Mrs. Godfrey traveled alone on this world cruise commanded by W.A. Morehouse that sailed from New York, December 15, 1930 and returned to port on April 28, 1931 (some 29,500 miles traveled). The Itinerary included Cuba, the Panama Canal, Hawaii, Japan, China, Philippine Islands, Siam, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, Egypt, Greece, Italy, the Riviera, and Gibraltar. Mrs. Godfrey must have been of some means, taking the four-month cruise in the early days of the Great Depression. On leaving San Francisco on January 4, she writes, “I am feeling beautifully luxurious—facing the prospect of new countries + people all around the world.”
VG+ in a faux leather Smith & Thomson (6.25” x 9”) binding (a few abrasions), with metal fastener holding three-ring binder pages. 228 pp. (approximately 8 have come loose, some out of order). The pages contain the printed log of the journey by day, with information on each location visited, as well as information on shore excursions, programs, and tender service with blank space for passengers to record their reflections and observations. In the log book, Mrs. Godfrey details onboard activities and on the ground excursions, tracking her movements around the world. She lays in and sometimes attaches various bits of ephemera from her journeys including a few photographs, excursion group passes, sightseeing program cards, an invoice from a Nikko, Japan curio dealer who sold Godfrey “1 old blue embroidered Kimono 120 years old,” postcards and clippings, and a few letters to her husband (one that speaks of the ship in Hong Kong “ran into a fishing boat + cut her right in two + nine Chinamen were thrown in the sea.”).
Most interestingly, however, listed among the Local Passengers: Los Angeles to Bangkok and San Francisco to Bangkok, were the actor Douglas Fairbanks, Victor Fleming (who later in the decade would direct The Wizard of Oz), and noted cinematographer Henry Sharp (Duck Soup, Alice in Wonderland), who were on their way to shoot Fairbanks’s documentary about his journeys through Japan, China, Philippines, Cambodia, and India, Around the World in 80 Minutes, which was released in December 1931. According to the BFI, the film is “a travelogue of Douglas Fairbanks's world tour with characteristic additions of parody and comment.” According to Michael Scholten, the travelogue was a “strange mix of anthropology, history and wisecracks” and was not received particularly well. As former MoMa film curator Eileen Bowser observed, the film’s sociological point of view is its sole redeeming characteristic, noting “its only value may be a documentation of how painful Fairbanks found the aging process” (http://www.getidan.de/kolumne/michael_scholten). Nonetheless, Fairbanks and his men seem to have shot scenes on the S.S. Belgenland, as passengers and the ship can be seen at various times during the first 30 minutes of the film.
Mrs. Godfrey mentions Fairbanks and his men a number of different times, and she apparently got to know them quite well on the trip (and, according to a letter to her husband, she had met Fairbanks previously):
January 22 (Kamakura): “Thanks to Douglass [sic] Fairbanks and his charming friend Arthur Cannon I was shown all of the interesting things in Yokahama after Sun down (?) dinner eating on floor with chop sticks.”
January 31 (Inland Sea): “Around the shore, at the extreme end of the village, was a large tent where a geisha performance was going on. It was high grade and really beautiful, with 16 girls, who called Douglas Fairbanks up on the stage and nearly smothered him with caresses. *The Japanese do not kiss.”
February 20 (The Southern Cross): “Henry Sharp, Douglass Fairbanks movie camera man entertained me—or rather invited to join him with a few others in (?) and an evening of dancing.”
February 23 (Bangkok): “Douglas F. left us here to go into the wilds to make his movie ‘Around the World in 80 Mins.’”
After the trip she writes, “Douglass Fairbanks and his three men added greatly to my happiness as they gave me so much attention in their most charming manner after I had most graciously made myself known to him (Doug) having met him before in Cali” and “From Bangkok (where Doug left us).”
Also included is a brochure for the “Belgenland Turf Club Manila Race Meeting held on the Belgenland Race Track on Saturday, February 21st, 1931,” where in the third race Douglas Fairbanks is owner of Gipsy and Victor Fleming is owner of Agitation. Mrs. Godfrey writes in the margin, “I bet on Gipsy + Agitation + won.”
Finally, in a letter to her husband, she writes, “Douglass + the Princess are still with us + are just as friendly with me as if I were one of them. I am hobknobbing [sic] with all the wealthy people + people of Royalty.”
Godfrey writes throughout in a compact and readable hand, recording her thoughts and (often poetic) observations on the people and landscapes and her daily routines during the four-month passage. On Japan: “I proceeded at once to ride in a rickshaw, a most fascinating experience being whirled through the streets behind a jolly, jogging little brown man….Laughter is habitual with the Japanese.” On the Japanese island village Miyajima: “a Japanese Coney Island.” On Java: “The natives have their own Punch + Judy shows illustrating favorite old Hindu legends. Their puppets are gorgeous little figures made of bits of carved wood.” On Sri Lanka: “We stopped to see the Elephants taking their morning bath. I wanted to ride one but the ‘old hens’ riding with me refused to wait for me. My first real disappointment on the trip.” On India: “My first sight of the Taj Mahal I consider one of the high moments of a lifetime.” On Port Tewfik, Suez Canal: “It was a great treat to spend Easter Sunday in Jerusalem, where we saw in real life the Biblical pictures that have been familiar to my imagination since childhood.” On Egypt: “A dream of a lifetime has been realized—I am really in Cairo and have seen the Sphinx + Pyramids…I have just had my first ride on a camel + the experience of camping all night on the sand on the Sahara desert.”
A wonderful chronicle of a round-the-world adventure compiled by a Chicago woman in the early 1930s, who provides fascinating glimpses of the silent film star Douglas Fairbanks, Victor Fleming, and Henry Sharp as they were on their way to shoot Around the World in 80 Minutes. Item #529