Mildred Harris

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Mildred Harris
Harris, c. 1918-20
Born(1901-11-29)November 29, 1901
Cheyenne, Wyoming, U.S.
DiedJuly 20, 1944(1944-07-20) (aged 42)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Years active1912–44
Spouse(s)Charlie Chaplin
(1918–1920)[1] 1 son (died as infant)
Everett Terrence McGovern
(1924–1929) 1 son
William P. Fleckenstein
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Mildred Harris
Harris, c. 1918-20
Born(1901-11-29)November 29, 1901
Cheyenne, Wyoming, U.S.
DiedJuly 20, 1944(1944-07-20) (aged 42)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Years active1912–44
Spouse(s)Charlie Chaplin
(1918–1920)[1] 1 son (died as infant)
Everett Terrence McGovern
(1924–1929) 1 son
William P. Fleckenstein

Mildred Harris (November 29, 1901 – July 20, 1944) was a leading American film actress during the early part of 20th century.[2] She was also the first wife of Charlie Chaplin. Harris began her career in the film industry as a popular child actress when she was 11 years old. At the age of 15, she was cast as a harem girl in D. W. Griffith's Intolerance (1916). She appeared as a leading lady through the 1920s but her career slowed with the advent of the "talkies". She was critically praised for No, No Nanette in 1930, had a few bit parts in the early 1940s, and made her last appearance in the posthumously released Having Wonderful Crime of 1945.

Early life[edit]

Mildred Harris was born in Cheyenne, Wyoming, the daughter of Harry Harris, a telegraph operator, and Anna Parsons Foote. Harris made her first screen appearance at the age of 11 in the 1912 Francis Ford and Thomas H. Ince-directed Western short The Post Telegrapher. She followed the film with various juvenile roles, often appearing opposite child actor Paul Willis. In 1914, she was hired by The Oz Film Manufacturing Company to portray Fluff in The Magic Cloak of Oz and Button-Bright in His Majesty, the Scarecrow of Oz. In 1916, at the age of 15, she appeared as a harem girl in Griffith's epic Intolerance.

Harris in Fool's Paradise (1921) with John Davidson (l) and Conrad Nagel (r)


In the 1920s Harris transitioned from child actress to leading lady roles opposite leading men such as Conrad Nagel, Milton Sills, Lionel Barrymore, Rod La Rocque and the Moore brothers, Owen and Tom. She appeared in Frank Capra's 1928 silent drama The Power of the Press with Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. and Jobyna Ralston.

She found the transition to the "talkies" difficult and her career slowed dramatically. She performed in vaudeville and burlesque, and, at one point, toured with comedian Phil Silvers. She was critically praised for her performance in the 1930 film adaptation of the Broadway musical No, No Nanette. In the 1936 Three Stooges comedy Movie Maniacs, she portrayed a temperamental and demanding film starlet who, while receiving a pedicure, is startled by stooge Curly Howard striking a match on the sole of her foot.

Harris continued to work in film in the early 1940s, largely through the kindness of her former director, Cecil B. DeMille, who cast her in bit parts in 1942's Reap the Wild Wind (starring Paulette Goddard, who, like Harris, was once married to Charlie Chaplin), and 1944's The Story of Dr. Wassell. Her last film appearance was in the posthumously-released 1945 film Having A Wonderful Crime.

Personal life[edit]

Mildred Harris c. 1920.

The 16-year-old Harris met actor Charlie Chaplin in mid-1918, dated, and came to believe she was pregnant by him, but the pregnancy was found to be a false alarm. They privately married on October 23, 1918, in Los Angeles, California. She subsequently did become pregnant.[3] The couple quarreled about her contract with Louis B. Mayer and her career. Chaplin felt she was not his intellectual equal, and after their child died in July 1919, only three days old,[4][5] they separated in the autumn of 1919.

