Mack Sennett produced Kid’s Auto Race (January, 1914), Charles Chaplin’s second film and the first in which he wore his signature “tramp” costume, although the “little fellow’s” character attributes had yet to appear. It’s included here because the recently-discovered nitrate negative yields a far better image than any other available in decades. A man came to Serge Bromberg after one of his live shows, saying that his father had a lab founded by his grandfather in 1908. He showed a 50-page vault inventory; most of the negatives had been deposited in the French archives, but the most interesting titles – original export negatives of Keystone comedies — had been sold about twenty years before. The only clue was the word “Jouet” (“toy” in French) on the list. It took five years to persuade the seller to reveal that a M. Jouet was actually a former clerk living in Caen (Normandy). Serge Bromberg called every “Jouet” in the phone book, but this one was unlisted. Finally he visited him and learned that Jouet had never done anything with these wonderful negatives, and because the films were already available on VHS, he agreed to sell them all. Lobster, the British Film Institute, and the Cineteca de Bologna are restoring the surviving Chaplin Keystone films from 1914, gathering elements from around the world. But parts are still missing from some of the films. Music by Eric Beheim. —Flicker Alley
As Chapin's first released film as The Tramp, it's genius not only lies in his performance as a curious camera-hog but the real audience who witness this odd character. At first they don't know what to think but before the end they smile and laugh, not knowing this tramp will soon be the most famous icon in entertainment.