Edna Purviance (1895-1958)

Edna Purviance, Silent Film Actress

Charlie Chaplin’s Leading Lady

Silent movie actress Edna Purviance was born Olga Edna Purviance in Paradise, Nevada on October 21st, 1895 into a middle class family. Edna, her mother, and two sisters moved to Lovelock, Nevada and ran a boarding house after Edna’s father divorced her mother when she was a child. Edna played the piano professionally, enjoyed art and literature, and after graduating from high school in 1913 prepared to be a stenographer. She moved to San Francisco to live with her married sister while she worked in business. At the same time popular film comedian Charles Chaplin was looking for a new leading lady to star in his two reel comedies for Essanay Studio. He and friend Broncho Billy Anderson interviewed many show girls in San Francisco, but Charlie could not find that special girl with the qualities he was most interested in. An actor they met suggested the beautiful Edna, even though she had no acting experience at all. Charlie recalled the moment of their meeting in his 1964 autobiography:

“She was more than pretty, she was beautiful. At the interview she seemed sad and serious. I learned afterward that she was just getting over a love affair. I doubted whether she could act or had any humor, she looked so serious. Nevertheless, with these reservations we engaged her. She would at least be decorative in my comedies.”

Charlie Chaplin with beautiful Edna Purviance

Charlie went on to recall how he discovered Edna had a sense of humor to match her beauty. One night as the cast of their first picture together, “His Night Out” (1915), were socializing at a dinner party, Charlie boasted that he could hypnotize anyone present in a matter of minutes. Edna challenged him on his claim, and she came forward to be “hypnotized”. As Charlie was mumbling his hocus pocus to impress the cast, he moved closer towards Edna’s ear and whispered, “Fake it!” She dutifully did so, even though she could have won a ten dollar bet. This incident convinced Charlie that Edna was indeed very special and had a great sense of humor.

For several years Charlie and Edna had a romantic relationship while they made many memorable comedy shorts and films together, including “The Tramp” (1915), “Easy Street” (1917), “The Immigrant” (1917), “The Adventurer” (1917), and “Shoulder Arms” (1918), all of which solidified Charlie Chaplin’s screen image as “the little fellow” with the public. By the time Charlie had finished his classic film “The Kid” in 1921, Edna’s romance with Charlie off-screen was essentially over; however he remained fond of her for decades, giving her minor roles in some of his later features, and keeping her on the Chaplin payroll until 1952, when he left America to live in Switzerland with his wife Oona. Edna was married once, to John Squires, a Pan Am executive. She had no children. Edna Purviance died from throat cancer on January 11th, 1958 in Hollywood, California. ~ Copyright © 2004 www.goldensilents.com

Edna Purviance’s Silent Films

Éducation de prince (1927)
… aka Education of a Prince (1927) (International: English title)
Woman of the Sea, A (1926) …. Joan
… aka Sea Gull, The (1926) (USA: alternative title)
… aka Woman by the Sea, A (1926) (USA)
Woman of Paris, A (1923) …. Marie St. Clair
Pilgrim, The (1923) …. Girl
Pay Day (1922/I) …. Foreman’s Daughter
Idle Class, The (1921) …. Neglected Wife
… aka Vanity Fair (1921) (USA)
Kid, The (1921) …. Mother
Day’s Pleasure, A (1919) …. Mother
… aka Ford Story, A (1919) (USA)
Sunnyside (1919) …. Village Belle
Shoulder Arms (1918) …. French Girl
Triple Trouble (1918) …. Maid
… aka Charlie’s Triple Trouble (1918) (USA)
Dog’s Life, A (1918) …. Bar singer
Chase Me Charlie (1918) …. Edna Sugar-Plum
Adventurer, The (1917/I) …. The Girl
Immigrant, The (1917) …. Immigrant
… aka Broke (1917) (USA: 8mm release title (short version))
… aka Hello U.S.A. (1917) (USA)
… aka Modern Columbus, A (1917) (USA)
… aka New World, The (1917/I) (USA)
Cure, The (1917) …. The Girl
… aka Water Cure, The (1917) (USA)
Easy Street (1917) …. The Mission Worker
Rink, The (1916) …. The Girl
… aka Rolling Around (1916) (USA)
… aka Waiter (1916) (USA)
Behind the Screen (1916) …. The girl
… aka Pride of Hollywood, The (1916) (USA)
Essanay-Chaplin Revue of 1916, The (1916) …. The farmer’s daughter/Her sister
… aka Chaplin Revue of 1916, The (1916) (USA: alternative title)
Pawnshop, The (1916) …. His Daughter
… aka At the Sign of the Dollar (1916) (USA)
… aka High and Low Finance (1916) (USA)
Count, The (1916) …. Miss Moneybags
… aka Almost a Gentleman (1916) (USA)
Vagabond, The (1916) …. Girl Stolen by Gypsies
… aka Gipsy Life (1916) (USA)
Fireman, The (1916) …. Girl
… aka Fiery Circle, The (1916) (USA)
… aka Gallant Fireman, A (1916) (USA)
Floorwalker, The (1916) …. Manager’s Secretary
… aka Shop (1916) (USA)
… aka Store, The (1916)
Burlesque on Carmen (1916) …. Carmen
… aka Charlie Chaplin’s Burlesque on Carmen (1916) (USA: complete title)
Police (1916) …. Daughter of the House
… aka Charlie in the Police (1916) (USA)
… aka Charlie the Burglar (1916)
… aka Housebreaker (1916)
Burlesque on Carmen (1915) …. Carmen
… aka Charlie Chaplin’s Burlesque on Carmen (1915) (USA: complete title)
Night in the Show, A (1915) …. Lady in the Stalls
… aka Charlie at the Show (1915)
… aka Night at the Show, A (1915)
Shanghaied (1915) …. Daughter of the Shipowner
… aka Charlie Shanghaied (1915) (USA)
… aka Charlie on the Ocean (1915)
… aka Charlie the Sailor (1915)
Bank, The (1915) …. Secretary
… aka Charlie Detective (1915)
… aka Charlie at the Bank (1915)
… aka Charlie in the Bank (1915) (USA)
Woman, A (1915/I) …. Daughter of the House
… aka Charlie the Perfect Lady (1915) (USA)
… aka Perfect Lady, The (1915)
Work (1915) …. Maid
… aka Charlie at Work (1915)
… aka Charlie the Decorator (1915) (USA)
… aka Only a Working Man (1915)
… aka Paperhanger, The (1915)
… aka Plumber, The (1915)
By the Sea (1915) …. Young Wife
… aka Charlie by the Sea (1915) (USA)
… aka Charlie’s Day Out (1915)
Tramp, The (1915) …. Farmer’s Daughter
… aka Charlie on the Farm (1915) (USA)
… aka Charlie the Hobo (1915)
… aka Charlie the Tramp (1915) (USA)
Jitney Elopement, A (1915) …. Girl
… aka Charlie’s Elopement (1915)
… aka Married in Haste (1915)
In the Park (1915) …. Nursemaid
… aka Charlie in the Park (1915)
… aka Charlie on the Spree (1915)
Champion, The (1915) …. Trainer’s Daughter
… aka Battling Charlie (1915)
… aka Champion Charlie (1915)
… aka Charlie the Champion (1915) (USA)
Night Out, A (1915/I) …. His Wife
… aka Champagne Charlie (1915)
… aka Charlie’s Drunken Daze (1915) (USA)
… aka Charlie’s Night Out (1915) (USA)
… aka His Night Out (1915) (USA)

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