Chaplin Talks Continued

“He doesn’t fool around much,” Russ
Spencer remarked with a grin.
I commented upon the unusual spirit
he puts into his work; falling down
stairs and crashing through skylights.
“And those,” said Clem, getting to work
with the sandpaper, “are just two of
the tough shots he made. He could pay
a hundred guys to do these things. But
he doesn’t. He does every tough shot
himself. There’s that street scene where
he dives into a barrel. Maybe that
doesn’t look like much of a trick, but
anybody who thinks it isn’t … better
try it! I lined the barrel with sponge
rubber to make it as easy on him as I
could, but it was still up to Charlie to
make the dive. I tried it myself just
once, and I was lame for three days.
“I’ve been in this business quite a
while, but I never worked for a man
like this, one. When the lot needs an
executive, he’s an executive. When we
need comedy like jumping into a barrel,
in he goes. Or when there’s something
to work out in the prop department and
I’m greasy and dirty, there is Mr. Chap-
lin right with me greasy and dirty too.
There isn’t another producer in the
business who would get ‘right in on a
job and help carry it through from the
first problem to the last.”
Clem went on with his sandpapering.
I continued looking through the pile of
sketches … presently coming upon
one of Miss Goddard as Hannah, the
scrub girl of the ghetto, and which re-
called to me the day when, after watch-
ing her excellent work, I had com-
mented on the hair style, so perfect for
the part. She is a -,lender, pretty, ani-
mated person with eyes an unusual
shade of delphinium blue.

“All the credit goes to Charlie,” she
had told me . . . and had then related
how two professional hairdressers had
been called in, but had failed utterly to
get the proper effect after which Mr.
Chaplin, tying up her titian “mop” with
a string, had begun pulling it down
strand by strand until it looked as he
wanted it to. And thereafter had had
to dress it himself every day for the pic-
ture, as no one else seemed able to get
quite the same appearance.
Several “professional” designs had
been made, too, for her scrub girl dress.
And these, also, had just missed. So
Mr. Chaplin had purchased a few yards
of burlap, had cut out something which
Miss Goddard had described as “like
you’d make a paper doll dress,” had
put her into it, had gone systematically
to work pulling it out of shape and
throwing things at it. . . .
“And that’s what I’m wearing,” she
had laughed.
When I had commented on Mr. Chap-
lin’s skillful direction of herself and the
other players, she had given me one of
the most understanding insights as to
his manner of working which I had
ever heard:
“Don’t you see how he does it?” she
had said. “He thinks in rhyme and
tempo. To the people who are to play
a scene, he will describe it as though
they were dancers. If they find them-
selves doing a bit of business awkward-
ly he will say, ‘That’s because you
started on the wrong foot.’ Doing a
scene with him is so exactly like work-
ing to music that you can’t help falling
into it.”
Continue reading

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