Sunday, May 8, 2016

Day By Day: 1936

May 7th-8th, 1936: Return to Hong Kong, and a quick trip to Canton

On Thursday, May 7th, Charlie, Paulette, her mother, Alta, and valet Frank Yonemori arrived in Hong Kong from Haiphong (Vietnam) on the S.S. Canton. This was their second visit to Hong Kong. They spent two days here back in March.

Interviewed after their arrival, Chaplin said of their visit to Java and Indochina: "It was good to get away from crowds for a while and not be bothered by people all the time...But it has been rather tiring, being on the move all the time. We are very tired." 1

Asked if he has done any work while he's been away, Chaplin replied: "Yes, a bit. I wrote about 6,000 words for a new film. The whole scenario will be about 20,000 words. It will be a scenario for Miss Goddard, not for myself." 2

Modern Times had its gala premiere that evening at the King's Theater in Hong Kong, however Charlie and Paulette did not attend. Instead they took the night boat to Canton where they spent one day before returning by train the next evening. 3 To this day, it is believed that Charlie and Paulette were married in Canton, however no record of the marriage has ever been found. 4

Coming up tomorrow: The group departs for Japan in a rush.

Day By Day: 1936

1Straits Times, May 15th, 1936
3Hong Kong Sunday Herald, May 10th, 1936
4The Canton rumor began in 1942 when Paulette filed for divorce in Mexico. The petition reportedly stated that their marriage took place in Canton in June 1936. (Boston Globe 6/5/42) The problem with this story is that Charlie and Paulette were not in Canton in June. In fact, they arrived back in America on June 4th. Further adding to the confusion: After their return, Frank the valet told Charlie, Jr. & Sydney that their father and Paulette were married "at Hong Kong on the boat" to which Chaplin "laughingly" agreed (Charles Chaplin, Jr, My Father, Charlie Chaplin). Paulette told a friend in 1938 that she and Charlie were married on a boat in China, but she didn't say where. (Gilbert, Opposite Attraction) Thirty years later in My Autobiography, Chaplin wrote that he and Paulette were married during their travels in 1936, but provided no further details. 


  1. FWIW, when Joan Barry gave her testimony to the FBI, she said Chaplin told her he had been married twice. When she asked “What about Paulette?” he told her they were never married and then backtracked and said that they were. Again, FWIW. I don’t think they were, but…

    Tom K

    1. I don't think they were ever legally married. Chaplin evidently told some friends privately that they never were, although publicly he would always say the opposite. In some later-in-life interviews with Paulette, she would say "when I was married to Charlie" or "during my marriage to Charlie," so perhaps they considered themselves married even though it wasn't official.

      This website claims that Al Krisel, an executive with UA, performed the ceremony on the boat between Hong Kong and Shanghai. I don't see any sources given for the story. There are photos on the site with captions that say they were taken after the ceremony but they are actually from later in the trip, and aboard the SS Coolidge, not the Kashima Maru (the boat they sailed on between HK & Shanghai). I think this story just adds more questions than answers.