Joan Barry (American actress)

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For the British actress, see Joan Barry (British actress).
Joan Barry
Joan Barry (1920).png
Born Mary Louise Gribble[1]
May 24, 1920 (or 1919)
Detroit, Michigan, U.S.
Spouse(s) Russell C. Seck (1946)[2]
Partner(s) Charlie Chaplin (1941–1942)

Joan Barry (May 24, 1920 or 1919) was an American actress who was at the center of a paternity suit with Charlie Chaplin in 1943.


Barry was born May 24, 1920, as Mary Louise Gribble in Detroit, Michigan, to James A. and Gertrude E. Gribble. The Gribble family moved to New York City before June 1925. In Detroit, her father worked as a machinist, and as car salesman in New York. Barry's parents had another child, a girl named Agnes who was born in 1923. Her father committed suicide on December 10, 1927. Her mother married a man named John Berry. Barry went to California in 1938 to pursue an acting career.[1]

Charlie Chaplin had a brief affair with Barry, whom he was considering for a starring role in Shadows and Substance, a proposed film in 1942,[3] but the relationship ended when she began harassing him and displaying signs of severe mental illness. After having a child, Carol Ann, on October 2, 1943,[4] she filed a paternity suit against Chaplin in 1943. Although blood tests seemed to indicate that Chaplin was not the father of Barry's child, Barry's attorney, Joseph Scott, convinced the court that the tests were inadmissible as evidence, and Chaplin was ordered to support the child. The perceived injustice of the ruling later led to a 1965 change in California of civil procedure to allow blood tests as evidence. Chaplin's second wife, Lita Grey, later asserted that Chaplin had paid corrupt government officials to tamper with the blood test results. She further stated that "there is no doubt that she [Carol Ann] was his child."[5] Federal prosecutors also brought Mann Act charges against Chaplin related to Barry in 1944, of which he was acquitted.[6]

Married to Russell Seck, a railroad clerk, in 1946, Barry gave birth to sons in 1947 (Russell, who died in Spokane in 2013 [7]) and Stephen Seck, born 1948[8]

The boys moved to Ohio with their father in 1952. The following year, she was institutionalized at Patton State Hospital after being found walking the streets barefoot, carrying a pair of baby sandals and a child's ring, and murmuring: "This is magic".[9] After her mother was committed, Carol Ann went to live with a legally appointed guardian and changed her name. She continued to receive monthly payments from Chaplin until her 21st birthday.

The later whereabouts of Joan Barry are unknown.


  1. ^ a b Maland, Charles J. (1989). Chaplin and American Culture. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. p. 197. ISBN 0-691-02860-5. 
  2. ^ "Joan's Happy in Role of Clerk's Wife" (PDF). Utica Daily Press (Utica, NY). 1947-01-20. Retrieved 2009-07-27. 
  3. ^ Weissman, Steven (2008). "Fatal Attraction: Joan Barry". Chaplin: A Life. Retrieved 2009-07-27. 
  4. ^ Maland, pp. 205-206
  5. ^
  6. ^ "Mann & Woman". Time. 3 April 1944. Retrieved 2007-08-21. Auburn-haired Joan Barry, 24, who wandered from her native Detroit to New York to Hollywood in pursuit of a theatrical career, became a Chaplin protegee in the summer of 1941. She fitted into a familiar pattern. Chaplin signed her to a $75-a-week contract, began training her for a part in a projected picture. Two weeks after the contract was signed she became his mistress. Throughout the summer and autumn, Miss Barry testified last week, she visited the ardent actor five or six times a week. By midwinter her visits were down to "maybe three times a week". By late summer of 1942, Charlie Chaplin had decided that she was unsuited for his movie. Her contract ended. 
  7. ^
  8. ^ Probable birth date is 18 October in Los Angeles County, given at MooseRoots Birth Records, accessed 15 March 2015. "Gribble", Joan's maiden name, is given as the "maiden name" for Stephen Irving (or Irvin) Seck. See also Stephen Seck birth details, accessed 15 March 2015, corroborating that birthdate and bearing the maiden name, "Gribble".
  9. ^ "Just Like the Movies". Time. 17 August 1953. Retrieved 2007-08-21. Another Chaplin ex-protegee, 33-year-old Joan Barry, who won a 1946 paternity suit against the comedian, was admitted to Patton State Hospital (for the mentally ill) after she was found walking the streets barefoot, carrying a pair of baby sandals and a child's ring, and murmuring: "This is magic". 

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