Okay, movie buffs, take a good look at the picture to your right. Looks like an ordinary, black and white shot of an old Time Square movie theater sign, yes? Not quite. James Lileks came across a series of news photos of this theater sign for the film Limelight - which didn't star Charles Brade, perhaps because he isn't a real person. Limelight is a real film, and it was released in 1952 - starring, written, and directed by Charlie Chaplin (and with a cameo by Buster Keaton, to boot - making Limelight the first and only film to star both silent film icons). So why does this newspaper photo proclaim the film to star Charles Brade? Could it be...McCarthyism?
Lileks examined the full photo of the image at right, along with several other shots of the same theater, and notes that the word "Brade" is clearly airbrushed onto the photos. In fact, in one of the photos, you can see the front of the marquee at an angle, and it still has "Chaplin" on it. In 1952, when Limelight was released, Chaplin took a trip to Europe. While Chaplin was overseas, J. Edgar Hoover, who had long had it in for Chaplin for his "un-American activities", negotiated with the INS to have his reentry permit revoked. Interesting related trivia: because of Chaplin's McCarthyism troubles, Limelight didn't screen in Los Angeles in 1952 and thus was not eligible for the Academy awards. The film finally screened in Los Angeles 20 years, in 1972, and in 1973, a year after receiving an honorary Oscar and receiving a standing ovation, Chaplin was awarded his only competitive Oscar for Limelight's score.