Chaplin and ‘Mad Josefina’
By Allan R. Ellenberger
Today, reports of obsessed fans stalking well-known actors is almost commonplace. One of the first incidents of star-stalking occurred in 1923 to comedian Charlie Chaplin whose home was invaded by an infatuated admirer.
The incident concerned a young Mexican girl named Marina Vega, dubbed “Mad Josefina” by the Mexican press. Marina, a beautiful but reportedly well-built girl, was educated in Mexico City and had married Jose Rivero, a prosperous rancher, when she was very young. Marina soon became bored with the ranchers life and escaped to Mexico City in early March 1923, where she went on an extravagant nine-day visit, literally throwing her money away.
Her husband followed, and on March 10, 1923 — after leading detectives on a merry chase — had her arrested for desertion. A brief reconciliation followed initiated by the city’s inspector general, named Almada. However, rumors spread throughout Mexico City that Almada and a General Serrano, had lavishly “entertained” her. Almada admitted knowing the girl and said he gave her money, but only so she could leave the city.
The Mexican press reported the eccentricities of “Mad Josefina” and her desire to become a great motion picture actress. After reportedly buying a thousand pesos worth of dresses and hats, and billing them to Almada, Marina left for Hollywood and her idol — Charlie Chaplin.
Charlie Chaplin’s former home at 6147 Temple Hill Drive in the Hollywood Hills
Arriving in Los Angeles a few days later, Marina checked into the downtown Alexandria Hotel. On Thursday, March 29, 1923, the buxom admirer found her way to Chaplin’s residence at 6147 Temple Hill Drive in the Hollywood Hills. There she gained entrance to the house through the ruse of dropping a diamond ring in the shirt-pocket of his cook who answered the doorbell, dashing by him as he fished for it.
Kono, Chaplin’s valet, and the rest of the servants were unable to remove her until director Eddie Sutherland was called in as a reinforcement from Chaplin’s studio, and was found in the comedians bedroom. After much cajoling, they tricked her into one of Chaplin’s cars and returned her to the Alexandria.
That evening, while Chaplin was entertaining his fiancé, Pola Negri, and Dr. Cecil Reynolds and his wife, Kono announced that Marina had returned and had somehow found her way back to Chaplin’s bedroom and was now wearing his silk pajamas!
Reynolds and Kono persuaded Marina to get dressed and led her downstairs to be introduced to Chaplin. She told the comedian that she had come all the way from Mexico City to meet him. After further questioning, Chaplin told her to return to her hotel and that he would buy her a train ticket back to Mexico City. She promised that she would not bother him again.
The next day, Chaplin heard nothing of his crazed admirer. However, on the evening of Saturday, March 31, he was again entertaining Pola and the Reynolds, and as they were sitting down to dinner, Kono rushed in and reported that Marina had come to the door strewing red roses on the driveway and was again refused admittance, but was now lying outside on the driveway dying from a bullet to the brain.
Reynolds and Kono carried Marina into the kitchen where she told the doctor that she had taken poison. (Kono thought she had shot herself because the moonlight made a oil-stain on the pavement near her head look like blood when he saw her from an upstairs window.) An ambulance was called and she was taken to the Hollywood Receiving Hospital.
Marina was treated and released although doctors questioned whether she had actually taken poison. A half-hour later reporters found her at the Alexandria eating ice cream. Marina declared that her love for Chaplin had chilled – but not for long.
The former Chaplin home as it looks today. This is all that is visible from the street as the estate is now surrounded by twenty-foot hedges. (Please note, this is a private residence. Do not disturb the occupants!)
On Tuesday, April 3, Kono discovered a trail of muddied footprints on the sidewalk about Chaplin’s home. The police were called and Marina was found in a rented room at a nearby Beachwood Drive residence. A policewoman from the Hollywood division removed “Mad Josefina” to the Business Girl’s Home on Bonnie Brae Avenue.
Chaplin released a statement saying that “the girl’s case is very pathetic and I am willing to pay her way back to her home.” The ever-dramatic Pola Negri was reportedly ill from the excitement at her Hollywood Boulevard home.
“Mad Josefina” apparently was never heard from again and it’s assumed she returned to Mexico.