Almost a century after bursting onto the silver screen, silent movie star Charlie Chaplin still has the power to surprise his audience.
One eagle eyed film historian got the shock of his life as he began going through unmarked reels which he’d found in a trunk at a US antiques fair last year and recognised the star on the screen in front of him.
“At around three o’clock in the morning, I restarted the projector and within two minutes, two Keystone cops come walking out and I actually thought to myself, that looks like Chaplin,” said Paul Gierucki. “I stopped, got up, rewound the projector, watched it again, and it finally sank in that I had found a completely previously undocumented, unknown Charlie Chaplin film appearance,” he explained.
“It’s only the third film that he had ever done at Keystone, his third film appearance in general. It changes the filmographies, it changes the history of his work and it kind of gives you hope that there may be more material out there that isn’t documented.”
Gierucki’s discovery saved the short comedy, called The Thief Catcher, from the fate of nearly 80 percent of silent films which have been lost, damaged or disappered.
Fans at the Slapsticon Festival in Virginia, where the 1914 film was screened for the first time this weekend, compared the find to a Miles Davis album that had been recorded and never released.
Gierucki plans to release the film on DVD at a later date.