Delayed comings and goings: Week of October 2nd, 1920

His travels were more comfortable than this (The Immigrant 1917)

One hundred years ago this week, Grace Kingsley had news about the world’s most famous film star’s plans. On Wednesday she had a report from New York City that:

Charlie Chaplin will make a trip to Europe before coming home and may remain there to produce pictures several months, at least. The comedian is anxious to lease his studio here, but, it is said, wants $1250 a week for it, which is considered a rather exorbitant price by those desiring studio space.

By Friday he’d already had a taker:

That Charlie Chaplin does not intend to return to Los Angeles for at least a year is evidenced from the fact that yesterday, through his brother Sydney Chaplin, he closed negotiations with Ben. H. Cohen, manager of the Carter De Haven Productions, for the lease of the Chaplin studio for one year. The lease takes effect today and the rental to be paid is $1250 per week.

According to word of friends yesterday, Chaplin will go abroad as soon as his affairs are straightened out in regard to his latest picture, The Kid, and after some manner of settlement is arranged with Mildred Harris Chaplin.

Chaplin in London, 1921

He’d been uncharacteristically absent from her column for the last few months, busy with both finishing his feature-length film The Kid and his divorce negotiations. However, by Saturday he’d already changed his mind about going to Europe. He still had a contract with First National to make three more shorts. He did get his European vacation, but not until September 1921.


Chaplin quit the negotiations after he “heard disquieting rumors coming from the camp of his wife’s lawyers,” so she proceeded with the divorce in Los Angeles. It was granted on November 12th. Chaplin didn’t attend. He went back to work on January 18, 1921, taking his studio back from Carter De Haven, who had finished shooting The Girl in the Taxi, and only needed a place to edit it. He planned to make all three shorts that he owed First National in the next five months, but only The Idle Class got finished. De Haven went on to work with Chaplin as the assistant director on Modern Times (1936) and the assistant producer on The Great Dictator (1940).

Astonishingly, the lease is available online through the Chaplin Archive. That man saved everything! Somebody misinformed Kingsley: the rent was $650 per week.

D.W. Griffith

She also had an update on another United Artist:

That D.W. Griffith is returning to the West to produce was learned yesterday from authoritative sources. The famous director will arrive for the premier of Way Down East at Clune’s Auditorium October 18. The exact date of his arrival is not announced, but it will be several days before the premier of the picture which the critics have universally declared to be a masterpiece, is surmised.

Just where Mr. Griffith will set up his camera is not yet known, but it is reasonable to suppose that he will work at the old studio on Sunset Boulevard made famous for the workshop in which were filmed The Birth of a Nation, Intolerance and Broken Blossoms. With Mr. Griffith, or soon after, will come members of his company, including Carol Dempster, Richard Barthelmess and other players, together with William Bitzer, his cameraman, and others. Announcement of his picture plans will be made later.

Those authoritative sources turned out not to be so: Griffith didn’t even come out for the premier of Way Down East, let alone return to filmmaking here. He stayed at his Mamaroneck, New York studio until 1925. She was always so hopeful he’d be back!


Griffith didn’t need to come to the premier to help publicize it: the film was a huge hit, “breaking all paid admission records in the history of motion pictures” according to Moving Picture World (October 30, 1920). They even changed which theater it was shown in, from Clune’s to the Philharmonic. As usual, Kingsley didn’t get to go. Her boss Edwin Schallert did, and he couldn’t have praised it more highly:

Making the forces of nature subject to the all-embracing eye of the camera, D.W. Griffith, with a general’s power of organization, has marshalled a new wealth of pictorial beauty to shine before the bedazzled eyes of the beholder in Way Down East, which had its first presentation last night at the Philharmonic Auditorium. The feature represents his annual tour de force in the drama of the cinema, and it again marks a triumphant phase of the director’s genius as an innovator.

“Chaplin to Return Here and Get Busy,” Los Angeles Times, October 10, 1920.

“Mildred Harris Chaplin Gets Divorce and Cash,” Los Angeles Times, November 13, 1920.

Grace Kingsley, “Charlie Chaplin Resumes,” Los Angeles Times, January 19, 1921.

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