Today in History (1918): Charlie Chaplin and Mildred Harris Tie the Knot


Hollywood actors Charlie Chaplin and Mildred Harris have both remarried a few number of times in their respective lifetimes, but they were each other’s first spouse.

Photos via Silent Hollywood and Dr. Macro’s High Quality Scans

Chaplin and Harris met when she was 16 years old and he, 29. The two dated, and when the 17-year old Harris told him that she was pregnant, Chaplin readily agreed to avoid controversy. But her claim turned out to be just a false alarm, although soon after their wedding, Harris did get knocked up and gave birth to a boy who they named Norman Spencer Chaplin the following year. Unfortunately, Norman was born malformed and died only three days later.

By the time the couple met, Chaplin was already an established actor while Harris had likewise gained some level of popularity since she started her career as a child actress. One of her notable films as a young actress was “Intolerance” (1916), where she appeared in when she was 15.

Photo via Chaplin: A Life

But dissatisfaction with the marriage seemed strong from both sides. On the website Chaplin: A Life by Stephen M. Weismann, Chaplin was said to have felt that Harris “conned him into marrying her by falsely claiming she was pregnant.” He was further quoted to have said:

Mildred was a pretty thing—not breathtaking…[or] overly bright, but she had a way about her that made me think I could do something for her, educate her, wake her up…I tried and she seemed willing…[but]…it didn’t work. I was very fond of her, and we got married…for a while I kept hoping she wouldn’t let go of her youth—the spirit of youth, the spirit of being gay and forever incorruptible—but she lost it…she turned out to be as selfish and cynical as a brawling fishwife.

On the other hand, Mildred stated:

it [was] hard…to be the wife of a genius…I did not always understand him and I felt inferior to him. He was short tempered, impatient and treated me like a cretin. Yet I still admire him. He could have taught me so much.

Charlie Chaplin with Alla Azimova, his wife’s suspected lover, in 1919. Photo via BFI

Chaplin and Harris’ union was short-lived at a mere 18 months. The actor reportedly claimed that Harris had an affair with actress Alla Nazimova, while Harris said that she suffered “mental cruelty” from him. Chaplin was said to have once stated that they were “irreconcilably mismated,” and even felt that their marriage hindered his creativity. Their divorced was finalized in November 1920.

All information in this article were sourced from the Charlie Chaplin and Mildred Harris pages on Wikipedia, and Chaplin: A Life.

Like this article? Check out the Icons in Focus and Today in History series in the Lomography magazine!

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*Fast Facts on Charlie Chaplin*

*Today in History: Charlie Chaplin is Born (1889)*

*American Masters: Charlie Chaplin*

*Charlie Chaplin Portraits In Black & White Without His Trademark Moustache*

*Charlie Chaplin without his moustache smiling and looking at his 'tramp doll'*

written by chooolss on 2013-10-23 #lifestyle #wedding #marriage #hollywood #divorce #charlie-chaplin #today-in-history #mildred-harris #norman-chaplin

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