Filled Under: Edna Purviance
“Mr. Chaplin asked me if I would like to act in pictures with him. I laughed at the idea, but agreed to try it. I guess he took me because I had nothing to unlearn and he could teach me in his own way. I want to tell you that I suffered untold agonies. Eyes seemed to be everywhere. I was simply frightened to death. But he had unlimited patience in directing me and teaching me.” ~ Edna Purviance
Edna Purviance was an American actress during the silent movie era. She was the leading lady in many of Charlie Chaplin’s early films and in a span of eight years, she appeared in over thirty films with him. She was born October 21, 1895 in Paradise Valley, Nevada to Louis and Madison Gates Purviance. When she was three, the family moved to Lovelock, Nevada, where they assumed ownership of a hotel property. Her parents divorced in 1902, and her mother later married Robert Nurnberger, a German plumber. As a child Purviance was a talented pianist. She left her home in Lovelock in 1913 and attended business college in San Francisco. In 1915 Edna Purviance was working as a secretary in San Francisco, when Chaplin was working on his second film with Essanay Studios in Niles, California. Chaplin was looking for a leading lady for “A Night Out” (1915) when one of his associates noticed Purviance at a Tate’s Café in San Francisco and thought she should be cast in the role. Chaplin arranged a meeting with her and although he was concerned that she might be too serious for comedic roles, she won the job. Purviance went on to appear in 33 of Chaplin’s productions, including “The Tramp” (1915), “The Immigrant” (1917), “Easy Street” (1917), “The Idle Class” (1921) and the 1921 classic “The Kid”. Her last film with him, “A Woman of Paris” (1923), was also her first lead role. Purviance went on to appear in two more films, “The Sea Gull”, which Chaplin never released, and “Education de Prince”, a French film released in 1927, just before she retired as an actress. Purviance has been credited as an extra in Chaplin’s final two American movies, “Monsieur Verdoux” (1947) and “Limelight” (1952).
Edna Perviance was romantically involved with Chaplin starting in 1915 but the relationship ended abruptly after he was forced into a shotgun wedding with teenager Mildred Harris in 1918. Nevertheless, Perviance continued to be his leading lady, with her sweet girlish on-screen demeanor being a great counterbalance to his rambunctious antics. It has been speculated by many that if they had married, Chaplin could have been spared much of the domestic troubles and scandals that later plagued him in his life. After Purviance retired in 1926, Chaplin continued to keep her on his payroll for decades, showing her much more concern and consideration than he did to any of his former wives.
Edna Purviance was married once, to John P. Squire in 1938. They remained married until his death in 1945.
Purviance died of throat cancer on January 11, 1958 at the age of 62 in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California and was interred at Grand View Memorial Park, Glendale, California, USA, in the West Mausoleum.