The most famous film star in the world before the end of World War I and one of the most creative and influential personalities of the silent-fim era, the eighth of our Vintage Photo Series stars Charlie Chaplin, pictured with his wife Oona O’Neill on the rooftop of The Savoy London.
In 2008, in a review of the book ‘Chaplin: A Life’, Martin Sieff wrote “Chaplin was not just ‘big’, he was gigantic. In 1915, he burst onto a war-torn world bringing it the gift of comedy, laughter and relief while it was tearing itself apart through World War I. Over the next 25 years, through the Great Depression and the rise of Adolf Hitler, he stayed on the job… It is doubtful any individual has ever given more entertainment, pleasure and relief to so many human beings when they needed it the most”.
This photo was taken in 1952 and was the first of a series of almost annual stays at The Savoy London until Charlie passed away in 1977 (including the one in which he was awarded a knighthood in 1975). This visit was the first one Charlie had made to Britain in decades and he was greeted by enormous public interest and affection. Crowds would gather outside the hotel and chant ‘we want Charlie!’ Sometimes, according to Savoy Archivist Susan Scott, in true Chaplin style, he would sneak out of the hotel via a side entrance, nip around to the front and join in with the shouting, until eventually someone would notice he was there.
Historically, the image is particularly significant. This visit to Britain was carefully timed – Charlie was supposed to be appearing in front of Senator McCarthy’s infamous House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) in America to give evidence regarding alleged Communist sympathies. Whilst on the ship over to Britain, Charlie’s Visa to return to the USA was revoked and if he had returned, he would have been arrested. With this in mind, Charlie, his wife Oona O’Neill and their four young children stayed at The Savoy London for almost two months, before travelling to Switzerland, which Charlie made his permanent home for the rest of his life.
Contributor: Ali Bedford
The Savoy London is managed by Fairmont Hotels & Resorts which is a client of Magellan PR. For more information, please visit www.fairmont.com, follow them on twitter @FairmontHotels or on Facebook/Fairmont Hotels. Their community website is www.everyonesanoriginal.com. Follow The Savoy London on twitter @TheSavoyLondon and on Facebook/The Savoy.
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