#1: [Holding slate] with Charles Chaplin [left]

#2: [Left] with Charles Chaplin - "The Great Dictator"





Born: 29 November 1890, San Francisco, Calif., USA. [Later, the family lived in Alameda, Calif., and, following the earthquake of April 1906, in San Anselmo, Calif.]

Died: 18 June 1967, Hollywood, Calif., USA.

Career: Worked briefly as illustrator on a San Francisco newspaper. Met Gilbert M. 'Broncho Billy' Anderson in San Rafael, Marin County, Calif., in 1911. Joined the Essanay Film Manufacturing Company [incorporated in 1907 in Chicago by George K. Spoor and G.M. Anderson - main studio was located at 1333-45 W. Argyle Street, Chicago - the company settled in Niles, California, near Oakland, in April 1912 - a new studio was inaugurated in June 1913] in August 1912 as an extra and as third baseman for the company baseball team. Appeared in ca. 6 films as a cowboy. Started camera work in 1913. At first shot 2u footage for 'Broncho Billy' westerns, and Essanay's 'Snakeville Comedies'. He worked mostly with doph Jess (Jesse Jerome) Robbins. His first film as first cameraman was 'The Dance at Eagle Pass' [1913]. Met Charles Chaplin in 1915 while working with Essanay in Niles, where he was shooting westerns with Gilbert M. 'Broncho Billy' Anderson.


#1: Essanay, Chicago, Illinois

#2: Essanay, Niles, California


Came out of retirement to start shooting 'Limelight' [1951].

Was married to actress Ida Chaix. Their son Roland Jack was born in Niles in 1914 [and died in Ventura in 2011]. [Jack appeared as the title character in 'The Bachelor's Baby' [1915], a 'Broncho Billy' Anderson western. He also appeared in bit parts in Richard Attenborough's bio-pic 'Chaplin' [1991], and an independent production, 'Weekend King' [2007; d: Bill Levesque], very probably making Jack's 92 year 'career' span a world record for screen actors.]

Brother of [screenplay] writer Dan Totheroh [1894-1976].

'[For Chaplin's Mutual films] the sets were more elaborate, the photography improved. For the first few films [Rollie] Totheroh worked with William C. Foster. Diffused sunlight was still used in interiors but a couple of Klieg broadlights were used to boost a dark corner in 'The Floorwalker' set, and in the police-station scenes of 'Easy Street', which may have been shot during the rainy season. The moving camera is used to follow the two dancing couples in 'The Count'. It was also used for Chaplin's encounter with the tough in 'Easy Street'. Truck backs also appear in 'The Vagabond' and 'The Cure'. The photography in the Mutuals has remarkable clarity, especially in good prints. [...] For his short, eighteen-hundred feet comedies, Chaplin thought nothing of shooting from thirty to ninety thousand feet of film. For his features he often shot half a million feet to get eight reels. His shorts took much longer than was then customary and many of his features were a year or more in the making.' [Theodore Huff in 'Charlie Chaplin', 1951.]

"Modern Times" & "The Great Dictator"



The Dance at Eagle Pass [Lloyd Ingraham] b&w; 1 reel; filmed at the Essanay Studio, Niles


When Love and Honor Called [Gilbert M. 'Broncho Billy' Anderson] b&w; 3 reels; filmed at the Essanay Studio, Niles


His Regeneration [Gilbert M. 'Broncho Billy' Anderson] b&w; 1 reel; western starring 'Broncho Billy' Anderson, with a cameo appearance by Charles Chaplin; filmed at the Essanay Studio, Niles


The Bachelor's Baby [Gilbert M. 'Broncho Billy' Anderson] b&w; 1 reel; his son Jack 'played' the role of baby; filmed at the Essanay Studio, Niles


 1. The Chaplin Essanay Films

Theodore Huff, who wrote 'The Early Work of Charles Chaplin' [British Film Institute, 1945 & (revised) 1961] and the biography 'Charlie Chaplin' [1951] credits Rollie Totheroh with the ph of Chaplin's Essanay films. That's incorrect. All the Essanay films were ph by Harris [Harry] Newton Ensign [1883-1943]. Totheroh's grandson David wrote to the IEC: 'Rollie was NOT involved in ANY of the Chaplin Essanay films, originally or in later reissue form.'


