Charlie Chaplin’s first attempt at ‘talkie’ is discovered
A manuscript revealing Charlie Chaplin’s first shot at a “talkie” has come to light in the family archives.
Fifty handwritten pages outline the dialogue for a satire on colonialism, inspired by the British-born star’s visit to the Indonesian island of Bali in 1932.
Chaplin agonised over his future in a new world of film sound, and the manuscript reveals his initial faltering steps in dialogue. He planned a film, titled Bali, lampooning European arrogance on the paradise island and the invasion of a people’s idyllic life. He poked fun at colonials taxing natives to build roads they did not need and making them harvest more rice than they could eat.
Chaplin was the comic genius who created the little tramp, society’s eternal victim, with derby hat, toothbrush moustache and impossibly large boots – one of entertainment’s most universally recognised characters. But, within years of classics such as The Gold Rush, he was struggling to adapt a craft fine-tuned from music-hall pantomime to cinematic sound.