Charlie Chaplin: undesirable alien?

 

After Limelight, Charlie Chaplin took another vacation to England, wanting to show his new wife and children his native country. Upon leaving the territorial waters of the United States of America, Charlie Chaplin received a cable, informing him that the State Department had rescinded his reentry permit — effectively locking him out of the country as an undesirable alien. There were many reasons for this — Charlie Chaplin’s unorthodox political views, the false accusation that he was a Communist, and not least of all, money. There would have been an attempt by the federal government to seize Charlie Chaplin’s assets, which were enormous. However, his wife Oona returned to the United States, and promptly took all of the liquid assets, as well as liquidating everything she could — leaving the government without a penny for its’ trouble.

Charlie Chaplin was not, however, a man without a country. He was still a citizen of Great Britain, but he did not desire to live there. After the stress of the situation had been dealt with, the Chaplins relocated to Vevey, Switzerland in 1953, where they lived for the remainder of their lives together. After their death, it has been turned into an international Charlie Chaplin museum.

In 1954, Oona renounced her U.S. citizenship, casting her lot with her husband. And, ironically, Charlie Chaplin was awarded World Peace Council Prize in that same year. In the next year, he resumes doing what he does best — making comedies.

***

American investigation

In the same year that Charlie Chaplin began working on The Great Dictator, the House Un-American Committee begins investigating Charlie Chaplin. At first glance, there seems to be no reason for this — until the second glance. Earlier Charlie Chaplin had done his patriotic part in raising money for the war effort, alongside his long time friends Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford — raising large amounts of money for the war. Charlie Chaplin was a lifelong pacifist, but he was also a realist who saw that the aggression of the Axis powers had to be stopped. In many ways, Charlie Chaplin was politically naive — such as speaking at fund raisers for the Communist USSR, whom Charlie Chaplin simply saw as our allies in the fight. And by suggesting that America immediately open a two front war to help our “friends” in the Soviet Union. These were some of the reasons that the government began keeping tabs on the immigrant film maker (although he worked for all of these years in America, he maintained his British citizenship, and had no intention of becoming an American citizen).

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