Book review: “Chaplin at Waterville” by Rosa Monk

Now that Chaplin is gone from the estate, his lover Rosa Monk’s memoir, “Chaplin At Waterville,” can be a “must-read” for anyone interested in their richly entertaining, and at times, sexually charged relationship. In…

Book review: “Chaplin at Waterville” by Rosa Monk

Now that Chaplin is gone from the estate, his lover Rosa Monk’s memoir, “Chaplin At Waterville,” can be a “must-read” for anyone interested in their richly entertaining, and at times, sexually charged relationship. In 1928, Chaplin and Monk took the friend Harry Patch into their St. Paul, Maine beachfront apartment to celebrate his 62nd birthday. Chaplin was there for some of this meeting, as he wrote, “about two hours.”

Chaplin filled the apartment with “hors d’oeuvres of figs, olives, chocolate, and shortbread (made by a local factory in Portland with a small mixture of white chocolate, dulce de leche, and walnuts), warm fruit, soft lemons, and a dessert of chocolate mousse.” Patch was livened up by such delights as Champagne and cigars. Chaplin entered the room at 1:25 p.m. and the conversation with Monk began.

Chaplin’s biography is well known, but her memoirs are not. For instance, Chaplin wrote that he discovered Rosa’s “miscaffery” during their courtship. “They fought a lot. Oh, yes, a lot. Again I thought, Oh, Rosa, what sort of thing is this?”

As Milton Morris writes, “My uncle, Alfred E. Smith, recommended that the Library of Congress buy the manuscript, out of interest in the poet Victor Hugo’s justly praised autobiography, ‘At Home,’ and the poetry of Lord Byron.”

Interestingly, Chaplin wasn’t the only celebrity to visit this Maine resort during his lifetime. This location won Chaplin the “most often used” prize at the American Sports Club in New York. Featured often on news programs, this locale allowed the public to observe the “illuminati-like” activities of the top athletes in the world. People went there to watch, observe, and judge, and were treated to remarkable beauties. The outdoor pool was at least 7,000 cubic feet, “half a mile deep.” World champions like baseball’s Babe Ruth or basketball’s Wilt Chamberlain practiced there.

Resort guests came from all over the country and all over the world. The reason was that “as summertime approached, they knew they could leave high noon for late afternoon,” wrote Morris.

Chaplin, in his diary, noticed that his date was in the next room and that her presence “distorted my sea view.” Chaplin called him “the girl of the house” and marveled at her petite physical, historical, and cinematic stature. Eventually they had a romantic whirlwind, and Rosenthal called the relationship “aptly called ‘Cherry Mania’ as it lasted quite longer than the cherry blossoms that bloom throughout the season.”

He called for the season to end as Rosenthal returned to Waterville to spend her last summer on the island.

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