Edna Purviance

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Edna Purviance
Purviance in 1923
Olga Edna Purviance

(1895-10-21)October 21, 1895
DiedJanuary 13, 1958(1958-01-13) (aged 62)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Resting placeGrand View Memorial Park Cemetery
Years active1915–1927
John Squire
(m. 1938; died 1945)

Olga[citation needed] Edna Purviance(October 21, 1895 – January 13, 1958) was an American actress of the silent film 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 30 films with him. Her name was pronounced "pur-VIE-unce" as verified by Chaplin in his spoken narration of one of his films.

Life and career[edit]

1895–1913: Early life[edit]

Edna Purviance was born in October 21, 1895, in Paradise Valley, Nevada, to English immigrant Louisa Wright Davey and American vintner to the western mining camps Madison (Matt) Gates Purviance.[1] When she was three, the family moved to Lovelock, Nevada, where they assumed ownership of the Singer Hotel.[2][3][4][5][6] Her parents divorced in 1902, and her mother later married Robert Nurnberger, a German plumber. Growing up, Purviance was a talented pianist.[citation needed]

She left Lovelock in 1913 and moved in with her married sister Bessie while attending business college in San Francisco.[7]

1914–1927: Film career[edit]

Purviance in Photoplay magazine, 1915

In 1915, Purviance was working as a stenographer[8] in San Francisco when actor and director Charlie Chaplin was working on his second film with Essanay Studios, working out of Niles, California, 28 miles (45 km) southeast of San Francisco, in Southern Alameda County. He was looking for a leading lady for A Night Out.

"A Chaplin talent scout recognized potential in a pretty stenographer named Edna Purviance ... spotted sipping coffee at Tate's Café on Hill Street in Noe Valley."[9][10][11][12][13]

"...Tate's Cafe on Hill Street.[14] There she met Carl Strauss, in town scouting for a leading lady for the young Charlie Chaplin."[15][16]

Chaplin arranged a meeting with her,[17][18][19] but he was concerned that she might be too serious for comedic roles. Purviance still won the role.[20]

Purviance in The Adventurer (1917)

Edna Purviance was so closely associated with Chaplin on screen that trade reviewers took exception when she was away. Columnist Julian Johnson, reporting on Chaplin's solo performance in One A.M., wrote: "Congratulations, Mr. Chaplin, on speaking your piece so nicely, but—come on back, Edna!"[21] The noticeably close relationship extended to the actors' private lives: Chaplin and Purviance were romantically involved during the making of his Essanay, Mutual, and First National films of 1915 to 1917.[22] The romance ended suddenly when Purviance read a newspaper report of Chaplin having married 16-year-old Mildred Harris.[citation needed]

Purviance appeared in 33 of Chaplin's productions, including the 1921 The Kid. Her last credited appearance in a Chaplin film, A Woman of Paris, was also her first leading role. The film was not a success and effectively ended Purviance's career. She appeared in two more films: Sea Gulls, also known as A Woman of the Sea (which Chaplin never released) and Éducation de Prince, a French film released in 1927.[23]

Purviance was peripherally involved in a scandal.[24] She and Mabel Normand were guests of millionaire[25] oil broker[26] Courtland Stark Dines (1889-1945)[27] on New Year’s Day 1924. Mabel’s chauffeur,[28] R. C. Greer, alias Joe Kelly,[27] got into an argument with Dines, produced a revolver and shot him, not fatally. As a result some cities banned A Woman of Paris.[4]

"Between Purviance's last film in 1924 and her death in 1958,[29] Chaplin kept her on the payroll at 1000 a month."[15]

1927–1958: Retirement and later years[edit]

For more than 30 years afterward, Edna Purviance lived quietly outside Hollywood. Purviance married John Squire, a Pan-American Airlines pilot, in 1938. They remained married until his death in 1945.[citation needed]

Chaplin kept Purviance on his payroll. She received a small monthly salary from Chaplin's film company until she got married, and the payments resumed after her husband's death.[30] She later played bit roles in Chaplin's last two American movies, Monsieur Verdoux and Limelight.

