Showing posts with label Toraichi Kono. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Toraichi Kono. Show all posts

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Farewell reception for Chaplin & Kono hosted by the Japanese Society of Los Angeles, January 9th, 1931

Held at the Hamanoya Restaurant in Little Tokyo,* this gathering (I assume) was a sendoff for Chaplin & his assistant, Kono, who were leaving a world tour in less than a month.

Photo courtesy of Gretchen Mittwer. Mittwer's grandfather, Julius, was a distributor for United Artists in Japan (under the black arrow near the right). Chaplin is under the white arrow near the center. Kono is two down from Chaplin on the right.

Actor George Kuwa presents Charlie and Kono with gifts on behalf of the Asahi Shimbun newspaper.
(Source: Charles Chaplin In Japan by Ono Hiroyuki)

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Japanese actors & filmmakers at the Chaplin Studio, 1925

Photo source: Charles Chaplin In Japan by Ono Hiroyuki

Third from left is actor Sojin Kamiyama. Next to Chaplin (in striped tie) is Osamu Rokusha, manager of the Shochiku Cinema Company in Tokyo, who evidently spent several months apprenticing at the Chaplin Studios. Harry d'Arrast and & Toraichi Kono are on the far right.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Chaplin with members of the Shochiku Cinema Company, 1925

CC is second from left. At far right are Toraichi Kono and Harry d'Arrast
See another photo here.

From the book Charles Chaplin In Japan by Ono Hiroyuki

Friday, October 31, 2014

The bench photos

Located at the end of a row of offices near the studio screening room, this bench was a popular spot for photos at the Chaplin Studio.

The building straight ahead is a corner of the studio laboratory. I believe the studio entrance gate is around the corner
 from the bench, between the screening room and the lab.

A few photos of Chaplin and others with the bench:

Chaplin posing with an airmail package, 1927

Posing with Kono, 1927
 (taken at the same time as the "airmail" photos above)

With Harry d'Arrast, 1923
With Chuck Reisner (left) and Konrad Bercovici, c.1924
With ballerina Anna Pavlova, 1922
Betty Morrissey (left) and Merna Kennedy, c. 1926

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Chaplin & the Kengeki

In the summer of 1928, Chaplin was invited by his secretary, Toraichi Kono, to see his first Kengeki, a Japanese sword play. It was performed by members of the Imperial Theater of Tokyo in a small Japanese theater in downtown Los Angeles. So captivated was Chaplin by the performance that he wanted to give the Kengeki a wider audience. Therefore he enlisted the help of showman supreme Sid Grauman to have a Hollywood showing of the plays at Grauman's Chinese Theater, with invitations being sent to every big name in the film colony. The evening was a huge success and Grauman and Chaplin immediately arranged for  two-night engagement at the Windsor Square Theater, followed by a week-long run at the Music Box Theater, with the latter engagement under the sponsorship of not only Chaplin and Grauman, but also Sam Goldwyn, Cecil B. DeMille, and Joseph Schenck.

Chaplin with Kengeki performers, c.1928
A year later, to show their appreciation for Chaplin's furtherance of the Kengeki, the Japanese businessmen of Los Angeles arranged a party for him at a cafe in the Japanese section of the city. Kono recalled that 300 guests assembled to pay their respects. The cafe was lavishly decorated with synthetic cherry blossoms. An elaborate meal was served and they were entertained by dancers recruited from local Japanese theaters. The photo below, from Charlie Chaplin: King Of Tragedy by Gerith Von Ulm,  a book written with the help of Kono, is supposedly from this party. Another photo from this gathering can be seen here.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Chaplin and Kono inside a tree tunnel

This might be at Yosemite National Park but I'm not sure. The man in the white suit is a mystery as well.

Monday, August 4, 2014

CITY LIGHTS set visit

Charlie is at far right. Other familiar faces include: Henry Bergman (far left, in the back), Virginia Cherrill, Douglas Fairbanks, & Toraichi Kono (behind Doug). That might be Alf Reeves behind Charlie (in the hat) but it's hard to tell.

