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.






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