Guardian: Collector finds unseen Charlie Chaplin film in tin

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Bruce Calvert
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Guardian: Collector finds unseen Charlie Chaplin film in tin

Postby Bruce Calvert » Fri Nov 06, 2009 8:18 am

http://www.guardian.co.uk/culture/2009/ ... y-reel-tin

Collector finds unseen Charlie Chaplin film in tin sold for £3.20 on eBay
• Collector turns detective in search of movie's secret
• Lost war propaganda reel could be worth £40,000

Charlotte Higgins, chief arts writer
guardian.co.uk, Thursday 5 November 2009 23.17 GMT
Morace Park was footling around on eBay looking for antiques when he stumbled on an item that was listed casually as an "old film" – and even then he was really more interested in the tin it was in.

"It had a lovely look to it," said Park. But the contents of the battered container, which he bought for the princely sum of £3.20, have turned out to be a previously unknown film by Charlie Chaplin.

Park – who, when he is not buying and selling antiques as a hobby, runs a company that develops products with inventors – bought the film "from someone else who deals in bits and bobs". When his parcel arrived, he didn't even bother to open it for a while. But when he did, he unfurled a little of the film and saw the title: Charlie Chaplin in Zepped. "I Googled it," he said, "and then my interest was pricked. I couldn't find any sign of it on the internet."

Park, from Essex, enlisted the help of a neighbour, John Dyer, the former head of education for the British Board of Film Classification. Dyer's excitement on seeing the film was "the catalyst for a wild journey" as the pair turned detective to try to unravel the mystery of what Zepped was – and why it was completely unknown to film historians and Chaplin experts.

The film, just under seven minutes long, is a mixture of footage of Chaplin and exuberant animation that reminded Park of Monty Python sequences. "It starts with live shots of Chaplin. It then turns into a dreamscape. We see a Zeppelin bombing attack. And then we see Chaplin taking the mickey out of the Zeppelin, at the time a powerful instrument of terror," he said.

They concluded that the movie, shot on 35mm nitrate film, had been put together as a first world war propaganda piece aimed at defusing fear of airship bombing raids, which had been launched on Britain by Germany from the beginning of 1915.

Another clue to the film's date and origins was provided by a reference in early frames to the Essanay film company. The 25-year-old Chaplin was contracted to the California-based company in December 1914, making such early masterpieces as The Bank, Work, and The Tramp, which established his "little tramp" character. But a year later, disputes over his contracts and salary led to a severance of relations between the star and his employers.

Park and Dyer are currently in Los Angeles to find out more, accompanied by the film-maker Hammad Khan, who is making a documentary about their quest.

On Monday, they showed the film to Michael Pogorzelski, a film-history expert and director of the archive of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the body responsible for the Oscars. "It is an extremely interesting find," he said. "An unknown and uncatalogued Charlie Chaplin film."

Pogorzelski believes the film consists of outtakes and footage from previous films re-edited by Essanay, and spliced together with fresh shots of Zeppelins and animated material, to create a "new" film. It was, he said, "definitely important and definitely interesting". It was an example of what he called "either piracy or entrepreneurship – depending on which side of the fence you're on."

According to David Robinson, the author of Chaplin: His Life and Art, when Chaplin left Essanay, the company tried to exploit the footage it had, adding two further reels to Burlesque on Carmen, a film Chaplin had completed as two reels, to create a film of feature length. This resulted in a volley of litigation and counter-litigation.

Robinson – who has not yet seen Zepped – believes the film may fall into this context, with Essanay attempting to get maximum mileage out of its lost star. The legal controversy may account for the fact that Zepped never saw wide circulation.

The print acquired by Park seems to have been classified for exhibition in Egypt, which was then a British protectorate. But how the fragile, precious and highly flammable film survived and ended up on eBay is a mystery.

Because Chaplin "tended not to waste material" Robinson believes Zepped may consist of known footage – but he said: "There's always the chance that there will be a brand-new Chaplin gag in the film."

He believes the real value of Park's eBay find could be anything from £3,000 to £40,000.

According to Pogorzelski, it is essential that the desperately fragile nitrate print is transferred to film. "We at the academy have volunteered to take it on," he said. "But this film was uncovered in the UK and it should probably remain there."


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Re: Guardian: Collector finds unseen Charlie Chaplin film in tin

Postby Richard M Roberts » Sat Nov 07, 2009 8:59 pm

Well, those frames are from RECREATION, whch survives, although a nice 35mm nitrate would not be unwelcome.

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Re: Guardian: Collector finds unseen Charlie Chaplin film in tin

Postby Ian Elliot » Sat Nov 07, 2009 9:46 pm

The Independent has also published some more details regarding the content and the sourcing for the Chaplin footage (mentioning outtakes from three Chaplins, but omitting RECREATION), and the documentary in the works about the find:

http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-enter ... 15748.html

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Re: Guardian: Collector finds unseen Charlie Chaplin film in tin

Postby Richard M Roberts » Sat Nov 07, 2009 11:34 pm

Ian Elliot wrote:The Independent has also published some more details regarding the content and the sourcing for the Chaplin footage (mentioning outtakes from three Chaplins, but omitting RECREATION), and the documentary in the works about the find:

http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-enter ... 15748.html


Actually, I correct myself, those shots are from HIS NEW PROFESSION, but they're depicted in the FILMS OF CHARLIE CHAPLIN BOOK as RECREATION, so my brain always jumps to that conclusion. Darn pesky old memory.