Photo credit: Charles Chaplin In Japan by Ono Hiroyuki

Saturday, June 14, 2014

World Tour Revisited: Back in America, June 14th, 1932

Charlie poses on the deck of the Hikawa Maru in Seattle.
Seattle at last! I am interviewed by the press. Everyone seems warm and friendly. Something has happened to America since I've been away. That youthful spirit born of prosperity and success has worn off and in its place there are a maturity and sobriety. 1

Chaplin awoke aboard the Hikawa Maru in Seattle on the morning of June 14th. Wearing yet another double-breasted blue suit, a checkered tie, and his favorite button-up shoes, he "smiled and shook hands with immigration and  transportation officials--he'd kept them waiting almost two hours while he slept in." * He assured everyone that he was "terribly glad to be back in America." He added that besides rubbing shoulders with Gandhi, the Prince of Wales, and some "gorgeous European woman," he has been studying the state of the economy during his world tour. "I have a suggestion for the financiers of this country," he said. "Every fool, you know, has an idea. Mine is about international currency. I'm writing it now and I'm going to turn it over to them." However, perhaps more importantly, he was worried about the state of his own financial affairs. "The red side of my own ledger probably will give me spots before my eyes. You know, I've simply got to get to work and make some money for Charlie Chaplin, as well as worry about the world. They say I only work when I feel like it, but I certainly feel like it now," Charlie said, as he handed over a hundred-dollar check to his secretary Kono for their train tickets to Los Angeles.

"Get the best train, Kono," he said. "Let's be comfortable."2

Next Charlie was asked, as he was many times during his tour, "Will he make a talkie?"

"I can express more with a gesture than hundreds of words. A lot of actors talk too much. Maybe they want to prove they can. There are a hundred talkies to one silent picture. You have to distinguish yourself some way, you know."

He mentioned that he had been working out the plot for his new picture and writing some of his own music for it. He had not selected a leading lady but he saw "a couple of peaches" in Europe.

"Will you ever marry again, Charlie?"

"Well," he smiled, "I wouldn't get myself all dressed up and go out with that idea in mind. After all, there's no sense in being too deliberate about a thing...You can't tell what might happen. I'm glad I'm still young enough for these romantic rumors."3

Charlie is "interviewed by the press"
Charlie mentioned that the last time he was in Seattle, twenty years ago, he was doing a pantomime act ("A Night In An English Music Hall") five times a day at a theater (the Empress).

What was he going to do until his train left at noon?

"Well," Charlie said, "I think I'll take a drive around this lovely city of..." he hesitated & looked at Kono.

"Seattle," Kono said, "Lovely Seattle!"4

Charlie arrives back in Los Angeles on June 16th. Stay tuned for his homecoming...

*Kono's recollection of events is slightly different than what is found in contemporary articles. According to him, Chaplin would not leave his cabin because he was in the throes of writing out his economic plan and insisted that Kono find him a stenographer. When Kono told him that the immigration officials were waiting to see him, Chaplin told him to have them come to him. The long-suffering Kono eventually persuaded an officer to come to his cabin after he convinced him that the man inside was Charlie Chaplin. Kono then went hunting for a stenographer--the "homeliest" one he could find. A few hours later, Kono returned to the cabin after visiting with friends (Kono lived & went to school in Seattle for several years) and basically stuffed the stenographer's pile of typed sheets in a briefcase and pushed Charlie off the boat and into a taxi so they could get to the train station in time. (Gerith Von Ulm, Charlie Chaplin: King of Tragedy, 1940)

1Charles Chaplin, "A Comedian Sees The World," Woman's Home Companion, January 1934
2Seattle Times, June 14, 1932
3Bellingham Herald, June 14, 1932
4Seattle Times, June 14, 1932