Chaplin moved to the Los Angeles Athletic Club. Harris tried to keep up appearances, believing a happy marriage was possible, but in 1920 she filed for divorce based on mental cruelty. Chaplin accused her of infidelity, and though he would not name her lover publicly, Alla Nazimova was suspected.[6] Harris denied rumors Chaplin had been physically violent, and divorce was granted in November 1920 with Harris receiving $100,000 in settlement and some community property.[1]

In 1924, Harris married Everett Terrence McGovern. The union lasted until November 26, 1929, when Harris filed for divorce in Los Angeles, California, on grounds of desertion. The couple had one son, Everett Terrence McGovern, Jr., in 1925. In 1934, she married the former football player William P. Fleckenstein in Asheville, North Carolina.[7]


The couple remained married until Harris' death on July 20, 1944, of pneumonia following a major abdominal operation. She had been ill for three weeks.[2] She was buried in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Los Angeles, California.


Harris has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6307 Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles. In 1992, she was portrayed by Milla Jovovich in the biographical film Chaplin.


1912The Post Telegrapher
The Triumph of RightTheir Little Daughter
His Nemesis
The Frontier ChildA Frontier Child
His Squaw
His Sense of Duty
1913A Shadow of the Past
The Wheels of Destiny
The Miser
The Drummer of the 8th
A Child of War
A True Believer
The Seal of Silence
Borrowed Gold
1914Romance of Sunshine Alley
O Mimi San
The Courtship of O San
Wolves of the Underworld
The Colonel's Orderly
The Social GhostEthel
Shadows of the Past
A Frontier Mother
The Sheriff of Bisbee
Shorty and the Fortune Teller
When America Was Young
Mildred's DollMildred
The Magic Cloak of OzPrincess Margaret 'Fluff' of Noland
His Majesty, the Scarecrow of OzButton-Bright, who is lost and doesn't care
1915The Lone Cowboy
The Warrens of VirginiaBetty Warren
Enoch ArdenA Child(uncredited)
The Little MatchmakerMildred
The Little Soldier ManMildred
The AbsenteeInnocence
A Rightful Theft
The Old BatchFirst Adopted Daughter
The Choir Boys
The Little Lumberjack
The Indian Trapper's VindicationDorothy King - their Daughter
1916Hoodoo AnnGoldiesurvives; Library of Congress
IntoleranceFavorite of the Harem(uncredited), survives; many
The Old Folks at HomeMarjoriesurvives
The Matrimaniac(uncredited), survives; Library of Congress, others
The AmericanoStenographersurvives; Library of Congress, others
1917The Bad BoyMarylost
A Love SublimeEurydicelost
An Old Fashioned Young Manlost
Time Locks and DiamondsLolita Mendozalost
Golden Rule KateOlive - Kate's sistersurvives; Library of Congress
The Cold DeckAlice Leighlost
The Price of a Good TimeLinnielost
1918The Doctor and the WomanSidney Pagelost
Cupid by ProxyJane Stewartlost
For Husbands OnlyToni Wildelost
Borrowed ClothesMary Kirklost
1919When a Girl LovesBesslost
HomeMillicent Rankinlost
Forbidden'Maddie' Irvinlost
1920Old DadDaphne Brettonlost
The Inferior SexAllisa Randalllost (as Mildred Harris Chaplin)
Polly of the Storm CountryPollylost (as Mildred Harris Chaplin)
The Woman in His HouseHildalost (as Mildred Harris Chaplin)
1921HabitIrene Fletcherlost
A Prince There WasKatherine Woodslost
Fool's ParadiseRosa Duchenesurvives; Library of Congress
1922The First WomanThe Girllost
1923The FogMadelaine Theddon ?survives
