention a few of the
better known to Occidental art lovers. By reading
monographs, he was able to see that perhaps the
greatest of them had been passed over by collectors,
or was it that the Japanese millionaires created by
war contracts and munition orders had been able to
keep these precious originals in their native land?
At any rate, there were the original prints of Kori-
usai and Hishigawa, Moronobu.and the collection
of Shigekichi Mihara, for Charlie s delectation.
For days, Kono, whose tastes still ran to teahouses
and geisha girls, was bored by Charlie s prolix
vehemence on the subject of Japanese color prints.
Charlie passed, with a cursory glance, the hy~
brid works of modern art which he condemned as
being neither Japanese nor European.
After a party given by Mr. Otani, president of
the Shockiku Cinema, at his house, Charlie -with
drew from his companions, into his room and re
fused to listen to Kono s reminder that he had in
tended making a comprehensive tour of Japan.
Kono began preparations for their return home.
Syd Chaplin had been annoying Charlie with an
unwarranted solicitation as to money spent on
their travels. The money was Charlie s, but Syd
disapproved of Kono s disposition of it. The broth
ers separated, Syd to return to Nice, Charlie and
Kono to sail for Seattle on the Hikawa Maru. They
had been away from Hollywood for a year and a
half. Charlie was mulling over in his mind the
situations for his next picture. He was eager to
get home and get to work.
On the boat he went into seclusion in his state
room and day after day filled many pages with
notes for Modern Times.
As they approached Seattle, Charlie asked Kono
to wireless ahead for reservations on the first fast
train to California. He received the reply that the
train left at four in the afternoon of the morning
the Hikawa Maru docked. A drawing room would
be held for them. Kono dared relax. But of one
thing he was quite sure. If a shouting, milling
crowd met the boat in Seattle, he would emit a
series of yells that would put to shame the famed
362 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
cry of the chamois in the throes of love. As a pre
caution against being locked up in the local bastille
for screaming he had sent a wireless to the Hikawa
Maru offices in Seattle, begging them to withhold
news of Charlie s coming, and they had obligingly
As the boat slowed to a stop and eased up to the
pier, Kono rushed in to see that Charlie was ready
for the immigration officials, who would board her
and inspect all passports. He found Charlie in his
cabin, gazing dreamily out to sea. Kono suggested
that they would do well to disembark as soon as
possible, get their land legs in a stroll about Seattle,
unheralded and unsung. Charlie, though tempted
with the prospect of a walk, deigned no reply.
Finally he turned. "Get me a stenographer," he
ordered. "Get her here as quickly as you can."
"But, Charlie, the immigration men, your pass-
"The hell with passports. Tell them to come in
here if they want to see me."
Kono s spirits took a swan dive. He did not
relish relaying such a message, even softened to a
request, for he. knew that immigration officers are
prone, at times, to regard it as an especial favor of
themselves and God to let anyone enter their
ports. However, he recognized the stubborn set of
Charlie s jaw, the cold light of defiance in his eye.
He went out on deck, approached gingerly one of
the officials while cursing softly an employfer who
could at times act like a five-year-old tired of being
"Would it be possible for you to send someone
i n to " Kono began timorously.
The officer eyed him condescendingly. "It would
not," he returned curtly. Kono thought perhaps he
would soften at the mention of the magic name;
most people did.
"It s Mr. Chaplin/ Kono essayed, his Z s and r s
becoming more than usually entangled.
The officer went right on checking passports on
the table set up as an impromptu desk on the deck.
The line of first-cabin passengers filing slowly by
and being released was unaware of Charlie s pres
ence on the ship.
Kono returned to Charlie and reported the brief
skirmish of words. He was afraid, he told him, that
he would have to come out on deck. Charlie, with
out looking up from the furious scribbling in which
he was now engaged, flatly refused. Kono, girding
his loins and polishing his best weapon, sallied
forth once more to battle. He approached the table.
There was a brief lull before the second-cabin line
"Char-lie Chap-lin is in his room. He s not
well " He got no further. "Why didn t you say
so in the first place?" The officer threw Kono an
accusing glance. "Charlie Chaplin, eh?" A grin,
reminiscent, no doubt, of Charlie on the screen,
lighted his face. "I ll go right in." He certified
364 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
Kono s passport and disappeared with alacrity.
Kono heaved a sigh of relief and departed for Se
attle to get a stenographer.
At the offices of the Hikawa Maru he chose the
homeliest girl among those offered him by the ac
commodating management. "She was the homeli
est girl 7 ever saw," Kono avers. He dispatched
her boatward, then hied himself off to visit with
some old friends from his schooldays in Seattle.
At three o clock he returned to the boat, docked
fourteen miles from the railway station, dashed
into the stateroom and, wading through a snow
storm of typed sheets on the floor, reminded Charlie
that it was time to leave for the train. The taxi,
he added, was waiting.
Charlie looked up but went on dictating. Kono
listened for a moment to make sure it had nothing
to do with his next picture, then gathered the
papers up and stuffed them into a briefcase. They
could be disposed of later.
The economic situation, it seemed, had been too
much for Charlie; it had really got him down. He
was writing of panaceas so radical that Kono
shiveringly prayed there were no stray reporters
hanging about, but he only mildly inquired if
someone were waiting for these results of inspira
tion. Charlie shook his head, replied with blithe
insouciance that they could drop it off at the edi
torial office of the Post-Intelligencer on the way to
the station. Kono made no answer, just sat down
and waited, knowing that Charlie would not move
until reminded again. Finally he glanced at his
watch and firmly declared that they must go now
if they hoped to catch that train. He gathered up
the rest of the papers and fairly pushed Charlie
and his amanuensis off the boat and hustled them
into the taxi. There was no time, he told Charlie,
regretfully, to drop by the newspaper office. They
could mail the article later.
, tCharlie did not seem to notice. They stopped
Itog enough to transfer the stenographer from
their taxi to another and, by breaking all speed
laws, reached the train as it had begun to move
out of the shed.
Having arranged the economic situation of the
world to his satisfaction, Charlie sank into a deep
brown study. Contemplation of his coming picture
was crowding out his awareness even of where
he was. Kono smuggled the briefcase out of the
compartment and, tearing its contents into small
bits seven hours of dictation scattered them to
the winds of the Northwest from the rear platform
of the last car of the train- Charlie never inquired
the whereabouts of his treatise on world affairs.
He forgot it completely.
Kono chuckled to himself as he remembered the
half -wistful plaint of the homely stenographer,
whispered to him on their dash uptown. Charlie,
she imagined, had made tentative overtrues to her
in the cabin. Reflecting now upon her lack of pul-
366 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
chritude, he laughed aloud. Charlie had paid her a
compliment. It was, no doubt, her first invitation
from, if invitation it were, and loomed to her as her
only opportunity for a Fate Worse than Death.
Hollywood Modern Times Paulette
AT HOME, in Beverly Hills once more, Charlie
threw himself into a fever of writing. A national
magazine had requested his account of his travels.
He was eager to get at it, and in dictating this ma
terial fresh in his mind he crystallized its matter
into a substance from which could be extracted
the basic ideas for his next picture, Modern Times.
