Drawing: Charlie Chaplin

Drawing of Charlie Chaplin
CHarlie Chaplin Autograph saying "Best Wishes, Charlie Chaplin"

I never met Charlie Chaplin. Neither, to the best of my knowledge, did Alfred Goldschlager, but he did acquire his signature. Alf started the collecting journey, begging opera singers for autographs as a teenager in his home town of Vienna before he fled the Nazi regime in 1938, bound for Australia via South America. It was an unfortunate detour, having his extensive and impressive collection, which included such notaries as Sigmund Freud, stolen in Paraguay. After establishing a successful timber business down under, Alf rekindled his interest in collecting.

In 1992, I was attending a Graphic Design conference in Melbourne. During a break, I wandered down Flinders Lane and came upon a quaint little shop full of historical documents, signed books, autographs and other curiosities. Inside I met Alf. He looked just like Geppetto, the woodcarver… maybe he was. He asked me if I was searching for anything in particular.
I mentioned a handful of names, but would love a Charlie Chaplin. He had one, at home in his private collection, but was willing to sell it to a suitable buyer.

Nirvana moment. I returned the next day, saw the Chaplin and a deal was done. I was now the custodian of a very precious piece, Charlie’s signature.

Charlie’s signature is written in fountain pen, the providence of which escaped me, but it looks 1920-30’s. He would often add a quick ‘Tramp’ doodle in those days. Alf closed his shop in 2006 when he turned 88 – the same age Charlie reached before he passed away in 1977. His iconic ‘tramp’ persona was a global phenomenon and is considered one of the most important figures in the history of the film industry.

Poverty and hardship dominated Charlie’s early life in London, where he started acting in music halls at a young age. At 19 he signed with the prestigious Fred Karno Company and travelled to America to begin working for the Keystone Studies. The rest as they say is history. He was a true auteur, who not only acted, but wrote the script and music, directed, produced and distributed most of his films, which are characterised by slapstick, mixed with pathos as the tramp struggles against adversity, often including social and political themes and autobiographical elements.

He received three Academy Awards, two Honorary and his only competitive Oscar for Best Original Score in 1973 for LIMELIGHT, twenty years after the film’s initial release. The previous year the Academy honoured him for, ‘The incalculable effect he has had in making motion pictures the art form of this century.’ He also received a Special Oscar at the first Academy Award ceremony in 1929 for acting, writing, directing and producing THE CIRCUS.

Since there is no tramp doodle with this signature, I drew a quick sketch of the Tramp to accompany Sir Charlie’s fine graph and inscription, as a tribute to his genius and this post as a thank you to Alf, who passed away in 2011.

Drawing: Freema Agyeman in Apologia

DOCTOR WHO’s Freema Agyeman made her West End debut last month in the revival of Alexei Kaye Campbell’s family drama APOLOGIA at the Trafalgar Studios. Known as Martha Jones,the Time Lord’s companion and Alesha Phillips in LAW & ORDER:UK, Freema plays Claire, the unrepentant girlfriend. Ironically she turned down a chance to debut on stage at the Donmar sixteen years ago for a role in the soap CROSSROADS, now appears for the first time on the London boards as a spirited soap star. She signed this sketch I drew at the stage door after a Saturday evening performance a few weeks ago.

Drawing: F Murray Abraham in The Mentor

Oscar winner F Murray Abraham returned to the London stage after a 21 year absence in THE MENTOR at the Vaudeville Theatre in June. Written by the German novelist Daniel Kehlmann and translated by Christopher Hampton, F Murray plays a tetchy older author clashing with a younger dramatist in a compelling and humorous study of creative anxiety.

As usual F Murray was generous with his time at the stage door and signed this drawing for me, before the play finished its run last week.

Drawing: Susan Hampshire

I was very pleased to receive my drawing of British actress Susan Hampshire back yesterday, signed and dedicated. I have been a big fan since I first saw her in Disney’s THE THREE LIVES OF THOMASINA in 1964. Most people will know her as Fleur in THE FORSYTE SAGA TV series for which she won the first of her three Emmy Awards. Susan’s most recent major role in a series was as Molly MacDonald, Lady of Glenbogle in MONARCH OF THE GLEN, which ran from 2000-2005.

Now 80 and retired from acting, Susan was thirty when she discovered she had dyslexia, which was the subject of her memoir ‘Susan’s Story’. She has been a prominent spokesperson for dyslexia ever since and was awarded an OBE by the Queen for her work. Along with my signed sketch, Susan also included a photo of herself with a very complimentary note about the drawing, so I’m extra pleased she liked it.

Drawing: Hilary Hahn

Consistently appearing in all the lists of the world’s greatest violinists is 37 year old American Hilary Hahn. The three-time Grammy Award winner is renowned  for her virtuosity , expansive interpretations and creative playing who champions contemporary music with several modern composers writing works especially for her, including Edgar Meyer and Jennifer Higdon.

