Charlie Chaplin, the famous actor and iconic silent film star best remembered for playing “The Tramp,” had a precipitous decline in popularity in the 1950s that resulted in his voluntary exile from the United States. “Charlie Chaplin vs. America: When Art, Sex, and Politics Collided,” written by Scott Eyman, is a new book that explores this turbulent time and provides insight into Chaplin’s life in Switzerland and his complicated personal and professional connections.
Due to his political activism and suspected Communist affiliations, Chaplin’s denial of his reentry documents in 1952 precipitated his departure from the United States. The thorough examinations that Chaplin was subjected to from a number of government organizations, including as the FBI, CIA, and the House Un-American Activities Committee, are examined in Eyman’s book. Chaplin decided to leave the nation after being targeted and denounced despite never having been a member of the Communist Party.
After being sent into exile, the actor lived out his days in a 30-room home in Switzerland. Chaplin’s son Sydney, daughter Geraldine, and the actor’s helper all contributed to Eyman’s study, which offers a window into the reclusive and private life of the actor at this time.
“What surprised me the most was just how self-contained Chaplin was,” Eyman states. The silent film star had few close pals and a small social group. Actor Douglas Fairbanks Sr., who died in 1939, was his closest friend. Chaplin kept his social group small and did not aggressively strive to replace him.
Chaplin’s personal history, which included several marriages and contentious relationships, further added to the criticism he received. His relationships with young women, including his marriages to his first two brides, who were both under the age of eighteen, are highlighted in the book. Chaplin’s public image was made more complicated by the media’s portrayal of him as a “loose degenerate.”
Even though Chaplin had difficulties and accusations in his personal life, he had a steady and long-lasting marriage to Oona O’Neill. Their marriage, according to Eyman, gave Chaplin “absolute acceptance” and “devotion,” giving him the happiness he was looking for. Oona was Chaplin’s faithful companion till his passing in 1977.
Chaplin’s political convictions and the difficulties he encountered in exile are examined in relation to his creative legacy. Eyman draws attention to Chaplin’s audacious decision to make “The Great Dictator,” a satirical movie that ridiculed Nazism and Adolf Hitler. The actor made a name for himself in Hollywood by rejecting traditional expressions of patriotism and by believing that nationalism might have negative effects.
With his book, Eyman hopes to give readers a more multifaceted picture of Chaplin, one that embraces the complexity that shaped his life as well as his stubbornness and creative genius. “This was a stubborn man who made great films and didn’t care what anybody else thought,” Eyman states. “That certainly complicated his life.”
“Charlie Chaplin vs. America: When Art, Sex, and Politics Collided” provides readers with a thorough examination of a pivotal time in the actor’s life, illuminating the ways in which politics, art, and interpersonal relationships intersected to create the iconic actor’s legacy.