Pretty much all my life I have been a fan of the silent films and early talkies of the true comedy greats... Laurel and Hardy, Harold Lloyd, Buster Keaton etc etc. I can even go a bit of Charley Chase and the Keystone Cops... Yet arguably the most revered silent comedian of all leaves me completely cold. But I'm not alone, and I struggle to find anyone who actually admits to enjoying his films (yet Stan and Ollie and the others are always mentioned as favourites).
I'm sure it's me who is wrong. He was obviously a comedy genius, but I just don't get it, and have always found his work cold and emotionless (and largely unfunny)... never have I felt any warmth or affection for his 'little tramp' character. Having said all that, I do still own a few of his films, bought back in the early 2000's when they were re-packaged and re-released, in a last ditch attempt to convince myself that he must be brilliant (it didn't work).
But in the last few days I've been watching the extras of a Chaplin film with more interest than I've ever shown any footage relating to the man. It all kicked off last week when eagle-eyed film fan George Clark was running through the bonus features of his Chaplin box set. There, in amongst the many extras for the film 'The Circus', was some footage of the premiere, held at Manns Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. As the camera pans the streets to pick up the atmosphere of the day, into shot walks a portly woman, who for all the world seems to be talking on a mobile phone!!! in 1928!!!
Of course the media have immediately jumped to the only sensible conclusion and declared that the film must have captured a time traveller!!!! (not like them to sensationalise a story is it??!). But it has to be said, it is an odd bit of footage, that I find a little un-nerving to watch (especially in the clips now available when the woman in question has been 'zoomed in' and slowed down). Her mannerisms are completely consistent with those you see every minute of the day whilst walking down the road, and the 'grip' she has on the object is just like that of someone holding a mobile. Oh, and she is definitely talking into it too. The Walkie-Talkie wasn't invented until the 1940s, and transistor radios weren't around until the 1950s, so I have no idea what she could be talking into. Perhaps she was a bit cranky and just talking to herself? Perhaps she was holding the side of her face due to toothache and moving her jaw in pain? I don't know... I guess it's most likely she was a time traveler!
Anyway, have a look for yourself.
Here's the YouTube video that George Clark has posted about his find:
Here is the 'extras' footage from the DVD of the film premiere, held at Manns Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. The woman walks by 20 seconds in.
This video concentrates solely on the clip of the woman, replaying it over and over again, whilst zooming in and slowing the footage down (this is the one I find a little creepy!)