Charlie Chaplin novel unveiled

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 05 February, 2014, 7:36pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 05 February, 2014, 7:44pm


A virtually unknown novel by Charlie Chaplin - the only book the silent-film comic ever wrote - is being made public for the first time.

Footlights 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 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 for which he would become famous around the world.

Robinson believes the relationship between drunken clown and desperate ballerina in the much later
Footlights was inspired by a meeting with legendary Russian dancer Vaslav Nijinsky in 1916.

The Cineteca 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".

By setting the book in London, it said, Chaplin had looked back to "an enchanted period in which he had broken out of the deprivations of his childhood" to discover his "unique gifts as entertainer and communicator".

However, the clown's expressions of despair at losing the world's respect and admiration is likely to have reflected Chaplin's own feelings as his popularity dwindled, the institute said.