To the world, he was the lovable Little Tramp, to the American establishment, he was a dangerous liberal with an internationalist outlook …
Scott Eyman’s riveting new book is a must-read account of what happened when America decided to take on one of the world’s most famous celebrities.
In the aftermath of World War II, as the Red Scare gained momentum, Charlie Chaplin was one of thousands of high profile figures suspected of having communist sympathies. The fact that he had never become a US citizen, along with his (often) scandalous sex life, added fuel to the fire for those who felt the actor did not represent ‘American values’.
When, in 1952, Chaplin left the US to visit England, he suddenly found himself exiled — unable to return to a country he had lived and worked in for four decades.
Charlie Chaplin Vs. America is fascinating and chilling, in equal measure, detailing the paranoia and fear that fuelled the McCarthy Witch Hunts, and how, even those at the very top of the pile, could find themselves condemned without trial.
The actor only returned to the US once, 20 years later, to receive an honorary Academy Award. His standing ovation was the longest in Oscar history.
Charlie Chaplin Vs. America: When Art, Sex, and Politics is a sweeping volume, meticulously researched and breathtaking in its scope. When called to give his testimony by the House of UnAmerican Activities Commission, Chaplin, famously said:
“You have been quoted as wanting to ask me if I’m a Communist … In order that you be completely up to date with my thinking, I suggest that you view my latest production, Monsieur Verdoux. It is against war and the futile slaughter of youth. I trust you will not find its humane message distasteful. While you are preparing your engraved subpoena, I will give you a hint on where I stand. I am not a Communist. I am a peace-monger.”
In era of cancel culture and performative outrage, Charlie Chaplin Vs. America has never seemed more relevant.
Charlie Chaplin Vs. America: When Art, Sex, and Politics Collided (ISBN: 9781982176358) by Scott Eyman, is published by Simon and Schuster and is priced £18.99 in hardback.