Step 1 - Film research

The Chaplin films have been well researched and documented over the years due to their incredible popularity. Any film associated with Chaplin was much screened, talked about, advertised and written about. Retrospectively too, the films have been re-released and reissued to each generation. The Keystone films are something of an exception. These films are what we in the archiving business call 'orphans'. They are not owned by any one organisation and the rights have long ago expired, if indeed they were ever registered. Because of Chaplin's meteoric rise to fame the films were reissued, reedited to emphasise Chaplin's role, titles were remade, and compilations were put together to maximise income from the Chaplin craze. It is not known exactly how many prints were made or what happened to the original negatives but we think about 30 prints were made of the Keystones pre-Chaplin, and rose to 41 by the time he made His Trysting Place in November 1914. When Chaplin moved to Essanay 135 prints were made of his first film. The original negatives would have been used to reprint and reprint, and prints and duplicate negatives would have been made from prints and so on, leaving us with a complex family tree of materials that is as difficult to trace back as any human family (especially one with a good smattering of illegitimacy).

Theodore Huff was one of the first to attempt a full Chaplin filmography tackling the Keystones. It is obvious that even in the 30s it was hard to see these films and certainly not in the form they were originally released. His Index to The Films of Charles Chaplin is still a useful document and his selection of 'outstanding scenes' enlivens the dry business of synopsis writing which inevitably describes the action not the comedy. More work has been done since, by a whole community of film researchers, historians and enthusiasts, although special mention should be made of Bo Berglund and Glenn Mitchell in this context. In his interview Glenn Mitchell tells some of the story of the Chaplin Keystone prints.

Sources for researching the original release dates, original structure and content of the film, original titles, cast and crew - are diverse and sometimes surprising. Advertisements in newspapers and in the growing film trade press are an obvious source. Certainly adverts in the trade press in England have been revealing, supporting for example, the theory that Chaplin was not in, or did not have a significant role in, Her Friend the Bandit (see Bioscope review).Bo Berglund finally identified the date for the filming of Between Showers from the meteorological records of Los Angeles in February 1914. Cast and crew have to be identified from collections of photographs, and constant cross-referencing of film credits. In the end you get to know the faces well. This painstaking research is absolutely necessary when you are restoring such film, as scenes from different productions may have been cut together in the material you are working from. Once this has been done work can commence on tracing the materials themselves.