Thursday, October 28, 2010
Pepito met Joanne in 1928 when they both were hired separately to perform in the live pre-show “Ballyhoo” before each showing of Charlie Chaplin’s “The Circus” at Grauman’s Chinese Theater.
Several years ago I purchased a 2004 reissue DVD of Charlie Chaplin’s “The Circus” specifically to see Pepito the Spanish Clown who appears in the the bonus footage of “The Hollywood Premiere 1928,” a short film showing people coming to Grauman’s Chinese Theater on opening night.
I recently have been trying to track down the source of the footage to see if there might be more performance footage available for my documentary film on Pepito & Joanne. Due to the fact that Pepito, his ZaZa the Dancing Horse, and Pepito’s costumed lion appear briefly in the Ballyhoo portion of the Chaplin premiere footage, I am hoping maybe the out-takes from that day might include Joanne doing her mechanical doll contortion act.
Imagine my surprise when, last night, I stumbled across some big news about this very same Chaplin premiere footage. A “time traveler” has been discovered in this same footage by a man named George Clarke in Belfast, Ireland! An older woman in black hat and dark shoes, walking into the forecourt of Grauman’s Chinese Theater in 1928 to buy a ticket to see Chaplin’s new film, is purportedly talking on a cellphone!
News of this “discovery” is spreading rapidly on the internet, and the story has even been taken up by some TV news channels, and even Jay Leno! Searching the phrase “chaplin time traveler,” here’s a handful of the hundreds of links this morning:
TIME Magazine The Chaplin Time Traveler: What Does Science Say?
The Telegraph Charlie Chaplin time traveller spotted in old film
Huffington Post ‘Time Traveler’ Caught In 1928 Charlie Chaplin Film? (VIDEO)
KSCW-TV Kansas City Mysterious ‘Time Traveler’ Spotted in Charlie Chaplin Film
The footage is un-doctored; I have checked and it is identical on the 2003 “The Circus” bonus DVD disk. The woman definitely is holding her hand to her cheek, but in my opinion there is no cellphone in her hand.
I’ll bet these events will throw a kink in my plan to license the Chaplin Ballyhoo footage for my Pepito & Joanne documentary film … now that it’s the subject of an urban myth, the licensing fee will be astronomical, thanks to a woman who was probably shielding her eyes from the sun, or scratching an itch.
By the way, in 2006, Orange County local science fiction author Tim Powers published a best-selling novel titled “Three Days To Never” in which the plot revolves around Charlie Chaplin’s missing concrete footprints from Grauman’s Chinese Theater, a time machine, a lost Chaplin film found in a garden shed at an old house, and other clues. Pepito and Joanne’s story involves Charlie Chaplin as their matchmaker who paired them up to work together in the Grauman’s Ballyhoo; and the sole canister of 16mm film containing the “Lost Pilot” for “I Love Lucy” tucked away for 39 years in their Santa Ana Victorian home. Tim Powers’ book is fantasy/science fiction, while Pepito and Joanne were real people! Were they the inspiration?
P.S. Two of the funniest comments I have read online about the Chaplin time traveler are, “Hey, it’s Marty McFly! (a reference to “Back to the Future” films), and “Can you hear me then?” (a clever spin on the cellphone commercials that ask “Can you hear me now?”). And as my husband correctly points out, if that lady could get cellphone reception in 1928, she’s doing a whole lot better than most of us in 2010.