Respected Historical Figures Who Were Actually Terrible People

The beloved “Little Tramp,” Charlie Chaplin, wasn’t nearly as goofy in real life. In fact, he was downright predatory, particularly with little girls. Two out of his four wives were under 18 when he married them, while another one was just 18 (and he was in his 50s at the time). The only one over 18 was 22, but he married her after she claimed to be 17. That’s the opposite of a good look. 

But if it’s somehow not skeezy enough that he simply married underage girls, how about how the disrespectful ways he treated them? Take his first wife Mildred Harris, whom he married at 16 because he thought she was pregnant. (She wasn’t.) She started getting movie offers, but Chaplin was an unsupportive husband, thinking she was too young to have any real talent. Not too young for him to romance, of course, but too young for anything else.

Then there’s Lita Grey, whose poor treatment at Chaplin’s hands was documented in her 1927 divorce papers, obtained by the London Times in 2015 (and recapped by the International Business Times). Chaplain impregnated Grey when she was 16 — he quickly suggested an abortion. When that failed, he married her, but treated her terribly. He would cheat on her with other young actresses, called her “lowly born and greedy” (according to the LA Times), paid little attention to their children, and would demand, as she put it, “revolting, degrading and offensive” sex acts, some of which were illegal at the time in California.

Grey got $825,000 in the divorce settlement, dirtying Chaplin’s name at the time. Of course, time heals all wounds, which is why you don’t hear this story much anymore. Until now, anyway.

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