He is unquestionably one of the most famous stars in the history of movies. And now, new documents show that for years the FBI and Britain’s MI5 tried to prove he was a Communist spy and was not born in London with the name Charles Chaplin.
"According to newly released documents, both the FBI and Britain’s MI5 spent years trying to determine if [Charlie Chaplin] the star of silent films was actually a Communist born in France…" reports ABC News, adding, "The Americans wanted to see if he was actually born in France under the name Israel Thornstein, and if he was a Communist spy."
According to the article, "On Friday [Feb. 17, 2012], the British National Archives released previously classified documents compiled by MI5 in the 1950s revealing extensive cross-Atlantic surveillance of the British actor for suspected communist ties."
ABC News adds, "Though agents speculated that Chaplin’s family might have Russian origins, the MI5 was not able to resolve suspicions about the place of Chaplin’s birth. The agency could not find any records of the actor’s birth in England under either name. It also said there was ‘no evidence that Chaplin’s name is or ever has been Israel Thornstein,’ or that he had been born in France. While a Washington-based MI5 liaison officer determined that Chaplin had given funds to ‘communist front organizations,’ the agency also found no reason to believe he was a spy."
The story also explains: "Film historian Matthew Sweet told the AP that rumors about Chaplin’s biography had been circulating well before the McCarthy era. The story about a French birthplace apparently originated with a film magazine article from the 1910s that said Chaplin was born while his mother was on tour near Paris."