“How could I forget Edna?” Chaplin responded to an interviewer after her death. "She was with me when it all began."[31][32]

In her posthumously published memoir, actress Georgia Hale, who played opposite Chaplin in The Gold Rush (1925), reported that Chaplin always spoke affectionately of Purviance. Hale relates Chaplin’s account of an incident during the silent film era, when Chaplin and Purvience—he in “an old sweatshirt” and she in “a cotton house dress”—stopped at the exclusive Riverside Inn “looking like hoboes.” The head waiter, alarmed at the couple's appearance, ushered them to the back of the restaurant:

He seated [Edna and myself] behind a large pillar. While we were scanning the menu, some of the customers recognized us. The word spread like wildfire. Back rushed the [head] waiter, waving us to a nice table by the window, where we’d be visible to all his guests. But Edna remained seated and motioned to me to be seated…[the headwaiter] said “I’m so sorry, I thought you were just common people.” Edna looked at him and said sweetly, “We want to thank you for treating us like humble people. You have just paid us the highest compliment. That will be all. Please send us the waiter.”[33]


On January 13, 1958, Purviance died from throat cancer at the Motion Picture & Television Country House and Hospital in Woodland Hills, California, aged 62.[34][35] Her remains are interred at Grand View Memorial Park Cemetery in Glendale, California.[35][36]

In popular culture[edit]

She was portrayed by Penelope Ann Miller in the film Chaplin (1992) and by Katie Maguire in the film Madcap Mabel (2010).

In the TV series Peaky Blinders (series three, episode four), the character Tatiana Petrovna played by Gaite Jansen is said to resemble her.


Purviance in The Pawnshop (1916)
Charlie Chaplin and Purviance in Behind the Screen (1916)
Chaplin and Purviance in The Idle Class (1921)

Short subjects[edit]

All short subjects directed by Charlie Chaplin.

Year Title Role Notes Ref.
1915 A Night Out The Headwaiter's Wife [37]
1915 The Champion Trainer's Daughter [37]
1915 In the Park Nursemaid [37]
1915 A Jitney Elopement Edna [37]
1915 The Tramp Farmer's Daughter [38]
1915 By the Sea Man in Top Hat's Sweetheart [37]
1915 Work Maid [37]
1915 A Woman Daughter of the House [37]
1915 The Bank Edna, a Secretary [37]
1915 Shanghaied Daughter of the Shipowner [37]
1915 A Night in the Show Lady in the Stalls with Beads [39]
1915 Burlesque on Carmen Carmen [38]
1916 Police Daughter of the House [39]
1916 The Floorwalker Manager's secretary [39]
1916 The Fireman The Chief's Sweetheart [39]
1916 The Vagabond Girl Stolen by Gypsies [39]
1916 The Count Miss Moneybags [39]
1916 The Pawnshop Daughter [39]
1916 Behind the Screen The Girl [39]
1916 The Rink The Girl [39]
1917 Easy Street The Mission Worker [39]
1917 The Cure The Girl [39]
1917 The Immigrant Immigrant [39]
1917 The Adventurer The Girl [39]
1918 A Dog's Life Bar Singer
1918 Triple Trouble Maid
1918 The Bond Charlie's Wife
1918 Shoulder Arms French Girl
1919 Sunnyside Village Belle
1919 A Day's Pleasure Mother
1921 The Idle Class Neglected Wife
1922 Pay Day Foreman's Daughter
1923 The Pilgrim Miss Brown [38]

Feature films[edit]

Year Title Role Director(s) Notes Ref.
1921 The Kid Mother Charlie Chaplin [38]
1923 A Woman of Paris Marie St. Clair Charlie Chaplin [38]
1926 A Woman of the Sea Joan Josef von Sternberg not released; destroyed lost film [38]
1927 Éducation de Prince The Queen Henri Diamant-Berger [23]
1947 Monsieur Verdoux Garden Party Guest Charlie Chaplin uncredited
1952 Limelight Mrs. Parker Charlie Chaplin uncredited


