Hollywood legend Charlie Chaplin passed away on Christmas Day 1977 and was interred in the cemetery at Corsier-sur-Vevey, near Lausanne, on the shores of Lake Geneva in Switzerland. Two months later, a thirty-eight year-old Bulgarian named Gancho Ganev, and a twenty-four year-old Polish petty criminal, Roman Wardas, prised his coffin from the ground (with Charlie still inside) – and stole it! It was ten more weeks before the body-snatchers contacted the Chaplin family and demanded a $600,000 ransom in exchange for the return of the famous corpse. When the family refused to negotiate, Wardas threatened to shoot Geraldine Chaplin’s younger brother and sister if his demands were not met. Still the family refused to negotiate, so the kidnappers reduced the ransom to $250,000.
They would call again at 9.30 am on a particular morning with their final demand. The police immediately monitored all two hundred telephone kiosks in the Lausanne area, and captured Wardas as he was on the phone to the Chaplins. Ganev was arrested soon after. The two men had forgotten precisely where they had re-buried Charlie’s coffin, so it took some time to locate the exact spot. Wardas and Ganev were convicted of ‘disturbing the peace of the dead’, and of trying to extract a ransom. Wardas was sentenced to four and a half years of hard labour; his older accomplice was given a suspended sentence of eighteen months. Charlie was re-buried in the same cemetery from which he had been stolen. This time, his grave was sealed with a thick slab of concrete.
HOLLYWOOD STUDIO CLUB
The fabled Hollywood Studio Club (dubbed by cynics as the ‘Hollywood Nunnery’), was formed in 1916 by a group of aspiring actresses, so they would be able to read plays together. In fact, they first met in the Hollywood Public Library. In 1925, however, with the backing of Mary Pickford and Mrs. Cecil B. DeMille, supported by donations from Gloria Swanson, Douglas Fairbanks, Harold Lloyd and Howard Hughes, the club moved into a three-story Spanish-style building on Lodi Place, not far from Sunset & Vine, where it was run by the YMCA. It soon became sought after as a home for young Hollywood women involved in all aspects of show business. Actresses, script girls, make-up artists, casting directors, secretaries, etcetera, could live there once they had provided bona fide references. Once in residence, they could pool information about auditions, rehearse, study, and generally further their careers. In the midst of everything was the notice board, where agents, producers and directors posted news of up-coming auditions etc.
Among those future stars that resided at the Studio Club at some stage were such luminaries as Marilyn Monroe, Kim Novak, Dorothy Malone, Evelyn Keyes, Donna Reed, Rita Moreno, Barbara Eden and the ill-fated Sharon Tate. Anything up to a hundred girls lived at the club from time to time, all of them subject to a stringent set of rules. Back in the 1950s they paid fourteen dollars a week rent. This covered their room, a telephone answering service, a cleaner twice a week, and two meals a day, usually breakfast and dinner. No-one had time to stop for lunch. Men, (of any age), were strictly forbidden from entering any of the girls’ rooms! If any girl missed the midnight curfew she was promptly locked out of her room. It is generally believed that Marilyn Monroe, after having trouble raising her rent money, agreed to pose nude for the calendar that made her famous!
Warren Beatty & Faye Dunaway in Bonnie & Clyde (1967)
Warren Beatty was initially a producer only on Bonnie and Clyde (1967). As such he wanted his sister, Shirley MacLaine to play Bonnie and singer Bob Dylan (believe it or not) for the Clyde role. Once Beatty himself opted to play Clyde, however, he of course dropped his sister and went for Faye Dunaway as Bonnie. The movie was a massive success for Warner Brothers, although Jack Warner and almost everyone at the studio expected it to ‘bomb’. In fact, Beatty was given a choice between accepting his salary as leading man in it, or a 40% slice of the gross return. He chose the latter and pocketed $28 million of the $70 million it grossed. Faye, on the other hand, was paid $60,000, $25,000 of which she surrendered to have her name placed above the title alongside Beatty’s!
Youngsters Sean Penn and Elizabeth McGovern
Elizabeth McGovern is probably best known to today’s audiences for her role as Cora Crawley, Countess of Grantham, in the hit TV series Downton Abbey (2010-2015). Readers may be surprised to learn that she is also a guitarist/vocalist in her own band called ‘Sadie & the Hotheads’, formed back in 2007. In fact, in July 2013, the band opened for Sting at the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland. Elizabeth plays an electric Rickenbacker guitar. Back in 1984, she made a film titled Racing with the Moon and fell in love on the set with her co-star Sean Penn. They were even engaged to be married for a time. In 1985, however, he wed singer Madonna. Elizabeth has been married to director/producer Simon Curtis since 1992.
Jon Pertwee, the third man to play the doctor in the BBC series Doctor Who, was fortunate indeed to survive World War Two. He was appointed as an RNVR officer to HMS Hood, but was returned to shore duty shortly before the vessel sailed off to be sunk by the German raider Bismarck in May of 1941. There were only three survivors of Hood’s compliment of 1,421 officers and crew! Pertwee was also a close friend of osteopath Stephen Ward, a key figure in the John Profumo – Christine Keeler scandal in the UK during the 1960s. Ward’s reputation was destroyed by the scandal and he committed suicide. Pertwee, however, defended his friend’s reputation until his death in 1996.
Faye & Warren at the 2018 Oscars Ceremony
At the 2018 Oscars ceremony, Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway were chosen to announce the Best Picture winner. He handed her the envelope and she incorrectly announced La La Land, instead of Moonlight as the winner. The Price-Waterhouse accountant, distracted whilst sending messages on his phone, had handed Beatty the wrong envelope, the one containing the list of nominees instead of the winner. Faye had simply read the one listed first as the winner. Later, at an awards party, she was heard to say, ‘Well, I sure fucked that up, didn’t I?’