Friday, July 16, 2010

Long lost Charlie Chaplin film

The comedy called "A Thief Catcher" was made in 1914 and was missing for so many years that Chaplin's appearance in it as a buffoon policeman had been forgotten.

The 10-minute movie was discovered by the American cinema historian, Paul Gierucki, who bought a can of old film marked "Keystone" at an antiques sale in Michigan. He assumed it was just another Keystone Cops movie and didn't watch the 16mm reel for months.

When he finally looked at the film, which is in good condition, he was amazed to see what looked like Chaplin emerging from the bushes in a police uniform, several sizes too big, armed with a nightstick.

Mr Gierucki couldn't tell immediately but the actor's distinctive twitches seemed to confirm that it was Chaplin playing a minor role in one of his earliest films.

He showed it to a fellow film collector, Richard Roberts, who said: "I looked at it two seconds and said 'Yep, it's Chaplin.' Even though he's dressed as a cop, the rest of the character is still there – the moustache, the walk, the mannerism. This is a character he'd been doing for quite a while."

In the film Chaplin, who had yet to become famous, uses physical gestures that he would later employ for his most memorable, bumbling character The Tramp. After wiggling and shrugging in a way familiar to millions of filmgoers he delivers some instant slapstick justice by knocking around a group of hooligans.

The movie was made by Mack Sennett for his Keystone film company which produced a series of films about a group of incompetent policemen, the Keystone Cops, between 1912 and 1917.

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