Charlie Chaplin Barred from the US

Charlie Chaplin was an English comic actor, filmmaker, and composer who rose to fame in the era of the “silent film.” He was very popular and was regarded as one of the most influential persons in the history of the movie industry. On September 19, 1952, Charlie Chaplin was barred by the US immigration from entering America. In memory of this event, the 19th of September 1952, let us go back in time to know who Charlie Chaplin was and why he was barred from entering America.

The Rise of Charlie Chaplin

Charlie Chaplin whose full name is Charles Spencer Chaplin was born in London on April 16, 1889. He was born into a family marked with poverty to the extent that he started working for money at the age of 7. He began his career as an actor in 1903 in a show titled Jim, a Romance of Cockayne, where he starred as a newsboy. He rose to fame and popularity in 1910 when he played the lead role in the sketch Jimmy the Fearless. After then, he appeared in several movies for Keystone Studios. In 1925, he directed, featured in and produced the movie The Gold Rush.


British comic actor and film director Charlie Chaplin (1889 – 1977) with his second wife, Lita Grey (1908 – 1995) and their son Charles Jnr (1925 – 1968) on board the SS City of Los Angeles, November 1926. Chaplin senior is seeing off his wife and child as they depart Los Angeles for Honolulu, Hawaii. Vintage property of ullstein bild (Photo by ullstein bild/ullstein bild via Getty Images)

This film was rated by the critics of The Brussels World’s Fair as the 2nd most significant film ever (The first place was given to the movie “Bronenosets Potemkin,” 1925). One of his major works, “Modern Times” which portrayed the struggles in an industrialized world, was ranked 33rd by the American Film Institute on the list of 100 funniest movies in America.


McCarthyism is the act of accusing someone or a group of persons of disloyalty without proper proof and evidence. The term refers to U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy who led the notion during the period known as the Second Red Scare that, American citizens who had ties with communist are internal threats and should be purged out.


Senator Joseph R. McCarthy, chairman of the Government Committee on Operations of the Senate, comments on the latest developments in his dispute with the White House and Arm Secretary Robert T. Stevens. (Photo Credit Gettyimages)

Joseph McCarthy became a US Senator in 1946 but became famous in 1950 when he gave a speech saying there were about 205 communists in the State Department. His re-election in 1952 made him the chairman of the Committee on Government Operations of the Senate and of its Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. He became much talked about after he pointed accusing fingers at actors, musicians and even the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Even though he need not have any legitimate evidence on anyone, his accusations caused public condemnation to some, while others lost their jobs.

Charlie Chapman Blacklisted by Hollywood Film Studio

During this period, Charlie Chaplin was also under enormous pressure in the United States from Joseph McCarthy. He was accused of having ties with the Communist party. His refusal to cooperate when he appeared before the House Un-American Activities Committee, made him one of the 300 blacklisted people by the Hollywood film studios.


Silent film comedian Charlie Chaplin exaggerated movements and actions sitting on gears in the motion picture Modern Times in 1936. (Photo Credit Gettyimages)

Charlie Chapman in his words after being asked about his ties with the Communist Party…”I do not want to create any revolution, all I want to do is create a few more films. I might amuse people. I hope so.”

Before Chaplin traveled to the UK, his lawyer in Hollywood had reviewed his re-entry permit and confirmed that it was still valid for a year. The immigration offices were very friendly when issuing the license to Chaplin, and they even joked about wanting him to come back as soon as possible. However, the moments he stepped out of the shores of America, the unexpected happened.

What happened on the 19th of September, 1952

On 19th of September 1952, Charlie Chaplin left the US to London. He traveled with his wife and four children on the ship named Queen Elizabeth. Chaplin did not know that he would not be returning to the US for a long while after leaving the US.


Chaplin Arrives in France. Cherbourg, France: Charles Chaplin waves from the deck of the liner Queen Elizabeth, which docked at Cherbourg en route to England, as his wife, Oona, and children watch, September 22. (Photo Credit Gettyimages)

The moment he left, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover rescinded Chaplin’s re-entry permit and ordered for an investigation on Chaplin by the Immigration services. It was also ordered that if Charlie Chaplin returned to the US, he was to be detained “for hearings.”

The Aftermath of 19th September 1952

As soon as Chaplin set his foot in the UK, he realized that going back to the US would be impossible. He then decided in a public statement to give up his residence in the United States.


Comic actor Charlie Chaplin (1889 – 1977) arrives at JFK Airport, New York, accompanied by his wife Oona O’Neill (1925 – 1991, center, left), 3rd April 1972. Photographing them is American actress Candice Bergen (top, right). Chaplin is in the US to receive his second Academy Award. (Photo by Pictorial Parade/Archive Photos/Getty Images)

He chose to remain in the UK and even said that he would not go back there even if “Jesus Christ comes.” He settled in Switzerland, where he lived until his death in 1977. Despite his ban, Chaplin continued to make films, but his films were not released in America until after 16 years.

Chaplin Returns to the United States

Chaplin did not return to the United States until 20 years later after he was exiled. In 1972, he journeyed back to the US, after he was denied a re-entry visa into the US. He was awarded a Special Oscar at the Academy Awards Ceremony in the same year.


NEW YORK, NY – APRIL 4: Actor Charlie Chaplin’s return to America on April 4, 1972 in New York, New York. (Photo by Santi Visalli/Getty Images)

Chaplin was 82 years old at the time when he received the award and a 12-minute long standing ovation from the audience in the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. When Charlie Chaplin died, his body was stolen from the grave and wasn’t found until 11 weeks later. The men responsible for this were convicted for theft and money extortion from the Chaplin family.

Chaplin’s Achievements

In 1929, Charlie Chaplin received an Honorary Academy Award for ‘versatility and genius in acting, writing, directing and producing. In 1972, he received another Honorary Academy Award for ‘the incalculable effect he has had in making motion pictures the art form of this century.’


Portrait Of Charles Chaplin During Oscar Awards Ceremony (Photo by Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images)

In the same year, Chaplin was given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In 1973, he won the Academy Award in the category of ‘Best Music, Original Dramatic Score’ for the film ‘Limelight.’ In 1975, he received a knighthood from the Queen of England. In honor of his life achievements, an exhibition on his life named ‘Charlie Chaplin – The Great Londoner,’ was opened at the London Film Museum in 2010.