Monday, June 2, 2014

World Tour Revisited: Going back to Cali, June 2nd, 1932

After an 18th-month tour of the world, Chaplin, along with his secretary Toraichi Kono, boarded the SS Hikawa Maru at Yokohama and began his journey home. Before his departure, he had his favorite meal of tempura (deep fried prawns)* at the Hanacho restaurant in Tokyo. Charlie loved this meal so much that his last act before leaving Japan was to purchase a quantity of prawns to have sent aboard the ship.1

Charlie waves to the crowd as he boards the Hikawa Maru,
June 2nd, 1932

It was in Tokyo that morning that Charlie and his half-brother, Syd, parted ways. Syd had to remain in Japan for another couple of weeks before he could catch the Terukuni Maru to Europe. He eventually returned to his wife Minnie and their home at the Palais Rosa-Bonheur in Nice sometime at the beginning of July.

According to Kono (and as per Gerith Von Ulm's Charlie Chaplin: King Of Tragedy), the brothers' relationship was strained by the end of the tour. "Syd had been annoying Charlie with an unwarranted solicitation as to money spent on their travels. The money was Charlie's, but Syd disapproved of Kono's disposition of it."The brothers were not to see each other again for another five years, although Syd continued to handle Charlie's European business deals until the end of 1933.3

Charlie and Kono (second row, far left) pose with the crew of
the Hikawa Maru.
(Photo credit: Charles Chaplin In Japan by Ono Hiroyuki)
A page from the passenger list of the Hikawa Maru, dated June 2nd, 1932.
Charlie's name is at the top, Kono's at the bottom. (Click to enlarge)

Coming up on June 13th: Charlie arrives in Vancouver.

*Reports vary but Charlie was said to have eaten as many as 30-50 prawns in one sitting.

1New York Times, June 3rd, 1932
2Gerith Von Ulm, Charlie Chaplin: King Of Tragedy, 1940
3Lisa K. Stein, Syd Chaplin: A Biography, 2011

Thursday, May 29, 2014

World Tour Revisited: The Chaplin brothers in Japan, May-June 1932

Charlie crammed as much as possible into his three-week stay in Japan. In addition to attending kabuki shows, sumo matches, and tea ceremonies, he played tennis, gorged on tempura (his favorite Japanese meal), and even visited a prison--something he liked to do on his travels.

As much as he enjoyed his visit (he would return in 1936 and 1961) he was disappointed by the westernization of the country:
Should you ask me offhand my opinion of Japan, I should say it is a nation of inconsistancies. A simple illustration is a man attired in a kimono wearing a derby hat, also the adoption of western dress at the cost of their own silk industry. 1
Little is known about what Syd thought of the place. Months later, in a letter to his friend R.J. Minney, he wrote: "I enjoyed the trip immensely. I always wanted to visit the Orient, so I am glad I got it out of my system. Of course, I haven't seen the half of it, dearie, I shall still look forward to seeing India, the interior of China, Indochina, etc., but the Orient should be taken in small doses and one should hold the nose while taking it." He claimed, though, that he was glad to get home, having developed gout on the trip from too much rich food. 2

Below are a few photos from the brothers' visit:

Chaplin visits Prime Minister Makoto Saito at his residence (note the torn couch). Saito was the successor to Tsuyoshi Inukai who was assassinated on Chaplin's second day in Japan while he was at a sumo match with his son, Ken:

A tea party, possibly at the home of Mrs. Horikoshi which Chaplin describes in "A Comedian Sees The World": "this charming lady has a school which she supports herself for the daughters of her friends where she teaches the gentle art of the tea ceremony." Syd is standing at right in the second photo.

Tennis at the Fujiya Hotel in Hakone:

Charlie tries on a Samurai Warrior's headgear. Syd is on the right.

