University of Hertfordshire

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)495-530
Number of pages36
JournalPacific Historical Review
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2003


This article examines the battle over popular culture in the age of McCarthyism. The Federal Bureau of Investigation, under J, Edgar Hoover, target Charlie Chaplin because of his status as a cultural icon and as part of its broader investigation of Hollywood. Some of Chaplin's films were considered "communist propaganda", but because Chaplin was not a member of the Communist Party, he was not among those investigated by HUAC in 1947. Nevertheless, he was vulnerable to protests by the American Legion and other patriotic groups because of both his sexual and political unorthodoxy. Yet, although countersubversives succeeded in driving Chaplin out of the country, they failed to build a consensus that Chaplin was a threat to the nation. Chaplin's story testifies to both the awesome power of the countersubversive campaign st mid-century and to some of its limitations as well.


John Sbardellati and Tony Shaw, 'Booting a Tramp: Charlie Chaplin, the FBI, and the Construction of the Subservice Image in Red Scare America', Pacific Historical Review, Vol. 72 (4): 495-530, November 2003. Published by University of California Press, available online at doi: 10.1525/phr.2003.72.4.495

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