Chaplin delivers a radio broadcast in support of Roosevelt’s “Buy Now” campaign, October 24th, 1933

Broadcasting nationally at 7:30pm from Columbia outlet KHJ in Los Angeles, Chaplin appealed to the country to show its support for President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s N.R.A. (National Recovery Administration). It had been five years since his last national radio broadcast, so this was the first time many listeners had heard his voice and were “surprised and thrilled at his British accent.”

However, in keeping with past radio appearances, he was struck with a severe case of “mike fright” before going on the air. Employees of KHJ said he was the “most nervous person they had ever seen broadcast….he paced the floor muttering over and over, ‘Twenty million people’ as though the thought of addressing such a vast audience was appalling.” He reportedly “consumed half a box of medicated throat discs and several cups of java before going on….Station audiences went fidgety watching [him] perspire.”

“[Chaplin] rehearsed his opening joke several times and when the time came for him to deliver it he almost had a spasm. But as the broadcast progressed he warmed to his subject and began striding about and gesticulating. On one occasion he missed the microphone by a fraction of an inch when impulse prompted him to wave an arm.”

His 900-word speech began as follows:

When I was notified from Washington to speak in behalf of the N. R. A., I was asked to be serious. So when I am asked to be serious, I shall be serious. Like the young lady at a Jewish ball, when a young gentleman went up to her and said: ‘Excuse me, are you dencing?’ she answered: ‘Are you esking” ‘Sure, I’m esking.’ ’Den, I’m dencing.’ So, like the young lady, then I am serious.”

He continued…

As you know, the code of the N. R. A. is for reducing the hours of labor, raising the wages to a higher level and increasing the purchasing power of the people. Whether this can be accomplished or not depends upon the patriotism and goodwill of every citizen of this country.

Stressing the necessity of “buying now,” he said:

Those who are fortunate enough to have money should spend it. Be like the little boy who was given 10 cents and was asked what he would do with it. He said: ‘I’m going to buy an ice cream soda!’ But, said the giver: ‘Wouldn’t you like to give it to a missionary to help the savages in Africa?’ ‘Sure, but I’ll buy an ice cream soda and ask the soda clerk to do that.’

He then referred to the 11,000,000 unemployed:

Naturally this appeal is not made to them. But there are 90,000,000 people in America, myself included, who have means–who have the purchasing power to buy now and can help to put those unemployed back to work. After all, we are not making any sacrifices. On the contrary, it is to our advantage if we buy now, because prices are bound to rise later on. 

Concluding, he said:

In March when all the banks were closed the people cried for action. Now President Roosevelt has given us that action. The Government has given us a program, and now it is our turn for action.  

Boston Globe, October 24th, 1933
Los Angeles Times, October 25th, 1933
Variety, October 1933


  1. I used to drive by these studios all the time when I lived there, but they get criss-crossed.There was a CBS radio studio on Sunset, I think. And then there was an KHJ studio on Melrose, if my memory is still intact. KHJ and CBS radio ere kind of intertwined for a bit. KHJ later became a radio station and TV station in LA. Anyway, I'll be in LA in a few weeks, so maybe I can send new photos of CC studios on LaBrea.Tom K

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