Week of June 29th, 1918

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Harry Barndollar, L.A. Times sketch artist and political cartoonist, came along for the visit, too.

One hundred years ago this week, Grace Kingsley took another trip to Charlie Chaplin’s studio to watch him at work. She happened to be there for when he was drinking tea and brainstorming a name for his next film. She recorded the scene:

All the name had to suggest was patriotism and fun, and drama and punch and a few other things like that. Of course, the christening wasn’t effected without a lot of skirmishing. Syd Chaplin must have his joke, for one thing.

“Call it The Bums of Berlin!” he suggested.

But Brer Charlie wasn’t going to have any low-comedy names, because his bright necklace of laughter is really strung on a stout little thread of seriousness.

The Fat Comedian, who is inclined to be sentimental, suggested it be called Hearts of Fate. [this was probably Henry Bergman]

“Hearts of Lettuce.” parodied Syd Chaplin.

“Why not call it Charlie Carries On, suggested the thin heavy, which sounded reasonable, too. [Albert Austin, perhaps]

But the comedian took a reflective munch on his third slice of cake and a quick glup of tea, got up and walked into the door of a set, emerged on the other side and triumphantly announced:

Shoulder Arms.”

Which you must admit has punch in its sound, suggests either comedy or pathos, and altogether, like the mother hubbard of the senator’s speech, ‘covers everything and touches nothing’.

 

And that was that. Maybe if we all eat more cake, we can have Chaplin-caliber ideas, too!

However, the film was far from finished. A bit later, this happened:

“And now, Syd,” said Charlie, “tell this lady the plot!”

Syd looked perplexed.

“Don’t you just wish you could!” laughed Charlie. “The story is a sketchy thing,” explains Charlie seriously.

 

Eventually they did figure it out, and the film came out in October. I imagine there was more cake and tea involved.

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Kingsley’s favorite film this week was a two-reel comedy.

Fay Tincher, glory be, has returned to the screen, with her professional chewing gum and her trade-mark stripes. Filled with all her old pep and drollery she is appearing at Miller’s this week in a whimsical little comedy entitled Main 1-2-3, in which she is a shop girl, who, longingly gazing into a furniture shop window showing a furnished flat, is hired to live in the window for advertising purposes.

 

Tincher had been away from the screen for over a year. In 1916, she starred in Triangle two-reelers, wearing her trademark black and white striped costume and playing everything from a traveling saleswoman to a socialite. According to Steve Massa in Slapstick Divas “the unifying theme in these roles was Fay’s no-nonsense demeanor and feistiness, which were in comic contrast to her tiny stature.” Main 1-2-3 was her first film for her own production company. The Fay Tincher Comedy Company made three shorts, then she abandoned her striped outfit and went to work for Christie Comedies in 1919.

 

4 thoughts on “Week of June 29th, 1918”

  1. The exchange about the plot of “Shoulder Arms” is amusing – given Chaplin’s famous improvisational work style, it may well be that they couldn’t exactly explain the plot at that time, because it was changing from hour to hour on set. It was a very popular film, and I know that critics would refer back to it for years as the best of Chaplin’s work. You see phrases like “this was very funny – but not as funny as ‘Shoulder Arms’ in reviews all the way up to “The Kid.”

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m glad you talked about Fay Tincher. I had read about her in Steve Massa’s book, fully intending to learn more about her…then forgot. Doh! Happily, I see there are at least a couple of her films on YouTube.

    Like

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