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TODAY, THE INTERSECTION of Wilshire and Fairfax is a Los Angeles cultural focus: The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, the Petersen Automotive Museum, and the Architecture and Design Museum>Los Angeles are there; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art is just around the corner.
A century ago, when North Fairfax was known as Crescent Avenue, this intersection was busy with aeroplanes. Cecil B. DeMille operated DeMille Field #2 north of Wilshire at Crescent; and a guy named Chaplin operated the other one across the street.
Charlie Chaplin? No, his half-brother Syd.
Here, today and tomorrow in Parts 1 and 2, are tidbits on Syd’s aviation career, gleaned from Los Angeles Aeronautics 1920 – 1929, by D. D. Hatfield, Northrup University, 1973, together with some Internet sleuthing.
Syd and his younger half-brother Charlie ended up at the Cuckoo Schools in Hanwell, West London, after their mother’s mental breakdown. Cuckoo Schools, founded in 1857, was for children of destitute families. It was built on land of Cuckoo Farm, Cuckoo Hill, Hanwell.
In 1905, the siblings worked briefly on the London stage in a William Gillette Sherlock Holmes play. Charlie portrayed Billy the pageboy; Syd played one of the villains.
California Beckons. By 1914, Charlie had achieved worldwide success as The Little Tramp. Syd and his wife Minnie joined Charlie in California that year.
Syd tried comedy in A Submarine Pirate, but found his metier as Charlie’s business manager. For example, in 1917 he got Charlie a First National Pictures contract worth $1.25 million.
That’s more than $27 million in today’s dollar.
In May 1919, Syd partnered with pilot Emery Rogers to form Syd Chaplin Aircraft Corporation, with an office at West Seventh and Lake Street in Los Angeles.
Tomorrow in Part 2, Syd looks 26 miles across the sea and comes up with another business idea. ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2019