Charlie Chaplin is considered one of the founding fathers of American cinema.
Photo courtesy of: Lisa Stein
Oct 13, 2010
By Grace Austin
He has been called one of the founding fathers of American cinema. At times idolized and blacklisted in America, film legend Charlie Chaplin remains universally known for his "Little Tramp" character.
Chaplin's genius is being honored close to home from Oct. 28-30 when the Ohio University Zanesville campus hosts "Charlie in the Heartland: An International Charlie Chaplin Conference." Registration remains open until Oct. 21.
Lisa Stein, assistant professor English at Zanesville and conference organizer, said the conference will feature the screen star in a lost Keystone Studios film, "A Thief Catcher."
“This is the first international conference in America for Chaplin,” Stein said. “The conference is open to local audiences and students on campus as well as academic people. It’s a rare opportunity to meet people from around the world as well as watch these rare films.”
Chaplin gained worldwide popularity and recognition beginning in the 1910s for his “Little Tramp” character, a man dressed in a mishmash of ill-fitted suiting, bushy mustache, derby hat and bamboo cane. That character has become one of the most iconic film images of all time. The Little Tramp's antics, slapstick comedy and pathos created a timeless persona that critics and audiences are still applauding and analyzing.
"A Thief Catcher," missing for decades and presumed lost, was recently recovered at an antique sale in Michigan. The film features Chaplin in his only known performance as one of the "Keystone Kops," a pack of bumbling police officers created and popularized by the studio. Zanesville is only the fourth venue to play the film since its rediscovery.
Keynote speaker at the conference, Charles Maland, chair of the University of Tennessee’s English Department and author of "Chaplin and American Culture: The Evolution of a Star Image," originally became interested in Chaplin's up-and-down career in the United States.
Experts on Chaplin will travel to the conference from across the country and around the world, including the head of Profetto Chaplin ("The Chaplin Project") in Bologna, Italy and the director of Roy Export S.A.S. and the Association Chaplin office, in Paris.
"I think there’s been a persistent interest in Chaplin’s films," Maland said, citing some recent events, like the restoration and digitalization of Chaplin's films in recent years, as pivotal in renewing his and many other scholars' interest in Chaplin. Stein expects growing interest among OHIO students, too.
"I have eight graduate students with all new thinking on the topic," Stein said. "But, there's always hope for more. I have an 1804 Grant, and one of my missions is to have student involvement across campuses. I want to get students involved in something they wouldn’t normally do."
A workshop for college credit on Chaplin, led by Stein, Alan Parkinson, a professor at London South Bank University, and Peter Wyeth, British filmmaker and critic, also will be held at the conference.
- David Robinson, film critic and author of “Chaplin: His Life and Art,”
- Frank Scheide, professor at the University of Arkansas and co-editor of “The Chaplin Review,”
- Linda Wada, founder and editor of ednapurviance.org,* will present the documentary “Edna Purviance: Angel from Nevada,”
- Film preservationist David Shepard will host the restored "Tillie's Punctured Romance" and other Chaplin films.
In addition, the Zanesville Museum of Art is hosting a Chaplin exhibit* in conjunction with the conference. The exhibit will remain on display through Dec. 4.
More information on the conference can be found on the Ohio University-Zanesville website.