Oona was fiercely loyal and stood by Charlie when he was persecuted by Senator Joseph McCarthy, who accused him being a Communist sympathizer. Richard Nixon, for political gain, was among those fanning the flames. Chaplin was barred from the United States in 1952 and not permitted to re-enter until 1972, when, as an old man, he returned with great fanfare to accept a lifetime achievement award at the Academy Awards. Nixon—by this time, President Nixon--shunned Chaplin, refusing an invitation to appear at a Lincoln Center gala saluting to him.
Oona O’Neill Chaplin ultimately exacted revenge on President Richard Nixon. What did she do?
- Encouraged Katharine Graham to pursue the Watergate story.
- Refused her son’s request to marry Nixon’s daughter.
- Purchased a New York City penthouse apartment that Nixon had tried to buy but couldn't when rejected by the co-op board.
- Asked her friend Gloria Vanderbilt to socially ostracize the Nixons when the former first couple relocated from California to New York.
How fascinating the widow of the alleged erstwhile Communist sympathizer (and an actor, to boot) was more acceptable to the co-op board than a United States president. Albeit, this was a chief executive who resigned in disgrace but was working nonstop to rehabilitate his image (if not his scruples?). Conclusion: the vicissitudes of time swing wildly. If one dislikes the politics of a particular moment, take heart. They might well be its opposite a decade later.
For the record, the case that Charlie Chaplin was a Communist-sympathizer remains thin. The great producer Samuel Goldwyn said it best when he quipped, “Charlie would never join the [Communist] Party. He’s too cheap to pay the dues.”
Had Chaplin been a citizen of the United States, his permission to live in the country could not have been revoked. He might have been able to survive the Red Scare, just as other Hollywood A-listers like Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall did. Instead, he and his young bride lived a glamorous exile in Switzerland.
Some of Oona and Charlie Chaplin's descendants have followed in his footsteps and become performers. Their daughter Geraldine Chaplin has had an illustrious film career of her own in films like Dr. Zhivago. Her daughter, Oona Chaplin, portrayed the character with arguably the most traumatizing death scene in HBO's Game of Thrones—quite something in a series known for its gruesome deaths. Victoria, another daughter of Oona and Charlie, truly channeled her father with the exquisite (but difficult to describe) Aurelia's Oratio. If you have the opportunity, do see it.