Documents released today have revealed that the British MI5 investigated Charlie Chaplin’s background in 1952 but were unable to find his real name or place of birth. They were asked to do so by the FBI who believed Chaplin was a communist sympathizer. They were convinced he was using an alias and that his real name was Israel Thornstein.
Chaplin always claimed he was born on April 16th 1889 in South-London. But an exhaustive search by MI5 found no record of his birth, or the birth of an Israel Thornstein, at all. ‘It’s very unusual, particularly after investigation by MI5, for the date and place of birth for such a well-known celebrity as Charlie Chaplin to remain so mysterious,’ said Professor Christopher Andrew, the official historian of MI5. Further inquiries into suggestions that Chaplin had been born in France near Fontainebleau also proved fruitless.
New information about his place of birth has surfaced last year, when a letter was found in a locked drawer which had been sent to Chaplin a few years before his death in 1977 by a man called Jack Hill. He claimed that Chaplin was born in a caravan belonging to a woman known as ‘the Gypsy Queen’ in central England. Chaplin’s oldest son commented that Chaplin would not have kept the letter if he had not taken this information seriously.