2060 pages of files copied from FBI Headquarters in Washington, D.C., covering Charlie Chaplin. Born Charles Spencer Chaplin, in London, in 1889, he came to America and became the most successful silent film era comedian. In 1919 he co-founded United Artists with Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford, and D.W. Griffith. Having never become a United States citizen, Chaplin died in exile in Switzerland in 1977. After his death, Chaplin's body was stolen from its grave and held for ransom. His remains were recovered from a cornfield near the cemetery in Vevey Switzerland.
Files include memos, reports, investigation summaries, A transcript of a interview conducted by INS officials concerning his political views, and newspaper clippings. The files cover the FBI's concerns and investigations into Chaplin's political views and personal life. Chaplin first came to the attention of the FBI in the early 1920's, due to his left of center political views. Then Assistant to the Director of the FBI, J. Edgar Hoover, wrote in a memo that Chaplin was one of Hollywood's "parlor Bolsheviki." Chaplin came under increased review after his 1936 film "Modern Times" and his 1941 "The Great Dictator."
Much attention is given to the Joan Barry case. After the actress Joan Barry filled a paternity case in a California court against Chaplin in 1943, an investigation lead to Chaplin being charged with "white slavery," and violating the civil rights of Barry. Chaplin was charged with violating the 1910 Mann Act, also called the White Slave Traffic Act. This federal law prohibited people from transporting women across state lines for "immoral purposes." Originally intended to be a law against prostitution, at times its enforcement was expanded to include any activity considered immoral. Chaplin was acquitted of the charges brought against him in the first two indictments to go to trial and later, the other charges were dropped.
A blood test showed that it was impossible for Chaplin to be the father of Barry's child. However, at the time blood type evidence was not admissible in California courts. The first paternity trial ended in a mistrial. A second trial found Chaplin guilty and he was ordered to pay support until the child's 18th birthday.
After leaving the United States in 1952 to attended the London premiere of his film "Limelight," Chaplin's re-entry visa was revoked, and he was barred from reentering the United States as a security risk. Documents show the bureau's efforts to compile information that would keep him out of the United States. Chaplin decided not to fight the decision and moved to Switzerland. He returned to the United States only once, in 1972, to accept a special Oscar, presented to him at the Academy Awards. According to a 1952 FBI memo, there was no evidence that could be presented that would bar his re-entry into the United States. When informants who had made allegations against Chaplin were asked to testify under oath, all refused.