Forgotten Chaplin film fails to find buyer at auction

Thu Jun 30, 2011 7:55am EDT
 
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LONDON (Reuters) - A forgotten short film featuring footage of comic legend Charlie Chaplin failed to sell at a London auction despite expectations it could raise a "significant six-figure sum."

The reserve price on the reel at Wednesday's sale was 100,000 pounds ($160,000) at Bonhams auctioneers, but apparently it was too high.

"Charlie Chaplin in 'Zepped,'" believed to be a propaganda film made in Britain during World War One, was discovered inside a battered old film reel tin which collector Morace Park bought for 3.20 pounds on the online auction site eBay.

The seven-minute film which shows Chaplin taking on a German Zeppelin aircraft, features some of the earliest animation in cinema history.

"At first I had no idea what I had," Park said. "I visited film experts in Europe and the USA and ... one comment was common: none of them had ever seen this type of film before."

Chaplin probably never knew of the movie's existence, said film critic and Chaplin biographer David Robinson.

He said the anonymous maker had put together out-takes from three earlier Chaplin pictures -- "His New Profession" (1914), "A Jitney Elopement" (1915) and "The Tramp" (1915) -- and included sequences of stop-motion animation and other effects.

Although Chaplin played no part in the production of "Zepped," he famously satirized Nazi leader Adolf Hitler in the 1940 movie "The Great Dictator."

(Reporting by Mike Collett-White, editing by Paul Casciato)