By Jim Rees
It was the sort of puzzle that Ireland’s Own’s Miss Flanagan would have loved to get her dentures into. It involved a massive Hollywood star, a kidnapping and a coffin that was found ten miles from the crypt in which it should have been resting peacefully.
Charlie Chaplin needs no introduction. Adults and children the world over still love the man who epitomised silent-movie comedy a hundred years ago. Many will also be aware of his later talkie-films and might even have heard of his strong political beliefs and outspoken criticism of social injustice.
In many ways, his was a bizarre life, but perhaps the strangest event happened two months after his death.
Because of his left-of-centre views, in the 1950s Chaplin fell foul of the committee investigating alleged ‘unAmerican Activites’ in the United States. It was the time of the Cold War, a stand-off between the West, led by America, and the East, led by the U.S.S.R.
There was a fear that communist sympathisers had infiltrated every aspect of American life – the banking system, Hollywood, and even the government itself.
Anyone deemed a little too left of centre was targeted and made appear before the committee. Even if nothing could be proven against them, they were compelled to name friends who had leftist leanings.
Chaplin’s sometimes controversial statements made him a prime suspect. He refused to co-operate and was so disheartened by it all that he decided to leave America and settle in the small Swiss village of Corsier-sur-Vevay.
He died there, over twenty years later, on Christmas Day 1977 at the age of 88, and was buried in the local cemetery. On 10 March 1978, his grave was found ransacked and the coffin was missing.