Cinema Lumiere - Sala Scorsese > 09:00


Jerry Epstein
Introduced by

Brenda Watkinson and Frank Scheide


Wednesday 01/07/2015


Original version with simultaneous translation through headphones


Film Notes

I read Charlie my screenplay. In the film’s second half, Mr. Zero dies and is sent to the Elysian Fields. I became very excited by Charlie’s concept of Heaven. “You don’t want people floating on clouds, carrying harps around in a beautiful park. It’s so boring – if that’s what Heaven is like I’d cut my throat. Why don’t you make it like a huge fairground, with amusements, gambling, fun houses, hot dog’s and ice cream? That’s Heaven! […]
The filming of The Adding Machine went smoothly. Walter Lassally, the very fine cameraman who photographed Zorba the Greek, excelled himself. Sydney Chaplin played his old Circle role of Lieutenant Charles, the guardian in Heaven. I think it’s one of the best thing he’s done in films. My friendship with Sean Connery had by now blossomed. He was anxious to see the rushes. After viewing the Heaven sequences he commented, “You’re copying Ingmar Bergman”. I thought it was a great compliment. Charlie was in London. After taking one of our ritual drives we stopped at the Royal Festival Hall restaurant for coffee. The picture was finished, but I wasn’t sure of the title music. There, overlooking the Thames, Charlie improvised how it should sound. “Start out with some Gershwin to capture New York” – and he sang the opening bars of Rhapsody in Blue, pantomiming a trombone’s wah wah wah – “then, as you show scenes of people operating adding machines, get the feeling of automation and regimentation”. He began wrapping his fingers on the table, like a tom-tom. Over this, he intones “da da da da/da da da” and his beating increased in intensity. I remembered everything he sang and passed it on to our arranger. The opening title music on The Adding Machine is all by Chaplin.
The first time Charlie saw the film, I was sitting behind him in the theater, he had his handkerchief in his hand and he was weeping. He loved the picture.

Jerry Epstein, Remembering Charlie, Doubleday, New York 1989


Jerome ‘Jerry’ Epstein was just starting his influential Circle Theater in Los Angeles in 1946 when he first met Charlie Chaplin, and the two quickly became lifelong friends. His personal relationship with Lady Chaplin and the children also developed, through the years, into something quite unique, as reflected in the vast and interesting correspondence preserved by Association Chaplin. Epstein’s wit, his talent for recollection and anecdote offer a privileged point of view on Chaplin’s personal and professional life throughout the ‘Swiss years’. Reading Epstein’s letters clearly reveals to what extent Chaplin relied on him to overcome the obstacles involved in his ‘new beginning’ as a filmmaker in an unfamiliar environment and, for the first time in almost 40 years, with restricted artistic freedom. Assisting Chaplin in many capacities – assistant screenwriter and director, scouting and production manager, secretary and factotum – Epstein undeniably contributed to fill the emotional gap Chaplin must have experienced in leaving all his historical collaborators behind.
Written from the perspective of confidante, film collaborator and fellow victim of McCarthyism, Jerry Epstein’s 1989 book Remembering Charlie is one of the best biographies describing Chaplin’s life from 1946 to 1977. To produce this book Epstein shared his memories with film critic Geoff Brown through a series of audio taped interviews which Jerry’s secretary, Brenda Watkinson, transcribed. Thanks to Brenda Watkinson, Geoff Brown, and the late author’s estate, it was possible to compile a presentation featuring the voice of Jerry Epstein describing his own life and experiences with Charlie Chaplin up to and including the time he worked as an assistant producer on Limelight.

Cecilia Cenciarelli, Frank Scheide

Cast and Credits

Sog.: dalla pièce omonima di Elmer Rice. Scen.: Jerome Epstein. F.: Walter Lassally. M.: Gerry Hambling. Scgf.: Jack Shampan. Mus.: Mike Leander, Lambert Williamson. Int.: Milo O’Shea (Mr. Zero), Phyllis Diller (Mrs. Zero), Billie Whitelaw (Daisy Devore), Sydney Chaplin (luogotenente Charles), Julian Glover (Shrdlu), Raymond Huntley (Smithers), Phil Brown (Don), Paddie O’Neil (Mabel). Prod.: Associated London Films, Universal Pictures. 35mm. D.: 100’. Col.