The FBI hates Charlie Chaplin
On September 19, 1952, groundbreaking actor Charlie Chaplin discovered that he was not coming back to the United States. The British born comedian had his re-entry permit revoked by the US Attorney General’s Office. The FBI and AG were concerned about Chaplin’s political views.
It was not the first time the funnyman had run afoul of the federal government. J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI had arrested Chaplin for violations of the Mann Act, or transporting of women across state lines for sexual purposes. Chaplin’s crime? Having an affair with actress Joan Barry. In reality Hoover felt that Chaplin was a communist sympathizer and used the questionable Mann Act violation to go after him.
Chaplin was acquitted of all charges at trial, but Hoover’s FBI didn’t stop there. They fed mis-information (sound familiar?) about a paternity suit to gossip columnist Hedda Hopper in an effort to discredit Chaplin.
In April 1947, Chaplin released a film that was seen by many as pro-communist. FBI agents observed him with several other suspected communists, including a party given by Soviet diplomats. They were looking for an excuse to get him out of the United States.
When Chaplin went to his next film premier in London, the FBI and DOJ acted. They pulled his re-entry permit and required him to re-apply and prove that he was not a Communist. It was revealed decades later that there was no proof of Chaplin being a Communist and his entry application most likely would have been approved.
But Chaplin had enough. He openly criticized the US government and stated that he would not return. He spent the rest of his life living in Switzerland, dying in 1977. He did return to the United States in 1972 to receive a lifetime achievement award from the Academy of Motion Pictures. He received the longest standing ovation in the history of the Academy.
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