Chaplin Would Scarcely Recognise Old Studio
Chaplin would scarcely re cognise his old studio; the old
Hollywood landmark is getting a face lifting.
The last time I visited the Chaplin Studios was when the comic was shooting "Lime light." The place was quiet, old and musty, a throwback to the
casual days of the silents.
I went back again this week to find a transformation tak-
ing place. Workmen were nois ily converting the drab offices
into modern rooms with the latest styles in equipment. Over the noise. of the hammers,
general manager David Garber told me that Chaplin had sold the lot to a New York real estate firm, Webb and Knapp, for 650,000 dollars (£292,300). The company had given a 10 year lease of Kling Studios, a
Chicago commercial art con cern branching out into TV. Stanley Kramer, again an in dependent producer, will also have offices there.
Garber introduced me to Eddie Mann, a Chaplin em-
ployee for seven years. Mann showed me around the lot, much of which is still a wond erland of Chaplin lore.
First stop was the leading lady's dressing room, it was first created for Edna Purvi ance, then made over for Paul ette Goddard. Among the later occupants were Martha Raye and Claire Bloom. It was a
roomy place, but the faded maroon drapes and wicker fur niture made it look like a sec ond-class hotel room.
On the sidewalk outside were the duck-walk footprints of the famous Chaplin brogans. They led to the Sound stage, where a block of cement recorded Chaplin's signature and the date the studio opened, Janu- ary 21, 1918. The legend says that it was here Sid Grauman got his idea of having stars'
prints in the cement before his Chinese theatre.
The prop room would stir memories of any movie fans. I found the baby carriage Jackie Coogan was wheeled in for "The Kid," snowshoes from "The Gold Rush," a shell from "Shoulder Arms," the defend- ant's stand that was used in "Monsieur Verdoux," the doublecross insignia of "The
"Between pictures - and he only made them every five years or so - Charlie would come to the studio only twice a year," Mann explained. "He'd be here once in the summer and once before Christmas-to
see that those on the payroll got their Christmas cheques. He kept many oldtimers on salary for years. This business (Government's refusal of a re- entry permit) hasn't been as tough on him as it has on his employees."
The tour continued through a scenery dock, which largely contained sets from "The Great Dictator," his biggest production. Mann pulled up
some boards from the floor and
I could see tiles underneath.
The storage place had been built over a swimming pool wáere Charlie and the senior Douglas Fairbanks cavorted in the old days.
ONLY OUTDOOR SET
The only outdoor set is a street scene. On one side is the ghetto used in " The Great Dictator." The other is a French street from "Monsieur Verdoux." Parked by the side- walk was the street cleaner's brush and wagon from "City Lights."
Mann showed me Chaplin's dressing room, a wooden build- ing with a drab interior.
"Charlie was like that - he didn't believe in anything fancy," Mann remarked. "The closet contained the comic's
tramp costume, which is being
sent to him in Switzerland, along with the prints of his
pictures and the furniture from his Beverley Hills home."
Near the dressing room was a mass of wood debris. It had been a large backdrop support- ed by telephone poles, which snapped in the last big wind. Termites were the trouble. The wood will be removed, along with a shed containing such props as the wooden gear used in the machinery of "Modern Times." This part of the lot will be taken over by a huge
chain market fronting on Sun
set Boulevard and Labrea Avenue. Chaplin has never used the frontage and refused fabu-
lous offers for it.
I saw other sights: The big frame house where Chaplin's brother, Sydney, lived; the cut ting room where Charlie would spend 10 months editing a film
he had shot in a month or two; the aged projection room in which he ran film for many hours or dreamed up scores on the piano.
I was jolted back to the present when I visited Kling Studio head, Lee Blevin, in his renovated office. It was a smart, modern affair unrelated to the antique nature of the rest of the studio. "We thought of perhaps hav ing tours through the studio to see the Chaplin mementoes," Blevins explained, "but we de cided that would interfere with our operations here. It's pos sible that we may have a
Chaplin museum here."
Chaplin's only outward sym bol of ownership-a small brass plate with the words " Chaplin Studios "-has been stolen. The only sign left says "Free