Hollywood Celebrity Scandals Charlie Chaplin & Joan Barry Affair Part 2

About the Hollywood celebrity scandal of 1943 involving Charlie Chaplin and Joan Barry, their affair and paternity case.


The Charlie Chaplin and Joan Barry Affair--1943

With public opinion whipped up by the gossip columnists, Chaplin became such a person. He was prosecuted in federal criminal court as well as sued for child support in a paternity case. In the Mann Act trial, Chaplin was acquitted. His lawyer was Jerry Giesler, already famous for defending Errol Flynn in similar circumstances. Among other convincing arguments, Giesler scored points with his remark that Chaplin had no need to spirit Miss Barry from California to New York City for sex; he could have had it with her in Los Angeles "for as little as twenty-five cents carfare." Further, in a real-life Perry Mason-style defense, Giesler all but put the finger on a more likely sugar daddy, oil tycoon Jean Paul Getty. Although the judge prevented Giesler from pursuing the point, it looked very much as if Getty had financed Barry's eastern swing as well as a Mexican trip or two.

The paternity case ended less happily for Chaplin. Assuming it was routine, he dismissed Giesler and relied on his regular, less expensive attorney. This was a mistake. Giesler may have been more ham than legalist, but he was exactly what was called for. The anti-Chaplin atmosphere was so intense that Charlie was declared the father of the infant and ordered to pay substantial support despite a blood test showing that his fatherhood was scientifically impossible. Chaplin had in effect been found guilty of behavior offensive to conventional morality. As Joan Barry's lawyer put it in his summing-up: "There has been no one to stop Chaplin in his lecherous conduct all these years--except you. Wives and mothers all over the country are watching to see you stop him dead in his tracks. You'll sleep well the night you give this baby a name--the night you show him [Chaplin] the law means him as well as the bums on Skid Row."

Chaplin's film career was finished. Monsieur Verdoux (1947) was widely boycotted, and it flopped commercially. Limelight (1952) was well received by the critics but failed to appeal to the mass audience which had made the Little Tramp the best-known and best-loved character in the history of the cinema. In September of 1952, Chaplin left on the Queen Elizabeth for a European vacation. Almost as soon as the ship was out of American waters, the U.S. attorney general rescinded Chaplin's reentry permit (Charlie was a British subject), and virtually no one but a few leftists, liberals, and film buffs protested. Chaplin settled in Switzerland, bitter but mostly silent about the country which, if it had given him much, had also taken much.

Only in 1972, when he was over 80 years old, did Chaplin return to receive Hollywood's homage and the overt acceptance of the American public. His death in 1977 prompted a widespread display of respect and affection. Joan Barry had been committed as a schizophrenic to a California state hospital back in 1953. Of the innocent cause of it all, the child legally named Carol Ann Chaplin, nothing is known.

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