Chaplin clowns for the family in unseen home movies show

Daughter of comic genius awe-struck at showing of rare footage, while film stars reflect on the hazards of growing old
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The Independent Culture

In a poignant moment at the Cannes film festival yesterday, Charlie Chaplin's daughter watched in awe as a home movie of her father was shown for the first time.

Geraldine Chaplin was at the launch of a series of DVDs of 18 remastered Chaplin classics. It will be the first time that Chaplin has been on DVD.

The series will include some hitherto unseen footage, garnered from home movies taken by the Chaplin family. The first of these was a 16mm colour film taken by Chaplin's brother Sydney during the making of The Great Dictator, the 1940 satire on Hitler. It was shot on the film set, with Chaplin doing a slapstick dance with a fat lady and deliberately tripping over himself.

Marin Karmitz, head of MK2, a film company which is distributing the DVDs with Warner Bros, said Chaplin and Picasso were the two geniuses of the 20th century, but Chaplin had "perhaps been a bit forgotten". The DVDs, which also include out-takes and glimpses backstage, would help to bring him to a new generation.

Geraldine Chaplin, who acted in the film of Dr Zhivago, and is one of eight siblings, said her family had been "squabbling and arguing" for years about what to do with the large number of home movies taken by her late mother, Oona, and her uncle Sydney.

The DVD deal had solved the arguments. She said that her sister had found The Great Dictator out-takes after prising open a trunk in the cellar of her father's house in Switzerland which turned out to contain Sydney Chaplin's home movies.

Watching the out-takes for the first time, Geraldine Chaplin said: "It is so strange seeing him in colour. I love seeing him. I adore seeing him. It brings back his great art."

She said there were many more home movies. "My mother was an absolutely avid cameraman," she said, "and she shot a lot of home movies too, and on most of them, my father acts up and does funny things. And that will be available too."

The acting up, she said, included Charlie Chaplin "walking down a little gravel path in the garden, smelling the flowers, then eating the flowers and burping".

There are also home movies of Chaplin entertaining the many celebrities who came to call. One was the actress Kay Kendall. "You can see him skipping around with Kay Kendall, playing Romeo and Juliet," Geraldine Chaplin said. "He was this very small Romeo and she was an enormous Juliet."

She said her first memory of her father was him taking her from her bed to the garden when she was two or three and showing her what he called "these strange things falling". It was a rare fall of snow in California. Talking of that memory, she said: "I can smell him, I can feel his arms. He was a lovely man and he was a nice father too. Every day was a gift with him."

Other titles in The Charlie Chaplin Collection to be released on DVD next spring include his 1925 silent classic, The Gold Rush, and his 1957 feature A King in New York.