Chaplin's Driver

Who the hell was Kono? He was Chaplin's driver who also was his personal secretary, a handy man and a friend. Or was he a friend? Why did they go separate ways? And how did they get together in the first place?

Kono was born 1888 and moved to the US at the age of 17 to become a lawyer. He saw an article in a newspaper - a job as a chauffeur - and ended up coincidentally with Charly Chaplin.

It is said that Kono showed peculiar behavior in the beginning, asking Chaplin to pray for the emperor. When the Japanese president, Inukai Takeshi had been assassinated, it became clear to Chaplin that Kono had been once under pressure by a political wing.

Was Kono satisfied with his boss? Kono was fond of Chaplin. He complained about Chaplin's second very young wife Rita Grey, who was an avid spender of money and enjoyed parties with marine officers, according to a memoir by Mr. Ushihara, a Japanese Director, who was a student of Chaplin. Mr. Kono enabled him to study under Chaplin even though he replied: "My uncle (Chaplin) is a very difficult man. But I will try what I can do."

Mr. Kono also tried to get some other acts together, for example when director Sternberg asked to arrange Chaplin to see his movie, shoving a little bit of money into the pocket of Kono. Oh, was Kono greedy? Noo, this example should show, how Kono worked hard to get pieces moving together and how he took his job serious as a secretary of Chaplin. It is obvious that Kono was a man of the Japanese Meiji period with strict moral orders. Chaplin invited Kono to play a part in his movie "Adventure" (Is this really the American title? I just translated it from Japanese) and was glad to tell his wife about the additional income he had received, upon which, his wife responded: "How dare you, an actor, this will never be forgiven by our ancestors, you should never, ever try to do this kind of thing again."

Kono tried to support Chaplin in many ways. When Chaplin was going through a divorce with his first wife Mildred Harris, his project "Kid" which was in the process of being edited, was in danger of being held down by the court as a property. Both ended up fleeing, Kono driving the car with 60$ and Chaplin himself with 70$ in his pocket respectively all the way down to Salt Lake in Utah.

According to David Robinson, who wrote about Chaplin, Kono took also care of private matters. He was supposed to have camouflaged the proceedings with Rita Grey and Chaplin, to enable a smooth process for their wedding.

After 18 years Kono decided to go separate ways. Chaplin was now together with Paulet, who was more engaged than his preceding wives in Chaplin”Ēs personal matters. According to Mr. Yodogawa, the famous film critic of Japan, Kono was jealous of Chaplin's new wife and mad about Chaplin, who had made himself being a marionette of her, telling him what Kono had to do. Chaplin later apologized and asked Kono to come back again three times, but his wounded pride never really healed.

Chaplin arranged him new work in the movie business, but Kono never found a way to stay there. He opened up a law office in Little Tokyo at Los Angeles and was known among the neighbors just as a lawyer Kono, not by the long-term relationship with a famous man. He reveals the character of the old traditional Japanese, pertaining thoughts and memories for himself. That is why never a million seller titled "Charly Chaplin, the Writer, Director, Actor and His Secrets" went on sale.

In the late days Kono was living in his apartment in Hiroshima. Mr. Yodogawa, the film critic paid him a visit and recalls the last time he met him. Kono would speak with admiration and love of Chaplin. As Mr. Yodogawa was departing, Kono was guiding him out of his place watching him until he disappeared in the far with eyes that were looking infinitely into the past.

Kono Toraichi

1888 Born

1916-1934 Personal Secretary and Driver of Chaplin

1971 Passed away in Hiroshima

This piece was written based on the information by Hisaji Kubo.