10 August 2020

Charlie Chaplin Secretly Edited and Sold "The Kid" While Residing at the Hotel Utah

Poster for “The Kid” from
Wikimedia commons
100 years ago, Charlie Chaplin sought legal refuge in SLC and secretly edited and sold his film “The Kid” while residing at the Hotel Utah.

Charlie Chaplin arrived in Salt Lake City on Saturday Aug 7 1920, although his presence was not discovered by the press until two days later. He had fled Los Angeles and the divorce proceedings of his first wife, Mildred Harris, who sought to stop him from selling his first feature length film “The Kid” and who considered it a marital asset.

A Utah law prevented Charlie Chaplin from being served the legal restraining papers which sought to stop the sale of the film. So, he took the first print and film negatives (reportedly stowed in coffee cans) and set up short-term residence in the Hotel Utah, located at 15 E South Temple (now the Joseph Smith Memorial Building), where he edited the film.

This was rather dangerous, and illegal, as the nitrate film stock was highly flammable and was not allowed in public buildings.

While in SLC, Chaplin successfully dodged the process servers and a continuance of the divorce case was made necessary.

Chaplin screened the film “The Kid” for the first time to a private audience at the SLC American Theatre at 241 S Main St. Once he successfully negotiated the sale of the film Chaplin left SLC, around the first week of Sept 1920. His divorce was granted the following month.

 Hotel Utah, 1911, From UDSH

Original Hotel Utah lobby prior to the 1974-1976 renovation, from UDSH.

Hotel Utah President’s Suite 1911, Did Chaplin sleep here? From UDSH.

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