Edna Purviance

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Edna Purviance
Edna Purviance The Blue Book of the Screen.jpg
Born (1895-10-21)October 21, 1895
Paradise Valley, Nevada
Died January 11, 1958(1958-01-11) (aged 62)
Hollywood, Los Angeles, California
Cause of death
Throat cancer
Resting place
Grand View Memorial Park Cemetery in Glendale, California
Years active 1915-1927
Spouse(s) John P. Squire

Edna Purviance (/ˈɛdnə pərˈvəns/; October 21, 1895 - January 11, 1958) 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.

Early life[edit]

Edna Purviance was born 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. Growing up, Purviance was a talented pianist. She left Lovelock in 1913, and attended business college in San Francisco.


Photoplay: The Aristocrat of Motion Picture Magazines 1915

In 1915 Edna Purviance was working as a secretary in San Francisco, when Chaplin was working on his second film with Essanay Studios, working out of Niles, California, one hour southeast of San Francisco, in Southern Alameda County. He was looking for a leading lady for A Night Out, and 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.[1]

Chaplin and Purviance were romantically involved during the making of his Essanay, Mutual, and First National films of 1915–1917. Purviance appeared in 33 of Chaplin's productions, including the 1921 classic The Kid. Her last film with him, A Woman of Paris, was also her first lead role. She went on to appear in two more films: The Sea Gull, also known as A Woman of the Sea—which Chaplin never released—and Éducation de Prince, a French film released in 1927, just before she retired as an actress. She has been credited as an extra in Chaplin's final two American movies, Monsieur Verdoux and Limelight; Chaplin kept her on his payroll until her death.

Personal life[edit]

Edna Purviance in The Adventurer (1917)

Although she was romantically involved with Chaplin for several years, Purviance eventually married John Squire, a Pan-American Airlines pilot, whom she wed in 1938 and who died in 1945. Recently, silent films, in black-and-white and colour, have been discovered that show a glimpse into their life together from the late 1930s and early 1940s, and over 50 production stills from her unreleased film The Sea Gull, have also come to light. These stills have been published with the original title list from the film.

She died from throat cancer[2] on January 11, 1958.

There is currently a petition drive to commemorate Purviance's career with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.[3]

In other media[edit]

She was portrayed by Penelope Ann Miller in the film Chaplin, and more recently by Katie Maguire in the film Madcap Mabel (2009).


Edna Purviance in The Pawnshop (1916)
Year Film Role Notes
1915 A Night Out The Headwaiter's Wife
The Champion Trainer's Daughter
In the Park Nursemaid
A Jitney Elopement Edna
The Tramp Farmer's Daughter
By the Sea Man in Top Hat's Sweetheart
Work Maid
A Woman Daughter of the House
The Bank Edna, a Secretary
Shanghaied Daughter of the Shipowner
A Night in the Show Lady in the Stalls with Beads
Burlesque on Carmen Carmen
1916 The Floorwalker Manager's secretary
Police! Daughter of the House
The Fireman Girl
The Vagabond Girl Stolen by Gypsies
The Count Miss Moneybags
The Pawnshop Daughter
Behind the Screen The Girl
The Rink The Girl
1917 Easy Street The Mission Worker
The Cure The Girl
The Immigrant Immigrant
The Adventurer The Girl
1918 A Dog's Life Bar Singer
Triple Trouble Maid Created by Essanay from outtakes left by Chaplin from Police and unfinished film Life
Shoulder Arms French Girl
The Bond Charlie's Wife
1919 Sunnyside Village Belle
A Day's Pleasure Mother
1921 The Kid Mother Feature
The Idle Class Neglected Wife
1922 Pay Day Foreman's Daughter
1923 The Pilgrim Miss Brown
A Woman of Paris Marie St. Clair Feature
1926 A Woman of the Sea Joan Unreleased film, considered lost
1927 Education de Prince Feature


  1. ^ This is not the way Purviance met Chaplin, according to Gerith von Ulm’s Charlie Chaplin – King of Tragedy, pp. 90-91.
  2. ^ Golden Silents
  3. ^ Edna Purviance Walk of Fame Petition Drive

External links[edit]