Photo Essays
1. Exile’s Return
2. Chaplin’s Parents
3. Hannah Chaplin’s Femmes Fatales
4. Playing Dress-Up  In The Land of Make Believe
5. Teenage Girls and Fear of Aging
6. Chaplin’s Three Teenage Wives
7. Mildred Harris
8. Lita Grey
9. Oona O’Neill
10. Chaplin’s Father
11. A Royal Lion
12. Vesta Tilley as Bertie
13. Ella Shields as Bertie
14. Making A Living
15. The Lion Comique’s Son: Dressed Like A Bum
16. Monsieur Verdoux as a Lion Comique
17. Calvero as a Lion Comique
18. The Lion Comique’s Son in the Limelight
19. Charlie as a Child
20. The Kid’s Lucky Break
21. Syd Chaplin
22. A Family Album of Theatrical Drunks
23. Chaplin’s Family Romance
24. Edna Purviance
25. Purviance’s Influence on Chaplin’s Character
26. Essanay
27. Chaplinitis
28. Chaplin’s Predecessors
29. Eye Contact: Audience-Performer Intimacy
30. Chaplin the Auteur
31. Chaplin’s Two Autobiographies
32. Going It Alone
33. The Circus
34. Autobiographical Starvation Scenes From The Gold Rush
35. Autobiographical Madness Scenes in Modern Times
36. Two British Music Hall Traditions and Topical Comedy
37. The Great Dictator
38. Fatal Attraction: Joan Barry
39. Monsieur Verdoux: Guillotine or Hatchet Job?
40. Limelight
Chaplin: A Life In Film
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 The Circus
As a would-be actress and woman of the world in her late twenties, “divine-looking” Hannah Hill Chaplin fascinated her most ardent and worshipful admirer—wide-eyed, six year-old Charlie--by portraying riveting scenes from the lives of Napoleon and Josephine and those of Nell Gwyn and Charles II.

The painting (above) of Nell Gwyn with her out-of-wedlock child (the Duke of St. Albans) was once attributed to Sir Peter Lely. Chaplin remembered that an unidentified copy of a Nell Gwyn painting once hung in their living room when he was a small boy. Was it this graphic portrait?

In My Autobiography (1964), Chaplin recalled his childhood feelings of mild embarrassment concerning that prominently displayed life-sized portrait--which his formerly glamorous showgirl mother utilized as an informal back drop for her spontaneously improvised theatrical dramatizations of scenes from the bawdy Cockney actress’s life. (As Charles II’s royal mistress, Gwyn unabashedly described herself as “his majesty’s Protestant whore.”)


It is also the case that an original Nell Gwyn painting by Lely (who painted more than one) was later purchased by William Randolph Hearst, whose own royal fantasies caused him to identify his “royal” mistress (Marion Davies) with Nell Gwyn.


The residual echoes of Chaplin’s maternally inspired royal fantasies--in later life—included cuckolding Hearst with Davies and boasting on four separate occasions that he was born in Fountainebleau (a la Napoleon and Josephine).

And in a separate newspaper interview, Charlie playfully informed a gullible reporter that he was directly descended from Nell Gwyn and Charles II.


The stage name Lillie Harley probably was Hannah Chaplin’s fame-hungry teenage homage to Lillie Langtry the mistress of HRH The Prince of Wales. From the three—Gwyn, de Beauharnais and Lantgry—young Hannah Hill fashioned the fantasy of the woman she wanted to be, and her young son’s childhood experience of her fascination with these three women colored his imaginative creativity throughout his career.
© 2008 All Essay Rights Reserved.

All images from Chaplin films made from 1918 onwards, Copyright © Roy
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service marks of Bubbles Inc. S.A. and/or Roy Export Company
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