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Charlie Chaplin sues Chaplin imitator

originally published February 20, 1925, by Marjorie Driscoll in the Los Angeles Examiner
[In 1925, Charlie Chaplin sued Charles Amador, a film comedian who was a “Chaplin imitator” who used the film name “Charles Aplin.” Chaplin took the witness stand during that trial.]

…When Mr. Chaplin resumed his testimony…he was asked by Attorney Ben Goldman, representing Amador, if in his opinion the public would be deceived by the resemblance.

“Yes, I believe the public would be misled,” said Mr. Chaplin.   “That is, in regard to the clothes and makeup.   I don’t know how close the resemblance would seem otherwise.”

Incidentally, during his final testimony, Mr. Chaplin set at rest rumors that he might be preparing to cease acting and become a producer and director.

“I’ll act as long as they’ll have me,” he said with a smile.

…”I have received many letters of protest,” he said, “coming from people who told me that they had gone to a motion picture theater because they saw outside a picture which they believed was mine.   Once inside they discovered it was a different actor.   I have taken this action now because of those protests and my desire to keep faith with the public.”

Chaplin took the stand, while the crowd buzzed and rustled and tried to climb in the windows from the hall at the rear of the courtroom in an eager effort to get a closer look at the little man in the gray suit who ran his hand through his hair, screwed his mobile face into frowns, and gestured with expressive fingers as he tried hard to understand the questions of the cross- examination.

His direct examination was brief.   He testified that he had entered motion pictures in 1913, that he had almost immediately created the character he now plays, and that he had never seen anyone else before then on stage or screen who played the same character with the same complete makeup.

Cross-examination started with his stage career.   He said he could not remember all the details.

“I really don’t remember much about my first part,” he said.   “I suppose I was about four years old.”

Before going into pictures, he played the role of a drunk in a sketch called “A Night in an English Music Hall.”

“It wasn’t in the least like this character,” he said, waving his hand toward the poster pinned to a blackboard in which a pictured Charlie Chaplin was sorrowfully counting a diminishing bank roll.

“The drunk wore a full dress suit,” Chaplin said.

Attorney Morris took up the details of the costume as pictured on the poster. Chaplin freely admitted that he had seen stage comedians wearing baggy trousers, tight coats, small hats and big shoes.

“But never all at once,” he explained.

He sought to explain the psychology of his screen character.

“It isn’t so much the clothes,” he said. “It’s the personality, the attitude. The character I play is a symbol, a satire on life.”

“Where did you get the idea for that character?” asked attorney Goldman.

Chaplin smiled almost helplessly.

“Why, where does any one get ideas?” he countered. “From life; from the whole pageantry of life.”

Goldman went into details.

“Where did you get the walk?” he asked. “Wasn’t it suggested by some of your fellow players on the stage?”

“I got it–or at least the idea of it–from an old cab driver,” said Chaplin.

“Where did you get your glide?” asked Goldman.

Chaplin looked puzzled.

“Glide?” he asked. “Just what do you mean?”

Admitting that he would rather not be compelled to illustrate in person, Goldman explained that he meant the habit of the screen Chaplin of skidding around a corner with one foot upraised.

“I got that on the spur of the moment,” answered Chaplin.

Goldman endeavored to show that Chaplin had copied his “goose walk” from Fred Kitchin, an actor with him in the “Music Hall.”

“Didn’t Kitchin walk like that?” he asked.

“He had bad feet,” responded Chaplin demurely, and the crowded courtroom laughed until Judge Jamison told it to keep still.

“And the grimaces you use?” asked Goldman.

“I really don’t know,” said Chaplin. “I don’t know that I am making any special grimaces. I just do what the situation and the moment seem to suggest.”…


Computer nerd by day, professional clown on evenings and weekends (Raynbow), who combines the two by maintaining a bunch of websites dedicated to the history and performances of clowning, such as Free Clown Skits, and comedy such as Best Clean Funny Jokes.

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