Charlie Chaplin sign language.
By 1915, Granville Redmond had established his
position as one of the most respected landscape painters in California.
He was critically acclaimed and financially successful.
Then came world war, and the art market evaporated.
"Redmond had an incurable disease known as 'instinct for survival,'"
wrote the art critic of the Los Angeles Times. "Like the rest
of us, he wanted to keep right on eating three meals a day."
Redmond's instincts had served him well in developing excellent
communication skills, despite his deafness and his inability to
speak. He had mastered sign language and pantomime, and had a
ready smile and handsome, expressive features.
So in 1917 he decided to return from Northern California to Los
Angeles and become an actor in the newly emerging world of silent
movies. He met Charlie Chaplin and formed a life-long friendship.
Redmond appeared in seven of Chaplinís films, including "A Dogís
Life" and "City Lights." He taught Chaplin sign language.
Since there was plenty of time to paint between takes, Chaplin
encouraged Redmond to establish a painting studio within Chaplinís
English Village studio complex. That studio within a studio would
be Redmondís artistic home for the rest of his life. Chaplin,
who preferred the silent world, would steal away for hours and
watch him paint.
"Redmond paints solitude, and yet by some strange paradox the
solitude is never loneliness," Chaplin told an interviewer. "Sometimes
I think that the silence in which he lives has developed in him
some great capacity for happiness in which we others are lacking."
His Hollywood connection gave Redmond not only new work as an
actor, but also a new and monied audience for his paintings. Chaplin
got first choice, and over the next two decades he acquired a
large collection of Redmond's work, as did others in the Chaplin
In 1921 Redmond appeared in "The Three Musketeers" with Douglas
Fairbanks and Mary Pickford, and several of his paintings went
home with them to Pickfair, their legendary Beverly Hills estate.
In 1926 Redmond played a deaf valet in Raymond Griffith's "You'd
Be Surprised." Griffith acquired one of Redmond's major poppy
paintings, which he later gave to the Los Angeles County Museum
of Art, where it hangs today.
Granville Redmond and Charlie Chaplin may soon appear on stage
together again. Steve Hauk, who owns Hauk Fine Arts in Pacific
Grove, California, has written a Chaplinesque play celebrating
their friendship through drama, comedy, music and mime. "The Floating
Hat" has attracted interest on both coasts and Hauk is optimistic
it will be produced soon.
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