Lita Grey Chaplin

Active - 1933 - 1983  |   Born - Apr 15, 1908   |   Died - Dec 29, 1995   |   Genres - Comedy, Crime, Drama, Film, TV & Radio [nf]

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Although Lita Grey Chaplin's career only consisted of a very small handful of films, she became a celebrity because of her marriage -- and bitter divorce -- from Charlie Chaplin. Born Lillita Louise McMurray in 1908, she was discovered by the comedian in 1920. Chaplin's assistant director, Chuck Riesner, had hired the 12-year-old girl as an extra for the current Chaplin production, The Kid. Taken by her dark prettiness, Chaplin gave her a small role in the film as "The Flirting Angel," and an acting contract that ran out after Lillita and her mother appeared as extras in The Idle Class. A few years later the girl reappeared at the studios, and Chaplin wound up signing her up to play the part of the Dance Hall Girl in The Gold Rush. In addition to changing her name to Lita Grey, Chaplin took a very personal interest in the teenager. Before long she was pregnant, and her family insisted that Chaplin marry her. The filmmaker refused at first, but finally he consented. Georgia Hale took the part of the Dance Hall Girl in lieu of Lita, who retired from the screen to have Charlie Chaplin, Jr., the first of two boys she and Chaplin parented. A couple of years and many fights later, she left Chaplin and told her lawyer the intimate details of her marriage. The resulting divorce complaint was considered pretty racy stuff in 1927, and copies of it were being sold on street corners. Lita and her two boys wound up receiving a sizable settlement from Chaplin, but she squandered most of the money. In the '30s, she toured in a nightclub act. She also married, and divorced, twice more and for a while had a talent agency (David Janssen was one of her clients). In 1966, she published her memoirs, entitled My Life With Chaplin. At the time its intimate revelations were considered distasteful, but a decade later tell-all autobiographies were more than common -- they were practically expected. Lita died in 1995, having outlived her ex-husband Chaplin, and all his other wives.