Sex, morality and a tramp in 1920s America
This chapter considers Chaplin's 1920s in three regards: his proclivity towards young women, his disastrous marriage to Lita Grey and the wider moral climate in which these were conducted. In May 1924, The New York News asked Charlie for his chief interest in life. The answer he provided was almost certainly the most accurate he could give - It is Women. Because they are the most interesting, fascinating, and charming subject in the world. Chaplin's early encounters with women veered somewhere between the chaste love affairs of the Tramp and rather more seedy escapades. Chaplin's own less than innocent sexual exploits apart, accusations of murder and rape against a similarly big name - Roscoe 'Fatty' Arbuckle - had rocked Hollywood throughout 1921. According to census data, the average age of a first marriage for American women was 21.2 years in 1920. Compared to this, three of Chaplin's four wives were eighteen years old or under at the time of marriage.