World Tour Revisited: Passing time in Singapore

Illustration by Peter Helck from the final installment of “A Comedian Sees The World,”
 Woman’s Home Companion, January 1934. Note Charlie and Syd on the rickshaw.

Just to recap: After two weeks in Bali, Charlie and Syd returned to Singapore on April 20th, 1932 where they had planned to catch the boat for Japan on the 24th. Unfortunately Charlie became ill and was in the hospital for a week so their plans for Japan had to be postponed. He was released on April 26th and joined his brother at the Adelphi Hotel. There is no mention of his illness or hospital stay in his travel memoir, “A Comedian Sees The World,” only that they had returned to Singapore to await the next boat for Japan & would make the most of their visit:

There were several days to wait before before we could get a boat to Japan, so in the meantime we merged ourselves into the life of Singapore.

Of course anything after Bali is a letdown. But Singapore has its charm. Every evening we would ramble through the native quarters on rickshaws. Occasionally we would go to the New World–the native Coney Island of Singapore–where every known variety of entertainment is given, from Malay opera to prize-fighting. (Chaplin, “A Comedian Sees The World,” 1934) 

The brothers finally sail for Japan on May 6th.  Meanwhile, here are some highlights of their stay in Singapore:

Charlie hosts a luncheon at the Adelphi for the Ranee of Sarawek
 (on Charlie’s right) and her daughter (on his left), April 27th, 1932.
Charlie and Syd at the Singapore races, April 30th, 1932.
(Straits Times, May 1st, 1932)
Singapore races.
Singapore Free Press, May 2nd, 1932

Where was Charlie 12 months before?

In Marseilles, where he is confronted with the truth about Syd’s past with May Reeves. He also meets Sister Aimee Semple McPherson who lifts his spirits, if nothing else…


  1. YES! Amazing.Syd's smile is so sweet there. He usually looks like a snake oil salesman when he smiles in some of his old photos. I felt bad last week when I read that he confided in May Reeves, that he a grown man, had found himself in the wings crying his eyes out after some of Charlie's harsh treatment. I know that when his mom died and he was a steward aboard a ship that Charlie did not keep up his letter writing. Syd told him that they were all each other had left in the way of family. Syd was very disappointed that CC wouldn't keep up with the letters.So, I guess Jess, you are inferring that Syd was intimate with May. I suspected that before she was introduced to Charlie they might have been. Also, if she was working in league with traveling businessmen who came to the Riviera to vacation and gamble, she may have acted as a tour guide and hostess. The 30's were a loose time in France. Charlie was always preoccupied with the idea that she was taking rendezvous away from him and indulging in 'other' interests. According to her he was always begging her to be faithful and was accusative when she had gone out of his site. Who know…Nice to see they have a Derby over there. Our Kentucky Derby is due. Get your hat Jess.

  2. LOL. Yup. Same sentiment. I have been a club worker all my life in Miami and Orlando. No desire to go up to Mardi Gras on our gulf coast EVER.

  3. Have you ever been to thunder though Jess? One of my bestfriends was a local of Louisville and since I'm from Indy she took me. It was kinda cool actually.But I feel you. I've lived in Indiana until I came to Kentucky and I never, ever want to go to 500. People are drunk, pots everywhere and I don't want to just watch a bunch of cars whiz by for four hours.

  4. I went to Thunder Over Louisville once but it was so long ago I don't remember much about it. You couldn't pay me to go to an Indy 500 or Nascar race for much the same reason I won't go to the derby.

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