UK spies clueless about Charlie Chaplin’s real name


The real name and birthplace of legendary silent-film star Charlie Chaplin is shrouded in mystery, Britain’s domestic spy agency concluded after a probe into US claims he was a communist sympathiser. Chaplin, one of Hollywood’s first and greatest stars famed for his ‘Little Tramp’ character, believed he was born on April 16, 1889, in south London. British MI5 agents were asked in 1952 to investigate Chaplin’s background by the FBI, which believed he was using an alias and that his real name was Israel Thornstein. An exhaustive search by MI5 found no record of his birth anywhere, nor anything to suggest he was any kind of security risk. During his long career, Chaplin courted controversy with overtly political films such as ‘The Great Dictator’ a parody of German Nazi leader Adolf Hitler and ‘A King in New York,’ a satire on the anti-communist Cold War fears gripping America.