Charlie is no writer for publication. A Comedian
Sees the World was an improvement, however, on
his first story, which was published in book form
as My Wonderful Visit. Kathryn Hunter, his
studio secretary, wrote the former; Monta Bell,
an excellent former director but an indifferent
writer, penned the latter. Both wrote from his
dictation but used, at their discretion, their own
choice of phrases.
When the magazine story was off to the pub
lisher, he plunged immediately into formulating
the plot for Modern Times. He is an indefatigable
worker, and with Kono ever on guard to discour
age interruptions and keep all annoyances from
368 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
him, he worked like one possessed. And when he
left his writing table for exercise, he walked about
as one in a dream, through his grounds, through
Beverly Hills, down Hollywood Boulevard, through
Los Angeles, seeking always the busiest, noisiest
jangle of crowded streets instead of the hills or the
When he had reached the point where the nucleus
for the picture had become a written reality, Joseph
Schenck, then president of United Artists, sug
gested that he take a vacation away from his desk,
come aboard his yacht for a week-end cruise.
Charlie agreed. Mr. Schenck recruited two young
women from the studio stock company, both of
them comparatively unknown but both very pretty.
One of these was Paulette Goddard; with the other
this story has no concern.
Paulette Goddard was then, in 1932, slightly
older than the age she lays claim to in 1939. This
arrangement of age is always excusable in the
theatrical world, especially when an actress has a
childlike quality of feature and body as has Miss
Goddard. Her age is pertinent here only in that
she has shown a maturity of intelligence and, ac
cording to Charlie, has given him a companionship
he has had from neither of his former wives.
Paulette was a blonde at the time Charlie met
her but allowed her hair to return to its natural
dark color, which pleased him.
Charlie saw in her, first, only the raw material
HOLLYWOOD MODERN TIMES 369
from which he could mold the orphan girl for
Modern Times. He was on tiptoe for the effort to
groom her for the part.
Before many weeks he was in love with her,
and she appeared to be genuinely fond of him.
And although no record can be found of their mar
riage, and both Charlie and Paulette maintain a
strict silence on the subject, it can be assumed that
the ceremony was performed at sea, probably on
his yacht, the Panacea, and not recorded in the log
or at the Hall of Records.
Paulette, more versed in the ways of the world
than any of the other women to whom Charlie had
given his love, was wiser than either Mildred or
Lita Chaplin in the manner of conducting herself
in her new home. She was willing to recognize
Charlie s right at all times to be himself, was eager
to dance or play when Charlie was in the mood for
relaxation, and on the whole showed a kindness
and understanding rarely accorded to the vagaries
of the mode of life of her husband.
(J/ In line with this determination to avoid the mis
take of being a helpless guest in her own home,
Paulette decided to take over the reins of its man
agement and also the management of Charlie s
personal affairs. This was soon evident to Kono,
who was usually deliberate in absorbing a new
Gradually, imperceptibly to Charlie she suc
ceeded in taking over Kono s duties, and the latter
370 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
was at a loss to handle such an unprecedented state
of affairs. Never before in the almost eighteen
years of his employment with Charlie had anyone
presumed to usurp any jot of his authority. It
would be useless to complain to Charlie, Kono de
cided, when it first became apparent that no action
of his, as Charlie s personal secretary, could stay
safe in its triviality. Charlie was comfortable,
and he was also at the stage where his emotions
blinded him to any conscious thought upon prac
tical matters. So Kono gave way with what grace
he could, consoling himself that one day, before
long, Charlie would come out of his fog and see
for himself the way things were going.
This proved to be an erroneous hope on Kono s
part. Charlie had, after many years, deviated
from the usual pattern of his behavior; he had for
the first time found a comradeship in marriage.
Hence his home life was softened to an amenity
which called for an adjustment of his reactions to
marriage and a home.
Kono watched with amazement, and resentment,
the transformation. He began to feel as necessary
to Charlie s well-being as the proverbial gold tooth.
He went to Charlie and bluntly accused Miss God-
dard of trying to make it impossible for him to
stay. Charlie scoffed at this accusation and ac
cused Kono, in turn, of an exaggerated jealousy
of his own authority. He demanded specific in
stances of Paulette s invasion into Kono s prov-
HOLLYWOOD MODERN TIMES 371
inces, but Kono, angered by this time and search
ing his wounded pride, could uncover none that
would sound convincing.
After this unsatisfactory conference with Char
lie, Kono put up a last-stand fight for his authority
but was routed by Miss Goddard in the open as he
had been in the skirmishes from ambush. He
went to Charlie and announced his intention of
Charlie was thunderstruck at this bolt from
what he had, in his absorption in his picture, come
to believe as weeks went by, was a blue and cloud
less sky. He was both hurt and angry. He accused
Kono of disloyalty. He had assumed, he reminded
him, that while they both lived Kono would con
tinue to serve him as confidential secretary.
Kono himself did not recognize the underlying
cause of his dissatisfaction. Paulette Chaplin was
a woman. He was a Japanese with an inherent
contempt for women as human beings. He could do
no less than rebel.
At intervals in his service to Charlie, Kono had
asked for an increase in salary, but his weekly
wage of one hundred dollars remained fixed,
despite his plea that stars of lesser magnitude
than Charlie paid their secretaries many times
that amount. Charlie had assured Kono, however,
as had Lloyd Wright, his attorney, that the Chap
lin will named him beneficiary to one sixth of his
estate, a sum of over two million dollars. The will
372 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
had been drawn with like bequests to Charlie s two
sons; Syd Chaplin; Nathan Burkan (since de
ceased) ; and Alfred Reeves, studio manager who
had served him long and faithfully.
When Charlie finally became convinced that
Kono would not stay and be subject to his wife s
control of the helm, he suggested that he enter the
employ of United Artists in Japan. He gave Kono
one thousand dollars and to his wife, another thou
sand. Enthusiastic press agents reported the fig
ure as eighty thousand dollars which sounded
very nice but did not happen to be true.
Charlie was upset and distraught when the time
actually came for Kono to go. Kono almost relent
ed, for he was genuinely fond of Charlie, but he
had only to recollect a few of Mrs. Chaplin s on
slaughts against his pride to steel himself against
sympathy with Charlie s helplessness. He accepted
the job in Japan at a higher salary than he had
received from Charlie. His expenses to Japan were
to be paid. His contract called for six months, with
option to renew.
Suspicious and cynical by nature, Kono looked
upon this job as a sop thrown to his disaffection,
and instead of striving to make a place for him
self in the office once he was in Japan, he, by his
own admission, spent most of the time in the gay
spots of Tokyo and in traveling through the prov
inces, sounding out the possibility of profit from
showing Charlie s earlier films. They had never
Charlie romping with his two sons on the lawn of his home, 1930.
HOLLYWOOD MODERN TIMES 373
been shown except in the larger Japanese cities.
He returned to America as soon as his contract
had expired, feeling injured that it had not been
renewed. He consulted with Alf Reeves on terms
for the pictures, and the latter agreed to arrange
an option for rights to certain pictures : The Gold
Rush, The Kid, The Pilgrim, Sunnyside, A Dog s
Life, and three others to be selected.
Again Kono went to Japan, and, after making a
more careful survey of the theaters showing for
eign pictures, he decided that the Chaplin interests
owed it to him to reduce the price agreed upon that
he might derive greater profit. He wrote Mr.
