Wheeler Dryden

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Wheeler Dryden
Wheeler Dryden Postcard Photo.jpg
Autographed photograph of Wheeler Dryden
Born George Dryden Wheeler Jr.
(1892-08-31)31 August 1892
Brixton, London, England, UK
Died 30 September 1957(1957-09-30) (aged 65)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Other names Wheeler Dryden
Occupation Actor, director
Spouse(s) Alice Chapple (m. 1938; div. 1943)
Children Spencer Dryden
Parent(s) Leo Dryden
Hannah Hill
Relatives Sydney Chaplin (half-brother)
Charlie Chaplin (half-brother)

George Dryden Wheeler Jr. (31 August 1892 – 30 September 1957) was an English born American actor and film director. He was the son of Hannah Chaplin and music hall entertainer Leo Dryden, and half brother of actors Charlie and Sydney Chaplin.[1] He was also the father of rock musician Spencer Dryden.[2]

Life and career[edit]

Dryden was born in London.[1] He was the youngest of three boys born to Hannah Hill, though he would be separated and therefore estranged from his mother and two older brothers. While he was an infant, his father removed him from his mentally-troubled mother. He was touring India and the Far East as a Vaudeville comedian in 1915 when he first learned from his father that the newly famous Charlie Chaplin was his half-brother.

At this point, he wrote several letters to Chaplin and his half-brother Sydney, but received no response from either of them. In 1917, he got in touch with Chaplin's lead actress, Edna Purviance, who is thought to have convinced Chaplin to recognise him as his relative.[3][4] He then joined the Chaplin brothers and their mother in America in 1918, and became a U.S. citizen in 1936.[5]

Wheeler Dryden

He later appeared in Stan Laurel's Mud and Sand and was the "other man" in the melodrama, False Women.[1] In 1928, he directed Syd Chaplin in A Little Bit of Fluff,[6] and later, worked at the Chaplin Studios as Charlie's assistant director on The Great Dictator and Monsieur Verdoux.[7][8] He also appears in the supporting roles of a doctor and a clown in Chaplin's last American film, Limelight.[9][10] He played Plimsoll in the 1928 – 1929 Broadway theatre play, Wings Over Europe.[11]

After Charlie Chaplin left America for Switzerland in 1952, Dryden managed the winding down of Chaplin's Hollywood business affairs until 1954, when the studio was sold. In his final years, he suffered from mental illness and reclusiveness, which was exacerbated by aggressive FBI inquiries into his brother's politics.

Dryden died in Los Angeles in 1957.[12]


Dryden was married from 1938–1943 to Radio City Music Hall prima ballerina Alice Chapple (1911–2005).[13] Their son was Spencer Dryden. Dryden took his son to Los Angeles jazz clubs during the 1950s, which inspired musical ambitions as a jazz and rock drummer.[14] Spencer would play with Jefferson Airplane, New Riders of the Purple Sage, and other bands, and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996.[15]


  1. ^ a b c "Wheeler Dryden - Biography, Movie Highlights and Photos - AllMovie". AllMovie. 
  2. ^ "Spencer Dryden". 17 January 2005. 
  3. ^ Collaborators at chaplin.bfi.org.uk
  4. ^ Letter from Wheeler Dryden to Edna Purviance, imploring her to intercede on his behalf and encourage Charles Chaplin to acknowledge his half-brother: First page, second page and third page
  5. ^ Passenger list of S.S. Siberia Maru, port of San Francisco, California, 15 December 1918. Ancestry.com. California Passenger and Crew Lists, 1893-1957 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: The Generations Network, Inc., 2008.
  6. ^ "Skirts (1928) - Wheeler Dryden - Cast and Crew - AllMovie". AllMovie. 
  7. ^ Baker, Richard Anthony (31 May 2014). "British Music Hall: An Illustrated History". Pen and Sword – via Google Books. 
  8. ^ Robinson, David (14 March 1983). "Chaplin, the Mirror of Opinion". Indiana University Press – via Google Books. 
  9. ^ "Limelight (1953) - Articles - TCM.com". Turner Classic Movies. 
  10. ^ "Limelight (1952) - Charles Chaplin - Cast and Crew - AllMovie". AllMovie. 
  11. ^ League, The Broadway. "Wings Over Europe – Broadway Play – Original - IBDB". www.ibdb.com. 
  12. ^ "Wheeler Dryden". 
  13. ^ Alice Chapple Judd, ednapurviance.blogspot.com. Retrieved 8 March 2009.
  14. ^ Sweeting, Adam (15 January 2005). "Obituary: Spencer Dryden". the Guardian. 
  15. ^ "Grace Slick Remembers Spencer Dryden". 

External links[edit]