Rafael Flores

Chaplin and Gardel

n 1931 Carlos Gardel sang for two months at the renowned French Côte Azure frequented by European millonaires and famous people. The latter used to meet at the Palais du Mediterranée Casino of Niza. Great artists like Charles Chaplin, who then was being praised by his recently premiered movie Luces de la ciudad, used to go there. There he enjoyed tango with Gardel and they both were a boom.

Madame Sadie Baron Wakefield, admirer and Gardel’s fundamental sponsor, because he was her preferred singer, organized a party at her house on the French Riviere to honor Chaplin. A dancer, May Reeves, that had a love affair with Chaplin, wrote in her memoirs: «There were about forty guests. Chaplin was then in good shape. An Argentine singer, accompanied by his guitarist, sang in his honor, while Chaplin, behind the bar counter, was drinking from a large cognac bottle and was cutting a gigantic tart with an impressively big knife» (quoted by Gardel’s biographer, Simon Collier).

But more revealing than Reeves’ eulogies, she was more concerned in winning the heart of the famous artist, is what Chaplin himself said to Regina Creuve, chronicler of New American Lines, in 1935, after Gardel’s death: «At an intimate rendezvous Gardel sang and I was deeply impressed. He possessed a superior gift that was beyond his voice and his figure, and he had an enormous personal pleasantness with which he won immediately everybody’s affection. Such was the pleasant mood he inspired, I recall perfectly well, that we stayed until the wee small hours of the morning after a night of happiness that we would unlikely live again.

«Tell the public that with Gardel I miss one of my pleasant friends. The South American countries had no better representative than him among us. As for the art of cinema, it has lost a singer that was meant to be one of the top figures in the movie world».

From the book: Gardel y el tango. Repertorio de recuerdos, by Rafael Flores, Ediciones de la Tierra, Madrid: 2001.