Reeves to this effect and received in reply a letter
in which Reeves said, "It is not a question of bar
gaining at all. Unless you comply with the condi
tions stated above, the whole thing must be called
off I cannot go to Mr. Chaplin who is very
busily occupied at all times, now."
It was not hard for Kono to read the handwriting
on the wall. Charlie was offended that he had left
him; it was useless to expect him to come to his
defense. He returned to California.
Many reflections upon the instability of human
relationships were Kono s in the months that fol
lowed. At loose ends, he missed the excitement
incident, for nearly eighteen years, to his life with
a celebrity. He began to realize that he had been
spoiled by Charlie and by Charlie s friends and by
others seeking patronage. He sought out some of
374 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
the high names in the picture world, to some of
whom he had turned Charlie s attention when a
slight recognition would help them over the cur
rent rough spot in their careers. He found most of
them no longer interested in a secretary who was
secretary no more. And one whom his employer
refused to see. None but Joseph Schenck, formerly
president of United Artists, later head of Fox-
Twentieth Century, remembered his good offices.
Schenck made him a loan.
Kono remembered the time, he said, when he
had been offered a considerable sum to testify
against Charlie for Lita Chaplin in her divorce
suit, and had refused to do so. In his self-pity now
he regarded himself not as the average man of
honor but as a martyr who had given up the chance
to become financially independent.
He recalled the approach of a publisher s agent
in New York in 1932 with an offer almost equaling
the sum of money per word paid Calvin Coolidge
for his memoirs, for the real, inside story of Charlie
Chaplin. He had refused mainly because he knew
he would not only lose his job but would be cut out
of Charlie s will if he did so. Besides, he could not
write.* But now this loomed as unwarranted loy
alty to Charlie.
Kono had saved frugally part of his salary each
* Kono s secretarial duties were unique if taken in the literal
meaning of the term. It was necessary for him to dictate to a
studio stenographer, all letters. She would properly phrase in
English his awkwardly expressed meaning*
HOLLYWOOD MODERN TIMES 375
week, and it can be assumed that his commissions
from large purchases by Charlie of cars and furni
ture and other commodities had netted him a
goodly sum throughout the years. He had estab
lished a hat factory in Japan and had associated
himself in several enterprises where his prestige
as Charlie s secretary had opened the way among
In 1936, he learned that he had been left out of
the new will drawn by Charlie. This was another
bitter reminder of lost benefits.
Modern Times reached the screen in 1936, five
years after its inception as an idea, four years
after Charlie began to write it.
Charlie Chaplin may well toss his head and place
a thumb in close proximity to his nose at all of
the critics who diref ully predicted his downfall in
another nondialogue picture, what with the hold
talkies had taken upon the public. For, according
to Variety, a magazine not given to exaggerating
benefits, his latest silent picture was the largest
grossing picture of 1936, bringing in over four
millions of dollars and relegating San Francisco,
the outstanding talking picture of the year, to
second in receipts.
In this picture he made the concession to sound
and music made in City Lights with the additional
advent of his own voice on the screen in song.
According to his custom and convictions, every-
376 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
thing on the screen in each picture must have its
origin in his own creation. The music for Modern
Times was orchestrated by David Raksim from a
melody essayed by Charlie in whistling. Oscar
Levant in A Smattering of Ignorance says, "Since
the whistling method of composing is a rather
tenuous thing, and in any case Chaplin s whistling
is at best pretty derivative, the difficulties of such
a collaboration may be imagined. It was arduous
enough for Raksim to sit all day waiting for Chap
lin to whistle without the further complications
of that artist s temperament. The inevitable thing
happened but [Al] Newman [of Twentieth Cen
tury-Fox] patched up the argument and Raksim
went back to taking down Chaplin s whistling."
Newman, after a terrific argument with Char
lie, had walked out of the same job before. He
had found "the whistling type of composer more
trying by far than Stravinsky and Schoenberg
Against the clanging, raucous background of
industrial mechanism, strikes, and riots, there
runs in Modern Times the theme which never
grows old because it was never new the delicate
tracery of the spiritual hunger of the little tramp
through the antics of sardonic humor and comic
pathos. Charlie loses himself in his one desire to
protect and make happy the forlorn girl (Paulette
Goddard) who is to him the symbol of eternal
HOLLYWOOD MODERN TIMES 377
beauty. He wears a white plume in his heart; his
ridiculous appearance belies it.
Small stuff upon which to build the gamut of
human experience, some of Charlie s critics de
clare, and yet in one scene alone there is food for
conjecture, if carried into all its ramifications, as
to the ultimate tragic outcome of the warring
forces of the machine age against the highly or
ganized sensibilities of the human being.
Charlie has a job in a factory, a plant prophetic
of the future in which even the process of eating
one s lunch is developed into mechanized feeding.
He is tightening bolts on parts which are passing
at a killing speed on a machine-driven belt. The
deadly monotony of standing there hour after hour,
his overtaut nerves geared to the speed and subju
gated to the will of a merciless machine, drives him
temporarily off his balance. Grabbing every lever
he can find in his frenzy, he pulls them. This sets
the whole tempo of the factory to an insane fury.
Charlie rescues Paulette, who is escaping from
the juvenile authorities after being arrested for
stealing bananas, and makes her his responsibility.
He gets a job as night watchman of a large depart
ment store. He admits the shivering girl to the
store, takes her to the home furnishings depart
ment, wraps her and her rags in an ermine coat
he has taken from a figure, and gently puts her to
sleep in a costly bed. When two fellows from the
factory have robbed the store, Charlie finds him-
378 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
self in jail for the crime. He gets out, goes to work
in the factory again; there is a strike. He picks
up a red flag fallen from the end of an overload
on a truck and waves it to call attention of the
driver to his loss. He is promptly arrested for
being a Communist and jailed again. (This last
incident brought waves of laughter for its political
Paulette, from dancing in the street, gets a job
in a cafe. She inveigles the owner into giving
Charlie, who is free again, a chance to sing and
dance. Charlie writes on his cuff the words to his
song, then loses the cuff as the orchestra blares
the opening ta-da. An incredibly funny scene en
sues with Charlie dancing about, among, even un
der the tables frantically trying to recover his cuff
and his lyrics. Finally he is reduced to impro
vising, so does it in hybrid French through which
enough English is traceable to catch a filament of
meaning. The effect of certain worn French
phrases, having no correlation of meaning, is one
of excruciating comicality.
When the juvenile police take up the scent once
more, the two of them, the little tramp and -the
young girl who is cast in this instance to look be
neath his ridiculous exterior and see his worth,
are seen disappearing down the road together.
The essence of gallantry is no less poignant in that
the hero is clad in cast-off garments, not shining
HOLLYWOOD MODERN TIMES 379
Modern Times, labeled on the screen as "Human
ity s Crusade for Happiness," flicks the sensibili
ties once more with the delicate precision of Charlie
Chaplin s art. One laughs, one does not quite weep,
for all unconsciously one feels that the little tramp
of Chaplin s entire repertory holds some inner
glory which enshrines him above the shoddy treat
ment he receives.
