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"

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Where was Charlie 12 months before?

Basking in the sun at Juan-les-Pins. 

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

Sources: 

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

5 comments:

  1. I'm sad we're coming to the end of the world tour. I don't know how you find all these great photos! It's such a treat to see photos that are one of a kind. This series would make a great book, Jess, if you're ever so inclined!

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    1. Thank you! I'm sad it's coming to an end as well. I've enjoyed the research.

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  2. Jess the world tour is so much fun. I don't think any of the biographers went into as much detail as you did. It was amazing to retrace Charlie's steps through the whole experience. I agree with Maharesred that you should do a book. You have an excellent writing style as well.
    The photo of him biting his lip is just too cute.
    I just read Charlie Jr's book and I remember that Charlie and the rest of the Hollywood elite would be extra cautious when it came to their children after what happened to the Lindbergh baby. I remember one story where the boys didn't come home when they were supposed too and Charlie was literally freaking.

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    1. Thanks, Jordan. You're much too kind.

      I've always thought it was touching the way Charlie worried about his kids.

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  3. Does this tour start again every Spring..like the Disney Cruise?
    I never realized Kono took care of so many of Charlie's preparations during travel. And Syd looks quite at home next to ladies in kimonos, I'll bet he liked Japan, even if they didn't come running out onto the beaches naked. Aaaa, but there was always the hot bath house where ....tee hee.
    $50,000 wasn't a lot of commitment but the Depression probably colored the exchange in currency a little. I can't remember how the Japanese economy was faring at the time.
    THOROUGHLY enjoyed this tour!!

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