After divorce proceedings that had dragged on for nearly a year, Chaplin and Grey settled out of court today for the staggering sum of nearly $1 million ($11,971,200 USD 2007). $625,000 went to Lita, $200,000 was used to set up trust funds for the couple’s two babies, and the rest went towards assorted legal and court fees. She lost the house, but got custody of the children. It was, in 1927, the largest divorce settlement ever paid in California history.
Lita was only 18, but she was either exceptionally shrewd or exceptionally wronged.
Wed in Mexico in November 1924, Lita moved out almost exactly two years later. However, the marriage was in trouble quite literally from the beginning.
In her nearly 50-page formal complaint against Chaplin, Grey leveled the following accusations: he’d forced her to have sex with him before they were married; he’d told her to get an abortion when he discovered she was pregnant; on their way back to Los Angeles after their wedding, he told her, “This marriage won’t last long. I’ll make you so — sick of me that you won’t want to live with me”; accused her of forcing him into marriage; had an affair with a prominent motion picture actress; told her she was stupid; encouraged her to commit suicide; only took her out 3-4 times during the first two months of their marriage “for the sake of appearances”; left her alone on Christmas while he went out and got drunk; threatened her life twice with a loaded revolver; and since their separation, had only given her $27 for milk for the babies.
Apparently, Chaplin decided the money was worth his peace of mind – he didn’t even show up in court. Earlier in the year, Chaplin had filed a cross-complaint that denied many of Grey’s charges, and accused her of excessive partying, relationships with other men, and negligent parenting; however, this complaint was dismissed at the time of the settlement.