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1930s & Earlier / Lost Chaplin Film Discovered
For years film historians were puzzled by Charlie Chaplin's claim that he'd had a bit part as a Keystone Cop early in his one-year stint at that famous studio in 1914. Despite the best efforts of silent screen buffs, Chaplin's claim could not be verified until 2010 when a print of A Thief Catcher surfaced in Taylor, Michigan. Film historian Paul Gierucki found the film by chance: The movie buff happened to be browsing in an antiques shop when he found the 16-millimeter reel hidden inside a chest. Originally thinking it was an unimportant Keystone comedy, Gierucki let the flick sit on a shelf in his home for months before deciding to view it. Partway through the film, two Keystone Cops make an appearance. The build, mannerisms and facial features of the smaller cop were undoubtedly Chaplin's. Chaplin's film career has been well chronicled by experts, so his surprise appearance in A Thief Catcher stunned Gierucki. He quickly shared his remarkable find with other silent film fans. Their research confirmed the one-reel comedy had been filmed in January 1914 and released the following month. Like many early silent films, it was believed to have been lost forever. A Thief Catcher was screened at a film festival in Arlington, Virginia in June 2010--presumably its first public showing in 96 years. (This is a frame of the film.) It is now rightfully included among Chaplin's filmography.