The Daring YearsSusie LaMottelost
1924The Shadow of the EastGillian Lockelost
By Divine RightThe Girllost
Traffic in HeartsAlice Hamiltonlost
One Law for the WomanPolly Barneslost
In Fast CompanyBarbara Beldenlost
Unmarried WivesPrincess Sonyalost
Stepping LivelyEvelyn Pendroy, the girllost
The Desert HawkMarie Nichollslost
1925Easy MoneyBlanche Amorysurvives;Library of Congress
Flaming LoveChitalost
Beyond the BorderMolly Smithsurvives
The Dressmaker from ParisJoan McGregorlost (per Lost Film Files)
Super SpeedClaire Knightsurvives; Library of Congress
Private AffairsAmy Lufkinlost
My Neighbor's WifeInventor's Wifelost
A Man of IronClaire Bowdoinlost
The Fighting Cublost
The Unknown LoverGale Normanlost
SoiledPet Darlinglost
1926Mama BehaveLolita Chase, Charlie's Wifesurvives
The Isle of RetributionLenore Hardenworthlost
The Self Starterlost
Dangerous TrafficHelen Leonardsurvives
The Wolf Hunterslost
The Mystery ClubMrs. Kate Vandeerveerlost (per Lost Film Files: Universal Pictures)
Cruise of the Jasper BAgatha Fairhavensurvives; Library of Congress
1927The Show GirlMaizie Udellsurvives; Library of Congress, UCLA Film and Television
One Hour of LoveGwenlost (per Lost Film Files: Tiffany)
Husband HuntersCynthia Kanelost (per Lost Film Files: Tiffany)
Wandering GirlsMaxinelost (per Lost Film Files: Columbia Pictures)
Wolves of the AirMarceline Manninglost
Burning Goldlost
She's My BabyClaire Daltourlost
Rose of the Bowerylost
The Swell-HeadKittylost (per Lost Film Files: Columbia Pictures)
SumuruHelen Grahamsurvives; Library of Congress
Out of the PastDora Prentisslost
The Adventurous SoulMiriam Martinsurvives; Library of Congress
1928The Last Lap
Hearts of MenAlice Weston
The Heart of a Follies GirlFlorine
The Speed ClassicSheila Van Hauten
Melody of LoveMadelon
The Power of the PressMarie Westonsurvives
1929Side StreetBunnysurvives
Sea Fury
1930No, No, NanetteBetty
The Melody ManMartha
Ranch House Blues
1935Lady TubbsSociety Woman(uncredited)
The quiero con locura
Never Too LateMary Lloyd Hartley
1936Movie ManiacsLeading Lady
Great GuyBit Role(uncredited)
1942Reap the Wild WindDancing Lady(uncredited)
Holiday InnWoman(uncredited)
1943Sweet Rosie O'GradyMinor roleuncredited
1944The Story of Dr. WassellDutch nurse(uncredited)
Fun TimeTillie(uincredited)
Hail the Conquering HeroWife of Marine Colonel(uncredited)
1945Having a Wonderful CrimeGuest(uncredited)


  1. ^ a b Charles J. Maland, 1991, Chaplin and American Culture: The Evolution of a Star Image, Princeton University Press, pp. 43-44.
  2. ^ a b Associated Press (July 21, 1944). "Mildred Harris Dies In West". St. Petersburg Times. Retrieved 2012-11-25. ... actress in the silent film days, and first wife of Comedian Charles Spencer Chaplin, died yesterday of pneumonia which followed a major abdominal operation.... 
  3. ^ Robinson, David (1986 [First published 1985]). Chaplin: His Life and Art. London: Paladin. ISBN 0-586-08544-0.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  4. ^ The child was buried in the Inglewood Park Cemetery under a headstone with the inscription "The Little Mouse". Beneath Los Angeles - Norman Spencer Chaplin
  5. ^ Charlie Chaplin's Wives at
  6. ^ McLellan, Diana. 2000. The Girls: Sappho Goes to Hollywood London: Robson Books. 1-86105-381-9. p. 28.
  7. ^ Mason City Globe Gazette, March 19, 1934, p. 18, Mason City Globe Gazette online on

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