When Charlie Chaplin took the stage to accept his honorary Academy Award in 1972, the audience was anything but silent: He received the longest standing ovation in Oscars history.
After all, it was his first return to Hollywood since being chased out of the country 20 years earlier during the McCarthy Era for his left-wing views. “It was a sore point for him, and he really didn’t want to go onstage,” son Eugene recalls to Closer. “My mother pushed him out there, and he was overwhelmed by the reception he got.”
Charlie accepting his honorary Oscar in 1972. (Photo Credit: Getty Images)
Many assume his two decades in exile was a painful time for the British-born cinematic pioneer, who became famous as The Little Tramp. But Charlie’s family tells a different story to Closer about the blissful days he spent at the 18th century Swiss estate with his fourth wife, Oona O’Neill, and their eight kids. “It was just pure happiness,” says Eugene. “Switzerland became home to him.”
When Charlie settled his family on the 35-acre estate on the shores of Lake Geneva, Wis. in 1953, he began a life of domestic tranquility. “He was a family man — he always had time for us, no matter how busy he was,” says Eugene. “I would play soccer in the garden with him, and we would all eat together every evening.”
Charlie in character as his famous role The Little Tramp in 1925. (Photo Credit: Getty Images)
While he made only a few films during those years, he found satisfaction on the home front. “He was with an intact family — he had financial security and love,” says Stephen Weissman, psychiatrist and author of Chaplin: A Life. “He had all the things he’d lacked for his entire life.”
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