Pegler: Pro-communist agitators (12-21-42)

The Pittsburgh Press (December 21, 1942)


Pegler: Pro-communist agitators

By Westbrook Pegler

New York –
In common, I am sure, with many other Americans, I would like to know why Charlie Chaplin has been allowed to stay in the United States about 40 years without becoming a citizen and whether, in view of his decided partiality to communism, which is hostile to our government, as Mr. Biddle, the Attorney General, said last spring, he can be deported to his native England and, if so, why he isn’t.

The welcome on the doormat has been scuffed away by Chaplin’s low-comedy shoes and, after years of sly pretending, when an open profession of his political faith would have hurt his business, now that he has all the money he needs and has lost his way with the public, he has frankly allied himself with the pro-communist actors and writers of the theater and the movies, who call themselves artists, but who are mostly hams and hacks.

Chaplin recently described himself as a citizen of the world and said that, having paid $10 million in taxes here, he considered himself to be a paying guest. Citizen of the world he may be, but he certainly is no American, which may be why he regards this country as a hotel and, judging by his conduct, a free and easy joint at that. However, the USA is not a tavern, and the taxes Chaplin paid were his share of the cost of the last war, and of the cost of other benefits received in the only land on earth where his career was possible.

Chaplin lately has said that he was pro-communist, which means only that he is anti-American, and my authority here is President Roosevelt’s remark when he had to call on American soldiers to disperse communist rioters who were mobbing American workers trying to build planes which nowadays are defending Chaplin’s life and easing enemy pressure on that Russia whose system he so much admires.

The President said the trouble was not a labor dispute, but a form of alien sabotage directed by communist forces interested in the defeat and overthrow of the United States.

Remaining American is un-American

Since then, however, under cover of the military situation which has made the United States and Russia allies in the war, communists in this country have been worming their way back into the American government, and more boldly day by day have been sounding the cry that to resist them and such as Chaplin, who sang low on communism as long as there was more money to be made out of the people whom he considers to be his mercenary hosts, is to disrupt unity, impede the war effort and serve Hitler.

The contention is boldly put forward that to remain American and resent and resist communism as a hostile, alien force is un-American conduct.

Miss Jeanette MacDonald, the actress and singer, called Chaplin’s number back in October in an exchange of correspondence when a pro-communist ham asked her to lend her name to the list of sponsors for a meeting at which Chaplin was to be the honorary chairman.

The list included a number of well-known Reds and “pinks,” including a Washington political commentator who writes under an alias, and the writer of the letter said Chaplin and Orson Welles, another of those ballyhoo reputations, with a tendency to roguishness, would join him in this plea to her.

Was Miss MacDonald needling?

The purpose was to holler up the communist demand for a second front to help Russia, not the United States, and the general auspices were the very same that had called this a war of British and American imperialism until Hitler struck Russia and had helped Hitler by treachery in the French Army and factories and tried to prevent the militarization of this country during precious months of time.

In reply, Miss MacDonald wrote that she thought actors and writers were no more competent to judge the wisdom of a second front than Gen. Eisenhower was to conduct a symphony, and said her husband, Capt. Gene Raymond, was on active duty in Britain and had lately participated in air raids on Dieppe and Rouen, and, she believed, in the raid on Lille.

Her letter said:

I have not given up the hope that he [Chaplin] will find it in his heart to go to England or even Russia, where he could bring great joy to soldiers returning half-crazed and exhausted.

On what she based that hope she did not say, and she might have been needling.

As to Orson Welles, Miss MacDonald hoped he would find it in his conscience to fight overseas. She said:

There he can actively participate in the great second front he so patriotically advocates.

The communists will try to crucify Miss MacDonald for that through their guilds and conspiracies and their communist reviewers who smear the work of any actor or writer who has the courage and patriotism to call them all what they are.

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Years later in his autobiography, Chaplin wrote:

Whether I re-entered that unhappy country or not was of little consequence to me. I was fed up of America’s insults and moral pomposity. The sooner I was rid of that hate-beleaguered atmosphere the better.

Needless to say this was the beginning of a rift.