Paulette Goddard, brittle and cool-eyed for the
part, draws little sympathy in the part of the little
waif. But Charlie! He is the story of all humanity
struggling through darkness to find the meaning
Paulette Goddard Chaplin has been kind to
Charlie s sons, who are thriving and growing into
fine, upstanding youngsters in a Hollywood mili
tary school. They spend the week end frequently
at the Chaplin home and are fond of their step
mother, who has through a genuine interest in,
and liking for them, developed into a good play
fellow with them both.
Paulette has worked untiringly to better her
acting ability. In The Women and Cat and Canary,
both released in 1939, she showed marked im
provement. Not a great natural actress, she has
nurtured the talent she has and has outstripped
any of the actresses who played leading lady to
Charlie, when out from under his direction.
By the same token, she had to come by experi
ence to an understanding of children. The follow-
380 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
ing incident took place before she arrived at this
Young Peter Millington, aged eight, brought to
Hollywood by his mother, Frances Millington,
story editor, was excited over his meeting with his
first movie star, who happened to be Miss Goddard.
Within an hour after the momentous meeting, Mrs.
Millington received a telephone call from the Chap
lin home asking her permission to send small Peter
a gift. Peter was in a hysteria of anticipation.
"Oh, Mother, do you think it will be an electric
train? With lots of signals?" "Mother, what kind
of presents do movie stars send little boys?" Mrs.
Millington assured him she could not guess.
Charlie s chauif eur arrived. Peter barked a shin
and slid on a rug to the door. His mother opened
the door. The chauffeur was completely hidden
behind a large and luxuriant fern!
Mrs. Millington stifled Peter s trenchant com
ment, "Aw, heck!" She waited several days. Per
haps some dear old lady had received an electric
train or a pair of skates. But nothing further
being heard from the donor, Peter was induced to
write his gratitude to Miss Goddard. He wrote,
"Thank you for the fern."
His mother did not consider it odd that young
Peter s interest in movie stars became, from that
time, less avid.
This and That
IN 1937 Charlie became involved in a suit against
him for plagiarism by the French film company,
Films Sinores Todis, for allegedly pirating the
idea for Modern Times from their picture A Nous
la Liberte released by them in 1931. The French
company asked in their suit filed in Federal court
a restraint against further showing of the picture
and an accounting of all profits from it. The suit
was filed in New York on April 22, 1937. But as
a result of Charlie s skill in eluding their process
servers, they were unable to serve the necessary
papers before going to trial The suit was dropped.
The average reader of newspapers no doubt
peruses such news with the careless criticism,
"All of those guys steal ideas." But in this case
as, it is safe to say, in every instance that involves
Chaplin s pictures, he is wrong. Charlie is unques
tionably original and creative in his work, and
even if he had no scruples against plagiarism, he
would scorn to indulge in it because of his con
viction that his own work is immeasurably better
than that of his contemporaries.
382 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
It would surprise none who know him to find
the shoe of plagiarism on the other pedal extrem
ity. Charlie, like every emotional artist, is so over
come when he finally formulates a definite story
idea that he cannot keep it to himself. Warning
all of his studio attaches and friends not to tell a
soul, he proceeds to broadcast it himself without
benefit of microphone. In restaurants, at parties,
he waxes loquacious about his new story. (At this
stage, the picture is indeed nebulous, and from two
to four years will elapse before it reaches the
screen.) In the meantime certain gentlemen in
the glow of good fellowship absorb some of his talk
and in time come to believe that certain angles of
the proposed picture have been of their own incu
bation. They incorporate them in films which
reach the public long before Charlie s can do so.
He was in Europe when the idea for Modern
Times struck him. It is not improbable that he
discussed it with several well-intentioned but
absent-minded gentlemen there. The result is, he
gets sued for his own idea.
By this double injury, the writer is reminded
of an incident occurring in the Hawaiian Islands
not many years ago.
The son of a minister, in the Islands, a minister
involved in the Eobert Louis Stevenson contro
versy over Father Damien, returned from Paris,
where against his father s wishes he had been
THIS AND THAT 383
Because Son would not prepare himself for the
ministry, Father, well blessed with this world s
goods (as are most of the descendants of the mis
sionaries in Hawaii), would provide him with no
further funds. Son needed a clean shirt. His
shirts reposed at a Chinese laundry. He went to
the laundry and was unsuccessful in talking the
Chinese out of his money. Noting carefully the
position of his bundle as it was placed back on the
shelf, he departed and, coming back later when
the Chinese were eating their rice in a back room,
slipped behind the counter and got his shirts.
The average young man would have stopped at
this, but Son had imagination. He borrowed from
various friends until he had the sum of his bill,
returned to the laundry, and demanded his parcel !
The Chinese could not find it. He was bewildered.
Son gazed at him sadly in innocent reproach. He
jingled the coins in his pocket. He left. But re
turning shortly with a list of the "lost" shirts, he
demanded and got payment in full.
This particular suit against Charlie is not nec
essarily analogous to the incident of the shirts. On
the other hand, the genial Hollywood pirates who
have caught Charlie mid-seas and taken over his
cargo of ideas, have had the grace not to sue him
for plagiarism, afterward.
Charlie s well-known sympathies with the cause
of freedom, in any guise, precipitated an incident
384 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
during April of 1937 which embarrassed him
mainly because of the propensities of certain news
papers to scream, "Red!" at the veriest hint of
Errol Flynn, Irish actor, and adventurer by
nature, went to Spain and into the thick of the
fighting between Fascist and Loyalist forces. Flynn
was quoted by the Hollywood Reporter while still
abroad as saying he helped to raise a fund of one
million, five hundred thousand dollars, to aid the
Spanish Loyalist defense of the Republic. Flynn
promptly issued a denial of this through Associated
The same . paper published in its next issue a
dispatch from the film-trade daily s Barcelona cor
respondent, making public a cablegram of thanks
from J. Garner Ribalta, Commissioner of Public
Spectacles for the Catalonian government, to
Charlie as follows:
After your friendly statements toward Spanish Re
publican cause and to the prohibition of rebel generals
in the occupied territory of your films and those of our
admired Clark Gable, James Cagney, Paul Muni, Bette
Davis, Marlene Dietrich, Miriam Hopkins, Joan Craw
ford, Gary Cooper, Wallace Beery, Douglas" Fairbanks,
Johnny Weismuller, Buster Keaton and the Marx Broth
ers, I wish to express you heartiest homage [of the]
Catalonian people which represent sixty percent of pic
ture going Spain. We [are] preparing festivals to
honour you all.
The metropolitan dailies besieged Charlie for
amplification of his supposed statement. Charlie,
THIS AND THAT 385
wary as always where politics is concerned, issued
through Alfred Reeves, a concise reply: "I did not
make any expression of any kind regarding the
conflict in Spain or the participants therein."
This was enlarged upon later by a further state
ment through the same medium: "I did not make
any expressions and I have no political affiliations
or connections with any party here or anywhere
else. I have no comment to make in any way. I
have nothing to say about Spain and I have noth
ing to say about politics."
Charlie hoped to set at rest the persistent report
that he had presented sixty thousand dollars to
the Loyalist government in Spain.
