The Remarkable Charlie Chaplin Archives

Click to enlarge – auditioning dogs for The Idle Class – Vanity Fair .

The Charlie Chaplin Archives, housed in Bologna and accessible online, hosts thousands of rare photographs, production logs, scripts, and other fascinating studio records and documentation from Chaplin’s life and long career. Pick a favorite film, or subject of interest, and you can happily spend hours exploring these records firsthand.

Look at the enormous, respectful crowd, as Charlie stands on the SE corner of Sunset and La Brea, the front lawn of the beautiful home where his half-brother Sydney lived. The home came with the orchard property Chaplin purchased to build his studio at 1416 N. La Brea. While the Archive captions the photo as Charlie auditioning dogs for A Dog’s Life, Dominique Dugros correctly identifies this being from The Idle Class (1921). The Exhibitors Herald published this photo on May 7, 1921 when the production was still under the working title Vanity Fair, and reported on July 30 Charlie changing the name to The Idle Class to avoid a name conflict. The classic home on Sunset directly behind Charlie is now a Burger King (!), and stripmalls occupy all four corners of this once glamorous, citrus orchard – residential intersection.

Next, a crossword puzzle (from page 6) of the 28 pages of artwork and dozens of other promotional materials for City Lights (1931), with the answers further below in this post. Here’s a PDF link if you want to print it out for home use. The first clue, one across, seven letters is “First name of greatest comedian in Motion Pictures.” Hmm, “Buster” and “Harold” are both six letters, who could it be? 😉

Here’s a favorite, a charming candid view of Charlie walking with best friend Douglas Fairbanks along the main shooting stage, apparently toward Mack Swain during the production of The Gold Rush (1925).

This matching reverse view of the stage is one of three images documenting a rare Hollywood snowfall on January 22, 1921. Chaplin’s office stands to the left.

A poignant mix of heartbreak and the mundane. The July 10, 1919 daily production report notes “Did Not Shoot. Norman Spencer Chaplin passed on today – 4 p.m.” Chaplin’s first child was born on July 7, surviving only 3 days. One page from over 363 daily production reports for The Kid (1921).

In closing, a remarkable production photo reveals how the towering city skyline effect during the opening scene from City Lights was created on Chaplin’s small studio backlot by placing a scale model in the foreground when filming the true two-story set in the far background, the so-called foreground (or hanging) miniature effect. What a stunning achievement – bravo.

I could go on, documenting the complete Italian title card translations for The Kid, or the location of the studio dining room (there was a dining room?), or Buster Keaton’s test costume for Limelight (1952), but you get the idea. With winter approaching, and even more time to be spent indoors, do yourself a favor and explore Charlie’s archive world for yourself.

Please help support naming the alley by posting a review on Google Maps. Prototype alley sign design by noted Dutch graphic artist – Piet Schreuders. Download a 4-page brochure about the alley HERE. This video further explains the alley – if you can, please leave a thumbs up and share it with others.

I didn’t forget! Here are the crossword puzzle answers, also a PDF link if you want to print it out. Chaplin archival documents Copyright © Roy Export S.A.S or © Roy Export Company Establishment. All Rights Reserved
CHARLIE CHAPLIN © Bubbles Incorporated S.A. All Rights Reserved.

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3 Responses to The Remarkable Charlie Chaplin Archives

  1. Dominique Dugros says:

    I don’t think the above photo deals with auditioning dogs for a Dog’s Life. John Rand is visible on the left in his golf player outfit from The Idle Class, and I guess his bag for golf clubs is lying on the ground at Charlie’s left. One person in the center is also visible with Charlie and Edna on another pic from The Idle Class. Some photos from The Kid are also erroneously listed in the Dog’s life section of the CC archives. I’d be very pleased to discuss that via FB or private emails. Thanks!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you so much Dominique. You spotted John Rand in his golf costume, and then found these photos in the Exhibitors Herald. I didn’t know Vanity Fair was the original title for The Idle Class. This was really fun – thank you for sharing

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Buster’s Brazen Bystanders | Chaplin-Keaton-Lloyd film locations (and more)

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