Weird History
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Charlie Chaplin's Many Scandalous And Tumultuous Relationships

Updated February 6, 2019 224.8k views10 items

If the Little Tramp had lived in the 21st century, he'd probably already be in jail. 

The facts of Charlie Chaplin's sex life are no less scandalous than that of Harvey Weinstein, but because the era in which he lived, they were mostly covered up by studio press agents working overtime to keep people in the dark and the box office receipts pouring in.

It was no secret in Hollywood that Chaplin was a comic genius with a predilection for young girls, yet his libido only came close to killing his career when he was well in his 50s. When it did, it came crashing down in such a way that he retired from the US and public life altogether. 

He did return once, in 1972, when he was given an honorary Oscar. Hollywood's elite turned out to celebrate the man who in part helped make the industry what it is today—and that, in the era of #MeToo, may very well be the problem. 

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  • He Transported Actress Joan Barry For "Immoral Purposes"

    In 1936, Charlie married actress Paulette Goddard. One year before their seven-year marriage ended, Chaplin met starlet Joan Barry in New York. The two started a tryst almost immediately: he was 52 and she was 21. Chaplin invited her to Los Angeles and paid for her ticket. According to FBI documents, Chaplin "made [Barry] available to other individuals for immoral purposes," which was in violation of the Mann Act, a law which prohibits the transportation of women across state lines for purposes of "debauchery." Chaplin was eventually exonerated for his actions.

  • Barry Accused Him Of Fathering Her Child

    Joan Barry, who allegedly suffered from some type of mental illness, became increasingly erratic as her relationship with Chaplin deteriorated. At one point she attempted to break into his home, even threatening him with a pistol. She later testified that he had fathered her daughter, Carol Ann. Chaplin denied her allegations and took a blood test to prove otherwise. The test disproved his paternity, though at that time, blood tests were not admissible in court. Despite the test's findings, the court ruled against Chaplin, holding him responsible for her pregnancy. He was ordered to not only pay court fees but also child support.

    In 1952, Chaplin left the US for good, stating, "I would not go back there even if Jesus Christ were the president.” In 1953, due to that case and others like it, blood tests were made admissible by California's Uniform Act on Blood Tests to Determine Paternity.

  • Charlie Chaplin Slept With An Estimated 2,000 Women In His Lifetime

    Charlie Chaplin Slept With An Estimated 2,000 Women In His Lifetime
    Photo: Unknown / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Some estimates claim that Chaplin slept with over 2,000 women in his lifetime, which he alleged was a result of severe abandonment issues developed from his upbringing. 

    Chaplin's father left his impoverished family when Chaplin was just a boy, and his mother had sold her body to support them. Due to her lifestyle, she had contracted syphilis, which caused her mental illness and dementia. Of his family, Chaplin once said, “To gauge the morals of our family by commonplace standards would be as erroneous as putting a thermometer in boiling water.”

    His upbringing no doubt influenced the success, and failure, of his future relationships. 

  • He Met Lita Grey When She Was Six And Seduced Her When She Was 15

    He Met Lita Grey When She Was Six And Seduced Her When She Was 15
    Photo: Unknown / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    By Lita Grey's own account, Chaplin met her – his eventual second wife – when she was just six and put her in his movies when she was 12. When she screen tested for the Gold Rush in 1924, he allegedly told her, “When the time and place are right, we’re going to make love.” Weeks later, the time was apparently right — at least for Chaplin. They consummated their relationship in the steam room of his Beverly Hills mansion and she, like Harris before her, became pregnant. Chaplin was 35 at the time, while Grey was just 15.