I’ve posted this before, but it seemed appropriate to post again since the election. Chaplin enjoyed a good political argument and was very passionate about his beliefs, which comes through in the following discussion. I have a feeling he would be just as worried about our country now as he was then.
“On Wednesday, December 16, 1942, Charlie Chaplin made one of the most unusual radio broadcasts of his career. His friend Robert Arden asked him to appear on America Looks Abroad, a 45-minute political roundtable talk show not unlike the ones heard on countless cable news networks today. The program aired on KFWB in Los Angeles, owned and operated by Warner Brothers Pictures. Then, as now, KFWB was a major station with a wide broadcast range, but it was unlikely that the program was heard beyond Southern California.”1
Besides Chaplin, the other panelists included Nigel Bruce (who was later cast as Mr. Postant in Limelight), Sir Cedric Hardwicke, Dr. Emil Ludwig, the biographer of Napoleon whom Chaplin met in France in 1931, and Mutiny On The Bounty directer Frank Lloyd.
The somewhat shady & opportunistic Arden met Chaplin in 1941 and became part of his small inner circle of friends. He is mentioned often in Chaplin’s FBI file since the two shared what it called “leftist proclivities.” Arden was also involved in the Joan Barry scandal. In fact, he may have been the one who suggested introducing Barry to Chaplin in the first place. Two years later in 1943, he was indicted for his participation in Chaplin’s alleged violation of the Mann Act (aka conspiring to deny Joan Barry of her civil rights). Ironically, the infamous incident in which Joan Barry broke into Chaplin’s home with a gun occurred one week after this broadcast on December 23rd, 1942.
|Arden and Chaplin|
More about this broadcast and Arden’s relationship with Chaplin can be found in Rob Farr’s essay “Chaplin On The Radio–Part II” in Limelight and The Music Hall Tradition.
Now a little about this recording. It is missing the opening introductions & begins with Arden announcing the topic of the day: “The Question of Unity: How much unity do we have to have to bring this war to a successful conclusion?” Chaplin does not talk about his personal life nor his films. He only discusses politics–something he loved to talk about. And at times he gets very passionate about it. He will discuss the “bugaboo about Communism” & during one particularly heated response declares: “I am going to be Communistic.” His remarks are often met with applause from the audience. This is a Chaplin most of us have only read about but not heard.
For those who only want to hear the Chaplin parts, the longest ones can be found at :50 & 6:53 (responding to comments by Nigel Bruce), 17:50, 19:20, 27:35, & his final remarks are heard at 41:20. However sprinkled in between these segments are some back and forth exchanges between Chaplin & the other panelists that are certainly worth hearing, if you have time.
1Rob Farr, “Chaplin On The Radio–Part II”