Chaplin's autographed sketch of Mt. Fuji, May 29th, 1932:

Lastly, at the Hanacho restaurant. Ken Inukai, son of the assassinated prime minister, is seated between Charlie and Kono in the first photo and is posing between Charlie and Syd in the other photos. The last photo is signed by Sydney.

Coming up on June 2nd: the brothers go their separate ways. Syd returns to Nice and Charlie to Los Angeles.


1Charles Chaplin, "A Comedian Sees The World, Part 5," Jan. 1934
2Lisa K. Stein, Syd Chaplin: A Biography, McFarland, 2011

Thursday, May 22, 2014

World Tour Revisited: Charlie takes advantange of kabuki season in Tokyo

Charlie and Sydney with kabuki actor, Nakamura Kichiemon I, May 1932

In an effort to divert Charlie's mind from the horrible events of his first couple of days in Tokyo, his longtime Japanese secretary, Toraichi Kono, reminded him how much he enjoyed the Kengeki sword fight dramas he saw in Los Angeles in 1929 and assured him he would be equally interested in a performance of the kabuki. Charlie didn't need much convincing and luckily for him, kabuki season was in full swing. He bought tickets for all of the performances.

The plays were held at Tokyo's prestigious Kabuki-za Theater which had a seating capacity of two thousand, and every seat was filled for each performance. Charlie recalled the experience in "A Comedian Sees The World":
Instead of the curtain rising, it is drawn aside to the sound of clicking wood which is a signal that the performance is commencing. The actors sometimes enter and exit from the runway that extends on out through the audience to the back of the theater. A revolving stage facilitates the rapid change of scenery. These devices they have used for hundreds of years.
The performance starts at three and ends at eleven, and the program is diversified. There is a long play consisting of six acts. In the middle of the play a one-act music posture drama is interposed. This is a story interpreted by dance. Female parts are acted by men who convey all the subtleties and nuances of a woman without giving any offense.
When a player makes his first entrance, instead of the customary European applause the audience shouts his name in a most fervent manner and the effect is stirring.1 
Kono, Charlie (in glasses), and Sydney watch a performance at the Kabuki-za Theater.
(Photo: Charlie Chaplin In Japan by Ono Hiroyuki)

One of the plays Charlie saw was similar to Romeo and Juliet, a drama of two young lovers whose marriage is opposed by their parents.2 Charlie describes the performance: "The play opens in the bridal chamber showing the young couple just married. During the act, couriers intercede with the parents for the young lovers, who are hoping there may be a reconciliation. But the tradition is too strong. The parents are adamant. So the lovers decide to commit suicide in the traditional Japanese way, each one bestrewing a carpet of flower petals upon which to die--the bridegroom to kill his bride first, then to fall upon his sword. The comments of the lovers, as they scatter flower petals on the floor preparing for death, created laughter from the audience. My interpreter told me that the humor was ironic in such lines as 'To live after such a night of love would be anticlimax.' For ten minutes they continue such ironic banter. The bride kneels on her mat of flowers and bares her throat; as the bridegroom draws his sword and slowly walks toward her, the revolving stage begins to move, and before the point of the sword reaches his young wife's throat, the scene turns out of sight of the audience and shows the exterior of the house drenched in moonlight." After a long silence, "voices are heard approaching the house. They are friends of the dead couple come to bring them happy news that their parents have forgiven them. They argue about which of them should break the news. They commence to serenade them and, getting no response, they beat on the door. 'Don't disturb them, ' says one; 'they're either asleep or too busy.' So they go on their way, continuing their serenade, accompanied by a tick-tock, boxlike sound, signaling the end of the play, as the curtain draws slowly across the stage."3

A year before Chaplin's arrival in Japan, City Lights was adapted into a kabuki theater piece called Komori no Yasusan, with the lead actor in a Chaplin mustache and the boxing scene converted into a sumo match. Playwright Shikura Kinka had never seen the film (City Lights would not be shown in Japan until 1934) and based his play on a description of it he read in a cinema magazine. Read Chaplin historian Ono Hiroyuki's essay on the play here.

