Niles California displays its understanding and appreciation that one of the most iconic comic figures in motion picture history was created in Niles by hosting a Chaplin Days Festival every June. It can be argued that Chaplin’s similar tramp character appeared in several films before the five movies he made in Niles, but this sleepy town near Fremont put him on the map, and his little tramp walking down a lonely road in Niles Canyon is folklore. At the top is a flickr.com image of Chaplin in Niles. Below, is a collection of Charlie Chaplins and leading ladies gathered for the Sunday’s second day of the festival. The girl in the black dress third from the left was a Paulette Goddard, Chaplin’s leading lady in ‘Modern Times’. The girl in the red hat was Edna Purviance, Charlie’s leading lady in the five movies he made in Niles.
The Essanay Studio where Chaplin worked: Notice the houses behind the studio, those were bungalows build for the actors and actresses working at the studio, and although some are remodeled, they are still there today and can be seen in the bottom picture. The studio was demolished in the 1930’s and a fire station occupies the spot today.
Charlie didn’t stay in the bungalows while in Niles. He spent his time at the main Niles hotel, and at this house where his leading lady Edna Purviance was staying. I ran this old picture before, but it’s worth a look at again. That’s Chaplin third from the left next to Edna Purviance, and the house they’re standing in front of today. The building on the right is the old Edison Studio where Chaplin originally premier his films in 1915. The theater has been restored, and Charlie’s films are shown in the same building during the festival and throughout the year.
The flag in Niles today on this Sunday when I was out there: “The show must go on.” seems fitting for the Chaplin performers.
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