Thursday, February 19, 2015

Chaplin, race car driver Malcolm Campbell, and jockey Steve Donoghue arrive in England, February 19th, 1931

CC, Donoghue, and Campbell, 2/19/31.
One report claimed that Chaplin's tie
"exactly matches the blue of his laughing eyes."
(Manchester Guardian, 2/20/31)

Chaplin, Donoghue,1 and Campbell2 were fellow passengers aboard the Mauretania from New York. Chaplin chose to exit the ship at Plymouth instead of proceeding on to Southhampton in order not to grab the spotlight from Campbell, who was to receive a hero's welcome after breaking the world speed record in Daytona, Florida.


Newsreel footage of their arrival. 

Chaplin was glad to finally leave the ship because he had spent most of the crossing suffering from seasickness & a cold.3 From the minute the boat landed until he arrived at Paddington Station, he was mobbed by thousands of fans who lined the quayside and train platform. Crowds of this size were usually reserved for royalty. Amid shouts of "Good ol' Charlie, there's the lad! & "God bless you, Charlie!" he waved to the crowd and was carried along by their pushing and shoving which felt to him like "an affectionate embrace."4

A press conference was held in Chaplin's suite at the Carlton. He told reporters that he had "four months to spare" and would probably visit "Paris, Madrid, and Berlin." When asked about talking pictures he said, "I may do some work with the talkies but not with my present character." One reported asked if he kept his famous shoes in a safe. Chaplin replied, "No, they just lie around the studio."5


Chaplin looks at London from the roof of the Carlton, 2/19/31
Read more about Chaplin's visit to England and the rest of his world tour here (page down).

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1In a typescript draft of Chaplin's travelogue "A Comedian Sees The World" he describes how Donoghue and Campbell would come to his cabin of an evening and tell stories. He recalled that "Steve was a very good storyteller." (Chaplin/Haven, A Comedian Sees The World, Univ. of Missouri Press, 2014)
2As soon as he landed in England, Campbell was informed that he would be knighted. According to David Robinson, Chaplin expected to be knighted during his visit but this didn't happen. Lisa Stein Haven writes that "a press leak from the Prime Minister's office after Chaplin was knighted in 1975 showed that the only reason the honor was withheld in 1931 was due to 'unfavorable publicity generated by the Northcliff press during the First World War'" (ACSTW, 2014)
3San Bernadino Sun, Feb. 20, 1931
4ibid and Chaplin, "A Comedian Sees The World"
5San Bernadino Sun, Feb. 20, 1931. Chaplin was gone much longer than four months. He didn't return to California until June 1932.

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