Hilary started playing the violin one month before her 4th birthday and seven years a later made her major orchestral debut with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, beginning an extensive international career. In 2004 she recorded her first film score for M. Night Shyamalan’s THE VILLAGE, which received an Academy Award nomination. She plays a 1864 copy of Paganini’s Cannone violin by Vuillaume, which according to a recent interview, never leaves her sight. I drew this sketch of Hilary when she performed late last year at the Royal Festival Hall in London, but missed getting it signed. When she returned to the city last week for a one night performance at Wigmore Hall it gave me the opportunity to complete my mission.

Drawing: Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

“This is one of those rare occasions when play, performance and production perfectly coalesce,” wrote Michael Billington in his five-star Guardian review of Edward Albee’s landmark 1962 marital-crisis drama, WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF? at London’s Harold Pinter Theatre. The latest West End revival, directed by James Macdonald, stars Imelda Staunton, Conleth Hill, Luke Treadaway and Imogen Poots. All four along with the production received rave reviews from every major critic after it’s opening this week. Billington summed them up. “Imelda Staunton brilliantly embodies Edward Albee’s campus Medusa in the shape of Martha. Conleth Hill matches her every inch of the way as her seemingly ineffectual husband George.

This is, however a team show and the young couple are excellently portrayed.  Luke Treadaway as Nick combines the golden arrogance of youth with the smug disdain of the scientist for a battered old humanist like George. Imogen Poots in her West End debut, strikingly shows the child-like Honey, switching between awed delight in the older couple’s outrageousness and a growing awareness that she herself is a victim of Nick’s contempt.”  The four cast members signed my drawing as they arrived for the Saturday matinee last weekend.

Drawing: Gemma Arterton at the Apollo

gemma-nell-gwynn

British actress Gemma Arterton has been the subject for a number of my theatrical renderings and here’s another one. It must have something to do with the fact she has ‘art’ in her name. I drew two sketches of her as NELL GWYNN, one a single portrait and this montage of her as the the celebrated 17th century actress and mistress to Charles II, when she appeared in the Globe’s transfer of Jessica Swale’s play at the Apollo theatre last year.

She signed the portrait there and I was passing the Donmar Warehouse on Saturday and she happened to be outside the front doors signing after the final matinee performance of George Bernard Shaw’s SAINT JOAN after a two-month run. Following her triumph at the Apollo, Gemma’s portrayal of the feminist icon and spiritual warrior was equally acclaimed in the Josie Rourke-directed contemporary production. I also happened to still have this sketch in my folder, which she was happy to also sign.

Drawing: Kate O’Flynn in The Glass Menagerie

kate-oflynn

British award-winning actress Kate O’Flynn returns to the London stage in John Tiffany’s  elegant production of Tennessee Williams’s 1944 autobiographical breakthrough play,  THE GLASS MENAGERIE at the Duke of York’s theatre this month. It transfers from a sell-out run at last year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Kate plays Laura Wingfield, the frail, damaged daughter of  the bruised and brittle Southern matriarch Amanda, played by the formidable Broadway great Cherry Jones. Kate’s entrance through the middle of a sofa has been described as ‘unforgettable’ like the rest of her performance.

She signed my sketch on her way to the theatre for last Saturday’s matinee.

Drawing: Warwick Davis in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

warwick-davis

The 3′ 6″ STAR WARS and HARRY POTTER star Warwick Davis appeared as Prof in the Bristol Hippodrome festive season panto production of SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS in 2015. Warwick came to prominence as the Ewok Wicket in STAR WARS EPISODE VI RETURN OF THE JEDI and continued in THE PHANTOM MENACE, in three roles – Weael, Wald and the walking version of Yoda. In 2015 he returned in the sequel THE FORCE AWAKENS. Warwick was also part of the HARRY POTTER series, as Professor Filius Flitwick and Griphook. On the small screen he played a fictionalised version of himself in the sitcom LIFE’S TOO SHORT, written and directed by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant.

I sent this sketch of Warwick as Prof to the Bristol Hippodrome in December 2015 and it came back last week, signed and dedicated!

Drawing: Cordelia Braithwaite

cordelia-braithwaite

English ballerina Cordelia Braithwaite has been a regular with Sir Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures Company productions since 2013. In a few short years, the 23 year-old has played both the Italian and Spanish Princesses and the Girlfriend in Sir Matthew’s production of SWAN LAKE before playing Mercedes, Frankie and Lana in THE CAR MAN, followed by Aurora and Hibernia in SLEEPING BEAUTY. She is currently sharing the lead role of gifted ballerina Vicky Page with Ashley Shaw in THE RED SHOES, which completed a sell-out, two-month run at Sadler’s Wells, where she signed my sketch before embarking on a national tour.