Oona <I>O'Neill</I> Chaplin


Oona O'Neill Chaplin

Warwick Parish, Bermuda
Death 27 Sep 1991 (aged 66)
Corsier-sur-Vevey, District de la Riviera-Pays-d’Enhaut, Vaud, Switzerland
Burial Corsier-sur-Vevey, District de la Riviera-Pays-d’Enhaut, Vaud, Switzerland
Memorial ID 4177 View Source
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Wife of Charlie Chaplin. She was the daughter of Nobel Laureate playwright Eugene O'Neill and his wife, Agnes Boulton, and when she was two years old her father abandoned the family. Until her father disinherited her when she turned eighteen, she only saw him a few times. In spite of the fact that her father wasn't around, however, she did have a normal and happy childhood. Oona, who had dreams of becoming an actress, attended boarding school in New York City, where she became very popular and had many boyfriends. Her name regularly appeared in the society pages, which displeased her father, who thought she were trying to use his fame to her advantage. He sent her a stinging letter telling her that she was getting the wrong type of publicity, unless her ambitions were "to be a second-rate movie actress of the floozie variety." After 1941, she never saw him again, and he disinherited both Oona and her older brother Shane. He was also to disinherit his grandchildren. In 1942 Oona went to Hollywood to try to start her acting career, turning down the chance to attend Vassar. In Hollywood, she auditioned for one of Charlie Chaplin's films. Although she didn't win the part, she did win his affections, and the next year they were married. Upon their marriage, she discontinued her plans for an acting career. Chaplin's previous three wives had all had acting careers, which many people have speculated may have been one reason why these marriages had all ended in divorce. His fourth wife was the first one who didn't have a career in active competition with his. This also proved to be his longest marriage, a marriage which has been called "brilliantly successful." They went on to have eight children together. Chaplin's sons from his marriage to Lita Grey, Charles, Jr. and Sydney, also had a good relationship with their stepmother. During her husband's troubles with the State Department and subsequently being refused reentry to the United States, she took charge of the situation and was responsible for his retention of all of his financial assets. She also managed to save all of his lifetime of work at the Chaplin Studios, with the help of Chaplin's employees, who were still on his payroll. In addition to that, she also sold their Hollywood house, selling the belongings that weren't being shipped overseas to their new residence. She made it through this return trip to the United States without any questioning by the FBI, even though other people who had been close to Chaplin were being questioned, such as his second wife Lita Grey, who refused to say anything to them. She also gave up her American citizenship. Their family eventually settled in Vevey, Switzerland. Although she had given up her plans for a career and was content to be a devoted wife and mother, she frequently worked behind the scenes by providing ideas for her husband's movies, both current ones and older ones he was restoring and creating new musical scores for, ideas which he often used. She also served as a double for Claire Bloom in Chaplin's 1952 film 'Limelight,' a film in which a few of their children also appeared. Her first trip back to America was in 1967, to try to help out her mother and brother. Although she had been financially supporting them, they weren't doing very well. Her mother was having serious health problems, and her brother Shane was in and out of treatment for drug addiction. However, she eventually returned to Switzerland, and didn't come back to the United States until 1972, when her husband received a Lifetime Achievement Oscar. On Christmas 1977, she became a widow after thirty-four years of marriage, and many people felt she never got over the loss of her husband. She tried to restart her career and briefly moved back to the United States, and in 1981 she appeared in her one and only movie, 'Broken English.' However, ultimately the loss of her husband proved to be too much for her, and she died of pancreatic cancer at the age of sixty-five.

Bio by: Carrie-Anne

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  • Maintained by: Find a Grave
  • Added: 13 Dec 1998
  • Find a Grave Memorial 4177
  • Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Oona O'Neill Chaplin (14 May 1925–27 Sep 1991), Find a Grave Memorial ID 4177, citing Cimetière de Corsier-sur-Vevey, Corsier-sur-Vevey, District de la Riviera-Pays-d’Enhaut, Vaud, Switzerland ; Maintained by Find A Grave .