Charlie Chaplin became fifty years of age on
April 16, 1939. That year marked also his twenty-
fifth year as a star in pictures, though he actually
entered pictures in 1913. Telegrams, letters, and
cables poured in upon him, on his natal day, from
every part of the globe. To give an isolated in
stance, Moscow and the Russian press stressed the
social significance of his art while street posters in
that city advertised a lecture by a prominent orator
on Chaplin, to be illustrated with excerpts from his
pictures. Many American magazines featured
London and Paris honored him. Denmark placed
the chair from which he had directed his latest
four pictures, in its Copenhagen Museum of the
386 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
Theater. Berlin and Rome tried to forget that he
had been born.
Before his birthday, Charlie had announced his
next picture, a satire upon the gentlemen with
insatiable lust for power in Europe, which is
scheduled for release early in 1940. This picture
will be his first with full sound and dialogue, but
it is a safe assumption that even though Charlie
talks, it will be a digression from his original
medium only in point of technique; as far as its
star, Charlie Chaplin himself is concerned, it will
be pantomime. He will always show us rather
than tell us, and if the spectator should try the
experiment of stuffing his ears with cotton while
watching the film s central figure, it would in no
whit decrease his enjoyment of the latest Chaplin
It is difficult even for a poet to bring words to
life; a writer of dialogue cannot hope to convey
the superb imagery that Charlie Chaplin, the pan-
tomimist, brings to each moment of mummery.
The new picture, the first since Modern Times,
was tentatively titled The Great Dictator* but ran
afoul of a registration at the Writers Club, a sort
of gentlemen s agreement among producers upon
claims of rights to titles. At the studio it is known
as Production No. 6 until such time as a final title
may be selected.
* A compromise was effected and the picture titled The Dictator.
THIS AND THAT 387
While vacationing near Los Gatos, California,
in 1938, Charlie, with copies of Tortilla Flat and
Of Mice and Men under his arm, went in search
of their author, John Steinbeck. At his home,
Steinbeck, gracious but impersonal to the man he
did not recognize, autographed the two books.
Early in 1939, Steinbeck visited Hollywood but
turned a deaf ear to importunings from various
studios that he sign up as a writer for films. But
in a Beverly Hills cafe, one night, he was intro
duced to Charlie, whom he recognized as the un
known admirer who had sought his autographs.
He stammered his apologies. Charlie waved it
aside. He had in fact been amused at his own in
cognito. They talked far into the night, and the
result of their conversation was Steinbeck s con
sent to work as co-author on The Dictator.
This picture deriding the pomposity of leaders
ridden by lust for power was at first intended only
as a travesty on Hitler, his dementias of anti-
Semitism and his exhibitionism. But Signor Mus
solini was luckless enough to attract Charlie s at
tention to himself by banning all Chaplin pictures
along with Popeye and Mickey Mouse, in Italy.
(II Duce stated through the official press, "The
Italians do not find Mr, Chaplin funny/ ) And
Charlie promptly widened his plot to encompass
the iron-jawed Italian dictator. Whether or not
he will retain this characterization remains to be
388 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
When he released the news of his proposed pic
ture, anonymous threats of dire consequences to
him and his studio reached his ears. His friends
and his staff waited anxiously for his decision.
Would they go on or would he abandon his intent
to satirize Der Fiihrer?
Quietly he dictated a box advertisement to run
on the drama page of the Los Angeles Daily News. *
It was not conciliatory in tone. At the studio he
lifted an expressive shoulder and said with a gamin
grin, "They d better look out. I ll sue the soandso
for copying my mustache. I had it first, you
know." There is something else he had "first,"
the right to toss pins at the balloon of pomposity
of the gutter elite. It is his by inalienable privilege.
The locale of The Dictator is described in the
script as "the thriving metropolis of Bacteria."
The story deals with two separate worlds with
in this metropolis, that of the dictator surrounded
by the accoutrements of wealth and power and
lust for conquest; and a district smacking of the
ghetto in which a lowly, peace-loving people ask
only to be left to their hard work and simple
The worlds overlap when the odd likeness of
a humble dweller in the ghettof to the dictator mo
tivates the basic action of the plot. The fun begins.
Will Charlie attempt the role of the dictator
* See Foreword.
t Charlie plays the dual role.
THIS AND THAT 389
as a serious dramatic part? Would his audiences
accept him in that vein? One inopportune laugh
can send him into a loss computed in millions.
That he would not mind, but an artistic debacle!
He would mind that very much indeed.
An incident at the studio makes the outlook
brighter. Charlie appeared on the set in his reg
ular tramp costume. Everyone hailed him as
"Charlie." The technicians argued with him as to
the efficacy of this or that trick of lighting and
camera angles. In his dictator s uniform resplend
ent with epaulettes, medals, and sword, the change
of attitude was galvanic. He issued orders in crisp
dictatorial manner, his normally soft voice
changed to a rasp. His staff jumped to attention,
addressed him as "Mr. Chaplin."
Charlie had begun The Dictator before war in
Europe was declared. It will have an intensified
significance now that the democracies of Europe
have resolved to cry a halt to tyranny.
Paulette Goddard plays a scrub girL* Emma
Dunn, Chester Conklin, Jack Oakie, Hank Mann,
Henry Daniell, Maurice Moscovich, Lucien Prival,
Bernard Gorcey, Billy Gilbert, and Reginald Gard
iner have name roles in the piece. His half-brother,
Wheeler Dryden, is listed as assistant director.
* Charlie s fancy for himself as a hair-doer impelled him to in
struct Paulette to be on the set every morning at 8:30 that he
might dress her hair for the part. He discarded the efforts of
Hollywood s most famous hair stylists. "They haven t any idea
how a scrub girl s hair should look," he said.
390 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
Production No, 6. His sixth picture, beginning
with The Kid, in over twenty years! What star
can retreat into private life for three years, or
four, or even five, and come back to the screen
with the certainty of a popular reception straight
from the heart?
WHAT OP THE FUTURE of the King of Tragedy?
When he completes his work (not for many years,
it is hoped) of that perfect blend of downright
Rabelaisian hell-raising and wistful pathos, where
will he live?
In London? If he can be said to love any land,
England is nearest his heart. Perhaps not, for a
king in England, whether king by accident of
birth or by achievement, must maintain the out
ward show of royalty in London, and Charlie is
the complete unsophisticate in a sophisticated
world. And not the country. That is unthinkable
for him who draws no contentment from the quiet
countryside, no joy from horses and dogs, from
gun or rod.
But Hollywood. For as everyone who looks into
the heart of the most heartless and, at the same
time, the most sentimental legendary city of the
world, must know, Hollywood is the city of para
doxes. And where on this earth could the greatest
paradox of them all, the King of Comedy and
Tragedy, be more at home?
392 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
In Hollywood one sees on the screen today, the
girl who sold him cigarettes in a night club or
manicured his nails in a barbershop not so long
ago; one sits at a restaurant table and is served
by a waiter who was a Grand Duke; one tosses
a coin for a boutonniere to a chap who wears in
his own buttonhole a significant bit of ribbon. The
traffic officer who asks, "Who the hell do you think
you are?" one day, may be the singing star of the
next musical picture you see; the waitress who in
differently serves you at a counter may be, within
the week, discovered by a talent scout, groomed
hurriedly, and set to portraying emotions to which
she is, and will always be, a stranger.
