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Biography

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Overview (3)

Born in Brixton, London, England, UK
Died in Los Angeles, California, USA
Birth NameGeorge Wheeler Dryden

Mini Bio (1)

Wheeler Dryden was born as George Dryden Wheeler, Jr. on August 31, 1892, taking the name Wheeler Dryden when he began to work in music halls in a vaudeville act with his father, George Dryden Wheeler, Sr. who worked under the name Leo Dryden. Wheeler's mother was Hannah Chaplin who was also the mother of Wheeler's two half-brothers, Sydney Hill Chaplin (Syd) and Charles Spencer Chaplin Jr.

Hannah Chaplin had a history of mental illness, alcoholism, and prostitution. In early 1893, Wheeler's father removed the six month old baby Wheeler from Hannah Chaplin's custody and raised him to adulthood. He never told the child about Hannah or his half-brothers until 1915 when he sent his son a letter while he was traveling with a vaudeville show and told him the truth. Wheeler was 23 years old and suddenly he had a family other than his father.

Wheeler got busy writing letters to Charles and Syd Chaplin but he didn't get a response. In 1917, he wrote to Edna Purviance, Chaplin's leading lady, who intervened on his behalf to convince Charles to acknowledge his half-brother. She did.

Wheeler moved to the USA in 1918 and met his mother and two half-brothers. He hired his half-brother Syd Chaplin as his personal manager to help him get started with his acting career. Wheeler's early work in the US was mostly on the stage. Ultimately, Wheeler obtained employment not only as a film actor but as an assistant director and director. He became a US citizen in 1936.

In early 1938, Wheeler, age 45, married Alice Chapple, age 27, a successful ballerina at New York City's Radio City Music Hall. Their son, Spencer Dryden, was born on April 7, 1938 in New York City. The couple then moved to Los Angeles so Wheeler could continue to pursue his acting. His father, Leo Dryden, died on April 21, 1939 in London, England.

Wheeler Dryden was a jazz fan and he encouraged Spencer in a music career by taking him to LA jazz clubs during the 1950s. It paid off because Spencer grew up to be a musician and drummer, replacing Skip Spence, the drummer in the band Jefferson Airplane. Spencer Dryden remained with Jefferson Airplane until February 1970 then he left the music business from 1970 to 1977. He returned briefly as manager and to perform with New Riders of the Purple Sage. When he left New Riders, he worked with Barry Melton's band for a short time and retired again in 1995. Spencer Dryden died on January 11, 2005 from colon cancer.

Wheeler Dryden worked on Chaplin's last three films before Chaplin left the US to attend the world premiere of Limelight in London, England. He sailed on the RMS Queen Elizabeth with his wife, Oona O'Neill Chaplin and children on September 18, 1952. The next day, his US re-entry permit was revoked. Chaplin was banned from the United States.

Because nearly all of Chaplin's property was in the USA, Chaplin sent his wife, Oona, back to the US to get his affairs in order and to appoint Syd and Wheeler as administrators to sell off Chaplin's assets. She rejoined Chaplin in Switzerland at Manoir de Ban, their new 35 acre estate overlooking Lake Geneva in Corsier-sur-Vevey. Oona O'Neill Chaplin then renounced her US citizenship and became a British citizen.

Syd and Wheeler oversaw the sale of Chaplin's Beverly Hills home and the remainder of his stock in United Artists. The last thing that sold was the studio in 1954 which resolved all of Chaplin's US financial interests.

All this took a toll on Wheeler Dryden, physically, mentally and professionally. He couldn't get a job even if he wanted one because his name was forever attached to the stigma surrounding Charles Chaplin. Wheeler became a recluse with several hospitalizations for treatment of mental illness.

Wheeler Dryden was active as an actor and director in England until 1918 and in the USA from 1918 until 1952. Wheeler died September 30, 1957 in Los Angeles, California. He never saw his son's success in music.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: awordlover

Spouse (1)

Alice Chapple (1938 - 1943) ( 1 child)

Trivia (2)

Father of Spencer Dryden, drummer for the Jefferson Airplane and New Riders of the Purple Sage. Half Brother of Sir Charles Chaplin and Syd Chaplin.
Son of music hall singer Leo Dryden. In films from 1919, at Gray Seal Productions, in New York. Also acted on stage in the U.S. and in Britain. As assistant director, worked on Charlie Chaplin's last three American films.

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