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Modern Times Clippings 351/382

Grace Simpson, Motion Picture, New York, May 1936.

Allen‘s Dominion (before Empress), exterior by day,

neon sign „Musical Comedy & Quality Pictures,“ Winnipeg,

Canada, undated

& Dominion (Empress) Theatre, exterior by day,

Winnipeg, Canada, undated, postcard

& Dominion, The Home of John Holden Players, exterior by day, Winnipeg, Canada, undated

& Groucho Marx, Charlie Chaplin

(...) Grace Simpson, Motion Picture, May 1936

People became hysterical

Editorial content. Groucho looks at Charlie

      The maddest Marx recalls the day when he ,discovered‘

      the genius in Chaplin

      By Grace Simpson

      Charlie Chaplin‘s latest picture, Modern Times strikes

a new note in screen humor. Its theme concerns the

career of a little tramp caught in the mechanism of factory routine.

It‘s a real treat!

      The country is becoming Chaplin conscious all over again.

It‘s remarkable how Chaplin has lasted, as an actor, all

these years. You know him as he is today, but did you know

him as he was yesterday? Let us draw aside the curtain

of the past and see him as he really was ,yesterday‘, struggling

along as best he could, trying desperately to get

a foothold on the ladder of success. Let‘s turn back the

clock of time.

      It was snowing in Winnipeg, Canada. In a dusty corner

of the depot, a tattered vaudeville troupe huddled

around a glowing stove. One hour till train time. And then

back on the road. That was the routine.

      With a chilly gust and a flurry of snowflakes, the door rattled

on its hinges. The trained animal act shivered. A lifting

of eyebrows censored the invader from a frigid world without.

The newcomer Groucho Marx, slammed the door shut,

stamped his feet, then smiled around at the crowd. Despite the

ill protection afforded by a threadbare overcoat, he felt

very little cold. Excitement warmed him.

      He flexed the bamboo cane in his hand. A bit of soot from

the chimney sufficed for a mustache. He rumpled his

hair. He spread his feet fan-wise. Then, with the strange laugh,

he put on a hasty little act.

      But no one laughed. As a matter of fact, no one paid

any attention. This peeved him a little. ,Look,‘ he cried suddenly,

,I just saw the greatest fellow I‘ve ever seen on the stage

in all my born days!‘ But who cared what a little known comedian

like Groucho Marx thought about actors – or thought

about anybody for that matter.

      And who ever heard about the comic that he was talking

about. That strange, wistful creature who always wore

a big, black, flowing necktie, because his shirt was often dirty,

and he only had one.

      His name? Oh, yes, Charlie Chaplin!

      ,They evidently thought I was crazy,‘ said Groucho, recently,

smiling. ,I said then he was the greatest fellow on the stage.

I know now there will never be anyone like him. He‘s in a class all

by himself, just as he has always been.‘

      It‘s usually pleasant to visit at Groucho‘s big house,

especially if brothers Harpo and Chico are there. You come

away with your sides actually strained from laughter!

It‘s a tonic, nothing less.

      But this particular evening was somehow quite different.

The lights were very low. A fire crackled cheerily in the hearth.

Groucho watched the flickering shadows on the knotty

pine walls and spanned unnumbered years to introduce the

comedian with the threadbare overcoat. And the comic

with the dirty shirt.

      The fire lost its warmth. I shivered, too. Then I heard

Groucho‘s voice breaking the silence, speaking about the first

Chaplin show that he‘d seen.

      ,I was on the Pantages Circuit, the last act on the bill,

doing four shows a day, rain or shine,‘ he began. ,There was

a three-hour lay-over in Winnipeg before jumping to the

Coast. As a rule, I made a bee-line for the pool room. It was

generally warmer. This particular night, I was feeling

rather blue and, besides, I had a headache. I decided on the spur

of the moment to take in a show. I had a friend playing

on the Sullivan-Considine Circuit. Considine was the father

of the present Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer producer,

John W. Considine, Jr.

      ,Well, sir, at this show, the audience was roaring

with laughter. I looked at the stage and saw Chaplin for the

first time. I had never heard people laugh quite like that.

I began to laugh, too. Soon my polite laughter had turned to an

impolite howl! The little comic´s act was called A Night

at the Club; it was supposed to be an English social club – and

what a one, too, I might add! Chaplin sat at a small table

and ate soda crackers, one after another. A woman up front

was singing all the while, but nobody heard a single

note, I´m sure. They were too intent on Chaplin´s every move.

A fine stream of cracker dust was slowly coming

out of his mouth. He kept that up for exactly fifteen minutes.

      ,At the table was a large basket of oranges. Finally,

he started to pick up the oranges, one by one, and threw them

right at the woman. One of them knocked the pianist

off his chair. People became hysterical. There never was

such continuous laughter. He was the same Chaplin

then as he is now,‘ Groucho concludes simply.

      Groucho sought Chaplin out that night. He told him

how impressed he was – how the act had him right out of his

seat in stitches. They became friends. The two circuits

made the same towns.

      Finally, the two actors landed in Los Angeles, land of hope

and dreams.

      ,One day, shortly afterwards, Chaplin called me up,‘

continued Groucho. ,He had been offered $100

a week to go with Keystone. ,What´s the matter,‘ I said,

,isn´t it enough?‘ Chaplin was then getting about

$35 a week. ,You´re durned right it´s enough,‘ he replied

with a chuckle. ,It´s much too much, in fact. I can´t

be worth $100 a week. I´ve got it all figured out that these

studio guys must be crazy and who wants to work

for a bunch of loonies?‘

      ,O shucks, go ahead and take it!‘ I told him. ,You´ll

never get another offer as good as that!‘ How wrong I was!

Well, Charlie finally accepted the motion picture offer.

And, shortly thereafter, I had to go East. A couple of years later, Chaplin began to appear with the famed Keystone

cops. When I returned to Los Angeles, he was getting $500

a week. I was amazed. He was amazed, too, but

seemed remarkably happy.

      ,Five years elapsed before I saw him again. I gave him

a call and he invited me to his new home. It was

gorgeous, magnificent. A stately English butler seved.

The plates were solid gold!

      ,It´s an amazing world. When I first met Charlie Chaplin,

we often borrowed nickels and dimes from one another.

We regularly shot craps together. And the stakes were a penny

and the fellow who won as much as fifty cents was

considered quite a financier. The loser of such a snug little

sum tightened his belt for breakfast. It´s a little

frightening the way those years, that seem but yesterday, have

passed,‘ Groucho added.“ (...)

      Groucho Marx meets Charles Chaplin 

      when Karno‘s Company is on tour showing      

      A Night in a London Club

      at Empress Theatre, Winnipeg, Canada,

      in the week beginning with

      Aug. 4, 1913.


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