Point Pleasant’s Most Prominent Resident and her World-Famous Husband

I have often wondered if Point Pleasant had any famous residents.  In my Point Pleasant graduation class of 1984, we had Bob DeLeo of The Stone Temple Pilots.  But what about Point Pleasant’s past?   As a realtor and a Point Pleasant’s Historical Society member, I learn many stories about our local history, but this is my favorite.  This story is about Point Pleasant’s most prominent resident and her world famous husband.

Many of Point Pleasant’s residents are unaware of our most famous residents Oona O’Neill and her husband, Charlie Chaplin.  In 1918, Point Pleasant underwent a flurry of activity. Point Pleasant Hospital was established by founder Dr. Frank Denison.  The  Manasquan / Bay Head Canal was being constructed, and Eugene Oneill and Agnes Boulton moved to Point Pleasant.

During this time, the renowned playwright Eugene O’Neill and his second wife, magazine writer Agnes Boulton, moved into Agnes’s family home in West Point Pleasant.  They stayed there for the winter of 1918-1919.  The Boulton family purchased the house in 1892 on the northwest corner of Hall Avenue and Herbertsville Rd across from the current site of Quick Check. Point Pleasant seemed like the perfect home for Eugene and Agnes; Eugene had a play in rehearsal in New York, so he would take the train into the city.  Eugene loved the beach and the ocean but hated the Point Pleasant NJ beach,  siting, that it was uninspiring, and preferred Cape Cod, where he spent some summers.

Oona O’Neill was born in 1925, she had an older brother Shane, and two years later, Agnes and Eugene divorced.  Agnes and her two children, Shane and Oona, settled in Point Pleasant and did not receive much support from their famous father, Eugene.  Oona attended Ocean Road school, though her classmates didn’t view her differently due to her father’s fame. Instead, they were captivated by another student whose father had constructed a Bridge in the town.  Oona then went to boarding school in New York City.  Oona became a beautiful debutante and socialite. Her name appeared in magazines and newspapers all around the country.

My Life in the Early 80s

In 1981, I was 15 years old, (around the same time Oona visited Point Pleasant) and I was all over Point Pleasant with my friends, we had no idea the history that was so close to us. I always loved history but I didn’t appreciate the significance of Point Pleasant’s connection to Oona Oneill and Charlie Chaplin. One year one of my friends even dressed as Charlie Chaplin for halloween and we had no idea. One question that I am unable to answer is if Charlie Chaplin ever visited Point Pleasant.

Oona meets Charlie Chaplin

At age 17, Oona passed on attending Vassar and went to California to find a career in Hollywood.  Once she arrived she received offers from many agents to become a model or actress and went on auditions.  Her father, who abandoned her at age 2, used his power to obstruct her from working, and the offers stopped.  Soon after, Oona met many Hollywood writers, producers, and actors, including Charlie Chaplin. One year after Chaplin had been providing Oona with acting lessons, she celebrated her eighteenth birthday by marrying the 54-year-old. 

The marriage was the talk of the nation. Life Magazine published a full-page photograph. Back in Point Pleasant, The Leader article misspelled the bride’s first and last names and contained a typo in the headline which made it look like Chaplin had wed several Point Pleasant females:
Former Local Girls [sic] Jeff Heim
Weds Charlie Chaplin

People often gossiped about the marriage of Oona to Charlie Chaplin, noting that she was marrying him for his wealth or looking for a father figure, given Chaplin’s well-known attraction to younger women. Oona moved into Chaplin’s Hollywood home, where Oona and Charlie would host lavish parties for friends and Hollywood’s entertainers. They lived there until the 1950s until the start of the cold war.  When Oona and Chaplin were on a trip to England, and Chaplin was denied entry into the US for being a speculated communist sympathizer.  Because Oona was a US citizen, she could return and be responsible for saving Chaplin’s fortune. The couple then moved to Switzerland.

Conclusion

Chaplin was awarded the Achievement Oscar in recognition of his numerous accomplishments. He used this accolade as an opportunity to return to the United States. Oona remained devoted to Charlie throughout his later years, providing him with care and comfort until his death in 1977.. She continued to stay in the public eye in the early 1980s, often seen with younger stars such as David Bowie.

 

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