So you’ve been digging in your attic again, and you think you hold in your hands a valuable piece of history?,....
Hey, wouldn’t it be wierd if it was the same piece of film Chaplin’s holding in his hands in this picture taken in 1919?
Well anyway, you’ve come to the right place! Here at the Charlie Chaplin club we often get questions about “previously undiscovered” Charlie Chaplin films. And if you are lucky enough to be in possession of one of these films, your first question is probably going to be ”What’s it worth?”
Though true previously undiscovered Charlie Chaplin films are extremely rare, there are exceptions, and believe me there are Chaplin historians out there perched with great anticipation and with some cash flow, making this a potentially exciting find. Even still, for the average novelist, or for the outright non Chaplin fan, this can be quite a daunting investigation, primarily because you simply don’t have the historical knowledge on the subject matter to know.
Don’t be discouraged. As a Chaplin historian and private expert here at The Charlie Chaplin club, I have lined out a few facts and guidelines to make this, in most cases, a rather swift and effortless experiencefor you.
First a quick history lesson;
Charlie Chaplin made some 95 known films in his career. Of these, a few have been lost to time, circumstances and erosion. One example is “The Seagull-1923″, which was never released. (It is rumored that Charlie destroyed this film on the steps of his studio, either in a fit of anger at his leading lady Edna Perviance over her drinking, or simply because he was unsatisfied with the film in general). Or in the case of “Her friend the Bandit”(filmed June 4, 1914)-some say the elusive holy grail of Chaplin films. We know it exists because we have survivng still shots of it, yet no known print exists.
Furthermore, because Chaplin’s name and work were of such great monetary value even then, when this, the most famous entertainer in the world left a film company like Keystone, Essanay or First national, this left a huge hole in their revenues. Therefore it was common practice back then when Chaplin himself had little or no control over his films, to put together outtakes from his earlier films in an effort to create new films for market.One example is with “Triple Trouble-1918″, created with out-takes from Chaplin’s film work at Essanay. (Chaplin did sue to stop release, but lost)
And in many, many cases, they’d take a previous Chaplin film and simply re-title it. For example you can find “Tango angles” filmed with Keystone in 1914 under the title “His Recreation” or just “Recreation” on youtube, but it’s really just “Tango Tangles” with a different title.
In fact, in 1918, Chaplin began featuring his signature on movie posters as well as the main title cards of the films themselves in an effort to avoid confusion with the many Chaplin reissues that were being released under new titles and then advertised as the latest Chaplin comedy.
None of these examples are technically considered previously undiscovered Chaplin films. For true Chaplin historians, the films in question are going to fall into one of four categories;
- 1. An undiscovered Chaplin film: One he made that was never released, and no one ever knew about before. (and this can happen with full films as well as film lost footage, as in the case of the outtakes found years after his death and then made into the documentary called “Unknown Chaplin.”
- 2. A lost Chaplin Film: A known Chaplin film that was lost to time, erosion or circumstance and therefore is no longer available.
- 3. A re-titled Chaplin Film: A previous Chaplin film that has been simply re-titled for market.
- 4. A re-packaged Chaplin film: A film put together with out-takes from his previous work (often combined with known scenes from his previous work), to make a whole new movie for market.
To be clear, only example number one can technically be considered a “previously undiscovered” Chaplin film, although example number two would arguably be just as valuable.
But again, because he made so many films~ for the uneducated Chaplin fan, determining this fact can seem almost impossible. Fortunately, here at the Charlie Chaplin club, we have several well versed Charlie Chaplin experts, who if given a few key facts, can usually be quite helpful in determining very quickly its true validity. So this, “The Charlie Chaplin Club” is clearly your best first stop on your journey. And in order to get the fastest response, when you ask us about your film, I encourage you to include a few of these basic facts, keeping in mind that you can go to your local college or library, check out a film projector and watch it there. I’d recommend taking a pen and pater for notes. What I want to know is,....
- A. What is Charlie wearing in the film? (Is he wearing a mustache? What kind of hat and what color of coat and is he wearing, and is he wearing his big shoes?)
- B. What’s happening in the film? (Try and include a few different scenes)
- C. Who is his leading lady in the film? (What does she look like, what is she wearing?)
- D. Does Charlie Chaplin’s name appear at the beginning of the film, with or near the title?
- E. Does the film have a musical score?
- F. Who is the production company or distributer?
As a Chaplin historian and private expert here at the club, I look forward to answering any questions you might have, and I feel there is no question too small or strange. After all, this phenomenon of Chaplinitis itself is a strange condition many of us, more than you think, are happily infected with.
And if you’re not a fan- if your simply a guy with a piece of 8mm film you found in a dusty old box in your attic and you’re wondering of its worth, I think if you take the time to explore, you will discover that with regard to the monetary value of that piece of film you hold in your hand, (if it’s an undiscovered Chaplin film), then you’ve really got something there!
If not, let us say it’s utterly worthless monatarily. Either way I caution you, DON’T LET IT GO! You hold in your hands an incredibly valuable piece of history. Think about it. Chances are, you have an important piece of film, produced at the birth of the film industry itself a hundred years ago, by one of the greatest film makers of all time. And sure, it’s worth checking out its value, but if you stop your quest here at “how much is it worth?”, if you don’t sell, then at the very least, you’ve got a great conversation piece. And if you take the time explore Chaplin himself, I promise you this will be the wildest, most fascinating biography you will ever unfold. Leaving you with many enthralling historical facts to beguile others with as you hold your little film strip up to the light for them to see, makeing you of course, the most interesting person at the dinner party!
Once you yourself are happily infected with Chaplinitis, allowing yourself to submerge fully into Chaplin’s story, you won’t want to give up this seemingly worthless little piece of celluloid at any price.
But in the end, if you decide you just don’t want it anymore or you think it’s just going to end up back in a dirty old box in your attic again then please, contact me here. I’ll buy it for ten bucks plus postage just to take it off your hands. Because after all, sometimes the greatest feeling in the world is giving something you don’t care much about, to someone else that it would mean so much to, like in this case, giving a piece of old Chaplin film to a tirelessly devoted Chaplin historian like myself. :) Either way, please write back and let me know how your quest turns out. I’d be most curious. Best of luck on your journey!
By; Charlie Chaplin historian and top contributor,
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