Thursday, June 10, 2010

Lost Chaplin film found!

The intranets are a funny thing. Here we have everyone going nuts over these 75 films from New Zealand that are coming back to the United States to be preserved. Not to diminish the importance of the that "find" but looking at the list of of what survived, I can't think of one film personally that I am DYING to see (OK, maybe Mabel Normand's "Won In A Cupboard") and it seems the majority of the media is overlooking what is perhaps one of the greatest lost film discoveries of all time.

Announced last week was the unearthing of Charlie Chaplin's 36th Keystone short, "A Thief Catcher". The film was found by collector, historian, preservationist, (I'm sure you could throw a couple more in there somewhere)and all around great guy, Paul Gierucki, current head of restorations for CineMuseum LLC, but you may know him as the guy from Laughsmith Entertainment who put out the WONDERFUL and MUST HAVE DVD sets "The Forgotten Films of Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle" and "Industrial Strength Keaton".

I got a chance to see and talk with Paul at Cinefest this past March and when told me that he had, "a discovery that was going to change all the history books", I certainly wasn't expecting something like this!

A press release from historian Richard M. Roberts and posted over at gives some background on the film:

Chaplin had recalled in his own autobiography that apart from his starring role Keystone Comedies, he had also played bit parts as a Keystone Kop in several pictures. Despite this information, the titles of these works remained elusive for over 90 years and no film prints have surfaced -- until now. SLAPSTICON 2010 proudly presents one of those previously thought lost Keystone comedies, A THIEF CATCHER, released by the Mutual Film Corporation on February 19, 1914. The short stars Ford Sterling, Mack Swain, Edgar Kennedy, and features Chaplin making an extended and very funny cameo as a policeman. The film was shot January 5th through January 26th, 1914, making it perhaps the second or third film Chaplin made at Keystone. The short was released following Chaplin’s third starring Keystone comedy MABELS STRANGE PREDICAMENT. Its importance as an early Chaplin appearance cannot be underestimated, and definitely adds another interesting chapter to Chaplin’s early film career.

Here is a frame grab, graciously permitted to be shown by Mr. Gierucki:

As stated earlier, the film will be shown at the Slapsticon Film Festival this July 15th-18th in Rosslyn, Virginia and will certainly be the highlight of a weekend jam packed with other rarities probably not shown publicly since their original release, including stars like Abbott and Costello, Charley Chase, Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle, Our Gang, Harold Lloyd, Harry Langdon, and many others. I am especially looking forward to be seeing the Clark and McCullough short "In A Pig's Eye" (1934) as I have never seen one of their films publicly and am waiting to see how they go over.

Click here for a Leonard Maltin article about the film.

Click here for a Scott Eyman article about the film.

Congrats to Paul for finding this treasure and come to Slapsticon to see this gem along with tons of other flicks that will have you busting a gut all weekend!!


Meredith L. Grau said...

Oh my gosh! That is so exciting. I love when these gems get found. It just goes to show you, never give up!!!

Michael J. Hayde said...

I've got some additional vintage ads for "A Thief Catcher" up at my own blog:

Matt Holton said...

A lost nugget. I can not wait to see this lost treasure. Thanks for the post.