Celebrities have long been the victims of rumor. Cinema legend Charlie Chaplin was no exception. The British-born actor, who is primarily remembered for his "little tramp" character and who mixed with contemporary notables such as Albert Einstein and George Bernard Shaw, became the subject of a rumor accusing him of being a communist. Chaplin denied being a communist, but never denied sympathizing with the political ideology.
During the 1930s, Chaplin developed an interest in politics. This is particularly reflected in his films "Modern Times" and, of course, "The Great Dictator," in which he attacked fascism. However, it was "Modern Times" that caught the attention of J. Edgar Hoover, head of the FBI. Hoover saw the film as an attack on capitalism, although it is more likely that Chaplin used the film as means of supporting Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal. Hoover opened a file on Chaplin and his friendship with prominent radicals such as Upton Sinclair and Albert Einstein. Chaplin also supported the American Committee for Russian War Relief during World War II.
Hoover collected almost 2,000 pages of evidence suggesting Chaplin held radical left-wing views. Chaplin never appeared before the House Un-American Activities Committee, but on his return from a trip to London in 1952, he discovered that he no longer had permission to live in the United States. (Hoover had advised the attorney general that Chaplin should not be allowed to return to the U.S.) Chaplin recollected in his autobiography that although he was not a communist, he never spoke out against them, which made him guilty in the eyes of the anti-communists.
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