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Oona Chaplin, Wife of Comic Hero, Dead at 66

September 28, 1991

CORSIER-SUR-VEVEY, Switzerland (AP) _ Lady Oona Chaplin, widow of international comic hero Charlie Chaplin and daughter of American playwright Eugene O’Neill, has died. She was 66.

Lady Oona died at her home Friday and no cause of death was given. A recluse since her husband’s death in 1977, she reportedly had been in poor health for some time.

She is to be buried Tuesday in the same village cemetery as her husband, police said today.

Lady Oona, who was 18 when she married the 54-year-old film star and director in 1943, renounced her U.S. citizenship after American authorities refused Chaplin re-entry into the United States in 1952 over charges he associated with Communists.

She adopted his British nationality after the brouhaha, which came at the height of the phobia of Communist infiltration led by the late Sen. Joseph McCarthy.

Twenty years later, her film star husband was allowed to return to the United States to accept an honorary Academy Award in Hollywood. Chaplin’s beloved comic films include ″City Lights,″ ″The Great Dictator,″ ″The Kid″ and ″The Gold Rush.″

Lady Oona acquired her title when Chaplin was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1975.

She is survived by her eight children from her 34-year-long marriage with Chaplin. Among their five daughters is the actress Geraldine Chaplin.

Corsier police spokesman Michel Riedo said the funeral, limited to family members, would be held Tuesday afternoon in this hillside village overlooking Lake Geneva.

He said the ceremony would feature two prayers and last 10 minutes. Lady Oona would be buried near her beloved ″Charlot,″ he said.

Chaplin frequently described his fourth marriage as perfect and increasingly shunned publicity in favor of solitude with his wife and family.

Lady Oona took up her title after Chaplin was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1975. She became a recluse after his death and did not attend the festivities marking the centenary of Chaplin’s birth in 1989.

Director Sir Richard Attenborough said in Los Angeles he was working on a movie about Chaplin.

″Three years ago, Oona gave me the right to film the story of Charlie’s life,″ Attenborough said. She imposed no conditions whatsoever which, of course, in the light of today’s sad news makes my sense of responsibility all the greater. Our movie will start with the dedication that is inscribed in Charlie’s autobiography on which it is based. That dedication is simply - ’To Oona.‴

In a rare interview in 1960, she explained her attraction to Chaplin: ″Laughter is one of Charlie’s greatest gifts to me. I hadn’t known if before. My childhood was not very happy. We met when I was 16 and I have been in love with him ever since. He has made me more mature and I keep him young.″

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