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Not actually a tramp, though.
February 17, 2012 1:31 AM   Subscribe

Files have been released showing that the MI5 investigated Charlie Chaplin's origins at the request of the FBI, attempting to check claims that besides being a communist, he might be Jewish, and/or French. His life story by his own account has him born in London, but no birth certificate has been found and last year evidence emerged that he might in fact have been born in a gypsy camp.
posted by Segundus (34 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
This is preposterously cool.
Now, in a perfect world it would next be discovered that he was Django Reinhardt's uncle.
posted by From Bklyn at 2:23 AM on February 17, 2012 [5 favorites]


Unconfirmed contemporary accounts also question whether he was born with a full moustache too.
posted by MuffinMan at 3:05 AM on February 17, 2012 [6 favorites]


What a hero.
posted by timshel at 3:33 AM on February 17, 2012


It gives some authenticity to his character as the Tramp.
posted by CG at 3:36 AM on February 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


We are all fellow-travellers.
posted by srboisvert at 3:46 AM on February 17, 2012 [1 favorite]




And this is why we must continue to persecute the traveller community, to create a world free of the threat of future Chaplins!
posted by asok at 3:50 AM on February 17, 2012 [4 favorites]


I just mentioned this to a gypsy and her response was "Oh yeah? You didn't know?"

Apparently he's one of the famous ones, but you have to have gypsy-dar to know that.
posted by clarknova at 4:09 AM on February 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


I guess it doesn't prove he was actually born in the neighbourhood, but I used to live right next door to a church in Southwark, London that bore a plaque stating that this was where Chaplin's parents had married.
posted by Flashman at 5:03 AM on February 17, 2012


attempting to check claims that besides being a communist, he might be Jewish, and/or French.... but no birth certificate has been found and last year evidence emerged that he might in fact have been born in a gypsy camp.

Oh my God... NOOOOO!!!
posted by 2N2222 at 5:42 AM on February 17, 2012


Apparently he's one of the famous ones, but you have to have gypsy-dar to know that.

I'd heard this on the Rom side of my family my whole life, but from some of the same people who insist that Shakespeare was Rom and that most Greek restaurants in the U.S. are actually Rom ("and you can tell which ones they are -- we run the GOOD ones!").
posted by Etrigan at 5:58 AM on February 17, 2012 [6 favorites]


His autobiography, (published in 1964) says, "Grandma was half gypsy. This fact was the skeleton in our family cupboard. Nevertheless, Grandma bragged that her family always paid ground rent."
posted by argonauta at 6:19 AM on February 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


I used to live in Hanwell, London, next to the old Hanwell School (basically a workhouse for children) where he lived as a child. What a gloomy forbidding place it was.
posted by communicator at 6:22 AM on February 17, 2012


Unconfirmed contemporary accounts also question whether he was born with a full moustache too.

(the moustache wasn't real until later in his career)
posted by shakespeherian at 7:11 AM on February 17, 2012


He was no Buster Keaton, but he was pretty good.
posted by Capt. Renault at 7:23 AM on February 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah, that's kind of like saying that Kandinsky was no Picasso, but he was pretty good.
posted by blucevalo at 7:44 AM on February 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


Gypsy? But that's EVEN WORSE than Jewish!

Damn near as bad as being born French. Or poor.

FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, tell me he wasn't born poor?
posted by IAmBroom at 7:48 AM on February 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


He was no Buster Keaton, but he was pretty good.

He was probably distracted by writing, directing, and scoring his own films.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:49 AM on February 17, 2012


Capt. Renault: He was no Buster Keaton, but he was pretty good.

shakespeherian: He was probably distracted by writing, directing, and scoring his own films.

Buster Keaton (his lifelong stage name) was recognized as the seventh-greatest director of all time by Entertainment Weekly... Critic Roger Ebert wrote of Keaton's "extraordinary period from 1920 to 1929, [when] he worked without interruption on a series of films that make him, arguably, the greatest actor-director in the history of the movies."

Occupation: Actor Director Producer Writer
posted by IAmBroom at 7:57 AM on February 17, 2012 [4 favorites]


(the moustache wasn't real until later in his career)

Cool fact, shakespeherian. Groucho's was real, but supplemented with shoe polish (later stage makeup) until late in life.
posted by IAmBroom at 7:59 AM on February 17, 2012


IAmBroom: Buster Keaton (his lifelong stage name) was recognized as the seventh-greatest director of all time by Entertainment Weekly...

And that's how you do damning with faint praise.
posted by Pickman's Next Top Model at 8:19 AM on February 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


shakespeherian: He was probably distracted by writing, directing, and scoring his own films.

You left out producing. It's the difference between winding up as Jimmy Durante's straight man and being able to say "Fuck off, HUAC, I'm taking my movies and hitting the road. Good luck ever seeing them again."
posted by Pickman's Next Top Model at 8:24 AM on February 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


I just mentioned this to a gypsy and her response was "Oh yeah? You didn't know?"

I knew this already. Read it on Wikipedia ages and ages ago.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:41 AM on February 17, 2012


His autobiography, (published in 1964) says, "Grandma was half gypsy. This fact was the skeleton in our family cupboard. Nevertheless, Grandma bragged that her family always paid ground rent."

Does this make her "lace curtain Gypsy"?
posted by orange swan at 9:51 AM on February 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Cool that someone found specific evidence to back up Chaplin's self-identification as Romanichal, especially considering the state of archives from that era and the traditional lack of engagement between the Romani community and the English gummint.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:18 AM on February 17, 2012


He was probably distracted by writing, directing, and scoring his own films.

Which Buster then stole in a single scene, with a single line.
posted by Capt. Renault at 10:48 AM on February 17, 2012


IAmBroom: Buster Keaton (his lifelong stage name) was recognized as the seventh-greatest director of all time by Entertainment Weekly...

And that's how you do damning with faint praise.


So you're what, Pickman's Next Top Model... the world's sixth-greatest? At anything?
posted by IAmBroom at 10:55 AM on February 17, 2012


Which Buster then stole in a single scene, with a single line.

I think it's pretty great that Chaplin directed that film and wrote that line specifically for Keaton: Rivalry is silly. Let's have great films.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:11 PM on February 17, 2012


I meant all of this only in the spirit of good-natured ribbing. But I really think Buster's superior.
posted by Capt. Renault at 12:27 PM on February 17, 2012


Keaton never wrote a great line for Chaplin, did he. THEREFORE HE IS A JERK
posted by shakespeherian at 12:34 PM on February 17, 2012


But I really think Buster's superior.

You know who else...?
posted by Sys Rq at 12:41 PM on February 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Lucille Bluth
posted by shakespeherian at 12:48 PM on February 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


THEREFORE HE IS A JERK

A jerk who wrote the best gag in all of movies, and had the best joke of teevee written about him, sure.

posted by Capt. Renault at 12:55 PM on February 17, 2012


I would not be at all surprised if Chaplin was a gypsy, but a random letter from some elderly fan in the 1970s, at least 80 years after his birth, is not strong evidence.
posted by knoyers at 9:32 PM on February 17, 2012


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