Day By Day: 1936

Wednesday, March 18th: Arrival at Singapore

The Chaplin party left Hong Kong on March 14th aboard the Suwa Maru. They arrived in Singapore amid a swirl of gossip about their possible nuptials.

The Suwa Maru docking in Singapore

The Singapore Free Press (March 19, 1936) described their arrival:

Although the Suwa Maru arrived earlier than was expected, there was a large crowd at the wharf to see Mr. Chaplin. Miss Goddard, who has a trim figure and vivacious personality to go with her pretty face, and Mr. Chaplin, who was dressed in his usual faultless style, were at the rails when the ship berthed. 

Alta, Charlie, and Paulette at the rails of the ship

Mr. Chaplin was given a rousing reception. A Malay police corporal, who had been limiting the numbers of sightseers wanting to go aboard, saluted Mr. Chaplin as he stepped from the gangway. 

Mr. Chaplin held out his hand to the Malay corporal, who shook it heartily. The corporal was so pleased  at Mr. Chaplin’s friendly gesture that he gripped Mr. Chaplin’s hand in both his own hands. 

Of course, Chaplin was asked by a Free Press reporter about his marriage plans and replied that they were his personal affair. There was a silence that was soon broken by a Chinese reporter who had not heard the Free Press question and asked: “Mr. Chaplin, is it true what they say–that you will be married here in Singapore?”

Chaplin replied politely but definitely: “That question has already been asked and answered.”

Autographed photos of Charlie and Paulette at their arrival in Singapore

Prior to their arrival it had been reported that Chaplin had radioed his agent while en route to Singapore to “do your utmost to arrange for our marriage.” It was also announced that they faced difficulty getting a license under local laws due to Chaplin’s two previous divorces in the U.S. Encouraging the marriage rumors even further was the fact that when Paulette appeared in Singapore she was wearing a large sapphire ring on her left ring finger.1

Paulette (showing the famous ring), Julius Fisher, and Alta

Asked about their schedule, Chaplin said that they planned to visit all the places of interest. “We will look at Malaya through ordinary tourists eyes. I don’t know much about your tin and rubber  and I’m not interested in big game hunting. I should be petrified if I was called on to shoot wild animals. However I hope to see some of your famous Malayan fauna. I am keen on fishing and I have heard there are lots of fish in these waters. I should like to catch tuna, swordfish, and sharks. As I will be here for four days I might get a chance to do a little fishing….We intend to play around in this part of the world for three months and make our plans as we go. We are touring in a perfectly aimless way.”

Paulette was also asked about their itinerary: “We are making our plans as we go along and we find each day far too short. There is so much to see. We had no idea we should come as far as this, but we are enjoying ourselves so much that we have just come on. We shall probably go back the same way we came after seeing Java and Bali, but, as I said before, our plans are indefinite.”

Even Alta, who was described by the Free Press article as the “head of the party” who “looked after everything” chimed in: “Mr. Chaplin is so fond of these parts. He loves Bali, the island, the people, and their customs.”

Front page of the Singapore Free Press, March 19th, 1936

After they disembarked, the Chaplin party went to the Swimming Club and then out to dinner with Mr. and Mrs. Julius Fisher. Fisher was co-owner of the Amalgamated Theaters in Singapore.

Paulette at the Swimming Club

Two suites were prepared for the travelers at the Adelphi Hotel. Onlookers noticed their suitcases, some of them with the initials C.S.C., being brought in and taken upstairs. Charlie and Paulette registered separately. The Free Press noted that “Miss Goddard and her mother are occupying the same room.”

That evening, the group went dancing at the New World amusement park, a place Chaplin remembered from his previous visit to Singapore in 1932.2 They returned to the hotel shortly before midnight.

More from Singapore in tomorrow’s edition of Day By Day: 1936

1Los Angeles Times, March 18-19, 1936
2Chaplin’s first visit to Singapore was almost exactly 4 years before on March, 27th, 1932. He arrived here with his brother, Syd, stayed at the Adelphi for a couple of days, then the two traveled on to Bali. Three weeks later he returned to Singapore sick with Dengue fever & spent a week in the hospital. Chaplin recalled this with a laugh during his current visit. 

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