Saturday, March 12, 2016

Day By Day: 1936

Thursday, March 12th: Arrival in Hong Kong

South China Morning Post, March 11, 1936

The SS President Coolidge, sailing from Shanghai, was detained for 11 hours at Waglan Island due to thick fog before finally docking at Kowloon.
When the Dollar liner berthed at the wharf there were nearly 100 children, both European and Chinese, ready to board the ship, and while press representatives spoke to Mr. Chaplin in his cabin the children pressed round for a "close up" view. Later Mr. Chaplin with a good-humoured smile consented to sign a number of autograph books. At first the request for autographs was denied but showing great good humour and patience Mr. Chaplin soon weakened and was signing busily--thoroughly fulfilling the younger welcomers' conception of his character. 
Also at the ship to meet Mr. Chaplin were Mr. Lewis E. Pepperman, Manager of United Artists in Hong Kong, and Mr. C. Golden, Manager of the Star Theater. 
Mr. Chaplin and his party went to the Peninsula Hotel after leaving the ship  and they will stay there until they leave the Colony. The date of their departure is not yet decided but they will leave for Singapore within a day or two. "I'm letting Mr. Cook arrange the whole trip!" laughed Mr. Chaplin.* 
Chaplin was also asked about his recent film Modern Times. He explained how the idea for the film came to him following his last trip around the world in 1931:
"When I came back to the United States after my trip around the world five years ago; I was shocked at the utter bewilderment of people here over what was happening to them. I felt the same bewilderment myself. Much that we had once believed in had proved to be unworkable and no one had much idea what to do about it. People were in mental chaos. 
It seemed to me that there was material for treatment in pictures. But the only way to handle it was to poke fun at our whole crazy situation, to satirize modern times. Here we had gone to great lengths to attain what is called efficiency, to enable us to produce more and more, and now we could not dispose of what we produced. Our very ability to make in vast quantity everything we needed was creating poverty. 
Such a situation may be tragic, but it is also absurd and ridiculous and, as I say, it seemed natural to treat it with humor. So the whole idea of the picture is to show the helplessness of an ordinary, simple-minded person in a preposterous situation he cannot understand. He doesn't ask much of life . All he is trying to do is just to get along. Then he meets a little girl who wants nothing more than just a decent little home to live in. The story is about what crazy things can happen to plain little folk who mean no harm. To symbolize modern times, I have in certain scenes a great mass of machinery to get myself tangled up in."
Chaplin was less forthcoming when asked about his personal affairs. "That's a little part of my life I like to keep to myself," he said. In recent days, rumors of a Chaplin-Goddard engagement had spread like wildfire. According to the press, the rumor was started in Shanghai by Paulette herself:

Los Angeles Times, March 10, 1936
New York Times, March 10, 1936

Paulette never formally announced an engagement, but she would sometimes encourage the confusion about it. I'll share some examples of this in the coming days. I'm sure it was not lost on both Chaplin and Paulette that these rumors were good publicity for Modern Times. In fact, the whole thing reminds one of the Chaplin/Pola Negri engagement rumors from 1923, which coincided with the release of A Woman Of Paris.

Although no documents exist of an actual marriage between Chaplin and Paulette, it seems to me that something marital may have taken place during this trip--not a real wedding but perhaps some sort of ceremony. Stay tuned and you will see what I mean. I'll also point out that Charlie and Paulette do not visit Canton during this trip to China. This is where their marriage is believed to have taken place. However they will make a short, one day side trip to Canton when they return to Hong Kong, on their way back to the U.S., a couple of months later.

As for their current visit, it seems Charlie and Paulette didn't do much. Chaplin had initially planned to "cram as much sightseeing as possible" into his stay but instead remained in his suite. "I never thought it would be as cold as this in Hong Kong," he told reporters.

Coming up on the 14th: Charlie and Co. depart for Singapore.

Read more in my Day By Day: 1936 series here.


*Chaplin might be referring to the travel agency Thomas Cook & Sons. 

China Mail,
March 13th, 1936
South China Morning Post, March 13th, 1936

1 comment:

  1. I would not be at all surprise if Paulette was really the one who began those rumors. She seemed like the kind of person who would, not out of vanity or spite but for the fun of it.