Category Archives: Charlie Chaplin and Kono Toraichi

Post-Symposium

Our Symposium, "The Makino Collection at Columbia," was a success. A total of 64 people attended throughout the day. The week following the symposium, we had extended viewing of the Collection (for 5 hours per day).  Several visitors to the Makino Collection  viewed portions of the Collection, with many of you emailing me with great interest in returning to do research.  If any of you who attended the symposium have thoughts about it, please share them with me (either here or through email). Did you like the format? Were there things you wanted to know that weren’t covered? What did you appreciate most?  While this symposium opened up discussion for three main areas for which the collection has great research possibilities – East Asian Cinema, Early Japanese Cinema, and Documentary Film – we know there is much more to explore.

As I was processing the collection last week, I found some interesting items. In looking at some boxes that are Russian related (it turns out there are 4 boxes and they are mostly Japanese monographs but about Russian film or film theorists), I found 1 box  that actually had more Charlie Chaplin monographs.  Although most will be sent off for cataloging at a later date, I found 2 books that were signed by Charlie Chaplin himself.  His autograph includes a fantastic drawing of himself as well as musical notes and a little sun with a face in it. Those books will go in the Special Collections with our Chaplin and Kono Toraichi materials.  Chaplin signed them on the same date, March 16, 1971. One of the books  is the original German written by Friedrich Luft in 1957 and the other is its 1971 Japanese translation by Koshibe Noboru. 

Charlie Chaplin and Kono Toraichi

In addition to Japanese and East Asian materials in the Makino Collection, there are items related to Western film stars.  This includes materials related to Charlie Chaplin. Chaplin visited Japan four times in his life and was clearly a popular star there – as everywhere else in the world.  Chaplin was even in Japan in 1932 during the May 15th Incident when the Prime Minister was assassinated by young naval officers.  Chaplin happened to be with the Prime Minister’s son during the attack and was apparently a target of the original assassination plan.

Mr. Makino collected original editions of books by and about Chaplin including the one that Mr. Makino wrote was the inspiration for his CollectionMy Trip Abroad (1922). Referring to this book, in "Chaplin Among the Ashes" (trans. by Joanne Bernardi), Makino writes that he had "no idea why I bought the book, or how I felt at the time.  Around that time I was absorbed in writing poetry. I often saw movies, but I doubt that I had an interest yet in buying books about film…. In my life with books ever since, I resigned myself to disposing of my library a number of times, but for some reason this one volume always ended up back on a corner of the bookshelf.  I realized that it was no ordinary book twenty years later, after I had entered the world of film production, and in due course began my research in film history."  (In Praise of Film Studies: Essays in Honor of Makino Mamoru. edited by Aaron Gerow and Abé Mark Nornes, Yokohama: Kinema Club, 2001, pp. 69-70). 

Now this Chaplin book that inspired Mr. Makino in his youth, along with its translation into Japanese (1930), are in the Makino Collection at Columbia University!  See a photograph of the title page of the original 1922 book at the beginning of this post.

This book also spurred Mr. Makino’s interest in Chaplin’s long term Japanese assistant Kono Toraichi/高野虎市,who worked for Chaplin for more than 20 years, was eventually arrested by the U.S. government on suspicion of spying for Japan, was released, and then interned during the war. For an overview of Chaplin and Kono’s relationship in English, see Bruce Wallace, "Charlie Chaplin’s Japanese Connection," April 19, 2006. Ono Hiroyuki who is interviewed in Wallace’s article, wrote his own book on Kono and Chaplin, Chappurin no kage: Nihonjin hisho Kono Toraichi /チャップリンの影:日本人秘書高野虎市, Tokyo: Kodansha, 2009.  Mr. Makino also wrote about Kono in "Chaplin Among the Ashes" and gathered all sorts of materials about him.

The Collection materials include a karuta (card) game from the 1910s with images of Charlie Chaplin and Roscoe Conkling “Fatty” Arbuckle on it.  (Known endearingly as “Debu-chan” or "Fatty" in Japan – Arbuckle was another Western comedy star popular in Japan). There is also a Chaplin sugoroku poster game from 1922 (sugoroku is a kind of board game), a movie theater gift poster, programs and fliers for Chaplin films shown in Japan, several popular magazines special issues on Chaplin, bank, post office, and film study group fliers, a filmography, newspaper clippings, a still photograph of Chaplin with his one-time wife Paulette Goddard, items from a 1971 Chaplin film convention, as well as a scrapbook containing photocopied articles about Chaplin’s 1932 Japan visit, and 6 scrapbooks with articles from the 1930s and early 1940s about Kono. A portrait photo album once owned by the popular actress Kurishima Sumiko/栗島すみ子 has two photographs of Charlie Chaplin possibly taken during his 1932 visit as well. Sorry for the long list, but this is a really interesting assortment of items.