Mystery shrouds over Charlie Chaplin's nationality, more than 34 years after the death of the legendary silent comedy film star believed to have been born in Britain in 1889.
British spy agency MI5 has found no record of Chaplin's birth in north London when they investigated him over links to the Communist Party, de-classified documents have revealed.
In fact, the mystery emerged when the US asked MI5 to look into his background after he left America in 1952 under a cloud of suspicion over his alleged communist links in the erstwhile Soviet Union, the 'Daily Mail' reported.
Despite checking under his supposed alias, Israel Thornstein, investigators found no documents confirming that Chaplin was born in Walworth, south London, on April 16, 1889. So, after scouring the files at Somerset House in London for his birth certificate, MI5 concluded: "It would seem that Chaplin was either not born in this country or that his name at birth was other than those mentioned."
Scotland Yard's Special Branch added to the intrigue by passing on a tip from a source who claimed the actor was born near Fontainebleau, just south of Paris, according to the MI5 files released by The National Archives. A police memo to MI5 noted: "There may or may not be some truth in this, but in view of the fact that no documentary proof has been obtained that Chaplin was born in the United Kingdom, it may well be that he was in fact born in France." However, one possibility raised by the files was that Chaplin, who died in 1977, could even be of Russian origin, based on claims that he had said of "going back to Russia".
British officials wrote: "This might refer to paying another visit, or it might denote his origin as Russia. Towards the end of the last century large numbers of Jews fled westward from Russian pogroms. If Chaplin is a Jew, he might thus have been a member of a refugee family." However, John Marriott, then head of MI5's counter- subversion branch, was not convinced that the absence of a birth certificate was a matter of concern. He wrote: "It is curious that we can find no record of Chaplin's birth, but I scarcely think that this is of any security significance."