New documents have added to the mystery regarding the birthplace of silent movie legend Charlie Chaplin, who it has been claimed hailed from the Black Country.
Newly-declassified MI5 documents showed agents were baffled to find no records of his birth when they investigated his alleged communist sympathies for the US authorities.
It has emerged that agents could not trace any birth certificate.
The documents state: “It would seem Chaplin was either not born in this country or that his name at birth was other than those mentioned.”
It was reported by the Birmingham Post last year that a radio documentary claimed the comic actor was in fact born in a gypsy caravan in Smethwick.
His daughter Victoria found a letter – kept under lock and key by the star – which contained the allegation.
Written by a man called Jack Hill, from Tamworth, the note called Chaplin a “liar” for claiming in his autobiography that he was born in London.
Mr Hill wrote: “If you would like to know, you were born in a caravan. It was a good one; it belonged to the gypsy queen who was my auntie.
“You were born on the Black Patch in Smethwick. So was I, two and a half years later. Your mum did move again with her dad’s circus and later settled down in London but whereabouts I do not know.”
Documents released today by the National Archives showed MI5 agents were asked to probe Chaplin’s background after he left America in 1952 under a cloud of suspicion over his communist links.
The star was always thought to have been born on April 16, 1889, in East Street, Walworth, south London, just four days before Adolf Hitler.
But MI5 found no match for his birth certificate, including checks for his supposed alias Israel Thornstein.
Scotland Yard’s Special Branch added to the intrigue by passing on a tip from a source who claimed the actor was born near Fontainebleau, just south of Paris.
* Chaplin’s MI5 files are free to download from www.nationalarchives.gov.uk for a month.