  1. ^ "Madison Gates Purviance – Edna Purviance's father". EdnaPurviance.org.
  2. ^ "Purviance Family Lovelock, Nevada Home - Part Two".
  3. ^ "The Singer Hotel Brief Property HIstory".
  4. ^ a b "Edna Purviance".
  5. ^ Toll, David W. (2002). The Complete Nevada Traveler: The Affectionate and Intimately Detailed Guidebook to the Most Interesting State in America. University of Nevada Press. p. 12. ISBN 0-940936-12-7.
  6. ^ Monush, Barry, ed. (2003). Screen World Presents the Encyclopedia of Hollywood Film Actors: From the silent era to 1965, Volume 1. Hal Leonard Corporation. p. 612. ISBN 1-55783-551-9.
  7. ^ "Charlie Chaplin and Edna Purviance Dates and Events". www.ednapurviance.org. Retrieved December 1, 2018.
  8. ^ "Nevadan Edna Purviance went from Silver State to silver screen". Las Vegas Review-Journal. May 13, 2014. Retrieved January 10, 2024.
  9. ^ Stein, Ruthe (April 10, 2009). "S.F.'s stories, style caught Hollywood's eye". CT Insider. Retrieved January 10, 2024.
  10. ^ "Chaplin at Essanay".
  11. ^ "WHITEMAN, Paul: Sweet and Low Down - NaxosDirect".
  12. ^ "Streetwise: Tait's".
  13. ^ "Silent Era : Home Video Reviews".
  14. ^ 37.7561202, -122.4211713
  15. ^ a b "Reno Gazette-Journal from Reno, Nevada". November 21, 1999.
  16. ^ "Los Angeles Herald from Los Angeles, California". December 10, 1907.
  17. ^ Chaplin, Charlie (December 26, 2012). My Autobiography. Melville House. ISBN 978-1-61219-193-5.
  18. ^ Lynn, Kenneth Schuyler (January 22, 1997). Charlie Chaplin and His Times. Simon and Schuster. ISBN 978-0-684-80851-2.
  19. ^ Milton, Joyce (July 2014). Tramp: The Life of Charlie Chaplin. Open Road Media. ISBN 978-1-4976-5916-2.
  20. ^ This is not the way Purviance met Chaplin, according to Gerith von Ulm's Charlie Chaplin – King of Tragedy, pp. 90–91.
  21. ^ Julian Johnson, Photoplay, October 1916, p. 80.
  22. ^ Robinson, David (1986). Chaplin : his life and art. Collins. pp. 141, 219. ISBN 978-0-586-08544-8. Retrieved December 1, 2018.
  23. ^ a b Powrie 2005, p. 95.
  24. ^ "LA BARA - Vintage Powder Room".
  25. ^ "100 Years Ago This Month: Historical events from January 2024". Dubois County Herald. January 4, 2024. Retrieved January 10, 2024.
  26. ^ https://www.perrysburg.com/news/100-years-ago-month-historical-events-january-1924
  27. ^ a b "Dines clip". Oakland Tribune. January 2, 1924. p. 1.
  28. ^ "BLAME JEALOUSY FOR DINES SHOOTING; Los Angeles Police Think the Chauffeur Was Infatuated with Miss Normand. SHE CONTRADICTS HIS STORY Breaks Down from Excitement and Goes to Hospital -- Dines Develops Pneumonia. BLAME JEALOUSY FOR DINES SHOOTING". The New York Times. January 3, 1924.
  29. ^ "Charlie's London: Chaplin's women – part two". August 13, 2012.
  30. ^ Eyman, 2023 p. 274: “…he paid Edna Purviance $100 a week…”
  31. ^ Toll, David W. (December 1994). "Edna Purviance: Nevada's Forgotten Movie Star". Nevada Magazine – via nevadaweb.com.
  32. ^ Kiernan, 1999 p. 79: See footnote no. 1
  33. ^ Hale, 1995 p. 79-80
  34. ^ "Edna Purviance". The Montreal Gazette. January 16, 1958. p. 35. Retrieved August 13, 2021.
  35. ^ a b Ellenberger, Allan R. (2001). Celebrities in Los Angeles Cemeteries: A Directory. McFarland & Company Incorporated Pub. p. 104. ISBN 0-7864-0983-5.
  36. ^ Eyman, 2023 p. 47: “...Edna gradually became, in the words of actress Virginia Cherrill ‘a terrible alcoholic’”
  37. ^ a b c d e f g h i Neibaur 2012, p. 225.
  38. ^ a b c d e f "Edna Purviance Filmography". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. American Film Institute. Archived from the original on October 3, 2019. Retrieved October 3, 2019.
  39. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Neibaur 2012, p. 226.


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