For Chaplin, the kabuki performances were a high point of his 3-week visit to Japan and "a pleasure that went beyond [his] expectations."4

In my next installment of WTR: More highlights of Charlie & Syd's Japanese holiday.
Coming up on June 2nd: Charlie begins his voyage home.

One year ago on "World Tour Revisited":

Charlie meets Napoleon biographer Emil Ludwig in the south of France


1Chaplin, "A Comedian Sees The World, Part V," A Woman's Home Companion, January 1934
2The play Charlie saw was probably "The Love Suicides at Amijima"
3Chaplin, My Autobiography, 1964

Additional resources:
Gerith Von Ulm, Charlie Chaplin: King Of Tragedy, 1940
Ono Hiroyuki, "From Chaplin To Kabuki"

Thursday, May 15, 2014

World Tour Revisited: The Prime Minister of Japan is assassinated while Chaplin attends a sumo match with his son, May 15th, 1932

The morning after their arrival in Tokyo, Syd excitedly came into Charlie's room and told him that his "bags had been searched and all of his papers disturbed." Charlie accused him of being overly suspicious but there had been other strange occurrences as well, namely the behavior of Charlie's secretary Toraichi Kono. During their drive to the hotel the evening before, their car stopped in front of the Emperor's Palace. Kono looked around nervously and then asked Charlie to get out and bow. "Is this customary?" Charlie asked. "Yes," Kono replied. "You don't have to bow, just step out of the car." Charlie did what he asked but thought the request was strange since there was no one around and if it were customary the public would have known and a crowd would have been there, if only a small one.1

After the incident with Sydney's luggage, a government agent was assigned to look after them. Sydney insisted that they were being watched and felt that Kono was hiding something. Charlie had to admit that his secretary was looking "more worried and harassed every hour."2

Meanwhile, Charlie's plans for his first day in Tokyo were to attend a sumo match with Ken Inukai, the son of the Prime Minister, Tsuyoshi Inukai. The following day, Chaplin was to meet and have dinner with the Prime Minister.

As they entered the stadium, Charlie was greeted with a tremendous ovation. Sumo wrestling "is amusing to watch," wrote Charlie, "and if you don't understand the technique, the whole procedure looks comic. Nevertheless the effect is hypnotic and thrilling."3

Syd, Charlie, and Kono pose with sumo wrestlers.
Charlie and Syd intently watch the wrestling matches.

Unbeknownst to the crowd, as well as Chaplin and his entourage, something terrible had happened earlier that day:
As we were leaving a courier rushed into our box and told us the awful news--that the prime minister, Mr. Tsuyoshi Inukai had been assassinated in his home. This was a dreadful shock to everyone and put a damper on the whole nation.
The Prime Minister's son told us later that were were responsible for saving his life because the tragedy occurred while he was at the wrestling arena making arrangements for our tickets. Had he been home, the assassins would have murdered him with his father. 4
Inukai, one of Japan's foremost liberals, had only been in office since December 1931.

Chaplin describes the murder in "A Comedian Sees The World":
The tragedy is well-known--how the murderers, dressed as soldiers, shot and killed several guards, then broke into the prime minister's sitting room and with the points of their guns confronted the old gentleman and his family; how he led them to another room, remarking that if they intended to kill him to spare his wife and children the scene of such violence. The heroic courage of the Prime Minister was worthy of his exalted position. Not one word passed the assassins' lips as they were led by the august gentlemen down a long corridor into the little room where he calmly told them to state their grievances. Without a word, however, these murderers cruelly poured fire into their defenseless victim and left.
Chaplin accompanied Ken Inukai back to his home and saw the room in which a couple of hours before his father had been murdered. "The stain of a large pool of blood was still wet on the matting. A battery of cameramen and reporters were there, but they had the decency not to take photographs. They nevertheless prevailed upon me to make a statement. I could only say that it was a shocking tragedy for the family and for the country." 5

The prime minister , second from left, and his family, January 1932.
Ken Inukai is standing, his wife is to his right, their children are seated with
the premier and his wife, far left. 

