The Sunday Intertitle: A Thousand a Week

“I want a thousand dollars a week,” Chaplin told Sennett,

“But *I* don’t make that!” spluttered the showman.

Sennett is sometimes criticised for his inability to hold on to the stars he’d created. But he didn’t hold the purse-strings, was dependent on the money-men, Kessel and Bauman, and anyway, Chaplin made it difficult. He did try to meet Chaplin’s terms:

“Listen, you have four months to go. We’ll tear up your contract and give you five hundred dollars now, seven hundred dollars for the next year, and fifteen hundred for the following year. That way you’ll get your thousand dollars a week.”

(This is all per My Autobography, Chaplin’s largely very accurate, if understandably selective, memoir.)

Chaplin responded: “If you’ll just reverse the terms, give me fifteen hundred the first year, seven hundred the second year, and five hundred the third, I’ll take it.”

“But that’s a crazy idea.”

Chaplin was convinced this craze couldn’t last, that his star would fade. And he had an urgent desire for financial security that made him think short-term. It WAS a crazy idea — he wouldn’t have been happy to take the pay-cuts when they came — but he wanted a thousand dollars a week NOW.

Essanay agreed to his terms, and at the end of his year at Keystone, Chaplin was off to Chicago.

2 Responses to “The Sunday Intertitle: A Thousand a Week”

  1. Took a guided walking tour of Niles, California ,where they still have several buildings dating to Chaplin’s stint with Essanay (Didn’t Niles come before Chicago?). It was a small town. Edna Purviance and Ben Turpin resided in modest homes that are still modest homes (but way more costly), and could have walked home for lunch. Don’t know where Chaplin himself lived, but he would have been hard pressed to spend a thousand a week had he been so inclined.

    “Hollywood money isn’t money. It’s congealed snow, melts in your hand, and there you are.” — Dorothy Parker.

  2. As I recall, Chaplin lasted only one film in Chicago, then moved to California, but I may have it backwards — will check all that before proceeding!

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