“(Charlie Chaplin) is more than a clown. he is a humanist, a pacifist and a man who had deep consideration for the injustices of this world, explains Yves Durand, designer of the Chaplin's World museum in Switzerland to the magazine '1:15 p.m. on Sunday' (replay). With The Emigrant, The Kid, The dictator…, It went against all the political and ideological thinking of the American far right at that time. ” And in 1947, the witch hunt of the American senator McCarthy targets Hollywood personalities.
Among them, the creator of the character of Charlot who sees himself designated at the time as an English immigrant who teaches lessons who enriches himself on American soil, without even taking his nationality. The Anti-American Activities Commission then opens a file … “At that time, either you said you were not in favor of communism, or you said nothing and you were automatically considered a sympathizer”, recalls Pierre Smolik, Swiss historian and biographer of the actor, director, composer, screenwriter …
“He was considered dangerous because he said what he thought”
The powerful boss of the FBI, John Edgar Hoover, places the artist on wiretapping. His manners, his films, his sympathies, his fortune … everything makes him a suspect. “He was someone who had his own studios, made his films … He didn't answer anyone. We thought he could be a communist. He was a capitalist, he lived … that's absurd. He was considered as dangerous because he said what he thought “says her son Michael. Chaplin firmly replies to the Commission: “I have never belonged to any party in my life and have never voted. I am not a communist.”
In 1952, Charlie Chaplin went on a European tour with his family to promote his film The spotlight. When he arrives in London, his city of birth, he learns that the Anti-American Activities Commission has canceled his visa to return to the United States. “I think it was a huge shock to him. He may not have expected him to do that”says Michael. For historian Pierre Smolik, “If he wanted to go back to the United States, he had to do the whole emigrant's obstacle course. It was completely humiliating”. The artist then simply says “good-bye” to the Americans, according to his daughter Annie, and chose exile in Switzerland for his discretion, his good schools and his taxation as gentle as the climate.