Saturday, March 19, 2016

Famous Teleiophile: Charlie Chaplin's Teen Brides

Lillita (Lita) McMurray first met Chaplin on April 15, 1914 - her 6th birthday. After Lita's mother spotted Chaplin sitting in the rear of a restaurant, she asked the owner, “Do you think it would disturb Mr. Chaplin if my daughter were introduced to him?” The owner replied, “[...] I'm sure it'll be all right. He's very flattered when the children want to meet him, but he's shy of grownups” And it was all right. Upon meeting Lita Chaplin opined, “Hasn't she lovely dark eyes and hair?”

By the time Lita was 12, the “incredibly shy” Chaplin had become one of the most famous men on the planet and arguably the most famous man in the United States which is why when 29-year-old Chaplin married 16-year-old Mildred Harris he only “drew gasps and condemnations only from a small section of the public.”

12-year-old Lillita 'Lita Grey' McMurray in The Kid (1921)

Lita met Chaplin again six years later after Chuck Riesner, Chaplin's assistant director, offered Lita a small but controversial part in The Kid. When Lita visited Chaplin's studio to the sign the contract, she was offered the opportunity to meet Chaplin. In anticipation of meeting him, the previous day Lita stood “in front of her full-length mirror, melodramatically posing and admiring [her] developing breasts.” Chaplin, in his mid-thirties, opined to 13-year-old Lita, “You're an extremely pretty child, my dear and I'm glad Mr. Riesner found you.”

After Chaplin had a company artist paint a likeness of Lita similar to the girl in Sir Joshua Reynolds' 'Age of Innocence', Lita began to “catch” Chaplin looking at her with a “rapt expression”. She wrote “It was an expression I couldn't define, but it made me feel strange.” After Chaplin showed Lita the painting he confessed, “I've been peeking at you, my dear, when you haven't been looking. I've been more and more drawn to those fascinating eyes of yours. They're so very young […] And only twelve years old! Amazing!

Using a seduction technique that Royal encouraged in The Pimp Game, one that Robert Beck shared in Iceberg Slim, The Lost Interviews and one that the Milner's discovered in Black Players, The Secret World of Black Pimps, Lita wrote that Chaplin “had a reputation for hibernating after a picture” and that after The Kid was completed she “[...] saw Chaplin rarely or not at all.” She shared “I discovered myself missing him, missing the fuss he made over me […] I had developed a twelve-year-old's crush on him and I could hardly wait to see him again.”

Chaplin and Lita

On the first day back at the studio after the New York premier of The Kid, Chaplin invited Lita, unchaperoned, to a birthday party for Mae Collins at his home; however, Lita's mother overheard the conversation, rejected the invitation and “steered” Lita home. Subsequently, Chaplin gave Lita and her mother the “cold shoulder” and at the end of the year, Lita's option on her contract was not picked up.

Lita shared that as she was nearing her 15th birthday, sex was “uppermost” in her mind “a great portion of the time”. Thus, Lita was enthralled by the stories that her good friend Merna Kennedy shared. Merna who was approximately five months younger than Lita had “brick-red hair, fair skin and blue eyes”. Lita pleaded with Merna “Gee, I'm hardly fifteen!” Merna replied, “If you're big enough, you're old enough.” Merna shared with Lita that she had lost her virginity at the age of 13 and, subsequently, had sex with “five boys and one man”.

Merna and Chaplin

By 15, Lita, although still a virgin, had become self-assured enough to pursue a role in Chaplin's The Gold Rush. After Lita got the part, she had “wishful daydreams” of Chaplin making love to her. She was certain that it would never happen since her mother was “zealously against” it. However, she was “[...] consumed by the fantasy of being held and kissed and protected by Charlie.”

Lita recalled the moment that it became “incontestably clear” that Charlie was sexually attracted to her as well. It was “at lunch in the dining car on the way to Truckee [to shoot scenes for The Gold Rush].” She wrote “Charlie was lunching with two studio workers at his table, and Mama and I were lunching at the table directly across the narrow aisle. He glanced up and saw me, and from the way he looked at me I suddenly got the feeling that he was seeing me for the first time – and that he very much approved of what he saw. All the guardedness, all his reserve was stripped away, and his distinctly intimate gaze sent erotic waves across the aisle that a shiver tore through me.”

