Officially sanctioned U.S. paranoia of the late 1940s and the 1950s caused much grief and hardship among liberal thinking people and much of the entertainment industry in those days.
After the end of the second world war, the defense establishment yearned for the creation of the Cold War against the Soviet Union. This was the manifestation of the Military Industrial Complex of which President Dwight Eisenhower described in his farewell address.
In the late 1940s, several people openly questioned the need for taxpayers to continue pumping more and more money into military interests during peacetime. They also wondered why Americans were being convinced to develop an extremist fear of communism.
FBI Director, J. Edgar Hoover was one of the main proponants of the Military Industrial Complex and the leading advocate for action against liberal and left leaning citizens and foreign nationals. It was Hoover who provided the muscle for the ultra conservative movement in America in those days.
Among the entertainers who questioned the premise of the growing paranoia was film icon Charlie Chaplin. Chaplin was described by biographer David Robinson as the most dramatic of all the rags to riches stories ever told. Chaplin grew up in dire poverty in the Kennington district of London, England. His family was so poor that the child was sent to the workhouse at the tender age of seven. He was housed at the Central London District School For Paupers. It is this early background that formed the foundation for Charlie Chaplin’s liberal concerns and works.
In 1952, Mr. Chaplin travelled to the UK with the intention to celebrate the London premiere of his film “Limelight”. FBI Director Hoover found out about Chaplin’s trip. Hoover convinced the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization officials to revoke Chaplin’s re-entry permit to the U.S. It was on September 19th, 1952 that the United States government barred Chaplin from re-entering the country.
There was some fear by Chaplin that radical American forces were aligned against him. Photographer Richard Avedon has said that Charlie Chaplin contacted the portraitist for a sitting. Avedon expressed skepticism about Chaplin’s identity during the telephone conversation. In response, Chaplin told Avelon, “If you want to take my picture, you’d better do it now. They are coming after me and I won’t be back….” Avedon did take photographs of the film star the following day. That was the last time Avedon ever saw Chaplin.
The following year, Chaplin moved his family to Switzerland. In 1954, Chaplin’s American wife, Oona, renounced her U.S. citizenship and officially became a British citizen. As a final gesture, Chaplin released the last of his professional obligations to the United States.
That was Charlie Chaplin’s final act as an American film icon.
The Blue Jay of Happiness’ favorite Chaplin movie is “The Kid”.