Glyn meets Chaplin and acts perverse

June 27, 2009 § Leave a comment

Sam Goldwyn tells the tale:

Glyn: “Dear, dear, so this is Charlie Chaplin ! Do you know you don’t look nearly so funny as I thought you would ?”

Chaplin: “Neither do you.”

In his Behind the Screen (1923), Goldwyn has very few nice things to say about Glyn: conceited, busy-body, self-righteous, and as Sam hints it, English (Goldwyn is very proud of having signed American authors in his ill-fated Eminent Authors company, as opposed to the more upscale efforts of rival Famous Players-Lasky with their import of foreign names such as Glyn).

My favorite is the following anecdote, after a dinner with the Fairbanks, at the Fairbanks’:

Pictures were turned on, and in this case the selection happened to be Mrs. Glyn’s story, “Her Husband’s Trademark,” in which Gloria Swanson took the leading rôle. I can truthfully say that never in my life have I enjoyed any film so heartily. This was due, not to the character of the performance, but to the remarks which garnished its entire unfoldment.

“See that frock,” whispered the author eagerly as, sitting beside me, she pointed to one of Gloria’s creations; “I designed that gown.”

Another second and she was calling attention to the finish of a certain setting. “Do you see that? An exact copy of my rooms in London. Do you suppose they would have known how to arrange a gentlewoman’s rooms if it hadn’t been for me?”

But there were other times when this robust major of self-congratulation shifted to a minor chord. “Ah, how terrible, how shocking!” I heaerd her moan several times. “All wrong, all wrong–they’ve ruined that scene. I might have know it. I was away that day, you see.”

Verily that evening the “silent drama” renounced its salient characteristic ! (p.238)

I like it because this is a clear example of a perverse spectator who refuses to sit rapt in silence absorbing images in her chair: this is a very active audience indeed ! The last line seems to imply that this is hardly the norm — though it could be read as more of a pun than a statement on silent film spectatorship.

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