The killers were members of a paramilitary, right-wing society called the "Black Dragon" and it was they, Chaplin believed, who had insisted that he bow to the emperor's palace. It was discovered later that Chaplin was also part of their original assassination plot.

At the assassins' 1933 trial, Lieutenant Seishi Koga, the leader, testified that there were plans to bomb the Prime Minister's residence during a reception for Chaplin, the reception was cancelled however. The assassins hoped that the death of Chaplin would throw Japan and the U.S. into war "which was needed to rehabilitate the Japanese spirit." 6

Thirty years later in his autobiography, Chaplin wrote: “I can imagine the assassins having carried out their plan, then discovering that I was not an American but an Englishman—'Oh, so sorry!'”

Coming up in the next installment of WTR: Chaplin attends a kabuki performance.


1Chaplin, My Autobiography, 1964
3Chaplin, "A Comedian Sees The World, Part V," 1934
5Chaplin, My Autobiography
6Washington Post, July 26, 1933

Additional sources:
Gerith Von Ulm, Charlie Chaplin: King Of Tragedy, 1940

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

World Tour Revisited: Charlie arrives at his final destination: Japan, May 14th, 1932

Japan, the adopted land of Lafcadio Hearn, had always stirred my imagination--the land of cherry blossoms, the chrysanthemum, and its people in silk kimonos, living among porcelains and lacquer furnishings. (Chaplin, ACSTW aka "A Comedian Sees The World")

A crowd of 20,000 greeted Charlie and Syd on the dock at Kobe. Charlie had not seen a crowd of this magnitude since he traveled through Europe the previous year.

L-R: Kono, CC, actress Shizue Natsukawa, and Sydney, Kobe, May 14, 1932

The city of Kobe was our landing place. When we arrived there thousands were waiting on the docks to greet us. Airplanes were flying, dropping pamphlets of welcome. (ACSTW)
Before the Terukuni Maru docked, about 200 reporters and photographers went aboard to interview Chaplin who graciously complied. He was asked to comment on the recent Lindbergh baby tragedy but said it was too terrible to talk of.* One thing he told them was that he still cherished his old pair of floppy shoes. "They are like old friends," he said.

Kobe,  May 14, 1932

Among the welcoming committee at Kobe was Japanese actress Shizue Natsukawa. Chaplin was also reunited with his his secretary, Toraichi Kono, who had left the Chaplin party in Singapore in March and traveled on to Japan to arrange for Charlie's visit while the brothers toured Ceylon, Java, and Bali.

From the harbor, Charlie and Syd motored through Kobe, ate at a local restaurant, then boarded a train for Tokyo.
While in Japan, the government graciously made me their guest while traveling by rail. On our way to Tokyo at every stop we were greeting by cheering crowds. Geisha girls were lined up and I was presented with gifts of all kinds. The Japanese are generous and hospitable.
Upon arriving in Tokyo, the throngs were so dense that four hundred policemen were helpless in keeping them from raiding the railroad depot. We eventually got on our way to the hotel....After the usual preliminaries with the press, I went straight to bed, exhausted but happy. (ACSTW)

The Chaplins, Shizue Natsukawa & Kono at a restaurant in Kobe. One of the highlights of Charlie's visit
was witnessing a Japanese tea ceremony, which revealed to him "the character
and soul of the nation...Each movement is studied to create tranquility. Not a sound
is made during the preparation. Not a gesture is unnecessary. You watch in silence the beautiful
preparation. In the sanctity of peace you refresh your troubled mind in liquid jade." 
Charlie with the mayor of Tokyo, May 14, 1932
At Tokyo's Hotel Imperial, which was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.

