Edna Purviance

Olga Edna Purviance (/ˈɛdnə pərˈvəns/; October 21, 1895 – January 13, 1958) was an American actress during the silent movie era. She was the leading lady in many of Charlie Chaplin's early films and in a span of eight years, she appeared in over 30 films with him.

Edna Purviance
Purviance in 1923
Olga Edna Purviance

(1895-10-21)October 21, 1895
DiedJanuary 13, 1958(1958-01-13) (aged 62)
Resting placeGrand View Memorial Park Cemetery
Years active1915–1927
John P. Squire
(m. 1938; died 1945)

Life and career

1895–1913: Early life

Purviance was born in Paradise Valley, Nevada, to English immigrant Louisa Wright Davey and American vintner to the western mining camps Madison (Matt) Gates Purviance.[1] When she was three, the family moved to Lovelock, Nevada, where they assumed ownership of a hotel.[2][3] Her parents divorced in 1902, and her mother later married Robert Nurnberger, a German plumber. Growing up, Purviance was a talented pianist.

She left Lovelock in 1913, and moved in with her married sister Bessie while attending business college in San Francisco.[4]

1914–1927: Film career

In 1915, Purviance was working as a secretary in San Francisco when actor and director Charlie Chaplin was working on his second film with Essanay Studios, working out of Niles, California, 28 miles southeast of San Francisco, in Southern Alameda County. He was looking for a leading lady for A Night Out. One of his associates noticed Purviance at a Tate's Café in San Francisco and thought she should be cast in the role. Chaplin arranged a meeting with her and, although he was concerned that she might be too serious for comedic roles, she won the job.[5]

Chaplin and Purviance were romantically involved during the making of his Essanay, Mutual, and First National films of 1915 to 1917.[6] Purviance appeared in 33 of Chaplin's productions, including the 1921 classic The Kid. Her last credited appearance in a Chaplin film, A Woman of Paris, was also her first lead role. The film was not a success and effectively ended Purviance's career. She went on to appear in two more films: Sea Gulls, also known as A Woman of the Sea (which Chaplin never released) and Éducation de Prince, a French film released in 1927, just before she retired from acting.[7]

1928–1958: Retirement and later years

Romantically involved with Charlie Chaplin for several years, Purviance eventually married John Squire, a Pan-American Airlines pilot, in 1938. They remained married until his death in 1945.


On January 13, 1958, Purviance died from throat cancer at the Motion Picture Country Hospital in Hollywood.[8][9] Her remains are interred at Grand View Memorial Park Cemetery in Glendale, California.[9]

She was portrayed by Penelope Ann Miller in the film Chaplin (1992) and by Katie Maguire in the film Madcap Mabel (2010).


Short subjects

All short subjects directed by Charlie Chaplin.

Year Title Role Notes Ref.
1915 A Night Out The Headwaiter's Wife [10]
1915 The Champion Trainer's Daughter [10]
1915 In the Park Nursemaid [10]
1915 A Jitney Elopement Edna [10]
1915 The Tramp Farmer's Daughter [11]
1915 By the Sea Man in Top Hat's Sweetheart [10]
1915 Work Maid [10]
1915 A Woman Daughter of the House [10]
1915 The Bank Edna, a Secretary [10]
1915 Shanghaied Daughter of the Shipowner [10]
1915 A Night in the Show Lady in the Stalls with Beads [12]
1915 Burlesque on Carmen Carmen [11]
1916 Police Daughter of the House [12]
1916 The Floorwalker Manager's secretary [12]
1916 The Fireman The Chief's Sweetheart [12]
1916 The Vagabond Girl Stolen by Gypsies [12]
1916 The Count Miss Moneybags [12]
1916 The Pawnshop Daughter [12]
1916 Behind the Screen The Girl [12]
1916 The Rink The Girl [12]
1917 Easy Street The Mission Worker [12]
1917 The Cure The Girl [12]
1917 The Immigrant Immigrant [12]
1917 The Adventurer The Girl [12]
1918 A Dog's Life Bar Singer
1918 Triple Trouble Maid
1918 The Bond Charlie's Wife
1918 Shoulder Arms French Girl
1919 Sunnyside Village Belle
1919 A Day's Pleasure Mother
1921 The Idle Class Neglected Wife
1922 Pay Day Foreman's Daughter
1923 The Pilgrim Miss Brown [11]

Feature films

Year Title Role Director(s) Notes Ref.
1921 The Kid Mother Charlie Chaplin [11]
1923 A Woman of Paris Marie St. Clair Charlie Chaplin [11]
1926 A Woman of the Sea Joan Josef von Sternberg Unreleased; destroyed lost film [11]
1927 Éducation de Prince The Queen Henri Diamant-Berger [7]
1947 Monsieur Verdoux Garden Party Guest Charlie Chaplin Uncredited
1952 Limelight Mrs. Parker Charlie Chaplin Uncredited


  1. "Madison Gates Purviance – Edna Purviance's father". www.ednapurviance.org.
  2. Toll, David W. (2002). The Complete Nevada Traveler: The Affectionate and Intimately Detailed Guidebook to the Most Interesting State in America. University of Nevada Press. p. 12. ISBN 0-940936-12-7.
  3. Monush, Barry, ed. (2003). Screen World Presents the Encyclopedia of Hollywood Film Actors: From the silent era to 1965, Volume 1. Hal Leonard Corporation. p. 612. ISBN 1-55783-551-9.
  4. "Charlie Chaplin and Edna Purviance Dates and Events". www.ednapurviance.org. Retrieved December 1, 2018.
  5. This is not the way Purviance met Chaplin, according to Gerith von Ulm's Charlie Chaplin – King of Tragedy, pp. 90–91.
  6. Robinson, David (1986). Chaplin : his life and art. Collins. p. 141, 219. ISBN 978-0-586-08544-8. Retrieved December 1, 2018.
  7. Powrie 2005, p. 95.
  8. "Edna Purviance". The Montreal Gazette. January 16, 1958. p. 35. Retrieved July 21, 2014.
  9. Ellenberger, Allan R. (2001). Celebrities in Los Angeles Cemeteries: A Directory. McFarland & Company Incorporated Pub. p. 104. ISBN 0-7864-0983-5.
  10. Neibaur 2012, p. 225.
  11. "Edna Purviance Filmography". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. American Film Institute. Archived from the original on October 3, 2019. Retrieved October 3, 2019.
  12. Neibaur 2012, p. 226.


  • Neibaur, James L. (2012). Early Charlie Chaplin: The Artist as Apprentice at Keystone Studios. Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press. ISBN 978-0-810-88242-3.
  • Powrie, Phil (2005). Pierre Batcheff and Stardom in 1920s French Cinema. Edinburgh, Schotland: Edinburgh University Press. ISBN 978-0-748-62960-2.
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