Chaplin Archive

Chaplin Archive website

The principle archive of Chaplin related material is held by the Chaplin estate administered through the Association Chaplin in Paris. It is worth quoting in full the introduction to their website. Kate Guyonvarch and Josephine Chaplin explain the background to the Chaplin Project, which will make available the Chaplin papers through the Cineteca di Bologna.

Kate Guyonvarch and Josephine Chaplin statement

Their journey to Bologna is not the first that the Chaplin documents have made: unable to go back to the United States where his visa was revoked in 1952, Chaplin asked his half brothers Wheeler Dryden and Sydney Chaplin to inventory his documents and personal belongings and organise their shipment to Europe. In a letter to Sydney dated October 20th 1953, Chaplin writes: "Now as to my papers on biographical matter, all the early photographs and stills should be shipped and any interesting correspondence such as Einstein's letters etc should be shipped but a lot of it could be eliminated I am sure. However so long as we keep all the pictures photos and plates etc that's really more important than letters." Apparently, many personal papers didn't make it to Europe.

The films were sent to the UK, but photos and documents went to Switzerland where they were stored for decades in the cellar of the Manoir de Ban - jealously kept by Rachel Ford, Chaplin's 'legendary' business manager - and made available to only a few scholars and directors such as David Robinson, Kevin Brownlow and David Gill, Richard Attenborough.

Following Lady Chaplin's death in 1991, the papers were removed for storage in a more secure, fireproof archive in Geneva; some of them were sent to the Paris office for research and inventory. When the cataloguing and digitising in Bologna are completed, the original documents will return "home" to the Canton de Vaud.

The Association Chaplin was set up in 1996 by some members of the Chaplin family to protect the name, image and moral rights of Charles Chaplin and his work, on behalf of the Roy Export Company Establishment, owner of the films made by Chaplin from 1918 onwards, and of the archives pertaining to them and to Chaplin's life and work. The conservation and preservation of these archives being one of the Association's main preoccupations, it was a great pleasure for us to entrust to the Cineteca Bologna the digitisation of the documents. The originals will be deposited at the Archives de Montreux in Switzerland for safekeeping. We are very grateful to both the Cineteca and the Montreux archives for their support, help, and hard work.

The Chaplin archives contain such riches and cover such a long period of time that it is important to share them with researchers, students and cinephiles. We hope that one day this database will link up with other film and information archive databases worldwide in order to create one global Chaplin information centre.

All catalogued and digitised documents may be freely consulted in their entirety on the site at Cineteca's library where two computer screens are available for that very purpose. For further information about the library opening times, location and research procedures, see the 'contact us' page on this site.