World Tour Revisited: Back in America, June 14th, 1932

Charlie poses on the deck of the Hikawa Maru in Seattle.

Seattle at last! I am interviewed by the press. Everyone seems warm and friendly. Something has happened to America since I’ve been away. That youthful spirit born of prosperity and success has worn off and in its place there are a maturity and sobriety. 1

Chaplin awoke aboard the Hikawa Maru in Seattle on the morning of June 14th. Wearing yet another double-breasted blue suit, a checkered tie, and his favorite button-up shoes, he “smiled and shook hands with immigration and  transportation officials–he’d kept them waiting almost two hours while he slept in.” * He assured everyone that he was “terribly glad to be back in America.” He added that besides rubbing shoulders with Gandhi, the Prince of Wales, and some “gorgeous European woman,” he has been studying the state of the economy during his world tour. “I have a suggestion for the financiers of this country,” he said. “Every fool, you know, has an idea. Mine is about international currency. I’m writing it now and I’m going to turn it over to them.” However, perhaps more importantly, he was worried about the state of his own financial affairs. “The red side of my own ledger probably will give me spots before my eyes. You know, I’ve simply got to get to work and make some money for Charlie Chaplin, as well as worry about the world. They say I only work when I feel like it, but I certainly feel like it now,” Charlie said, as he handed over a hundred-dollar check to his secretary Kono for their train tickets to Los Angeles.

“Get the best train, Kono,” he said. “Let’s be comfortable.”2

Next Charlie was asked, as he was many times during his tour, “Will he make a talkie?”

“I can express more with a gesture than hundreds of words. A lot of actors talk too much. Maybe they want to prove they can. There are a hundred talkies to one silent picture. You have to distinguish yourself some way, you know.”

He mentioned that he had been working out the plot for his new picture and writing some of his own music for it. He had not selected a leading lady but he saw “a couple of peaches” in Europe.

“Will you ever marry again, Charlie?”

“Well,” he smiled, “I wouldn’t get myself all dressed up and go out with that idea in mind. After all, there’s no sense in being too deliberate about a thing…You can’t tell what might happen. I’m glad I’m still young enough for these romantic rumors.”3

Charlie is “interviewed by the press”

Charlie mentioned that the last time he was in Seattle, twenty years ago, he was doing a pantomime act (“A Night In An English Music Hall”) five times a day at a theater (the Empress).

What was he going to do until his train left at noon?

“Well,” Charlie said, “I think I’ll take a drive around this lovely city of…” he hesitated & looked at Kono.

“Seattle,” Kono said, “Lovely Seattle!”4

Charlie arrives back in Los Angeles on June 16th. Stay tuned for his homecoming…

*Kono’s recollection of events is slightly different than what is found in contemporary articles. According to him, Chaplin would not leave his cabin because he was in the throes of writing out his economic plan and insisted that Kono find him a stenographer. When Kono told him that the immigration officials were waiting to see him, Chaplin told him to have them come to him. The long-suffering Kono eventually persuaded an officer to come to his cabin after he convinced him that the man inside was Charlie Chaplin. Kono then went hunting for a stenographer–the “homeliest” one he could find. A few hours later, Kono returned to the cabin after visiting with friends (Kono lived & went to school in Seattle for several years) and basically stuffed the stenographer’s pile of typed sheets in a briefcase and pushed Charlie off the boat and into a taxi so they could get to the train station in time. (Gerith Von Ulm, Charlie Chaplin: King of Tragedy, 1940)

1Charles Chaplin, “A Comedian Sees The World,” Woman’s Home Companion, January 1934
2Seattle Times, June 14, 1932
3Bellingham Herald, June 14, 1932
4Seattle Times, June 14, 1932

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