While in Truckee, Lita was told by Henry Bergman, “Charlie wonders why you haven't dropped by to say hello.” 15-year-old Lita, with her mother bedridden with the flu, almost immediately sauntered to 35-year-old Chaplin's room. Here is a summary of what took place after some bantering:
Chaplin's hands circled Lita's waist and pulled the nymphet closer to him. Then he “roughly” pushed her onto the bed before he kissed her mouth and neck and caressed her body. Lita asked Chaplin, who was in a pair of red silk pajamas, to, “Please...stop...”, but he covered her “mouth with a deep-drawn kiss.” and clutched her breast “with almost brutal force.” Lita pleaded with Chaplin to stop, which he did, but forewarned Lita, “I'm going to make love to you. When the time and the place is right, we're going to make love.”
Despite Chaplin's aggression and Lita's (dis)pleasure with Chaplin's hour of “erotic scrutiny”, Lita decided that if she and Chaplin were alone again, she would be “[…] ready for him. Eagerly ready.”

After they arrived back in Los Angeles, Chaplin convinced Lita's mother to allow Lita to be seen with him in public as her protégée for publicity purposes. He assured her that they would not be attending “premieres and dinner parties alone” but that his fiancée, Thelma Morgan Converse, would be the third wheel. Lita's mother agreed, but even Lita knew that her mother “was making a big mistake”.

Consequently, Chaplin was able to get Lita alone at the Santa Monica Swimming Club, where he went to relax. He brushed Lita's ear and neck with his lips before he lowered Lita's bathing suit straps and palmed her “tingling breasts in his palms.” Lita “aggressively” threw her arms around Chaplin and hugged him - “bringing him closer”. Chaplin then “peeled” the bathing suit completely off of Lita and muttered to himself, “Beautiful, incredibly beautiful...” However, after Chaplin lowered himself and began “moving with small, steady increases of force”, Lita pleaded, “No. Oh, I can't, I can't!” But after Chaplin informed Lita that the pain would have quickly ceased after her hymen broke, Lita asked, “Why-didn't you keep on, then?” Charlie sympathetically replied, “Because you were so fearful.”

After dinner at Musso Frank's Restaurant, in the back seat of Chaplin's large limousine, Chaplin's “soft hand dug into the bodice” of Lita's dress, “[h]is other hand darted under” Lita's skirt and “danced” up her thigh until it found her “underpants”. Chaplin “found his way to the top of the elastic banded underpants, and wordlessly he yanked them down”; however, the pain was still too intense for Lita. Thus, once again Chaplin mercifully stopped.

But three days later Charlie announced that he had a “blistering headache”, dismissed everyone except Lita and (fully) took her virginity in the steam room of Chaplin's Cove Way mansion. Lita wrote “The pain blinded me far more than the encircling steam, but I writhed wildly, as though in ecstasy […] I was fifteen, but I felt younger than fifteen.”

In addition, Lita wrote about Chaplin's ephebophilia. She shared “It's hardly a secret that Charlie had a penchant for young girls. He approached them as projects, and indeed, cared for them. He liked to cultivate them, to gain their trust, to be their first-never their second or third lover, and to create them as scrupulously as he created a motion picture. To me he admitted his preference for the company of inexperienced girls over experienced women. '[…] The most beautiful form of human life is the very young girl just starting to bloom [...]'”

Minutes after Chaplin unsuccessfully attempted to have Lita perform fellatio, Lita “heard the doorknob squeak in turning.” Lita's mother “tottered weakly into the room” and found them in the nude “in each other's arms”.

Lita defended Chaplin by “insisting” she was the one who aggressively pursued him. She resented “being treated like a put-upon little angel who'd had no part in the seduction”.

However, Lita's mother insisted that Chaplin marry her daughter or she threatened to alert the authorities. In an effort to avoid going to the penitentiary for statutory rape, “prematurely graying” Chaplin fled to Mexico in 1924 with pregnant Lita for an impromptu wedding that would be his second marriage to a 16-year-old. Lita wrote that after the ceremony she overheard Chaplin say to a lieutenant, “Well, this is better than the penitentiary, I guess, but it won't last.” And on the train ride back to California, Chaplin matter-of-factly yet almost compassionately told his new bride, “This would be a good time for you to put an end to your misery. Why don't you jump?”

Chaplin was correct. It didn't last. Two years, two children, four affairs (Ed Purviance, Peggy Hopkins, Marion Davies and Lita's young friend Merna) and two children later, Judge Walter Guerin awarded the children a $100,000 trust fund and Lita $625,000 in the divorce settlement.

Mildred Harris

Mildred Harris, Chaplin's first nymphet wife, did not write a book; therefore, there are not many details about their marriage; but, it appears to be similar to Lita's marriage. Chaplin and Harris were married after Chaplin was under the impression that 16-year-old Harris was pregnant. However, two years, one baby, who died three days after birth, and two accusations of infidelity later, Harris was awarded a $100,000 divorce settlement.

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