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1930s & Earlier / Eric Campbell - Chaplin Nemesis
If you've seen any of Charlie Chaplin's best comedy shorts, you've probably seen Eric Campbell. Campbell, a native of Scotland, played opposite Chaplin in a dozen films in 1916 and 1917. Campbell's daunting 6-foot-5, 300-pound frame made him perfect as a foe for the diminutive Chaplin. Despite his menacing figure, Campbell was a gentle soul whose final year was marred by terrible tragedy. On July 9, 1917, Campbell's wife died suddenly of a heart attack after dining at a Santa Monica restaurant near their home. Walking to a nearby store to buy a mourning dress, Campbell's 16-year-old daughter, Una, was hit by a car a seriously injured. That September, Campbell met Pearl Gilman, a vaudeville comedienne with a family reputation for gold-digging. Just five days after they met, Campbell and Gilman were married. (Daughter Una, still recuperating at a friend's home in Santa Monica canyon, was not told of the wedding for several weeks.) Less than two months after marrying the gentle giant, Gilman sued him for divorce, claiming her new husband abused her with his heavy drinking and profanity. Campbell moved into the Los Angeles Athletic Club, taking a room next to his best friend Chaplin. At a cast party Campbell got drunk. Driving home on December 20, 1917 at 4 a.m., Campbell crashed his car and was killed. He was 39. Campbell's ashes remained unclaimed for more than 30 years.