Charlie Chaplin says he never wanted to be a famous funny man
by Elizabeth Peltret
Los Angeles, Feb 9 – Sitting in a large arm chair in his dressing room, his legs doubled under him so that the soles of his ridiculously big shoes pressed against one arm of the chair, Charlie Chaplin, world’s most famous film comedian, consented to an interview.
The man was forced into comedy. It was never his intention to become a great fun-maker. “All my early training was for dramatic work,” he said. “Had I followed my own desires, I would have done serious parts.”
And now, having reached the pinnacle of success in comedy, he has determined to appear in a strong dramatic role.
“I am going to surprise everybody with one big, serious picture,” he stated. “I like Hall Caine’s story, ‘The Prodigal Son,’ because it runs the gamut of human emotion. If I can arrange for the rights I shall put this novel on the screen before I sign my next contract.”
Charlie Chaplin directs his own pictures and does not use manuscript. All the little effects that look so spontaneous on the screen have been carefully thought out and rehearsed again and again. He sometimes works for days on a scene only to sicken of it and throw it out of the picture. “I am successful,” he said, “because I work hard and pay attention to detail. “I think of my work constantly.
“I can’t even read a book or have a conversation without trying to find a good comic effect in the most serious part of it.”
Charlie is only 26 years old. He is not married and lives at the Los Angeles Athletic club, where he has a magnificent library of his own. After a hard day at the studio, he likes to read or play the cello. He is an accomplished musician.
The barrenness of his dressing room at the studio contrasted with the dressing quarters of less-eminent players is striking. He has no pictures or press clippings of himself in the room, and there is not a single piece of unnecessary furniture. But what little he has is the most sumptuous that money can buy.
He dislikes being interviewed because he feels that it is impossible to be natural in the presence of a reporter.
“I say over and over again: ‘I WILL be natural. I WILL be myself’ — but I can’t, that’s all,” he confessed.
The truth of this is shown in his bashfulness and uneasiness during an interview.
When I talked with him, he was without his little mustache, but wore his costume and the big shoes. He has worn the same shoes in all of his pictures, and has a real affection for them.
“I wouldn’t part with them for the amount of my next year’s contract,” he declared. “They have associations. They still look poor, too.”
A cut on the bridge of his nose was visible through his makeup. “I pulled a lamp post over on myself,” he explained. “It was necessary to take several stitches and I lost a good deal of blood — I didn’t know I had so much blood. We kept the scene, too. It makes one of those serious little touches, you know.”
And then, as the interview drew near the end he said, with a significant smile: “You know, there are hundreds of people who ‘knew’ me when I didn’t have a nickel — or who gave me my start in life. The other day, a man claimed he was the first person to give me a glass of champagne. “When I was playing a small part in a vaudeville sketch, a newspaperman did predict my success. I wonder if that fellow knows? During his talk, he said: ‘Young man, you have a great future ahead of you — a great future. And,” Charlie concluded, “he wasn’t so far wrong, at that.”
Charlie Chaplin’s business affairs are managed by his brother, Sid, also a film actor. The contracts and the big offers of salary and all that are taken care of by Sid, while Charlie goes ahead thinking up new funny things.
The famous movie comedian has an income of $13,500 a week. Of this, $10,000 is paid in salary, and the rest is the amount of his bonus.
Top photo: Here’s Charlie as he looks when only a few people see him, and as he looks when millions gaze upon him. Real life and comedy life.