Edna Purviance

Active - 1915 - 2003  |   Born - Oct 21, 1894   |   Died - Jan 13, 1958   |   Genres - Comedy

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Biography by Hal Erickson

It is literally impossible to discuss the acting career of Edna Purviance without invoking the name of Charles Chaplin. Purviance was a secretary in San Francisco when she was selected by Chaplin to play his leading lady in his second Essanay short, A Night Out (1915). From that point onward, Purviance worked only for Chaplin, appearing as the object of his affections in such imperishable classics as Police (1916), The Vagabond (1916), Easy Street (1917), The Immigrant (1917), Shoulder Arms (1918), The Kid (1921), and The Pilgrim (1923). Reportedly, the professional relationship warmed into a personal one, with Purviance becoming the first of Chaplin's many lovers. Their ardor had cooled by 1923, though Chaplin continued taking a paternal interest in her career, attempting to establish her as a solo dramatic actress in A Woman of Paris (1923) and the never-released The Sea Gull (1923) (produced by Chaplin and directed by Josef von Sternberg). But by 1925, Purviance had lost interest in acting. Edna Purviance remained on Chaplin's payroll until the day she died; it has been written that she appeared as an extra in Chaplin's final American feature, Limelight (1952), but this is not borne out by either the production call sheets or by the film itself.

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