Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Could this be the newsreel footage of Charlie as a boy?

A fellow fan, Ashley, sent me a link to newsreel footage of the Gordon Highlanders, a Scottish regiment in the British Army, marching with a group of children in 1899. In my post on Sunday about Making A Living, I mentioned that Charlie's first film appearance may have been when he was caught by a newsreel camera as Scots Guards marched through St. James Park. Here is a description of the footage from a September 1921 New York Times article (Mrs. Jackson was the wife of the co-owner of the Eight Lancashire Lads):
"Mrs. Jackson's husband happened to be one day at Oxford Music Hall in London and saw a film of Scots Guards marching through St. James Park and there was Charlie with the other boys keeping step alongside the soldiers. He was supposed to have been at school on the day the film was taken."
I'm not sure if the setting of this newsreel is St. James Park (the bottom of a statue can be seen in the background). I have watched this footage a couple of times and I didn't see anyone resembling Charlie but there are so few photos of him as a boy, it's hard to know what to look for, plus some of the faces are very hard to make out. This might not be the footage of Charlie, but I thought I would pass it along anyway--perhaps someone with better eyes than me might be able to spot him.


7 comments:

  1. Isn't this the same clip? http://scotlandonscreen.org.uk/database/record.php?usi=007-000-000-087-C So it seems the clip is unfortunately from Scotland. St. James's Park also doesn't, at least nowadays, have a monument like the one in the background.

    It would be really exciting to find that film though! I think it would be fully possible as well, as the British Film Institute has such a huge archive of material that I don't think all of their films have even been properly catalogued yet.

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    1. So much for that, I guess. Thanks for the info!

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  2. Ashley Ó'CéirínFebruary 4, 2014 at 5:43 PM

    Ah well it was worth a try :)

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  3. If this is truly 1899, the quality was good. I watched it in slow motion twice. I didn't see what would have been a 10 year old Chaplin, but who knows? Wouldn't it have been a find?

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  4. if that footage ever turns up, it'll be more valuable than fairy dust!

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  5. Film historian Tony Fletcher adds the following:

    It seems to me that the film of the Gordon Highlanders (if that is who they are) was produced by a showman who you can see at the end of the film (possibly Waller Jeffs), so it comes into the category of another Mitchell & Kenyon film.

    I believe that there is a film at the BFI with the Gordon Highlanders which was filmed near the statue of William Wallace at Union Terrace Gardens Aberdeen. Whether this is the same film or not I am unsure about.

    However, the reference to St James' Park London as being the location where the Gordon Highlanders film was shot is very interesting since it is very close to the earliest reference (as far as I am aware) to Charles Chaplin being filmed which took place in 1896 in a Lumiere film at St James's Palace during the changing of the guards. This information comes from a reference book by Langford Reed and Hetty Spiers (his wife) who for several years in the early 1930's wrote a Who's Who in Filmland. St James's Park is joined to St James's Palace.

    When I viewed the film at the BFI I failed to see Charlie, who would have been 7 at the time - it was a rather murky day.

    In a lecture in the 1930's, Col. A. C. Bromhead who ran the Gaumont Co. in Britain before WW1 stated that Charlie was in a 1906 Gaumont chase film entitled "Lost, a Leg of Mutton". This film is not known to survive.

    All the above references to Charlie's appearances in these early films before he went to Keystone are not contemporary, but are later memories of older people, which can often prove to be faulty.

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