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Back in the 1950s, American Intelligence asked Britain's MI5 to investigate actor Charlie Chaplin on suspicions that he was a dangerous communist. The intelligence agencies were not able to confirm whether or not he was born in England, which led to a series of investigation on whether Chaplin was a different person altogether.

In recent declassified MI5 files, it revealed the extent of thier investigation into Chaplin's background. After he left the US in 1952 under a cloud of communist accusations, American intelligence asked MI5 to investigate his background. Chaplin claimed that he was born in south London in April 1889, but MI5 was unable to find any records of his birth in the UK. Chaplin didn't receive a passport until 1920.

The Americans suggested that Chaplin was actually a Jewish Russian man originally named Israel Thornstein, and that he was born in France who came Scotland Yard. Scotland Yard's Special Branch passed along a tip from a source who claimed Chaplin was actually born in Fontainebleau, outside of Paris. Confusing already?

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.

They couldn't find proof that he was born in France either, so just who was he? Last year, Chaplin's family discovered a letter that suggested he may have been born in a mornadic camp near Birmingham, which would account for the lack of records.

It is curious that we can find no record of Chaplin's birth, but I scarcely think that this is of any security significance.

[Telegraph via The Atlantic]