Memoir Monday: The Little Tramp

“Feeling irresponsible, yet swelling with explicit urges, I pulled the panties down over my hips. Without a word, I conveyed the idea to Charlie that the fearfully timid Lita had been replaced—hopefully forever—by an unapologetic wildcat.”

That would be Lita Grey Chaplin, in Chapter Seven of her 1966 My Life with Chaplin: An Intimate Memoir. Or, more appropriately let’s say, that would be Morton Cooper, Lita’s “co-writer.”

Yes, we have finally settled on the first installment of Monday Memoir, in which we tell you more than you ever wanted to know about Old Hollywood’s sex life and the ladies involved.

First of all, we should be clear here: Lita Grey Chaplin went on the record as saying that this particular book was largely exaggerated. No doubt she needed to give the book-buying public a reason in 1995 to read her second version, Wife of the Life of the Party. “Two volumes of memoirs covering the same 10 years? Really?” readers unfamiliar with the wiles of old Hollywood actresses may wonder aloud. But you’d be amazed how many books those women were capable of churning out after the silver screen tarnished for them. Though one would be right in seriously questioning Lita’s celebrity. Even Chaplin himself never mentioned her by name in his autobiography. And don’t think that doesn’t come up here, because it does: Right there two pages after Lita has dedicated this “intimate memoir” to her sons.

Yep, that’s Lita with a wax figure of Charlie. Girl could not let it go!

All of that is beside the point! The point is the purple-prose-laden My Life with Chaplin, which is so sordid that I used to blush when I sneaked peeks at its pages in the public library. And Lita Grey, who married Charlie Chaplin when he impregnated her at 16 (notice the “Lita”/”Lolita” of it all?), can claim that she mostly exaggerated everything all that she wants, but many of the sexual claims in her book are the same that were in her divorce complaint, which was so shocking at the time that it was actually published and sold.

Want a taste?

“I was just about to step out of my shoes when he muttered, ‘No, wait. Keep them on.’ He pulled me down on top of him, encircled me with his arms and gripped me with fantastic strength. I kissed him with my tongue, teasing lightly at first and then driving deeper and deeper, with heightening intensity, into his mouth. His fingers found the clasp of my bra, released it, and thrust it away.”

Whoo, lawdy, are you sweating yet? Well JUST WAIT.

“He pushed me off and maneuvered his torso toward my mouth, urging me to do the thing I had refused to do so many times before. Less inhibited now than ever, I was on the verge of doing what he wanted, but at the last moment I turned my head away and refused again. Charlie tried once more, again without success, and then invaded me quickly and unceremoniously.”

After he climaxes (Lita does not, natch), he is immediately ready for another “bout,” as Lita calls it. Interesting choice of words, right? “I’m either lucky or divinely blessed,” Chaplin says at this point. “I’m a stallion, Lita, and you’d better resign yourself to it.”

YES, THAT IS AN ACTUAL LINE IN THE BOOK!

I mean, look: From all reports, Chaplin was a well-endowed gentleman who loved sex. But this? This reads like what it is: the Fifty Shades of Lita Grey, aimed at women who got hot and bothered by The Little Tramp.

I could go on and on. The night he quotes Fanny Hill in Lita’s ear, the post-pregnancy sexcapades they indulged in (when Lita finally achieved climax herself, which is practically accompanied by chirping sparrows), the ludicrous dinner party scene with Pola Negri, featuring dialogue straight from a D film. But I hold no fondness for Pola, while I do for one Miss Marion Davies (a future installment of Memoir Monday). And this is how Lita has her speak:

“‘Look, sugar, even if I was all for getting fixed up, what good would your fella do me? I’ve already spoken my piece about him—a great guy, sure, but nobody any dame in her right mind should get a hot case on because it couldn’t lead anywhere except the junkheap.”

Well fuck you, Lita Grey Chaplin. Or Morton Cooper. Marion Davies would never talk like a gum-chomping typist!

Next week, we look at Peggy Hopkins Joyce’s extremely rare 1930 memoir-in-diary-form Men, Marriage, and Me, which may or may not have had an effect on Anita Loos and a certain fictional blonde whom gentlemen preferred.

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