Charlie Chaplin is indeed the greatest paradox
of them all in the City of Paradoxes. King of
Comedy by acclaim; King of Tragedy by the
doubtful gifts of Nature, head and shoulders he
stands above the motley crowd, not in physical
stature, for he is only a little chap, but in true
measure of an artist Among the multitudes of
celebrities, the sycophants, the fallen in rank;
among the little souls catapulted by hysteria of
publicity to pedestals upon which they stand ill at
ease, Charlie roams the city, the best-known and
the loneliest man in the world.
He loafs in his home high above the lights of
the town, a sturdy home, the antithesis of the
blatant show places of the stars. The furniture
has taken on through the years the comfortable
Recent photograph of Paillette Goddard (Marion Paillette Goddard
Charlie and Paulette Goddard attend a preview at Grauman s
BON VOYAGE 393
feeling of use; the chairs bear the marks of many
an all-night talk before a great wood fire, with a
few good friends. He plays the piano, an original
theme; he paints on a canvas which may be com
pleted or may not; he plays tennis with a friend
who has happened in, or wanders about his garden
alone, Hollywood, the legend that gave him outlet
for his highest expression, is away to the east and
below. He ignores its newest excitement ; he knows
the names of fewer film stars than the visitor to
Hollywood from British South Africa, knows.
He lives in Hollywood because there is no social
structure, no untoward convention, to which he
must conform. And yet, from an indifferent sub
ject of the British crown, he has reached a high
position of ethical dignity. He is a citizen of the
world. And he remains, to the end, the uncouth
servant of his own emotions.
In his work he has for a decade defied the
changes of time, which is an artist s privilege.
Among the producers struggling for perfection of
sound, Charles Chaplin, the producer, restricted
Charlie Chaplin, the actor, to the medium of
speechless film. He was quite logical in this, hold
ing the motion picture a completely visual panto
mimic medium. And though he lives much in a
world of thought and ideas, he believes sincerely
that true art reduced to its simplest terms is not
meant to arouse thought or to convey it but to
restore in us freshness of vision, a more emotional
394 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
glamor, a more vital sense of life. He concedes no
complexity in a complicated world. He has, for
many years, maintained the audacity of his
Totally without the natural vanity of an actor,
he is the living presence of the inherent conceit of
the genius. His wild sense of independence and
his humility in the face of his work both speak to
us of courage, of an enrichment of his conception
Charlie Chaplin will stay up all night, walking
the length of his living room, gesticulating forcibly,
talking volubly on a subject about which he knows
practically nothing, and leave his listeners con
vinced that he is amazingly intellectual. He is in
tellectual, too, without being actually intelligent.
He is, at heart, a faithful friend, but because
of his sharpened sensibilities, his shrinking from
coldly trivial realities, he is one not always to be
He is the champion of the downtrodden even
while he is on the side of the despot.
He conceals disdain of individuals with an en
gaging charm; he cloaks his distrust of most men
with a disarming smile.
He is childish in his frequent quarrels, but is
always above seeking revenge.
Charlie is flattered when others take him seri
ously but, aside from his work, does not take him
self seriously at all, and even entertains a faint
BON VOYAGE 395
contempt for the companion of the moment who
He is sad that the laughs he has given the world
are born of his own sorrows and the contemplated
sorrows of the world. He is happy when he remem
bers the satire he has projected as a warning
against paralyzed emotions and denaturalized
He has, now, everything that the earth has to
offer, yet nothing that he actually desires.
You can see him almost any day strolling down
Hollywood Boulevard wrapped in the secret torture
of his own thoughts and feeling, oblivious to the
crowd, not seeing the shops with their catchpenny
baubles. He does not see the faces of any who
pass. And yet his love for humanity is a funda
mental, deep-seated instinct. His love for the
crowd depends upon his mood; at one time it will
heal and restore him, at another it will frighten
him, drive him deeper within himself.
If you care, you may see him; he will not see
you, even though you call yourself his friend. I
saw him today, a slight, tense figure in a neat blue
suit and bowler hat, his thick wavy hair almost
white. I saw his mobile face plastic as a sculptor s
wax, impassive, expressionless, his eyes two opaque
windows to the world. His eyes, deep-set and cloudy
blue, looked out. I could not look in.
You can see him at other times in the evening
after a party or after sitting aloof and withdrawn
396 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
for hours, in a night club with the woman of his
current choice. He will be strolling, alone, through
the east side of downtown Los Angeles seeking the
only real companionship he has ever known that
of his own dark thoughts. Among the flophouses,
the ten-cent picture houses, the pawnshops, the
darker haunts of human misery, he walks. It is
as if he wishes to assure himself, after a glittering
evening of false gaiety, of the acrid smells, the
feeling of the degradation of the slums which gave
him birth and which have given to his sensitive
mind s eye, the whole picture of human foibles
and human wisdom. There alone, on an island of
his own making, the pitiable driftwood of hu
manity floating about him, he can recapture, as
nowhere else, the suffering, the injustice, and the
cruelty which have given to the world his comedy
and his tragedy.
His love of London fog is another expression of
his intense introspectiveness. Certainly he needs
no stars, no high places, no illusion of vast space
to give him perspective. His vision enables him
to see always futility.
Charlie Chaplin is a millionaire many times
over, in terms of wealth; he is a pauper in happi
ness. With his money he can buy any commodity
of necessity or luxury, of ancient or modern crafts
manship, which is offered to the elect of riches.
But the little sad-faced jester knows in his heart
that none of these things is worth the having. He
Autographed "crest" given to the writer,
BON VOYAGE 397
can never buy the thing he has sought all his life
happiness, or even contentment.
The pathos he has achieved on the screen is not,
in any sense, synthetic miming. The satire he
portrays is his very own. The patched shoes that
take him away from the woman-image in his heart
are all too real; they are the symbol of the victory
of the nonessential, the inevitable loneliness of the
great of heart and mind in a world that measures
worth by externals. The little tramp of the screen
is no less frustrated in his pictures than the suave,
self-contained millionaire in real life who is the
envy of his more unfortunate fellows. The tramp
cannot achieve his heart s desire. To satisfy", were
it possible, the hunger of his creator would quench
the fires of his unfathomable genius.
He sits at the console of his organ, in the cold
mausoleum of his home where no real happiness
has been, and invites his soul with rambling im
provisations worthy of a Beethoven ; he asks Ein
stein to his home and convulses him with impudent
impersonations of the great.
He is appalled at the suffering of others but
makes no effort to alleviate it. This is because he
knows the futility of seeking happiness. He sees
the struggling artist starving to capture his dream
on canvas and extends no hand to help him. He
knows the emptiness of success. He suffers more
than most of those he pities; you see, his capacity
398 CHARLIE CHAPLIN, KING OF TRAGEDY
Remembering the many times he has sought the
elusive, the unattainable for himself, and the dis
astrous consequences, Hollywood shrugs its shoul
ders and dismisses it with, "He is a glutton for
punishment." But does Hollywood know that it is
the pursuit that is all-important?
With the naivete of a child he will always ex
pect the outward beauty of a woman to contain an
understanding of his inordinate love of beauty, a
sympathy with his moods. He will, because of her
perfection of face and form, presume her ability
to share that strange, dark, inner world he in
habits, a world inexplicable to any but himself.
