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The Mystery of Charlie’s Stormy Romance

August 10, 2011

Advertising slide for Charlie's Stormy Romance (1916)
Advertising slide for Charlie's Stormy Romance (1916)

Back in February I wrote Chaplin at (and after Keystone) which explored the disreputable practice or renaming and re-issuing Charlie Chaplin's titles and pawning them off as new releases.  

Advertising slide for Chase Me Charlie (1918)
Advertising slide for Chase Me Charlie (1918)

Renaming was not the only strategy for creating "new" Chaplin product.  A second approach taken by distributors was to re-combine material from multiple sources to create entirely "new" films.

(Contrary to popular opinion, the appropriation and combination of audio-visual material to create new and/or derivative works did not begin with YouTube.)

The best known of these titles is Triple Trouble which was released by the Essanay Film Company in August 1918.  Nearly two years after Chaplin had left the studio, Essanay combined outtakes from his films Work (June 1915) and Police (May 1916) as well as an unfinished work titled Life, and combined them with newly shot footage to create an entirely new two-reeler.

Most unauthorized Chaplin titles are fairly well documented, for example The Essanay-Chaplin Revue of 1916Chase Me Charlie (1918), and even the recently uncovered Zepped (1916).  But Charlie's Stormy Romance, the four-reel feature touted in today's featured slide, appears to have escaped notice.  

The Moving Picture World - July 29, 1916
The Moving Picture World - July 29, 1916

The slide was produced by the Alta Slide Company, located at 1028 Market Street in San Francisco, and it is possible that the film originated in the Bay Area as well.

Brisbane Courier (Australia) - April 12, 1921

The only trade reference I have discovered is from The Moving Picture World (July 29, 1916) stating that Vivian Preston of the Independent Film Exchange (located at 112 Golden Gate Ave.) had great success touring the film south of San Francisco and that the film generated record attendance "due to the manner in which the attraction was advertised."  It is impossible to say, but perhaps this very slide was a component of that advertising campaign.

This mention in The Moving Picture World is the only American reference I have so far uncovered.  After 1916 the film again surfaces in Australia and New Zealand newspaper advertisements beginning around 1918. 

Poverty Bay Herald (New Zealand) - July 23, 1918
Poverty Bay Herald (New Zealand) - July 23, 1918

Unfortunately these bits are the only primary sources I have discovered - nothing more than a couple pieces of the puzzle.  Checking the usual secondary sources has also been less than successful.

Where did the original footage come from?  Essanay seems like a good guess, but which titles?  

Was it widely distributed in the US, or was it created in the U.S. and then booted overseas?  

Are there extant copies of film?  

What else was included in the advertised road show?  Were the advertised Pickford and Bushman films also unauthorized creations? 

If anyone out there can shed any light on these mysteries, please allow me to direct your attention to the Comment section below.

I'd love to hear from you.

Slide image of Chase Me Charlie courtesy of Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum.