Charlie Chaplin's Real Name, Birthplace Remains a Mystery: British Spy Agency

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Charlie Chaplin
7. Charlie Chaplin The FBI opened a file for Charlie Chaplin for his involvement in anti-war politics and leniency towards the communist ideologies.

Mystery shrouds over the real name and birthplace of legendary comedy film star Charlie Chaplin even 34 years after his death.

Newly-released files show that the British spy agency MI5 found no record of Chaplin's birth in north London when they investigated him over links to the Communist Party, documents released Thursday revealed.

In 1952, the U.S. requested MI5 agents to investigate Chaplin's background when they were trying to prove that Chaplin was a communist sympathizer.

After the investigation, the spy agency discovered that Chaplin, who grew up in London before moving to the U.S., had left-wing sympathies but nothing more than that, BBC reported.

Chaplin was believed to be born April 16, 1889, in south London. But MI5 could not find his 1889 birth certificate under the name Chaplin or a supposed alias Israel Thornstein leading it to speculate that he might not have been born in London.

It would seem that Chaplin was either not born in this country or that his name at birth was other than those mentioned, MI5 said.

It's very unusual, particularly after investigation by MI5, for the date and place of birth for such a well-known celebrity as Charlie Chaplin to remain so mysterious, said Professor Christopher Andrew, the official historian of MI5.

But David Robinson, official Chaplin biographer, said that not every birth was registered in Britain during that time.

Ed Hampshire, from the National Archives, told BBC that both U.S. and the UK were searching for different things in Chaplin's background.

The American perspective was very much 'has Charlie Chaplin ever been a member of the Communist Party? That's the important thing', he said.

For the British it's all about 'is he a security risk or has he ever been a security risk, whether he's a member of the party or not'. They find no proof he's a member of the party and on top of that they find no proof that he's a security risk, he added.

The U.S. in 1952 told MI5 to investigate Chaplin because it was reported that he had made a secret donation to the American Communist Party back in 1923 when he was at the height of his fame, BBC reported.

During the time of investigation Chaplin was not allowed to enter into the U.S. after attending a film premiere in London.

However, in 1953, Chaplin denied being a communist and decided to live in Switzerland, where he died in 1977.

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