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As film fans get ready to prepare for the centennial of Charlie Chaplin’s first appearance on film, the film icon’s only novella will be made public for the first time. Footlights was written back in 1948 and follows the story of Chaplin’s 1952 masterpiece Limelight, but has never been available to the public until now.
Footlights features the same story of Limelight, in which a drunk clown named Calvero (Chaplin) saves a ballerina from suicide (Claire Bloom in the film). According to The Guardian, the novella expands on the film’s plot and will be available thanks to Cineteca di Bologna, a restoration team working with the Chaplin family. Biographer David Robinson put the pages together, preparing it for publication.
The book, his only prose work of fiction, was written in 1948, the year after he was called to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee to answer questions about possible communist sympathies, notes The New York Times. At the time, his reputation also took a hit from a scandal, in which a young actress said he was the father of his child.
By the time Limelight was completed, Chaplin was considered a communist and when he left the U.S. to promote the film, he was not welcomed back.
“It’s not only nostalgic, it’s a very emotional look at those times, but it’s also kind of a deep reflection on the medium, of art and the audience,” Cecilia Cenciarelli, co-director of the Cineteca’s Chaplin Project, told the Times.
Footlights, which will be available on Amazon, will be paired with Robinson’s The World of Limelight, which covers the making of the film. It is best known as the only time Chaplin appeared onscreen with his silent film contemporary, Buster Keaton.
image: Wikimedia Commons