Cheeky Chappy: Our top five pieces of Charlie Chaplin film memorabilia

paulfrasercollectibles

2015-06-26 12:21:24

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Cheeky Chappy: Our top five pieces of Charlie Chaplin film memorabilia

On his 122nd birthday we celebrate the silent movie era star's collectibles and their continuing appeal

Today, back in 1889, a man was born whom George Bernard Shaw described as being "the only genius to come out of the movie industry". His name was Charles Spencer Chaplin.

Primarily a star of silent movies, Chaplin's groundbreaking comic style based around slapstick and mime transferred into the era of talking movies and he enjoyed a 75 year career which only ended in his eighties, shortly before his death.

He is the best known of the few actors remembered from the silent movie era, and Russia even named an asteroid after him.

As a result, Chaplin's memorabilia also remains coveted and valuable. Here are five of our favourites:

Modern Times Poster

One of the best Chaplin movie posters ever sold went under the hammer at Heritage in the summer of 2007. It was a poster for the 1936 film Modern Times, which was to be Chaplin's last ever silent film, and also marked the last appearance of the 'Little Tramp'.

Charlie Chaplin Modern Times posterCharlie Chaplin poster for his last silent film

It was written, directed and produced by Chaplin himself, and the whole process took four years. He starred opposite his then wife Paulette Goddard. The magnificent stone litho image was expected to take $15,000-20,000, but easily surpassed this to achieve $33,460.

Photograph

In early November 2010, a distinctive and uncharacteristic photographic portrait of Charlie Chaplin went under the hammer at Philips de Pury. Entitled simply Charlie Chaplin anddated to1925, the portrait is by the legendary US photographer Edward Steichen (1879-1973).

That photograph went into the sale estimated at 50,000-70,000 (up to $114,250), but investors can currently get hold of a picture of Chaplin which is even signed by the great man for considerably less.

Moustache

One of Chaplin's best remembered talking movies was The Great Dictator (1940), which mocked Adolf Hitler and Mussolini with Chaplin playing a version of the former.

Naturally Chaplin had an even greater need than usual for a set of moustaches to use during the film, and one of these sold at Christie's in 2004.

The small piece of dark brown 'hair' glued to a piece of paper, signed and inscribed in black crayon, "To Maurice [Bessy] - thank you for your book - merci! Charlie Chaplin, Sept. 1946" easily beat its 3,000 - 5,000 (then $5,769 - $9,615) estimate to sell for 17,925 (then $34,470).

Lost film

Buying movie memorabilia on eBay is an extremely risky business as often the items aren't what they are supposed to be. However, now and then an item turns out to be rather more than it claims.

An antique collector from Essex, UK, was pleasantly surprised after buying a battered container with an "old film" inside from the popular auction website for 3.30.

The film inside was titled Charlie Chaplin in Zepped - an unseen movie starring the early cinema legend. It is thought it may have been constructed using outtakes after Chaplin's relationship with film company Essanay fell apart in a pay dispute, but unreleased for legal reasons (as Chaplin had not sanctioned it).

The film has been valued at an incredible 40,000 ($64,000)

Hat & cane

Charlie Chaplin's trademark hat and cane were sold by Bonhams in the summer of 2006. A letter of authenticity, drawn up in 1987, is from costumer and producer Ted Tetrick and his wife, Betty 'Chaplin' Tetrick.

Having worked in Hollywood since 1920, Ted Tetrick's association with Chaplin began in 1938 when he became head of the costume and production design departments.

Charlie Chaplin Hat and CaneCharlie Chaplin's Hat and Cane

The letter states that "This was the time when we used the original Hat in a scene using the 'Tramp' character in the film, The Great Dictator. Originally, this Hat was at the studio costume department and selected by Chaplin personally."

Eager bidders fought for the set, which eventually left the stage for $139,250.

Debbie Reynolds is known to own a bowler hat of Charlie Chaplin's, so with her collection now going under the hammer fans of the slapstick star may be able to get their hands on a classic piece of memorabilia quite soon.

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