One of the perks of film research is noticing stories in old newspapers and magazines that turn out to be more interesting than what I was looking up in the first place. That’s the case with Charles Loeb, who put one of my deadlines in jeopardy when I first saw him mentioned in a 1929 news article.
Loeb, it seems, shipped himself from Chicago all the way to Culver City, CA in a coffin-like wooden box. His goal: to pop out of the box at Pathé studios and win his way into a movie career. What could possibly go wrong?
|From The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, June 6, 1929.|
Newspaper accounts refer to Loeb as “a German comedian,” though I can’t find any mention of him prior to his stunt. Comedian or not, he certainly blew his punch line—ending up jailed and almost dead. His story was picked up by the Associated Press, so versions of it appeared in newspapers all over the country in June of 1929. The AP reported:
An unusual way to get past the guards of a motion picture studio for a chance to “break into the game” may cost Charles Loeb, German comedian, his life. The actor had himself expressed from Chicago in a coffin upon which appeared the label, “Statue—handle with care—value $500.”Loeb went three days without water or food and today was in a critical condition.A baggage attendant called police when he heard strange noises coming from the box. The coffin was opened and Loeb taken to the jail hospital. Inside the box a note addressed to the studio casting director was found. It said: “I’ve tried to see you again and again but your trusted guardians always barred my way. This little trip will demonstrate what I think of a chance to show my wares—give me a chance.”Physicians said he would recover.
The United Press dug deeper into the story and filled in some details, including the information that Loeb was dressed to perform, wearing checkered trousers, a stiff collar, a derby hat, and soft-soled shoes. He had rouged his cheeks, and apparently rigged a makeup mirror and a flashlight so that he could make a last-minute check before what he thought would be his grand debut in front of the casting director.
Alas, he worried about his makeup more than food and water, and he drank what little water he’d brought by the end of the first day. He was severely dehydrated by the time he was found. Loeb may have considered it worth it, as director Charles Richards visited him in jail, and one newspaper account says he was promised a small part. It’s unlikely the promise, if it even happened, came to be fulfilled, and the visit was likely a publicity stunt on Richards’ own part.
|Loeb's coffin design gained him a mention in the "Inventions" section of Modern Mechanics magazine.|
The last mention of Loeb appears in a Wisconsin newspaper a few years later, as a guest on a radio show. He’s referred to as “Charles Loeb, who shipped himself to Hollywood from Ohio in a trunk” rather than as a comedian or actor, so it’s pretty clear that the stunt was his only claim to fame, even after the passing of time.
It’s unknown what ultimately became of him, but I like to think he found a job in shipping.