Glendale police officer Ralph Murdy became a local celebrity in 1927 after taking Charlie Chaplin for a ride on his police motorcycle. Local newspaper photographers captured the duo on film and their photo appeared in the Los Angeles Examiner’s `"Who’s Who in News of the Day” on Nov. 5 of that year.
A Verdugo Views column about Chaplin and Murdy, complete with that 1927 photo, was printed in the Glendale News-Press this past Sept. 7. The photo was provided by Teal Metts, curator of the new Glendale Police Museum. Metts also put me in touch with Murdy’s relatives.
One of Murdy’s granddaughters, Patricia Murdy Wolf, sent me an email with a a copy of the Examiner clipping, along with an unidentified clipping from the same time period.
The second clipping stated that Chaplin, “while filming a picture in this neck of the woods,” made the startling discovery that the motorcycle officer’s mustache was almost identical “to the copyrighted Chaplin brush” and that Chaplin “insisted on a picture being made so that an official record can be kept of the similarity of the two soup strainers.”
The unknown writer continued, “in spite of the similarity of the decorative bristles on their upper lips, one of the men is a famous comedian, while the other is better known for his tear-making proclivities,” referring to Murdy’s sideline as a comedian.
Murdy took advantage of his time with Chaplin, who was in Glendale to complete the movie “The Circus” to learn several new stunts in preparation for the Glendale Police Officers’ Relief Assn. show at the Alexander Theatre, now the Alex Theatre, later that month.
“Murdy contends that the mustache has greatly increased his salesmanship ability and that he has been able to dispose of a large number of tickets to the show since acquiring it,” the writer concluded.
The Glendale Police and Fire Assn. had been formed in 1923, according to a city of Glendale online post. When the two entities separated the following year, the police organization became the Glendale Police Officers’ Relief Assn.
Funds raised at the Alexander and other similar events were to be used in case of sickness or accidents and for death benefits. For instance, if an injury kept a policeman from his duties, he received $3 a day for 12 weeks. Surgical reimbursements were not to exceed $50. If a member died while in good standing, his immediate family or dependent relatives received $200, according to the online post.
Murdy, born in New Orleans, who had been a championship boxer in the Marine Corps, married Hazel Chinn, of Texas, according to Wolf.
After World War I, the Murdys moved to Mexico, where he worked in the oil industry. Their son Wallace was born in Tampico, Mexico, in 1921. They left when Ralph Murdy contracted malaria.
``The best treatment at the time was in Southern California.
“They moved here around 1923, and Ralph Murdy soon joined the Glendale Police Department. A daughter, Shirley Murdy Nichols, was born in 1926. “I know he wasn’t an officer very long because it was hard on my grandmother,” Wolf wrote.
Wolf, daughter of Wallace Murdy, sent a series of emails. One included the image of a business card for Murdy’s Parcel Delivery at 328 E. Broadway: “Nothing Too Large — Nor Too Small,” Telephone Glendale 752, with “4 Deliveries Daily.”
“My grandparents left Glendale after losing their home and parcel delivery business in the stock market crash,” Wolf said. “They moved all around Los Angeles looking for work and, according to my Dad, lived in some pretty bad places.”
During the Depression, Ralph Murdy worked as an extra in many films, according to Wolf. Perhaps the publicity from his photo with Chaplin provided a link to Hollywood, as he appeared in a 1933 Laurel and Hardy production, “Sons of the Desert,” regarded as one of Laurel and Hardy’s best films, according to Wikipedia. He was also in the original “King Kong” as one of the journalists, Wolf added.
“He was a real character! He was a great singer, a comedian and a lover of people; however he could be stern too,” Wolf said of her grandfather.
To the Readers:
Now known as the Glendale Police Officers Assn., or GPOA, the organization has about 250 members and continues to provide services such as “long-term disability, legal defense funds, supplemental insurance and the Political Action Committee,” according to a city of Glendale online post.
The GPOA formed the “Cops for Kids” foundation to help children in underprivileged families during the holidays, provide scholarships to local students and financially support local events that benefit Glendale youths.