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Filming A King in New York

With A King in New York Charles Chaplin was the first film-maker to dare to expose, through satire and ridicule, the paranoia and political intolerance which overtook the United States in the Cold War years of the 1940s and 50s.

Chaplin himself had bitter personal experience of the American malaise of that time. The right wing and the Federal Bureau of Investigation had seen him as an ideal target - a foreigner who had never taken American citizenship, and whose work had a natural appeal to the humanists and radical intellectuals, now regarded as enemies of society. By the late 1940s the political and personal attacks on Chaplin became so acute that in 1952 he was happy to be forced into the decision to leave America for ever, and make his home in Europe.

To take up film making again, as an exile, was a challenging undertaking. He was now nearing 70. For almost forty years he had enjoyed the luxury of his own studio and a staff of regular employees, who understood his way of work. Now though he had to work with strangers, in costly and unfriendly rented studios. In the old days he could take all the time he wanted, trying things over and over again until he got them to his satisfaction. Now every minute cost money. Working under such constraints, Chaplin completed shooting A King in New York in what was for him a record time of only twelve weeks. The film shows the strain.

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