Day By Day: 1936

Tuesday, February 18th: The SS Coolidge stops in San Francisco en route to Honolulu.

We embarked Los Angeles and arrived in San Francisco in pouring rain. However, nothing dampened our spirits; we had time for a little shopping, then returned to the boat.1 

When Chaplin and his party were spotted by the press aboard the ship, they appeared to be in the middle of a spat, with Paulette speaking to Charlie and her mother in an “agitated manner.” But by the time reporters got close enough to hear what it was all about, Paulette and her mother had stepped away.2

With Paulette on the Coolidge in San Francisco.
©Roy Export Co. Est.

Charlie, “bundled in a huge brown overcoat relieved by a brilliant blue shirt,” dodged questions about his marital status.  When asked if he and Paulette we already married, he replied, “Ask her.” Paulette, who was seated nearby, merely grinned. When asked if they planned to be married, Charlie only said: “She is going to be the greatest comedienne in the world.”3

Next came questions about his latest picture, Modern Times, and the rumor that he was retiring his Tramp character. He said he would resurrect the Tramp only when a suitable plot presented itself, and when that occurs, the tramp still will remain mute.

“He is altogether too precious to be wasted on trivia. He is not supposed to be a conscious satirist. The tramp was created solely for pantomime.” 

He said he would write, produce, and direct his next picture but would not appear in it. It would star Paulette and would be “a talkie, a psychological sort of thing.”4

“But no more five year intervals between pictures,” he announced. “I’m going to make two a year now.”5

As for his current travel plans, he said only that they would be gone about two months and would spend most of the time “wandering through the Orient.”6

In his 1964 autobiography, Chaplin wrote that they idea of going to China came to him on whim in San Francisco.

Passing by warehouses, I saw stamped on some of the freight the word “China.” “Let’s go there!”

“Where,” said Paulette. 


“Are you kidding?”

“Let’s do it now or we never will,” I said. 

“But I haven’t any clothes.”

“You can buy all you want in Honolulu,” I said. 

The decision made, Chaplin wired his manager Alf Reeves: “PLANNING TO BE ON “COOLIDGE” TO HONG KONG – WILL BE AWAY THREE MONTHS.”7

It should be noted that, like the 1921 European trip and the world tour of 1931-32, this trip would be not only a leisure cruise (or “honeymoon” cruise) but also a publicity tour for his new film.8

Coming up: Scenes from the Coolidge en route to Hawaii.  Catch up on my “Day by Day: 1936” series here.

1Chaplin, My Autobiography, 1964
2San Bernardino County Sun, Feb. 19th, 1936
3Wilkes-Barre Record, Feb. 19th, 1936
4Oakland Tribune, Feb. 19th, 1936
5San Bernardino County Sun, Feb. 19th, 1936. Alas, this never happened.
6Oakland Tribune, Feb. 19th, 1936
7Robinson, Chaplin: His Life & Art, 1985
8Chaplin, A Comedian Sees The World, 2014. In the notes, editor Lisa Stein Haven points out that the “Charles Chaplin Film Corporation Minutes of 9 December 1936, suggests that Chaplin’s “honeymoon” tour to the Orient, following Modern Times, was also conducted for publicity purposes.”


  1. I live in SF, so it'd be interesting to know which pier that ship docked at.It's certainly a lot different than 1936, but still…Tom K

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