Entertainment Charlie Chaplin’s lost 1922 film The Professor rediscovered

Charlie Chaplin’s lost 1922 film The Professor rediscovered

Charlie Chaplin as Professor Bosco at the flea circus. Photo: Chaplin Archive/Roy Export Company
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A long-lost Charlie Chaplin film not seen since 1922 has been reconstructed by the legendary film star’s archivists.

The Professor had been a mysterious entry in the Chaplin canon, with only a five minute cut of the character ‘Professor Bosco’ at a flea circus thought to exist.

But this week the Chaplin Archives released a 25 minute version of The Professor having established through rediscovered documents that the unreleased two reel film consisted of outtakes and rejected scenes from other projects.

The Chaplin Archives said recent scanning and cataloguing of its documents revealed a six-page shot list of The Professor, complete with inter-titles and camera transitions.

The notes established that the film consisted of footage from other projects Shoulder Arms (1918) and Sunnyside (1919) as well as the unused flea-circus footage.

Given Chaplin’s perfectionism, the Archives believe the cobbled together film was in fact part of a contract negotiation between the star and his production company First National and could have been intended to be offered as the final movie of the star’s eight-film multi-million dollar contract.

At the time Chaplin was planning distribution of his ambitious project The Pilgrim, but he did not want to deliver it under the same terms as a normal two-reeler. It was eventually released as the eighth film of his contract in 1923.

The production notes that helped reconstruct a lost film. Photo: The Chaplin Archives

The Archives say Chaplin tried to work the flea circus footage in other movies – finally putting it on screen in 1952’s Limelight – and telling a 1957 interviewer about his struggle to find a film to run the flea circus footage.

“There’s one joke that I’ve always wanted to use. I thought of it as long ago as The Kid, but I couldn’t find a spot for it in that film,” Chaplin told Margaret Hixman

“It’s a man with a flea circus. He goes into a dosshouse … the fleas get loose. He runs around searching for the fleas, calling them by name. Everyone is scratching furiously. Finally, he manages to round up all the fleas but one. There’s a big man with a great straggling beard. He spots a flea in the beard, picks it out, studies it intently, then says ‘Sorry, wrong one’ and puts it back.

“And the pay-off is when a scrawny old dog starts scratching itself. The flea trainer sees it, makes a grab for the dog; and it races off down the street with the little man, calling his lost fleas, chasing after.

“I used a little of that in Limelight, but I’ve never been able to fit the whole episode in anywhere.”