 2. The Chaplin Mutual Films


The Floorwalker/The Store [Charles Chaplin] b&w; 2 reels; cph: William C. Foster & (uncred) Frank D. Williams; or as c.asst; filmed at the Lone Star Studio, Hollywood


The Fireman [Charles Chaplin] b&w; 2 reels; cph: William C. Foster & (uncred) Frank D. Williams; also as c.asst; filmed at the Lone Star Studio


The Vagabond [Charles Chaplin] b&w; 2 reels; cph: William C. Foster & (uncred) Frank D. Williams; also as c.asst; filmed at the Lone Star Studio


One A.M. [Charles Chaplin] b&w & tinted; 2 reels; cph: William C. Foster; filmed at the Lone Star Studio


The Count [Charles Chaplin] b&w; 2 reels; filmed at the Lone Star Studio


The Pawnshop [Charles Chaplin] b&w; 2 reels; filmed at the Lone Star Studio


Behind the Screen [Charles Chaplin] b&w; 2 reels; filmed at the Lone Star Studio


The Rink [Charles Chaplin] b&w; 2 reels; filmed at the Lone Star Studio


Easy Street [Charles Chaplin] b&w; 2 reels; filmed at the Lone Star Studio


The Cure [Charles Chaplin] b&w; 2 reels; filmed at the Lone Star Studio


The Immigrant [Charles Chaplin] b&w; 2 reels; filmed at the Lone Star Studio


The Adventurer [Charles Chaplin] b&w; 2 reels; filmed (July) at the Lone Star Studio and at Santa Monica


 3. Other Films


A Dog's Life [Charles Chaplin] b&w; 3 reels; prod First National


The Bond/Charlie Chaplin's Liberty Bond Appeal [Charles Chaplin] b&w; ½ reel; prod for the Liberty Loan Committee


Shoulder Arms [Charles Chaplin] b&w; 3 reels (originally filmed as a 5-reeler); prod First National


How to Make Movies [Charles Chaplin] b&w; dram doc/1 reel; cph: Jack Wilson; how Chaplin makes his movies at First National; unreleased


Sunnyside [Charles Chaplin] b&w; 3 reels; filmed 1918-19; prod First National


Charlie the Barber [Charles Chaplin] b&w; short/7m; scene cut from the final edit of 'Sunnyside'


The Professor [Charles Chaplin] uncompleted (7m); prod First National


A Day's Pleasure [Charles Chaplin] b&w; 2 reels; prod First National


The Kid [Charles Chaplin] b&w; 6 reels (over half a million feet of film was shot - 2 cameras were used - one negative was for Europe); re-edited in 1971 with music score; 'The photography, although clear, is not up to the best work of the period. Chaplin was still using an open-air stage, with daylight 'boosted', now and then, by a few banks of lights. No use was made of backlighting, by now commonplace in Hollywood, leaving some of the interiors flat in appearance.' (Theodore Huff); prod First National


The Idle Class/Vanity Fair [Charles Chaplin] b&w; 2 reels; prod First National


Pay Day [Charles Chaplin] b&w; 2 reels; prod was ready to start filming in August 1921, but Chaplin suddenly went on a trip to Europe; returned in October and finished shooting in February; 'For the first time in a Chaplin film backlighting is used in the interiors. Night scenes, such as the rain and the trolley-car sequences, were photographed at night with the aid of rather skillful artificial lighting.' (Theodore Huff); prod First National


The Pilgrim [Charles Chaplin] b&w; 4 reels; prod First National


A Woman of Paris [, A Drama of Fate] [Charles Chaplin] b&w; filmed 1922-23; prod United Artists (UA)


#1: [Behind cam] with Charles Chaplin - "The Gold Rush" - photo Thys Ockersen Archive

#2: [Left] with Charles Chaplin



The Gold Rush [Charles Chaplin] b&w; 9 & 10 reels; filmed February-April 1924 & 1925; re-released in 1942 with music & commentary; prod UA


The Circus [Charles Chaplin] b&w; 7 reels; filmed 1925-27; prod UA


[Right] with Charles Chaplin - "City Lights"