And always he will be wounded when she attempts
to bring him to the conformity of a simple domestic
bliss. He cannot make her understand that a
comet stuck in a candlestick gives off a blinding
light, can never be the dim, constant flame of a
A great artist carries humanity within himself,
and can upon occasion bring to life before our eyes
its multitudinous expressions; Charlie Chaplin
with one theme holds a mirror to our blunted
vision. It is a vastly comprehensive role, yet, re
duced to its simplicity, it is a medium through
which he asks the few questions lying nearest all
men s hearts, "Why am I here?" and "Whither
am I going?"
Compelled by some driving urge within him, he
will always leave his books, his music, his painting,
BON VOYAGE 399
the companionship of his solitary walks; dogged
by the genius that he holds, a bitter and dour com
panion for his solitude, a driving master of his
soul, he will seek everlastingly that which he shall
Seeing the little King of Tragedy in the fumbling
for happiness he has missed, one wishes for him
a love which, apart from surface glamor, creates
its own splendor from within the heart.
But one knows that the King must walk alone,
"forever seeking romance, but his feet won t let
Adams, Maude, 138
Adventure, 15, 91, 92
Albert, King, 307, 308
Alda, Mme. Frances, 240
Algiers, 9, 326, 327
Amador, Charles, 77, 79
Anderson, "Broncho Billy," 76
Astor, Lady, 276, 277
Atwater-Kent, Mr. and Mrs., 235, 236,
Auckland, Lady, 834
Auckland, Lord, 334
Barrie, Sir James Matthew, 137, 138
Barrymore, John, 182
Barton, Ralph, 267, 268, 269, 272, 273,
278, 279, 283, 284, 286, 287
Behymer, L. E., 352
Belasco, David, 257
Bell, Monta, 367
Bergeman, Henry, 15
Berlin, 150, 151, 152, 153, 290, 291, 292,
293, 295, 296-303
Beverly Hills, 186, 203, 367
Bierce, Ambrose, 225
Birdies, The, 60
Birth of a Nation, 116
Bowman, W. Dodgson, 8
Breamer, Sylvia, 97
Briand, Aristide, 303
Broun, Heywood C., 132
Brown, Eugene P., 301
Browningfield, Mrs. M. R., 232
Burkan, Nathan, 216, 221, 222, 223, 224,
233, 241, 372
Burke, Thomas, 139, 140, 141, 142
Cami, 145, 160, 161
Canterbury, Archbishop of, 340
Carpentier, 147, 161
Carroll, Harrison, 201
Channel Islands, 43
Chaplin, Aubrey, 163, 165
Chaplin, Charles Spencer, Jr., 212
Chaplin, Hannah, 30, 31, 36, 256, 257
Chaplin, Minnie, 316
Chaplin, Sydney, 30, 33, 81, 86, 150, 318,
343, 345, 347, 354, 361, 372
Chaplin, Sydney Earle n, 208
ChappeU, George, 197
Chartwell Manor, 342
Cherrffl, Virginia, 259, 262
Cholmondeley, Lady, 340, 343-45
Churchill, Winston, 169, 284, 285, 286,
Circus, The, 213, 215, 244, 247, 249-52
City Lights, 257, 259, 260, 262, 264, 282,
Colfax, Lady, 340
Connaught, Duke of, 319
Coogan, Jackie, 114, 115
Coolidge, Calvin, 374
Cooper, Jackie, 353
Copeau, Jacques, 148
Costume, Chaplin s original garb, 68
Crocker, Harry, 204, 254, 255, 348
Crowninsbleld, Frank, 132
Cunard, Lady, 340
Currys, Mr. and Mrs., 200
Damien, Father, 382
D Arrast, Count Henri, 205, 334, 349
DeMffle, Cecil Blount, 351
De Rothschild, Aline, 147
De Wolfe, Elsie, 161
Dickens, Charles, 34, 137, 251
Dictator, The, 386, 388, 389
Doyle, Sir Arthur Conan, 43
Dressier, Marie, 64
Dryden, Wheeler, 37, 226, 337, 338, 389
Early Bird, The, 60
Eastman, Max, 132
Eight Lancashire Lads, 41
Einstein, Albert, 297-302
Einstein, Fran, 298-99
Ellsworth, Elmer, 114, 124, 126
Eltinge, Julian, 83, 84, 86
Empalme, Mexico, 202
Ervine, St. John, 156, 157
Essanay Company, 76, 77, 79, 80, 83
Fairbanks, Douglas, 72, 97, 116, 131, 157,
Famous Players-Lasky Company, 152
Farnum, William, 83
Farrar, Geraldine, 84
Ferguson, Helen, 96
First National Distributors, 116
Fiske, Dwight, 330
Flynn, Errol, 384
Fox, William, 129
Francis I, 37
Frank, David Waldo, 146, 148, 149
Frederick the Great, 295, 396
Fred Karno Comedy Company, 46, 61,
Furuye Company, 24
Garden, Mary, 319
George, Lloyd, 147, 161, 162, 275, 276
Gerrard, Douglas, 248
Gish, Lillian, 72
Glass, Montague, 128, 129
Glendale Sanitarium, 36
Glenshore Mansions, 46
Goddard, Paulette, 368, 369, 371, 376,
377, 378, 379-80
Gold Rush, The, 197, 198-201, 205
Goldwyn, Samuel, 169, 216, 351
Gould, Frank Jay, 316, 317
Grauman s Chinese Theater, 249, 250,
Grauman, Sid, 250, 350, 351, 352
Grey, Lita, 199-204, 208, 209, 211, 212,
213, 216, 224, 231, 232, 233, 234, 235,
Griffith, David Wark, 116
Guaymas, Mexico, 200, 201, 202
Guedalla, Jacobson and Speyer, 341
Hale, Georgia, 199, 254, 348
Harding, Warren G., 248
Harley, Lily, 31
Harrington, Tom, 86, 87, 88, 109, 110,
113, 129, 145, 163, 167
Harris, Mildred, 97, 99, 100, 102, 104,
Hart, Wmiam S., 72, 97, 116
Hartmann, Sadakichi, 204, 281, 282, 325
Hearst, William Eandolph, 299
Henry HI, 37
Herrick, Myron T., 158
Hersholt, Jean, 72
Hiroshima, 19, 20, 23, 27
Hitchcock, Raymond, 83
Hitler, Adolf, 387, 388
Hofbrau House, 82, 83, 84
Horikoshi, Mme., 359
Hotel Utah, 119
Hunter, Kathryn, 367
Idle Class, The, 126
Imugai, Kensuke, 355, 356
In the Park, 71, 73
Japan, 92, 354-61
Jones, Grover, 72, 79
Joyce, Peggy, 185
Kaiser Wilhelm, 150
Kaufmann, Al, 152, 153
Kelley, Arthur, 53, 55, 167, 168, 840
