World Tour Revisited: Charlie arrives in Vancouver, eh?

After a short stay at the William Head quarantine station near Victoria, the Hikawa Maru docked in Vancouver on the morning of June 13th, 1932. Sometime later, a weary Chaplin, who hadn’t been to Vancouver since his vaudeville days, spoke to reporters in the smoking lounge of the ship. He had been unable to sleep the night before, finally going to bed around 6:00am to catch a few hours’ rest. “There was too much excitement for me, I’m afraid, and I couldn’t get a wink. People rushing about, anxious to catch a first glimpse of the British Columbia skyline.”

More than anything, including his next picture which he insists will be silent, Charlie was anxious to discuss his economic theories. “I am reputedly a comedian, but after seeing financial conditions of the world I have decided I am as much an economist as financiers are comedians, if you know what I mean.” He continued, “People everywhere want more material benefits and the privileges that go with wealth. Financiers will have to take less profit and they will have to get on a basis of larger volume of business and smaller return.”

Chaplin said that depression “hangs like a pall of smoke over every country I visited. Wait, perhaps I shouldn’t say every country. There was one place where the people, semi-civilized to our western understanding, didn’t know there was a depression. That was in the island of Bali.” Chaplin thought the place was lovely but he wouldn’t want to live there. “The depression depresses me but I wouldn’t want to be out of it at any cost.  I must be in the milieu of life. I like being where things happen.”

Photo of Chaplin supposedly taken at Nanaimo Harbor, B.C.,
June 1932

Here a reporter for the Vancouver Sun describes Chaplin’s offscreen appearance and relates a story he told of being chased around Japan by the paparazzi:

Chaplin doesn’t  look much like his motion picture self. The hair of his broad, finely modeled head is almost white. His large, luminous blue eyes are serious. Sartorially, he was a “rhapsody in blue.” A double-breasted serge suit of navy blue. Blue tie. Blue shirt. Small blue veins show in the skin of a rather pallid face.  

But he displayed one characteristic gesture when he was telling of how reporters and photographers chased him everywhere in Japan. 

“It was really embarrassing,” he said. “I’d be looking in a shop window, or I’d stop a moment on the street and there they would be.” He jumped from his chair and pantomimed the figure of a press cameraman, crouched over his camera. 

“Being trailed that way makes me terribly self-conscious.”

After spending the day in and around Vancouver, Charlie will sail for Seattle in the evening, arriving the next morning. So more on that tomorrow.

World Tour (1931-32) Revisited

Where was Charlie twelve months before? Hanging out with H.G. Wells in the south of France:


New York Times, June 14, 1932
Seattle Times, June 13, 1932
Vancouver Sun, June 13, 1932


  1. Hmmm… I will be in Nanaimo this afternoon, maybe I will take a walk and see if I can find this place in the photo.

  2. Where do you live? I'm in Delta. I'm quite familiar with Nanaimo, have lots of friends there. The photo looks like Front St. near where the old Malaspina Hotel was. I can't figure out why he would be there though, if his ship docked at Victoria and then went to Vancouver. Phil

  3. Vancouver makes more sense than anywhere else. It's the largest seaport. Nanaimo is a small town and must have been tiny back then. Victoria, which is the Provincial capitol, makes a bit of sense as a clearing place, being nearer to Seattle as well.Phil

  4. The only other possibility is that he went there while the boat was docked in Victoria, but that doesn't seem likely either.

  5. Hi Phil, I live in Vancouver, I'm in Nanaimo for work. I was wondering why a passenger ship would stop in Nanaimo when Victoria seems to make more sense.

  6. I don't know when he would have been there otherwise. I'm pretty certain this is from 1932 because he wears a very similar outfit, inc. the straw hat, a few days later when he arrives in Hollywood. The suit also looks blue as the reporter noted.

  7. That seems right, so I don't get . I seem to remember going to Washington State by ferry once and we had to depart from Victoria. Maybe it was a Customs/Immigration thing.P

  8. I don't know if he was actually in Victoria either. The quarantine station was in a place called Metchosin which is nearby.I guess the only other explanation is that this isn't Nainamo at all. I did some searching and I couldn't find any article that mentioned him being there.

  9. Ok, so I did my snooping and I didn't see anything that looked remotely like the photo. Of course, that doesn't mean much, there's just nothing old left on the waterfront. So my official report is that I have nothing to report!

  10. I love his outfit. Finally a suit that hangs well. They wore their clothes so tight to the skin in Charlie's earlier days. I think it became a habit….which also caused him to have to rescue his nuts a time or two when the cameras flashed. He needed more than just boxers…..always. hehehe. I'm a baaaaad girl.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.