Sun. Dec 4th, 2022

It’s a Hollywood custom {that a} soda fountain is the place goals of film stardom come true, particularly in case you’re younger and exquisite.

Probably the most repeated story of this sort was that of actress Lana Turner who was “found” in 1937 at a soda fountain after skipping class at Hollywood Excessive.

But it surely wasn’t the primary incident of that kind, at the least in accordance with a kind of concerned. Merna Kennedy years later instructed of the shock she and one other 14-year-old received whereas sitting at a Los Angeles soda fountain in 1923 ready for a journey house from dance courses.

The red-haired Kennedy, only a few years after attending a San Bernardino elementary faculty, and her pal have been shocked to see silent film star Charlie Chaplin stroll into the place, she instructed the Los Angeles Night Specific of Nov. 1, 1929.

Merna Kennedy, who spent a part of her youth within the Inland Empire, and Charlie Chaplain carry out within the 1928 silent movement image, “The Circus.” (Picture courtesy Roy Export S.A.S.)

Not surprisingly, Chaplin, infamous for his consideration to under-age women, observed them, too, and purchased them a delicate drink, in accordance with Kennedy. Each women would later play roles in Chaplin’s life.

The supply of that story was a 1929 newspaper interview of Kennedy, although there isn’t a point out of such an encounter in any of Chaplin’s biographies.

Kennedy’s pal that day was Lillita Louise MacMurray, who would take the stage title of Lita Gray and later turn out to be Chaplin’s spouse. Gray was associated to an historic determine domestically – she was the great-granddaughter of Dona Maria Merced Williams Rains, who together with her husband as soon as owned the historic Rancho Cucamonga John Rains Home.

For Kennedy, it will be solely three years after this opportunity encounter that she received the possibility of a lifetime – starring with Chaplin in one among his extra profitable silent motion pictures, “The Circus.”

That movie was a excessive level of the temporary movie profession for Kennedy whose rise and fall from fame had a good variety of bumps and turns.

She was born Myrna or Merna Kahler in Illinois and was 2 when her dad and mom separated. Her mom moved her and a brother to Texas and at last to San Bernardino, the place Merna spent at the least the sixth grade at now-closed Base Line Faculty. At that very same time, her mom married Thomas G. Kennedy, who was within the produce enterprise in San Bernardino, reported the Solar newspaper, March 3, 1926.

“Merna used to speak concerning the days when she could be a musical comedy star,” Juliet Weir, who turned pals together with her at Base Line Faculty, instructed the Solar in 1926. “She had a beautiful voice and great character and she or he in all probability may go so far as she wished to on the stage.”

Pushed alongside by her mom in San Bernardino, the 8-year-old Merna turned an everyday act on the Orpheus vaudeville circuit, dancing and singing whereas accompanied by her older brother Merle. A Los Angeles Occasions commercial on Dec. 21, 1917, billed her as “The Little Sunshine Woman,” as she was to carry out at Los Angeles’ Pantages Theater, in 2:30, 7 and 9 p.m. reveals.

The household later moved to Los Angeles the place she took “Kennedy” as her final title. It was there she was adamant a couple of disinterest in schoolwork. She recalled being despatched to the principal’s workplace at Los Angeles Excessive Faculty in 1925 and “was instructed to not come again. ‘I by no means intend to,’ I stated. ‘I’m going to the stage.’ ”

And that’s simply what occurred. Not lengthy after her first assembly with Chaplin, Kennedy received a key half in a play, “All For You,” at Los Angeles’ Mason Opera Home. Her pal Gray, now married to Chaplin, got here together with her husband to look at the present.

Afterward, Kennedy stated Chaplin supplied to present her a display check and later signed her to a contract.  “The Circus” took greater than two years to movie, partially as a consequence of a September 1926 fireplace at Chaplin’s studio on La Brea Avenue, and the star’s reluctance to work very exhausting. Kennedy was 17 when filming started.

“His studio was an everyday summer time resort,” Kennedy instructed the Specific. “He works solely when he’s within the temper. We by no means labored within the morning.”

Contributing to the sluggish manufacturing was a divorce submitting by Lita Gray Chaplin. The “Hollywood’s wagging tongues” (gossip columnists) reported her suspicion that Kennedy and different well-known actresses have been romantically concerned together with her husband. Kennedy denied that, telling the Specific, “I used to be only a sufferer of circumstances, nothing extra.”

After being delayed by the divorce actions, “The Circus,” with Kennedy taking part in a bareback circus rider, lastly debuted in New York on Jan. 6, 1928. It opened Jan. 27 at Grauman’s Chinese language Theater in Hollywood, the place Chaplin and Kennedy took the stage and have been launched earlier than the primary displaying. The movie remained there for a variety of months – an estimated 250,000 theatergoers noticed it there by means of March.

It was first proven domestically on the West Coast Theater in San Bernardino on Might 21, then in different native theaters, reminiscent of Pomona and Chino, in July.

Her “beautiful crimson hair and interesting inexperienced eyes {photograph} darkish, however her character is delightfully efficient, and she or he proves … probably the most passable main girl the star has had for a while,” wrote the Solar’s Sue Bernardine following the native opening.

Chaplin acquired a particular award in the course of the subsequent Academy Awards for his writing, appearing and directing of “The Circus.”

It could be the one film that Kennedy did with Chaplin.  She would seem in two different silent motion pictures and 26 talkies between 1929 and 1936, being the uncommon actor to make a passable transition between the 2 types. Her previous few appearances, nevertheless, have been principally minor roles.

She did make a return to San Bernardino on Sept. 20, 1929, for the lavish dedication and opening of the Fox Theater becoming a member of a listing of stars together with Cary Grant and Robert Montgomery, reported the Solar the next day.

She was again within the information when she married Busby Berkeley, the movement image dance director, in 1934. Two years later, Kennedy filed for divorce, asking the courts to award her a $3,000 a month settlement. She ended up getting far much less within the trial whose particulars flooded the gossip columns.

Kennedy received herself in print once more on Might 5, 1938, with a weird public filming of herself studying her final will and testomony. She claimed this “preview” would make it potential to course of her will with none dispute upon her loss of life. She additionally took benefit of the eye to announce plans to return to movement footage, which by no means occurred.

Lastly, her life got here to a really sudden finish on the age of solely 35 whens he died of a coronary heart assault on Dec. 20, 1944. Her loss of life in Hollywood got here a day after coming back from Las Vegas the place she had married a soldier, Sgt. Forrest Brayton, solely three days earlier.

She is buried together with her brother at Inglewood Park Cemetery in Inglewood.  About 300 individuals attended her funeral service, which included flowers despatched by Charlie Chaplin.

Assist wished

The Historic Society of the Pomona Valley is looking for volunteers to assist with faculty excursions of the Palomares Adobe in Pomona.

Faculty excursions of the adobe are carried out for small teams on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. These ought to ship an e mail to [email protected] or name 909-623-2198.

eighth Surprise

The Massive Bear Valley Historic Society has put collectively an attention-grabbing video on the historical past of the 1883 Massive Bear Lake rock dam and its influence on the early years of town of Redlands.

Rick Keepler and Mark Durban assembled the video, “The Eighth Surprise of the World at Massive Bear Lake,” which is on FaceBook (Massive Bear Mountain Historical past Group) in addition to on YouTube:

Joe Blackstock writes on Inland Empire historical past.  He could be reached at [email protected] or Twitter @JoeBlackstock. Try a few of our columns of the previous at Inland Empire Tales on Fb at

By Admin

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