Charlie Chaplin's only novel restored in Italy

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Charlie Chaplin's only novel restored in Italy
Charlie Chaplin wrote the novel Footlights in 1948. Photo: twm1340/Flickr

A virtually unknown novel by Charlie Chaplin - the only book the silent film comic ever wrote - is being made public for the first time with the help of an Italian film restoration institute.


Footlights, which will be unveiled in London later on Tuesday, was written by Chaplin in 1948 and later transformed into his film Limelight, in which a washed-out clown saves a dancer from suicide.

The book is being published in English by the Cineteca di Bologna, an Italian film restoration institute which has been working with Chaplin biographer David Robinson on reconstructing drafts found in the Chaplin archives.

Charles Spencer Chaplin was born in London in 1889 to poor parents, who struggled to make a living as music hall entertainers. As an adolescent, he began working in music halls in Soho, before eventually becoming an actor with a theatre troupe.

In his first appearance on the silver screen in the 1914 Making a Living, Chaplin plays a swindler - complete with the hat, cane, moustache and baggy trousers he would become famous for around the world.

According to Robinson, the relationship between drunken clown and desperate ballerina in the much later Footlights was likely inspired by his meeting with legendary Russian dancer Vaslav Nijinsky in 1916.

The Cinetaca describes Chaplin's "vivid, idiosyncratic" writing style which, "unadulterated by editors, moves freely from the baldly colloquial to moments of rich imagery and Dickensian description.

"For a setting, he looked back to London and the music halls of his first professional years, an enchanted period in which he had broken out of the deprivations of his childhood to discover, progressively, his unique gifts as entertainer and communicator," the institute said in a statement.

"But this retrospect also recalled the painful insecurity of an uneducated, uncultured boy launched into the world of success", and the clown's expressions of despair at losing the world's respect and admiration likely reflected Chaplin's own feelings as his popularity dwindled.

The book is illustrated with previously unpublished documents and photographs from the Chaplin archives, as well as pictures of the theatrical world of Chaplin's youth and images from the author's private collection.

Watch a clip of the film Limelight, based on Chaplin's book:

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