Archiver > OBITUARIES > 2009-06 > 1244699609

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Subject: [OBITS] Mildred Harris Chaplin
Date: Thu, 11 Jun 2009 05:53:29 -0000

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Author: cantorjoeocho
Surnames: Chaplin,Harris,McGovern,Fleckenstein
Classification: obituary

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Mildred Harris
Born November 29, 1901(1901-11-29)
Cheyenne, Wyoming, U.S.
Died July 20, 1944 (aged 42)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Years active 1912-1944
Spouse(s) Charlie Chaplin
Everett Terrence McGovern
William P. Fleckenstein

Mildred Harris (November 29, 1901 - July 20, 1944) was an American actress of the silent film era.

Early life

Born in Cheyenne, Wyoming, Mildred Harris made her first screen appearances at the age of eleven in the Francis Ford and Thomas H. Ince directed 1912 Western film short The Post Telegrapher then went on to play a variety of juvenile roles, including turns in the Oz film series produced by The Wonderful Wizard of Oz author L. Frank Baum. She was a prominent child actor throughout the 1910s, often appearing opposite another juvenile actor, Paul Willis. She eventually graduated to leading lady assignments, working under the direction of such prominent filmmakers as Cecil B. DeMille and D. W. Griffith throughout the 1910s. In 1914, she was hired by The Oz Film Manufacturing Company to portray Fluff in The Magic Cloak of Oz and Button-Bright in His Majesty, the Scarecrow of Oz. Her contract was not signed until The Patchwork Girl of Oz was already in production and she did not, in spite of what some sources claim, appear in that film. In 1916, at the age of 15, Mildred Harris app!
eared in Griffith's colossal film epic Intolerance alongside another new teenaged Griffith protg, Carol Dempster. The two young starlets were cast by Griffith as Babylonian harem girls. They can also been seen in Griffith's 1919 re-edit of the Babylon story from "Intolerance", The Fall of Babylon.
Leading lady, first marriage and scandal

On October 23, 1918 she married actor Charlie Chaplin, a union which caused a scandal because Harris was sixteen years old and Chaplin was twenty-nine. The marriage was forced by a pregnancy claim on Harris' part which later turned out to be a false alarm. It is uncertain whether the claim was believed to be genuine, or a fabrication to trap Chaplin (who was having an affair with the underage Harris) into marriage. Soon after the marriage, Harris did become pregnant and gave birth to a son, Norman Spencer Chaplin on July 7, 1919, but the child was born extremely deformed and lived only three days. He was buried in the Inglewood Park Cemetery cemetery under a headstone with the inscription The Little Mouse.

The marriage lasted until 1921 and the divorce was heavily covered by the press with both Harris and Chaplin making scandalous claims against the other. Chaplin charged that Harris spent nights with noted Ukrainian lesbian film star Alla Nazimova; Harris claimed that Chaplin was abusive and a sexual sadist.

Cashing in on the failed marriage, producer Louis B. Mayer signed Harris to a series of films billing her as Mildred Harris-Chaplin, an exploitative decision that resulted in a much publicized public fistfight between Mayer and Chaplin on April 8, 1920 at the fashionable Alexandria Hotel in Los Angeles. The altercation ended with actor Jack Pickford escorting a bloodied Chaplin away. After her divorce from Chaplin, Harris had a brief well-publicized relationship with the Prince of Wales, Duke of Windsor (later King Edward VIII for less than a year).

The ensuing publicity helped Harris' acting career, and 1920's Polly of the Storm Country was a modest success. Harris also gave a notable performance in the 1928 Frank Capra directed silent drama The Power of the Press opposite Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. and Jobyna Ralston. The film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry. Other notable films of the Harris' silent film career include: The Courtship of O San and O Mimi San, both with Tsuru Aoki and Sessue Hayakawa (1914), Hoodoo Ann (1916), with Mae Marsh and Bobby Harron, The Inferior Sex, with Milton Sills (1919), The Daring Years, with Tyrone Power, Sr. and Clara Bow (1923), The Fog, with Louise Fazenda, Louise Dresser and Cullen Landis (1924), The Shadow of The East, opposite Norman Kerry and Josef Swickard (1924), Cruise of the Jasper B, opposite Rod La Rocque, and Mama Behave (1926) with Charley Chase.

Later marriages

In 1924, Mildred Harris married Everett Terrence McGovern. The union lasted until November 26, 1929 when Harris filed for divorce in Los Angeles, California on grounds of desertion. The couple had one child, Everett Terrence McGovern, Jr. in 1925. In 1934 She married William P. Fleckenstein in Asheville, North Carolina. The couple remained married until Harris' death in 1944.

Later career and "talkies"
Mildred Harris (center) in the 1921 Cecil B. DeMille directed Fool's Paradise. The film also starred Theodore Kosloff (l) and Conrad Nagel

Mildred Harris enjoyed a prolific film career in the 1920s and achieved leading lady status opposite such renowned film actors as: Conrad Nagel, Milton Sills, Lionel Barrymore, Rod La Rocque and the Moore brothers, Owen and Tom. Like so many of her silent screen peers however, Harris found the transition to talkies rather difficult. Among her few memorable roles of the talkie era was her critically lauded performance in the 1930 film adaptation of the Broadway musical No, No Nanette, opposite ZaSu Pitts, Louise Fazenda and Lilyan Tashman.

Modern day audiences will remember Harris' parody of a temperamental and demanding movie starlet (a role she played in real life only several years earlier) in the Three Stooges comedy, Movie Maniacs. Harris' starlet is in the process of receiving a pedicure when Curly Howard, in an effort to light his cigar, strikes a match on the sole of her foot, startling her.

As the 1930s continued however, Harris' career slowed dramatically. Harris tried for a second act in vaudeville and burlesque, at one point she toured with the comic Phil Silvers. Harris continued to work in film in the early 1940s, largely through the kindness of her former director Cecil B. DeMille, who cast her in bit parts in 1942's Reap the Wild Wind, and 1944's The Story of Dr. Wassell. Her last film appearance was in the 1945 motion picture Having A Wonderful Crime, which was released posthumously.

In 1944, Mildred Harris died unexpectedly of pneumonia at age 42 and was laid to rest at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Los Angeles, California.


For her contribution as an actress in the motion picture industry, Mildred Harris was given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6307 Hollywood Blvd. in Los Angeles, California.

In 1992, Mildred Harris was portrayed by Ukrainian-born actress Milla Jovovich in the Charlie Chaplin biopic, Chaplin.

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