Twenties film star Charlie Chaplin may have had some help from the future when his 1928 film “The Circus” won an Academy Award, his first, for its “versatility and genius.” Previously unreleased footage shows a woman who appears to be talking on a cell phone.
The sight would be a familiar on today’s sidewalks, but cell phones obviously didn’t exist at the time and telephones themselves were big boxy contraptions. So what else could the woman have been doing?
The viral video, which shows the scene numerous times in real time, slow-mo and close up, is actually from newsreel cameras at the film’s premier in Los Angeles at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, not from the film itself.
Irish filmmaker and video narrator George Clarke offers two possibilities to explain the image.
The woman could have been using devices described as an “ear trumpet” or a “pocket model carbon microphone,” which were used to assist in hearing. Otherwise, he is stumped.
But the woman, dressed in period garb, in some shots it appears to be a man, clearly appears to be talking into the device.
A digitally remastered version of the film from the Chaplin archives has just been released on DVD and contains outtakes and previously unseen footage of the film from the 1928 premier at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre.
Could it be some CGI magic to hype the release? Could be. The so-called phone the woman (man, space alien) is holding looks incongruous with the image.
In any event, the Internet is abuzz with the rumors and the footage has gone viral on YouTube.
In the movie, Chaplin’s iconic Tramp is broke, hungry, destined to fall in love and just as sure to lose the girl, according to a Chaplin fan web site.
Mistaken for a pickpocket and pursued by a policeman into a circus tent, the tramp becomes a star when delighted patrons think his escape from John Law is an act.
Classic Highlights include a frenetic fun-house sequence, the Tramp turning a magic skit into mayhem and his teetering tightrope walk while monkeys cling to his head.
Check out the footage here: