Editor’s Pick

santi visalli / getty images
01 April, 2018

CHARLIE CHAPLIN, the famous actor and filmmaker, gets ready to fly to the United States on 2 April 1972. This trip would mark the first time he set foot in the country since 1952, when he was denied a re-entry visa for political reasons.

Chaplin, who grew up in London, became one of Hollywood’s most famous actors in the early twentieth century, often directing, producing, composing for and starring in comedic silent films. Some of the most notable works of his career include The Kid, a 1921 comedy-drama about a man and his adopted son; The Gold Rush, a 1925 comedy that satirises the westward push for gold prospecting; and, in 1940, The Great Dictator—a political satire in which Chaplin appears as a fictionalised version of Adolf Hitler.

By the end of the 1940s, however, Chaplin became one of thousands to be targeted by McCarthyism—a movement led by Joseph McCarthy, a senator in the United States who sought to penalise people for supposed communist sympathies. Chaplin came under especially close scrutiny because of his leftist political beliefs, and his personal life (he had been married several times to very young women). This scrutiny intensified in 1952, when Chaplin—on his way to London—was informed that he would not receive a re-entry visa. He and his family moved to Switzerland, and he vowed never to return to the United States.

But McCarthyism had waned by 1972, and Chaplin—by then 82 years old—was awarded an honorary Academy Award for “the incalculable effect he has had in making motion pictures the art form of this century.” He made his April voyage to the United States in order to attend the ceremony; and, when he went onstage to accept the award, he received a 12-minute-long standing ovation.