Edna Purviance

Olga Edna Purviance (/ˈɛdnə pərvˈəns/; October 21, 1895 – January 13, 1958) was an American actress of the silent film 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
Edna Purviance, silent film actress (SAYRE 8372) B&W.jpg
Purviance in 1923
Olga Edna Purviance

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

Life and careerEdit

1895–1913: Early lifeEdit

Edna Purviance was born in October 21,1895 on Paradise Valley, Nevada, United States of America near Winnemucca to English immigrant Louisa Wright Davey and American vintner to the western mining camps Madison (Matt) Gates Purviance.[1] When she was three of the family moved to Lovelock, Nevada, east of Reno 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 careerEdit

Purviance in Photoplay magazine, 1915

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, but he was concerned that she might be too serious for comedic roles. Purviance still won the role.[5]

Edna Purviance in The Adventurer (1917)

Chaplin and Purviance were romantically involved during the making of his Essanay, Mutual, and First National films of 1915 to 1917.[6] The romance ended suddenly when Purviance read a newspaper report of Chaplin having married 16-year-old Mildred Harris.

Purviance appeared in 33 of Chaplin's productions, including the 1921 The Kid. Her last credited appearance in a Chaplin film, A Woman of Paris, was also her first leading role. The film was not a success and effectively ended Purviance's career. She appeared 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.[7]

1927–1958: Retirement and later yearsEdit

For more than 30 years afterward, Edna Purviance lived quietly outside Hollywood. Purviance married John Squire, a Pan-American Airlines pilot, in 1938. They remained married until his death in 1945.

Chaplin kept Purviance on his payroll. She received a small monthly salary from Chaplin's film company until she got married, and the payments resumed after her husband's death. "How could I forget Edna?" Chaplin responded to an interviewer after her death. "She was with me when it all began."[8]


On January 13, 1958, Edna Purviance died from throat cancer at the Motion Picture & Television Country House and Hospital in Woodland Hills, California. Edna was 62 years old. [9][10] Her remains are interred at Grand View Memorial Park Cemetery in Glendale, California.[10]

In popular cultureEdit

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

In the TV series Peaky Blinders (series three, episode four), the character Tatiana Petrovna played by Gaite Jansen is said to resemble her.


Edna Purviance in The Pawnshop (1916)
Charlie Chaplin and Edna Purviance in Behind the Screen, 1916
Chaplin and Purviance in The Idle Class, 1921

Short subjectsEdit

All short subjects directed by Charlie Chaplin.

Year Title Role Notes Ref.
1915 A Night Out The Headwaiter's Wife [11]
1915 The Champion Trainer's Daughter [11]
1915 In the Park Nursemaid [11]
1915 A Jitney Elopement Edna [11]
1915 The Tramp Farmer's Daughter [12]
1915 By the Sea Man in Top Hat's Sweetheart [11]
1915 Work Maid [11]
1915 A Woman Daughter of the House [11]
1915 The Bank Edna, a Secretary [11]
1915 Shanghaied Daughter of the Shipowner [11]
1915 A Night in the Show Lady in the Stalls with Beads [13]
1915 Burlesque on Carmen Carmen [12]
1916 Police Daughter of the House [13]
1916 The Floorwalker Manager's secretary [13]
1916 The Fireman The Chief's Sweetheart [13]
1916 The Vagabond Girl Stolen by Gypsies [13]
1916 The Count Miss Moneybags [13]
1916 The Pawnshop Daughter [13]
1916 Behind the Screen The Girl [13]
1916 The Rink The Girl [13]
1917 Easy Street The Mission Worker [13]
1917 The Cure The Girl [13]
1917 The Immigrant Immigrant [13]
1917 The Adventurer The Girl [13]
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 [12]

Feature filmsEdit

Year Title Role Director(s) Notes Ref.
1921 The Kid Mother Charlie Chaplin [12]
1923 A Woman of Paris Marie St. Clair Charlie Chaplin [12]
1926 A Woman of the Sea Joan Josef von Sternberg not released; destroyed lost film [12]
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. ^ a b Powrie 2005, p. 95.
  8. ^ Toll, David W. (December 1994). "Edna Purviance: Nevada's Forgotten Movie Star". Nevada Magazine – via nevadaweb.com.
  9. ^ "Edna Purviance". The Montreal Gazette. January 16, 1958. p. 35. Retrieved August 13, 2021.
  10. ^ a b Ellenberger, Allan R. (2001). Celebrities in Los Angeles Cemeteries: A Directory. McFarland & Company Incorporated Pub. p. 104. ISBN 0-7864-0983-5.
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h i Neibaur 2012, p. 225.
  12. ^ a b c d e f "Edna Purviance Filmography". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. American Film Institute. Archived from the original on October 3, 2019. Retrieved October 3, 2019.
  13. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m 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.

External linksEdit