A Woman of the Sea

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A Woman of the Sea
Directed by Josef von Sternberg
Produced by Charlie Chaplin
Written by Josef von Sternberg
Starring Edna Purviance
Raymond Bloomer
Charles French
Eve Southern
Gayne Whitman
Cinematography Paul Ivano
Edward Gheller
Distributed by United Artists
Running time
75 minutes
Country United States
Language Silent film
English intertitles

A Woman of the Sea, also known by its working title Sea Gulls, is an unreleased silent film produced in 1926 by the Chaplin Film Company.

The now lost film starred Edna Purviance, Raymond Bloomer, Eve Southern and Charles French, and was directed by Josef von Sternberg.

Production details[edit]

The film was in production for about six months. Actual filming took about three months, mainly in the Los Angeles area, including indoor scenes at Chaplin's studio. During a twelve-day period, outdoor scenes were filmed on location in the Monterey and Carmel coastal area in California.

Chaplin produced the film as a starring vehicle for his former leading lady Purviance, and to help establish Von Sternberg, whose 1924 experimental film The Salvation Hunters had greatly impressed Chaplin.[1] This was the only time Chaplin produced a film in which he neither starred nor directed.[2] His involvement in the production was minimal, as he was concurrently working on his problem-plagued film The Circus (released 1928).[3] This was Purviance's final American film, followed by a French feature film, Education of a Prince (1927), after which she retired from movies.

Chaplin did not approve the completed film for release, and it was never publicly screened. The few Chaplin associates who saw the film agreed in later years that it was not a commercially viable film. Under pressure from the U.S. Internal Revenue Service, the production company burned the negatives in June 1933 as a total loss for tax purposes.[3] Some evidence suggests that a copy of the film survived at the Chaplin studio until at least the late 1930s, but no copy exists in the current Chaplin film archives.[citation needed]

In 2005, over 50 previously unknown production stills were discovered in the private collection of Purviance's relatives. Except for a few images in print and a few words in books over the years, nearly nothing has been known about the film. The working title for A Woman of the Sea was Sea Gulls, as written in the shooting schedule that still survives. The original title list also has survived from the film. The information from the shooting schedule and title list has been combined with the production stills, and was published in 2008.

References in other media[edit]

The film, and Chaplin himself, figure prominently in Tim Powers' fantasy novel Three Days to Never (Morrow, 2006). Though rooted in established facts, the fictionalized Chaplin is attributed motives—and the film attributed traits—that are largely invented by Powers.


  1. ^ Bach, Steven (2011). Marlene Dietrich: Life and Legend. University of Minnesota Press. pp. 101–102. ISBN 9780816675845. Retrieved 5 January 2014. 
  2. ^ Sandburg, Carl (2000). The Movies are: Carl Sandburg's Film Reviews and Essays, 1920-1928. Lake Claremont Press. p. 295. ISBN 9781893121058. Retrieved 5 January 2014. 
  3. ^ a b Baxter, John (2010-09-29). Von Sternberg. University Press of Kentucky. pp. 59–61. ISBN 9780813139944. Retrieved 5 January 2014. 

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