|Chaplin at the Southern Pacific Railroad station
in Los Angeles, June 16, 1932
The trail is nearly over and I am returning to Hollywood. Looking back on my holidays leaves me with an outstanding impression. Europe and the different countries I visited, embroiled in unrest, seem brewing a new epoch–theistic, sociological, and economical–unprecedented in the history of civilization. It animates me with a desire for accomplishment–not in the old way but in something new; perhaps another field of endeavor. …
As I journey from Seattle to Hollywood. passing through the rich farmland of Washington, the dense pine forests of Oregon and on into the vineyards and orchards of California, it seems impossible to believe ten million people wanting when so much real wealth is evident.
Nevertheless I am glad to be back in America. I’m glad to be home in Hollywood. Somehow I feel that in America lies the hope of the whole world. For whatever takes place in the transition of this epoch-making time, America will be equal to it.1
Charlie was met at the train station by his old friend and manager, Alf Reeves. He was briefly interviewed by the press although he had more questions for the interviewers than they had for him. He wanted to know about conditions in the motion picture industry and about certain friends, pointing out that he had been away for a long time. “It was the first good rest in twenty years,” Charlie told them, “but I still feel sorry for a goldfish, for that’s about how much privacy I got. But everywhere I went they were marvelous to me.”2
Like before he was asked about his next picture and if it would be a talkie. “My screen character is famous for pantomime so why should I talk?” Charlie replied. He was also eager to discuss his new economic plan that would establish an international currency to help pay off Germany’s war reparation debt and restore financial normality. “On my travels I talked my idea over with renowned economists and none was able to find a flaw,” he said somewhat boastfully. “I think it can be made practical. I am now preparing a paper on the subject which I will release in a few days.3
Chaplin’s reported love affairs in Europe were described by him as “affairs of the newspapers.” He was not engaged, he said.4
From the train station, Charlie went directly to his Beverly Hills home. “I stood in the center of the living room,” he wrote. “It was late afternoon and a carpet of long shadows lay across the lawn and streaks of golden sunlight streaked across the room. How serene it all looked. I could have wept. I had been away eight [sic] months, yet I wondered whether I was happy to be back. I was confused and without plan, restless and conscious of an extreme loneliness.” Chaplin went on to say that he had had in Europe a “vague hope of meeting someone who might orient my life. But nothing came of it. Of all the women I met, few fitted into that category–those that might have done were not interested. And now back in California I had returned to a graveyard.” Chaplin wrote that instead of dining alone that night at his house, he took a lonely stroll down Hollywood Boulevard.5
Before Charlie left Hollywood in January 1931, he had been seeing quite a bit of Georgia Hale, his leading lady from The Gold Rush. In fact, he had given her the run of his Summit Drive house, especially his tennis court, while he was away. According to Georgia, she never heard from Chaplin the whole time he was gone and read about his various love affairs in the newspapers.6 Her version of Charlie’s first evening home is different than the one he presents in My Autobiography.
Much to her surprise, Charlie called the moment he got home. “Though he had not written me one word in one year, he greeted me as if he had been in close contact every day.” Charlie had brought back two large suitcases filled with gifts for her. He tried to show them to her one by one but she wasn’t interested. “So I didn’t write you for a year. You’ll forget all about it once you see the pretty things I got you,” he told her. Georgia replied hysterically, “I don’t want things…you haven’t explained your silence…you haven’t said one loving thing.” “What is there to say?” Charlie responded coldly. Not only did Charlie refuse to explain his silence, but he cruelly began comparing “simple Georgia” to all the smart, worldly women he’d met on his tour. Hurt, Georgia had his chauffeur take her home. “We met for this one ugly encounter after one year apart,” she wrote. She didn’t see him again for ten years.7
Chaplin returned from his travels a changed man both personally and as a filmmaker. Shortly after his return he put pen to paper and began writing “A Comedian Sees The World,” his second travel narrative but the first written without the help of a ghostwriter. I will elaborate more on these topics and the aftermath of Chaplin’s tour in my next, and final, “World Tour Revisited” post (either by the end of the week or early next week).
1Charles Chaplin, “A Comedian Sees The World,” Woman’s Home Companion, January 1934
2Los Angeles Times, June 17, 1932
3ibid. Chaplin’s economic plan was published in the press on June 27th, 1933
5Charles Chaplin, My Autobiography, 1964
6While Chaplin was away, Georgia told Screenland magazine that she heard from him often. She was able to say where he had been and where he was going. It’s possible that she may have fibbed to the reporter because she was embarrassed that she hadn’t heard from him and the information about his travels had been gleaned from newspaper accounts she’d read.
7Georgia Hale, Charlie Chaplin: Intimate Close-ups, 1995