City Lights [, A Comedy Romance in Pantomime] [Charles Chaplin] b&w; silent film with music; cph: Gordon Pollock; prod started in March 1928, but was halted several times; prod was finished in 1930; prod UA


Cane in the Grating [Charles Chaplin] b&w; short/7m; cph: Gordon Pollock; deleted sketch from 'City Lights'


Modern Times [Charles Chaplin] b&w; silent film with music, sound efx and a few spoken sentences; cph: Ira Morgan; process ph: Bud Thackery; filmed 1934-35


The Great Dictator [Charles Chaplin] b&w; cph: Karl Struss; filmed 1939-40; 'Charlie Chaplin's brother, Sydney, called me. His usual cameraman, Rollie Totheroh, couldn't handle 'The Great Dictator', which Charlie was about to make, and so Sydney asked me to do it.' (From interview with K. Struss in 'Hollywood Cameramen' by Charles Higham, 1970.)


[Left] with Charles Chaplin - "Monsieur Verdoux"



Monsieur Verdoux [, A Comedy of Murder] [Charles Chaplin] b&w; uncred cph (+ artistic superv): Curtis (Curt) Courant; filmed 1946-47


Song of My Heart [Benjamin Glazer] b&w; stand-by ph (cred as ph); uncred ph (cred as prod superv): Curt Courant; 'Although Charles Chaplin's longtime cameraman, Roland Totheroh, received his first credit for a non-Chaplin-directed film in decades, 'Song of My Heart' was actually shot by Curtis (Curt) Courant, a German-born cameraman with extensive credits in Europe, who had been denied membership by the cameramen's union local. A Hollywood Reporter news item stated that Courant had been permitted to shoot two other films, 'The Sin of Harold Diddlebock/Mad Wednesday' (1945-46, Preston Sturges; Courant cred as tech dir and Robert Pittack as ph) and 'Monsieur Verdoux', but the union required that a stand-by first cameraman be hired as well and Courant not be permitted to give orders or touch equipment.' (From the TCM website.)


Limelight [Charles Chaplin] ; ph cons (started the film); ph: Karl Struss; filmed 1951-52; 'They did start out with Rollie Totheroh and a top crew, but Rollie still didn't know how to light. So they called me in. I wanted to use two cameras for every shot, which we had done on 'The Great Dictator', but he wouldn't let me do that the second time. I thought I'd help him, give him something to cut, because he had no knowledge of camera direction, his films were completely 'theatre'.' (From interview with K. Struss in 'Hollywood Cameramen' by Charles Higham, 1970.)




The Tomboy on Bar Z [Gilbert M. 'Broncho Billy' Anderson] actor; ph: Jess Robbins (?); filmed at Niles, Calif.


The Ranchman's Anniversary [Arthur Mackley] actor; ph: ?; filmed at Niles, Calif.


The Making of Broncho Billy [Gilbert M. 'Broncho Billy' Anderson] actor; ph: Jess Robbins (?); filmed at Niles, Calif.


Shot test footage for a 3-D system [b&w/528 ft] - Description on the 'BFI Film & TV Database' website: Test footage for a 3D system. Medium shot (MS) of two technicians (Morgan Hill and Val Lane) spinning around one another holding their arms out. Obviously 3D tests but the footage does not have a three-dimensional effect (111). Tight Close-up of the same two technicians. One passes his hand in front of their faces and extends his arm. Flips tie towards camera, puts it over his face in playful gesture. Other man extending arm behind them (176). MS of technicians, one standing behind the other, and one pulls his coat over his own head. They walk back and forth towards the camera (220). Same placement as above and one man pulls lapel up and down (292). Same two men in MS standing in an archway. Background out of focus but indicates depth (No 3D effect on this reel so far) (357). Same placement and location (371). MS amidst trees, cars in background. The 3D effect works here, but the tree and man in foreground seem to be bouncing.

David Totheroh: 'I think the 3D test footage was shot later in the 1920s, between 'The Circus' and 'City Lights'. The technique used a rotating lens mount, or prism, synchronized with the shutter so that every other frame was exposed from left or right eye p.o.v. At least twice as much footage as the 528 ft held by the British Film Institute exists in a private collection.'


Around the Clock [Tom Terriss] b&w; doc (one day in the city of Los Angeles)/918 ft; co-assoc prod