Kelly, Hetty, 47-59, 62, 81, 128, 136, 167,
Kengekl, 347, 348, 352, 353
Kennedy, Myrna, 213, 249
Kennington, 29, 32, 45, 59, 128, 136, 137
Kent, Mr. and Mrs. Atwater. See At-
Kerner, Gus, 85, 86
Kessel and Baumann, 63, 70
Keystone Comedies, 62, 67* 77
Kid, The, 94, 114-17, 120, 124, 125, 128,
138, 157, 158, 172, 199
Knight, Castleton, 162, 163
Knoblock, Edward, 132, 134, 135
Kono, Suki and Huyemon, 19
Kono, Toraichi, 10, 11, 86, 87, 88, 92,
100, 102, 104, 106, 107, 108, 110, 111,
112, 118, 120, 121, 122, 129, 177, 179,
180, 187-96, 200, 201, 206, 216-21, 226,
227, 228, 236-39, 240-48, 258, 259, 261,
263, 264, 268, 271, 286, 290-95, 303,
304, 305, 306, 315, 317, 326, 328, 329,
332, 333, 334, 336, 337, 338, 340-42,
347, 348, 349, 351, 354, 356, 357, 360,
361-65, 369, 370, 375
Kreisler, Fritz, 225
Lahon, Renee, 133
La Jana, 294, 302
Larned, Livingston, 229
Lasky, Jesse L., 63
Latin Quarter, 149
Lee, Lila, 185
Leeds, William B., 132
Lehr, Abe, 169, 170, 172
Lehr, Mrs. Abe, 169
Letellier, Henri, 161
Liberty Loan, 97
London, 29-43, 45, 46-54, 57, 59, 128,
136-57, 161-66, 268-89, 344
Los Angeles Daily News, 12
Los Angeles Athletic Club, 86, 88, 104
Ludwig, Emil, 323-25
MacDonald, Alastair, 274
MacDonald, Ramsay, 274, 275, 287, 288
MacFadden, Bernarr, 224
McMein, Neysa, 132
McMurry, Edwin T., 200
McNab, Gavin, 221-23, 247
McPherson, Aimee Semple, 328-31
Maeterlinck, Georgette Leblanc, 132, 133
Maeterlinck, Count Maurice, 132, 133
"Maisie," 204-208, 215, 264-66, 304
Majestic Theatre, Clapham, 162
Making a Living, 66
Malone, Dudley Field, 146, 147
Maxwell, Elsa, 158, 319-20
Mencken, H. L., 229
Menjou, Adolphe, 94, 95
Mihara, Shigekichi, 360
Millington, Frances, 379, 380
MiUington, Peter, 379, 880
"Million dollar" contract, 80
Mitchell, Jimmy, 201
Modern Times, 277, 361, 367, 369, 375-79,
Monaco, Prince of, 320-22
Monte Carlo, 320-22
Moore, Alexander, 231
Moore, George, 10
Moore, Owen, 96, 97, 98
Morgan, Gloria and Thehna, 337
Morocco, 326, 327
Mumming Birds, The, 60
Music Box Theater 353
Mussolini, Benito, 277, 345, 387
Mutual Film Company, 93
Naples, Italy, 345
Napoleonana, 308, 309
Nast, Conde, 132
Nathan, George Jean, 166
Negri, Pola, 153, 154, 185, 186, 188, 189,
190, 191, 192, 193, 195, 196
New York, 53, 54, 81, 82, 131, 132, 216,
221-35, 240, 244, 245, 267
Nice, 316-20, 323
Night in a, London Music HaU, A, 54,
60, 61, 62
Nijinski, 72, 181
Normand, Mabel, 64, 67, 72, 96
Normandy, 306, 310-15
Oxford, Lady, 340
"Pack of Hounds," 252-53
Page, Walter Hines, 158
Palais Hemroth, 151, 152
Paramount Pictures, 154, 260
Paris, 145-50, 306-09
Pay Day, 115
Perkins, Ed, 333
Pershing, General J. J., 160
Piccadilly Circus, 52
Pickford, Mary, 97, 116, 131-32, 353
Pilgrim, The, 115
Prussia, Prince Henry of, 295
Purviance, Edna, 75, 87, 89, 90, 91, 94,
Ray, Charles, 96
Reeves, Alfred, 60, 61, 63, 93, 167, 223,
Reeves, Billy, 60, 61
Reeves, May, 318, 319, 326, 332-34, 342,
343, 344, 345, 346
Regent Film Company, 95
Reinhardt, Max, 294
Reisner, Chuck, 200
Reynolds, Dr. Cecil, 189
Rialto Theater, 60
Ritchie, Billie, 77
Robinson, Carl, 9, 129, 145, 150, 152,
157, 163, 167, 268, 270, 286, 290, 291,
293, 303, 304, 317, 318, 326, 327
Rubens, Alma, 97
Russell, Lillian, 231
St-Moritz, 343, 344, 345
Salt Lake City, 118, 119-25
Sans Souci, 296
Santa Monica, 58, 86
Sassoon, Sir Philip, 147, 154, 155, 275,
276, 294, 295, 302
Schenck, Joseph, 351, 368, 374
Schildkraut, Joseph, 132
Seattle, 21, 23, 24, 28, 361, 362, 364,
Sennett, Mack, 62, 63, 67, 69, 70, 71, 78,
Shaw, Bernard, 271, 284
Shawn, Ted, 358
Sheean, Vincent, 285
Shepherd, May, 336, 340, 341, 342
Sheridan, Clare Consuelo, 169-84, 171
Sheridan, Richard Brinsley, 170, 172-74
Sheridan, Richard Brinsley m, 172, 177,
179, 180, 181, 183
Sheridan, Wilfred, 169
Sherlock Holmes, 42
Shockiku Cinema, 361
Shoulder Arms, 150, 290
Silverstone, Murray, 340
Simpson, Wallis Warfield, 335
Southampton, 58, 136, 167, 268
Spicer, Mrs. Lillian, 200
Spitzer, Nat, 78, 79
Steinbeck, John, 387
Sterling, Ford, 72, 83, 96
Stevenson, Robert Louis, 138, 382
Stewart, Anita, 105, 109
Stokowski, Leopold, 175
Studio, Chaplin, 103
Sullivan and Considine, 62
Sunnyside, 41, 115
Sunset Inn, 85
Thaw, Harry K., 250
Theater, Duke of York s, 42
Tulitfs Punctured Romance, 64
Tokigawa, Prince, 347
Tree, Iris, 85, 147
Tree, Sir Beerbohm, 84
Trocadero Theater, 158
Ulitz, Arnold, 252
United Artists, 53, 116, 135, 142, 163
Vagabond, The, 93, 137
Vanderbilt, Mrs. W. K., 85
Venice, Calif., 28, 100
Victoria Music HaS, 65
Vieux Columbier, 148
Von Hindenberg, 151
Von Vollmoeller, Karl, 294
Wales, Prince of, 319, 335, 336, 340
Weber, Lois, 97
Wells, H. G., 142, 143, 144, 155, 156, 157,
163, 327, 328
Wells, Mrs. H. G., 156
West, Billy, 77, 79
Westminster, Duke and Duchess of, 806,
310, 311, 312, 314
White, Alice, 258-60
Wilhelm, Crown Prince, 151
Wilson, Jack, 151
Windsor, Claire, 175, 185
Windsor Square Theater, 852
Woman of Paris, 94, 95, 115, 197
Woolcott, Alexander, 132
Wright, Arthur, 109, 110, 113, 124
Wright, Frank Lloyd, 355
Wright, Lloyd, 109, 215, 283-34, 247, 871
Ziegfeld, Florenz, 61