Granville Redmond, California Poppy Field
40 x 60 inches, oil on canvas
Collection of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, gift of Raymond Griffith

Granville Redmond teaching
Charlie Chaplin sign language.

 

Going
Hollywood


By 1915, Granville Redmond had established his position as one of the most respected landscape painters in California. He was critically acclaimed and financially successful.

Then came world war, and the art market evaporated.

"Redmond had an incurable disease known as 'instinct for survival,'" wrote the art critic of the Los Angeles Times. "Like the rest of us, he wanted to keep right on eating three meals a day."

Redmond's instincts had served him well in developing excellent communication skills, despite his deafness and his inability to speak. He had mastered sign language and pantomime, and had a ready smile and handsome, expressive features.

So in 1917 he decided to return from Northern California to Los Angeles and become an actor in the newly emerging world of silent movies. He met Charlie Chaplin and formed a life-long friendship. Redmond appeared in seven of Chaplinís films, including "A Dogís Life" and "City Lights." He taught Chaplin sign language.

Since there was plenty of time to paint between takes, Chaplin encouraged Redmond to establish a painting studio within Chaplinís English Village studio complex. That studio within a studio would be Redmondís artistic home for the rest of his life. Chaplin, who preferred the silent world, would steal away for hours and watch him paint.

"Redmond paints solitude, and yet by some strange paradox the solitude is never loneliness," Chaplin told an interviewer. "Sometimes I think that the silence in which he lives has developed in him some great capacity for happiness in which we others are lacking."

His Hollywood connection gave Redmond not only new work as an actor, but also a new and monied audience for his paintings. Chaplin got first choice, and over the next two decades he acquired a large collection of Redmond's work, as did others in the Chaplin studio.

In 1921 Redmond appeared in "The Three Musketeers" with Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford, and several of his paintings went home with them to Pickfair, their legendary Beverly Hills estate. In 1926 Redmond played a deaf valet in Raymond Griffith's "You'd Be Surprised." Griffith acquired one of Redmond's major poppy paintings, which he later gave to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, where it hangs today.


Granville Redmond and Charlie Chaplin may soon appear on stage together again. Steve Hauk, who owns Hauk Fine Arts in Pacific Grove, California, has written a Chaplinesque play celebrating their friendship through drama, comedy, music and mime. "The Floating Hat" has attracted interest on both coasts and Hauk is optimistic it will be produced soon.



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