Although Charlie & Sydney had always wanted to see Japan, the chief reason for their visit was to secure bookings for City Lights that would bring Charlie a decent profit on the film. At this they failed miserably. The best offer on the film was $50,000 and Chaplin wanted $100,000. City Lights did not premiere in Japan until 1934. Sadly, this would not be the only bad luck to plague Chaplin during his visit to Japan.

Coming up tomorrow: "The May 15th Incident"


Where was Charlie 12 months before?

Basking in the sun at Juan-les-Pins. 


* The 20-month old infant, the son of aviator Charles Lindbergh, had been kidnapped in March 1932, his remains were discovered on May 12th.


Chaplin, "A Comedian Sees The World, Part 5," Woman's Home Companion, Jan. 1934
Lisa K. Stein, Syd Chaplin, McFarland, 2010
New York Times, May 15, 1932
Robinson, The Private Life of Charlie Chaplin, Liberty, 1933

Saturday, March 22, 2014

World Tour Revisited: The Chaplin brothers visit Ceylon (Sri Lanka), circa mid-March, 1932

Illustration by Robert Gellert for "A Comedian Sees The World,"
Woman's Home Companion, December 1933

The voyage from Egypt to Ceylon was "uneventful and the weather calm throughout," remembered Charlie. "The only event was changing to shorts when we came into the Red Sea. Shorts are tropical trousers that show the knees but I don't believe in them." 1

Sometime during the trip, Charlie and Syd partook of their first Japanese-style meal. "One night we went Japanese and had dinner on the floor of the deck," Charlie recalled. "I learned from the ship's officer that pouring a little tea over my rice complemented its flavor."2 In a letter to his friend, R.J. Minney, Syd described the meal in more detail and with his usual dry wit: "Charlie and I sat for two solid hours in Japanese manner, and believe me the feeling after a first day's horseback riding is nothing in comparison with the aches and cramps on rising from the Japanese squat. Believe me, Japanese sitting, like skiing, should be learned while young." He wrote that he "thought the Japanese meal was never going to end. They cook it right on the table in front of you and put everything in but the mountain of Fujiyama. When it's all finished, if you can guess what it is--you can have it. They gave us chopsticks to eat with." While Charlie had practiced with chopsticks before, Sydney claimed to be "about as graceful as an elephant trying to thread a needle with boxing gloves on. Can you imagine trying to take a pea with two sticks in one hand? When it comes to eating peas you can have your chopsticks. Give me a knife--even though the peas do roll off."3 After the meal, the stewards entertained with Japanese dances and Charlie performed a burlesque fan dance.4

Japanese meal aboard the Suwa Maru, March 1932.
Syd, looking displeased, is seated across from Charlie. Kono is at far right.

"By the time we reached Colombo, the capital of Ceylon," Charlie wrote, "it was pretty warm and I began to envy my brother's shorts.* The boat docked there for twenty-four hours which gave us an opportunity to spend the night at the sacred city of Kandy, seventy miles from Colombo. Ceylon was the realization of all my exotic dreams. It has all the mysticism of the Orient and the charm of the tropics. As we motored to Kandy we were thrilled viewing strange sights and drinking the perfumes that lay heavy in the air. The night of a full moon is a ceremonial holiday for the Ceylonese."5

On the way, they came upon a procession of devil dancers. Charlie describes the scene:
"We pulled up to watch them pass, and the devil dancers approached. I became a little scared as they looked quite fanatic. The rest of the procession surrounded us, still chanting to the tom-toms. Then the dancers suddenly jumped in the air, twirled and pivoted in a most weird and demoniacal manner. After they'd finished, they came over and bowed, and we understood. So we dipped in the exchequer and went on our way.
Throughout the journey, I kept saying to my brother, "Did you ever realize there was such a place? We must settle down here in our old age and buy a tea plantation.' This was my first reaction."6

After dinner in Kandy, they took a rickshaw ride around the lake. Charlie remembered the "warm, sultry air and the strange sound of insects as our rickshaw boys walked silently in the moonlight, pointing here and there to wild turtles along the edge of the lake.