RICHARD M ROBERTS

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Re: Guardian: Collector finds unseen Charlie Chaplin film in tin

Postby Rob Farr » Sun Nov 08, 2009 6:54 am

Anyone who believes this film is worth £3,000 to £40,000, please contact me: I've got some shares of Al Detlaff Enterprises I'd like to sell you. Does anyone at AMPAS know how to contact these guys? If the grand premiere were held at Slapsticon '10, the resulting publicity in the Washington Post would certainly increase the value. If it actually yields some alternative takes (and I won't believe that until someone on this forum sees it) it would be an interesting curio; a worthy bonus in some future Chaplin Essanay collection. But anyone who owns Chaplin or Keaton films going back to the 8mm days probably has takes that are alternatives to the "official" version. The old fragmented version of "Daydreams" has several shots and and even a gag not on the Kino DVD edition. To my mind the greatest alternative find of the decade is the Alpine climber sequence of gags in "One AM" and that didn't garner a blip in the mainstream media. Nor did the discovery of "Hard Luck" a decade earlier.
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Re: Guardian: Collector finds unseen Charlie Chaplin film in tin

Postby Bruce Calvert » Tue May 31, 2011 2:08 pm

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article ... 0-000.html

Chaplin's lost war film: After it was bought for £3.20 on eBay, silent footage may be worth £100,000

By Tamara Cohen
Last updated at 10:30 PM on 30th May 2011
(Click on the Daily Mail link above for some frame reproductions)

It was a battered old film tin for sale on eBay for £3.20, and buyer Morace Park bought it simply because he liked the look of it.

Now, however, its contents have become part of movie history.

Inside the tin was a previously unknown Charlie Chaplin silent film made in 1916, a discovery which has astonished film experts across the world.

Entitled Zepped, it features unseen footage of a German Zeppelin airship over England in the First World War, as well as special effects techniques that would not become commonplace for another decade.


The seven-minute film, which is expected to make £100,000 at auction next month, was propaganda designed to defuse fear of Zeppelin raids which had brought death and destruction throughout 1915.

The 35mm film starts with Chaplin wishing he could return from America and fight alongside British soldiers.

In images seen here for the first time, he sits down to read a newspaper story about a Zeppelin being taken down, and then falls asleep.

In his dream, a Zeppelin hovers over the English countryside. Chaplin flies through the skies before landing on a church spire in England, and saving a damsel along the way.

The film features the only known footage of a Zeppelin raid over London, although the experts are divided on whether it is real or clever puppetry. It also features early experiments with animation, including the face of Kaiser Wilhelm emerging from a German sausage.

Mr Park, a company director from Essex, bought the film tin in 2009 from an anonymous vendor selling ‘loads of junk, probably from a house clearance or car boot sale’.

After unrolling the 900ft film to find the title, he tried to look it up but drew a blank.

With the help of neighbour John Dyer, former head of education at the British Board of Film Classification, he began a quest to solve the mystery, which will feature in a documentary.

They travelled to the studios in California where the film was shot, Chaplin’s home in Switzerland, an archive of rare films in Italy, and to visit the world’s foremost Zeppelin expert in Germany, as well as film buffs from London to Hollywood.

Mr Park said: ‘They were dumbfounded. We spoke to every leading expert on rare films and Chaplin and no one had heard about it.’

Dr Michael Hammond, lecturer in film at Southampton University, said: ‘This is a watershed moment in film history.’

The film will be auctioned by Bonhams on June 29 and the documentary, The Rarest Film In The World?, will be released later this year.

Chris Seguin

Re: Guardian: Collector finds unseen Charlie Chaplin film in tin

Postby Chris Seguin » Tue May 31, 2011 4:47 pm

These guys are self-promoters of the first order! Good luck with that 100,000 pound pricetag, but it's nice publicity for their documentary....

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Re: Guardian: Collector finds unseen Charlie Chaplin film in tin

Postby Steve Rydzewski » Tue May 31, 2011 9:56 pm

Ya know what blows is that I remember bidding on this film early in the game and the seller ended it prematurely telling me he decided he wanted to do more research on the film. I told him - in my best Stan Laurel - that's a good idea. So this is what happened! LOL The original seller is probably laughing his way to the poorhouse thanks to his own breaking an eBay transgression!

SteveR

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Re: Guardian: Collector finds unseen Charlie Chaplin film in tin

Postby Robert Arkus » Tue May 31, 2011 10:16 pm

"A watershed moment in film history" ... What the ..??

There was a legitimate Chaplin find that happened last year and, yes it rightly made international news, but this? I agree with Mr. Farr that there have been far more worthy discoveries and if a lost Pat Sullivan cartoon was found, I don't think it would make any headlines. There's probably more Chaplin out-takes in my Fractured Flickers boxed set than this film (if there are any actual out-takes!). I hope Chris is right and it's all hype to promote this upcoming docudrama. Color me dumbfounded!


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