Off-Screen DramaChaplin became equally famous for his life off-screen. His affairs with actresses who had roles in his movies were numerous. Some, however, ended better than others.
In 1918 he quickly married 16-year-old Mildred Harris. The marriage lasted two years, and in 1924 he wed again, to another 16-year-old, actress Lita Grey, whom he'd cast in The Gold Rush. The marriage had been brought on by an unplanned pregnancy, and the resulting union, which produced two sons for Chaplin (Charles Jr., and Sydney) was an unhappy one for both partners. The two split in 1927.
In 1936, Chaplin married again, this time to a chorus girl who went by the film name of Paulette Goddard. They lasted until 1942. That was followed by a nasty paternity suit with another actress, Joan Barry, in which tests proved Chaplin was not the father of her daughter but a jury still ordered him to pay child support.
In 1943, Chaplin married 18-year-old Oona O'Neil, the daughter of playwright, Eugene O'Neil. Unexpectedly the two would go on to have a happy marriage, one that would result in eight children for the couple.
Later FilmsChaplin kept creating interesting and engaging films in the 1930s. In 1931, he released City Lights, a critical and commercial success that incorporated music Chaplin scored himself.
More acclaim came with Modern Times (1936), a biting commentary about the state of world's economic and political infrastructures. The film, which did incorporate sound and did not include "The Little Tramp" character, was, in part, the result of an 18-month world tour Chaplin had taken between 1931 and 1932, a trip in which he'd witnessed severe economic angst and a sharp rise in nationalism in Europe and elsewhere.
Chaplin spoke even louder in The Great Dictator (1940), which pointedly ridiculed the governments of Hitler and Mussolini. "I want to see the return of decency and kindness," Chaplin said around the time of the film's release. "I'm just a human being who wants to see this country a real democracy . . ."
But Chaplin was not universally embraced. His romantic liaisons led to his rebuke by some women's groups, which in turn led to him being barred from entering some U.S. states. As the Cold War age settled into existence, Chaplin didn't withhold his fire from injustices he saw taking place in the name of fighting Communism in his adopted country of the United States.
Chaplin soon became a target of the right wing conservatives. Representative John E. Ranking of Mississippi pushed for his deportation. In 1952, the Attorney General of the United States obliged when he announced that Chaplin, who was sailing to Britain on vacation, was not permitted to return to the United States unless he could prove "moral worth." The incensed Chaplin said goodbye to United States and took up residence on a small farm in Vevey, Switzerland.
Nearing the end of his life, Chaplin did make one last return to visit to the United States in 1972, when he was awarded a special Academy Award from the Motion Picture Academy. The trip came just six years after Chaplin's final film, A Countess from Hong Kong (1966), the filmmaker's first and only color movie. Despite a cast that included Sophia Loren and Marlon Brando, the film did poorly at the box office. In 1975, Chaplin received more recognition when Queen Elizabeth knighted him.
In the early morning hours of December 25, 1977, Charlie Chaplin died at his home in Corsier-sur-Vevey, Vaud, Switzerland. His wife Oona and seven of his children were at his bedside at the time of his passing. In a twist that might very well have come out of one of his films, Chaplin's body was stolen not long after he was buried from his grave near Lake Geneva in Switzerland by two men who demanded $400,000 for its return. The men were arrested and Chaplin's body was recovered 11 weeks later.