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Charlie Chaplin's First and Only Novel 'Footlights' Finally Published After 60 Years

Photo of Beth Hanna By Beth Hanna | Thompson on Hollywood February 7, 2014 at 12:53PM

Exciting news for Chaplin fans: The auteur's only work of fiction ever written, a dark novella following the tragedies of a washed-up clown which would become the main inspiration for his 1952 masterwork "Limelight," will be made available to the public after having gone unpublished for 60 years.
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Charlie Chaplin with Claire Bloom in 'Limelight'
Charlie Chaplin with Claire Bloom in 'Limelight'

Exciting news for Chaplin fans: The auteur's only work of fiction ever written, a dark novella following the tragedies of a washed-up clown which would become the main inspiration for his 1952 masterwork "Limelight," will be made available to the public after having gone unpublished for 60 years.

"Footlights," a slender work running at about 34,000 words, centers on old and alcoholic clown Calvero (played by Chaplin in "Limelight") who saves a ballerina from suicide. The novella was written in 1948, four years before Chaplin would make "Limelight" and then be banned from the US for his alleged Communist sympathies.

Having sat in Chaplin's archives for decades, as a mish-mash of handwritten and typed pages, the book has been typed up by Chaplin biographer David Robinson and will be published by Italy's Cineteca de Bologna. "Footlights" will be available through their website, as well as on Amazon. You can read a segment from it here.

This news comes in the same week that Chaplin's iconic Tramp turns 100. The little fellow debuted in Keystone's Mabel Normand vehicle "Mabel's Strange Predicament," which opened February 9 in 1914.

This article is related to: News, Classics, Charlie Chaplin


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.