John Steinbeck probably met Chaplin in August 1938 and records Chaplin visiting him that summer as he laboured on The Grapes of Wrath. Chaplin, according to Parini, arrived unannounced in a black limousine, driven by a uniformed chauffeur. Subsequently, the two men enjoyed each other’s company and sense of fun and met several times.
On one occasion, Steinbeck had his two women of the time, Carol and Gwen, at the same party – Gwen ostensibly squired by Max Wagner. Gwen “was deeply curious about Carol and eyed her from a coy distance” (Parini 299).
Gwyn was also present at the only meeting ever between Steinbeck and Ernest Hemingway, just days before the birth of her son Thom, arranged, according to Gwyn, by Bob Capa and which she describes in Chapter 12 of her memoir.
Chaplin, like Steinbeck, was regarded with suspicion by many in authority and both were in FBI files as being left-wing radicals. However, Steinbeck was only exiled to New York by Californian business and those who felt vulnerable, having appeared, thinly disguised, in his books. Chaplin’s fall from grace due to personal scandal and the attitude of many regarding his strong anti-Nazi views, was far worse. Right-wing lobbyists caused bookings of his films to be cancelled in hundreds of theatres, nationwide (Chaplin – A Life by Steven Weissman). Even Chaplin’s own composition, the theme song from Limelight, never won the Oscar it may have deserved because the rules stated the film itself had to play for a minimum of one week on Los Angeles. Because of opposition, the film never played for even that brief time. Chaplin, like Steinbeck, was somewhat of a ‘prophet without honour’ in his adopted country – he was after all a Londoner – and eventually took flight to Switzerland, where he lived in exile for many years from 1953 onwards.