Edna Purviance

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Edna Purviance
Edna Purviance The Blue Book of the Screen.jpg
Purviance in 1923
Olga Edna Purviance

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

Olga Edna Purviance (/ˈɛdnə pərˈvəns/; October 21, 1895 – January 13, 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 30 films with him.

Early life[edit]

Purviance was born 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 a hotel.[2][3] 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 moved in with her married sister Bessie while attending business college in San Francisco.[4]


Purviance in Photoplay magazine, 1915

In 1915, Purviance was working as a secretary 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 southeast of San Francisco, in Southern Alameda County. He was looking for a leading lady for A Night Out. 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.[5]

Edna Purviance in The Adventurer (1917)

Chaplin and Purviance were romantically involved during the making of his Essanay, Mutual, and First National films of 1915 to 1917.[6] Purviance appeared in 33 of Chaplin's productions, including the 1921 classic The Kid. Her last credited appearance in a Chaplin film, A Woman of Paris, was also her first lead role. The film was not a success and effectively ended Purviance's career. 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 from acting.

Personal life[edit]

Romantically involved with Charlie Chaplin for several years, Purviance eventually married John Squire, a Pan-American Airlines pilot, in 1938. They remained married until his death in 1945.


On January 13, 1958, Purviance died from throat cancer at the Motion Picture Country Hospital in Hollywood.[7][8] Her remains are interred at Grand View Memorial Park Cemetery in Glendale, California.[8]

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).


Edna Purviance in The Pawnshop (1916)
Charlie Chaplin and Edna Purviance in Behind the Screen, 1916
Chaplin and Purviance in The Idle Class, 1921
Short subject
Year Title Role Notes
1915 A Night Out The Headwaiter's Wife
1915 The Champion Trainer's Daughter
1915 In the Park Nursemaid
1915 A Jitney Elopement Edna
1915 The Tramp Farmer's Daughter
1915 By the Sea Man in Top Hat's Sweetheart
1915 Work Maid
1915 A Woman Daughter of the House
1915 The Bank Edna, a Secretary
1915 Shanghaied Daughter of the Shipowner
1915 A Night in the Show Lady in the Stalls with Beads
1915 Burlesque on Carmen Carmen
1916 Police Daughter of the House
1916 The Floorwalker Manager's secretary
1916 The Fireman The Chief's Sweetheart
1916 The Vagabond Girl Stolen by Gypsies
1916 The Count Miss Moneybags
1916 The Pawnshop Daughter
1916 Behind the Screen The Girl
1916 The Rink The Girl
1917 Easy Street The Mission Worker
1917 The Cure The Girl
1917 The Immigrant Immigrant
1917 The Adventurer The Girl
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
Year Title Role Notes
1921 The Kid Mother
1923 A Woman of Paris Marie St. Clair
1926 A Woman of the Sea Joan Unreleased film
Lost film
1927 Education de Prince
1947 Monsieur Verdoux Garden Party Guest Uncredited
1952 Limelight Mrs. Parker Uncredited


  1. ^ "Madison Gates Purviance - Edna Purviance's father". www.ednapurviance.org.
  2. ^ 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.
  3. ^ 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.
  4. ^ "Charlie Chaplin and Edna Purviance Dates and Events". www.ednapurviance.org. Retrieved December 1, 2018.
  5. ^ This is not the way Purviance met Chaplin, according to Gerith von Ulm's Charlie Chaplin – King of Tragedy, pp. 90–91.
  6. ^ Robinson, David (1986). Chaplin : his life and art. Collins. p. 141, 219. ISBN 978-0-586-08544-8. Retrieved December 1, 2018.
  7. ^ "Edna Purviance". The Montreal Gazette. January 16, 1958. p. 35. Retrieved July 21, 2014.
  8. ^ a b Ellenberger, Allan R. (2001). Celebrities in Los Angeles Cemeteries: A Directory. McFarland & Company Incorporated Pub. p. 104. ISBN 0-7864-0983-5.

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