Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Charlie Chaplin Interview from February 1915

The following interview with Charlie Chaplin ran in the February 1915 edition of Photoplay magazine. The article is fairly short and is a somewhat superficial piece, but is historically noteworthy for a few reasons. It illustrates the somewhat informal and improvisational filmmaking methods common at the time, and captures Chaplin's thoughts on fame on the eve of superstardom. The article was also written just before the cinematic introduction of the Little Tramp character with which he would be most identified for the remainder of his long career.

Juts one month before the article was published, Chaplin signed a contract with Essanay Studios for a then-record salary of $1250 a week and a $10,000 signing bonus. Although his star had begun to rise over the past year through his appearance in several of Mack Sennet’s comedies, the 14 Essanay films he would make during his one year at the studio, would make him a cultural phenomenon.

What did you think of the article? Post a comment and let me know.
By E. V. Whitcomb

"SAY, Jennie, do I have to sit through this whole show - just to see Charlie?"

With the name of the lady changed to fit the one addressed in each case, this question or ones to the same effect have been asked thousands of times during the past few months.

Going to see Charlie Chaplin has become a habit all over the country: With his doleful countenance, his heavy feet, his characteristic French kick, his diminutive moustache, and his ridiculous actions, he has earned a place all of his own in the realm of  motion pictures.

And it is only a few months ago that he walked unannounced into the office of Mack Sennet, director of the Keystone company, and asked for a tryout as a comedian.

But the funniest thing about this extremely funny man is his violet-like reluctance to talk about Charlie Chaplin. "There's nothing worth while talking about” he says. "I am no one-just a plain fellow," he told me. "There is absolutely nothing interesting about me. I have no fads, no automobiles-I am just myself. But, if you insist, I will be very glad to talk to you."

A lad about twenty-five years of age, a very lovable lad, with a delicate  sensitive face and with his hair painstakingly wetted and smoothed down,  came into the reception room of the club where he lives, all apology for having kept me waiting. And he 'was as appealing as a little boy who runs up to you and says" "I am sorry; please forgive me."

We talked for nearly two hours and I have tried to put down here exactly what he said in the way he said it.

"I have always worked hard ever since my father died, when I was seven years old, My mother was a wonderful woman, highly cultivated, yet life was very hard on her, and we were so poor, she used to sew little blouses by hand, trying to earn enough to keep us. That was in England - she died there. Poverty is a cruel thing, and I sometimes think that if I had not worked so very hard as a child, I would be much stronger now than I am, because, you see, I am not at all strong physically.

"I have never had a day's schooling in my life; my mother taught us what she could, but after she died, I was an apprentice to a company of traveling acrobats, juggIers, and showpeople. That was in England too. And oh, what hard work it was. I have never had a home worth the name. No associations that might have helped me when I was  young. Looking back upon it is no joke, and that is why it seems so out of place to me when I am made much of now.

"I came to New York with mv brother Sidney, while I was still a boy, he is four years older than I am, and is the only relative I have in the world, You have no idea how terriblv lonely we were when we arrived in this country. Sid was out hunting for work and I sat looking out of the window of the shabby little boarding house bedroom. The Times Tower loomed into the sky and I sat there with my head on the window sill and cried, I felt so lonely and forlorn. That was the loneliest I have ever been. The world has never seemed so big nor so lonely since then. "My brother Sid and I went on the road together doing one-night stands with a traveling company called, ‘The National Amusement Company.' I remember one night, Harry Lauder came directly after us on the program. He refused to wait for us to pull off our stunt but insisted on going on first. I hated him for that-it was so cold to stand in the wings, lightly clad as we were, and wait. I watched him do his stunt and even while I hated him fiercely, I couldn't help applauding him as a great artist and laugh maker. It was after this that I went with the Keystone Company.

“Last month I went to San Francisco to appear in person at a theatre. The people applauded me very much. And the more they applauded the more serious I became, and the funnier they thought me-so I gave it up.. You see, I wasn't meaning to be funny then. I am not a bit funny, really. Of course,' I have a sense of humor, but not as much as mv brother has and he is much more of a business man. Sid is much more gifted than I am in every way, I think-and he is married. He hasn't had any professional pictures taken since he came to Keystone, but I know that my brother Sid is going to make a sensation.

 "When I am not working, I just sit around and dream mostly. I get a lot of ideas that way. And sometimes, when I haven't any special idea in mind, the camera man and a few of us with our makeup on, go out to a location. For instance, we go out to the races, take a few scenes (whatever happens to suggest itself), then other things suggest themselves, until the story is built, All the time this is going forward things pop into my head which help to make people laugh."

Mr. Chaplin’s account of producing a comedy sounds very simple and easy but is a little misleading. It is a well-known fact that the members of his company doing slapstick have to be able to stand more "punishment" than the members' of any other company, when he himself is directing.

Already the Essanay players are shaking in their shoes, for Mr. Chaplin has just been signed up with Essanay as the highest priced comedian in the world. He is to direct a comedy company at their Chicago studios.


Watch Chaplin`s first Essanay film, His New Job (1915)

Watch The Tramp (1915)

© early cinema digest

No comments:

Post a Comment