|Charlie, May, and Syd in Naples, March 6th, 1932.
Boris Evelinoff, European representative for United Artists, is standing (I think)
behind Charlie to his right. May was left in the care of Evelinoff after his departure.
He eventually lost his position at UA because of his continual appeals to Chaplin on May’s behalf.
The Japanese ship, Suwa Maru, was set to embark from Naples at 5:30pm on Sunday, March 6th. In their hotel room in Rome that morning, Charlie was in such a rush to catch the train and the ship that May didn’t have time to put on makeup or finish dressing. When they were alone in their compartment on the train, Charlie told her, “Dear, I want to thank you for all you’ve given me. You’ve made me very happy, and my only wish is that this should continue. This short separation is just a chance to prove yourself. Remember to keep me informed of everything you do. Only swear to me that you’ll be faithful and that you won’t look at other men.” She remembered holding his “feverish hands.” “Why were they so hot?” she wondered, “Was it the thought of separation, or of his departure.” At Naples, they lunched at the Exselsior Hotel and then visited the poor section of town–something Charlie often did when he was in new city. May spent the afternoon going through the motions in a tearful haze. To keep his courage, Charlie would avoid looking at her.
|May (far right) accompanies Charlie as he boards the ship.|
|Charlie and Syd pose for photos aboard the Suwa Maru. May Reeves & Kono
are standing behind them.
|Chaplin poses with crew members, March 6th, 1932|
The captain of the ship invited them to his cabin to drink champagne with the other officers. Charlie looked at May and lifted his glass, “To our love, darling. To you forever. Be faithful to me. We’ll see each other again soon.”
A short time later an officer opened the door: “Return to the dock. We’re leaving.”
Here Charlie and May said their final farewells. Chaplin remembered that there were no tears. “As the boat pulled out, she was imitating my tramp walk along the quay. That was the last I saw of her.”
May’s recollection of their separation was more vivid:
Everything passed before me in a flash. Charlie took me in his arms: “Goodbye, dear, till we meet again.” They led me to the dock. I can still see myself, lost in the middle of the crowd, watching the ship pull slowly away. Near the dock, in a small boat resting on the oily water, an accordionist played one of those Neapolitan songs that wring the heart.
All the passengers waved their handkerchiefs. Charlie leaned out from a spot on the bridge where there was no railing, which seemed so dangerous to me that I uttered a loud cry. I was afraid he would fall into the sea. Finally he stood alone at his post, his white hair waving in the wind. As long as he could see me, he held up two fingers to signify two months of separation, and then he pointed to the third to signify the clinching of an imaginary alliance.
|May waving to Charlie from the dock.|
|Charlie waving back.|
Those unfamiliar with May’s story may wonder what ever became of her pregnancy (Spoiler Alert: the following is the last chapter of May’s book, so if you haven’t read it, you might want to skip this part):
Four weeks later, after atrocious suffering, Charlie’s wish was granted. He wouldn’t have a third child…For several weeks I struggled with death. I telegraphed the news to Charlie on several occasions and wrote long letters of explanation, but I never received a response. Only when I was convalescing did I receive a telegram: “Hope you are better–cheer up–Love Charlie.” And as a last sign of life, Charlie’s representative in Paris [Boris Evelinoff] received a cable asking him to send the doctor’s bill.
Thus ended my romance with Charles Spencer Chaplin
Charles Chaplin, My Autobiography
May Reeves, The Intimate Charlie Chaplin
Lisa K. Stein, Syd Chaplin: A Biography