Returning to the hotel, we were met by one or two stragglers who recognized me. I threw them a coin. 'Thank you, my lord and master,' and all for a quarter, but everyone was 'my lord and master' here."7

The next morning, the brothers visited the temple where they were "impressed by the handful of rice donations to the poor."8

Before motoring back to Colombo to catch the boat, a crowd of natives surrounded the hotel and gave them a "rousing cheer." Charlie was happy to get away: "My enthusiasm to settle down there was not as keen as it was when I first arrived, for you quickly realize the opiate lure that excites your ardor also repels it, and I came away impressed with its beauty but realizing that it was not the place for Nordics."9

Charlie, Kono, and Syd in Ceylon

Charlie & Syd's next port of call: Singapore on the 27th.


*Charlie recalled thirty years later in My Autobiography (1964) that "by the time we were on the Red Sea, we peeled off our "Nordics" and wore white shorts and light silk shirts."

1Charles Chaplin, "A Comedian Sees The World,"(ACSTW), Woman's Home Companion, Dec. 1933
2Charles Chaplin, My Autobiography, Simon & Shuster, 1964
3Lisa K. Stein, Syd Chaplin, McFarland, 2011
4Syd Chaplin typescript courtesy Lisa Stein Haven
8Syd Chaplin TS

Monday, March 17, 2014

World Tour Revisited: Chaplin in Egypt, March 1932

Note: I should have posted this last week. I was unsure of the exact date of Chaplin's arrival in Egypt. The Chaplin Archive website has photos of Chaplin in Cairo stamped with a date of March 20th, so I assumed this was the date. But further research over the last couple of days has proven this date to be incorrect.

Cairo, March 1932. Charlie is in front, center. Syd Chaplin is at far left. Kono is behind Charlie.

On  March 6th, Charlie, his half-brother Sydney, and secretary, Kono, sailed from Naples aboard the Suwa Maru en route to Japan via the Suez Canal. They arrived at Port Said, Egypt at 6:30am on Thursday, March 10th where a large number of fans, journalists, and photographers boarded the ship. Chaplin was asked what he wished to see during his visit:
I don't suppose I shall go to the pyramids or the Sphinx. I don't like the antiquities and dead things. I'm tired of seeing churches and temples and ruins. Every big city has those to show and they are much the same everywhere. What interests me is the native life of the various peoples. People, not things, are the more interesting. There is so much to learn--always something new--in the customs and habits of fresh peoples. If one does not delve into the native quarters, all big, cosmopolitan cities are the same. I am particularly interested in Eastern peoples, and one of my reasons for my visit to Japan is that I want to see Japanese life from close quarters. One can see everything else on the cinema!1
Photos from the cover of the Egyptian magazine Al Lataif Musawara, March 14, 1932

Despite what Charlie told the reporter he did visit the pyramids and the Sphinx. He must not have been too impressed by it all because his visit to Egypt doesn't rate a mention in "A Comedian Sees The World" nor his autobiography. The only other record of the visit can be found in Syd Chaplin's notes:
Arrived Port Said. Motored through Cairo. Lunched at Shepheard’s Hotel. Rushed around town shopping, white suits, tropical helmets, etc. Visited pyramids. Watched a man ascend and descend more than six minutes, very dangerous, stumble would be fatal. Photographed camels. Difficulty in purchasing movie camera. Everybody hunting Cairo. Dozen people and dozen camels arrive at Cook’s office. Motored back to ship at night.2
The following photos show Charlie at the pyramids and taking a ride on a camel:

Coming up next: Chaplin visits Ceylon (Sri Lanka)--"the realization of all [his] exotic dreams"


1Palestinian Bulletin, March 12, 1932
1Syd Chaplin: A Biography by Lisa K. Stein, McFarland, 2011