Charlie Chaplin died in 1977
3:20pm UK, Friday February 17, 2012
The mystery over Charlie Chaplin’s country of birth has deepened after newly-released files shed fresh light on MI5′s investigations into his alleged communist sympathies.
British intelligence officers could find no documents confirming the iconic film star was born in London in April 1889, and said they doubted claims he was in fact originally from France.
US authorities first asked MI5 to look into the comic actor’s background after he left America in 1952 under a cloud of suspicion over his communist links.
The star is believed to have been born on April 16, 1889, in East Street, Walworth, south London – just four days before the birth of Adolf Hitler, whom he lampooned in his classic 1940 film The Great Dictator.
It is curious that we can find no record of Chaplin’s birth, but I scarcely think that this is of any security significance.
John Marriott, then head of MI5′s counter-subversion branch
But after scouring the files at Somerset House in London for his birth certificate, including checks for his supposed alias “Israel Thornstein”, MI5 concluded: “It would seem that Chaplin was either not born in this country or that his name at birth was other than those mentioned.”
Scotland Yard‘s Special Branch added to the intrigue by passing on a tip from a source who claimed the actor was born near Fontainebleau, just south of Paris.
A police memo to MI5 noted: “There may or may not be some truth in this, but in view of the fact that no documentary proof has been obtained that Chaplin was born in the United Kingdom, it may well be that he was in fact born in France.”
MI6, Britain’s foreign intelligence service, investigated further but found no trace of Chaplin’s birth in either Fontainebleau or nearby Melun.
Chaplin in around 1914
John Marriott, then head of MI5′s counter-subversion branch, was not convinced the absence of a birth certificate was a matter of concern for the intelligence services.
He wrote: “It is curious that we can find no record of Chaplin’s birth, but I scarcely think that this is of any security significance.”
Having escaped grinding poverty to launch a career in British music halls, Chaplin moved to the US in 1910 and made a series of hugely successful films in Hollywood in his famous persona of the ‘Little Tramp’.
But in the early 1950s, when Washington was in the grip of McCarthyist paranoia about Soviet infiltration, he was reviled in the US as a communist sympathiser.
There was further controversy about his two marriages to 16-year-old girls, failure to take American citizenship, and claims he fathered an illegitimate child and owed $2m in back taxes.
Chaplin and his family sailed to Britain in September 1952 to attend the premiere of his new film Limelight.
:: Chaplin’s MI5 files will be free to download from www.nationalarchives.gov.uk for a month.
This article originally appeared on: http://news.sky.com/skynews/Home/Strange-News/Charlie-Chaplin-MI5-Investigation-Revealed-In-Newly-Released-Files/Article/201202316171953?f=rssOlder postNewer post