Looking for Charlie – A documentary about Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, and the Suicidal Clowns who inspired them
Looking for Charlie is a feature length documentary I am making with my fellow historian and filmmaker, Brett Sanders. The film is a documentary which explores the forgotten lives of a pair of suicidal clowns who inspired Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton. Production of this film has taken Brett and myself around the world on an odyssey of discovery. In the film we deal with issues such as depression, suicide, memory, influence, and, of course, the art of laughter and the power of cinema. With this film we hope to show a whole new side of the legendary comedians of the silent era and the despair that greeted those who failed in show business.
We all know Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Laurel & Hardy, and Harold Lloyd. Their films made them immortal. But what about the generation of comedians who inspired those silent-era luminaries? What about the comedians who commanded the vast stages of the New York and London Hippodromes, who inspired and delighted, but were forgotten when new and innovative comedies, which they helped to inspire, hit the big screen? Looking For Charlie: Or, The Day The Clown Died is the story of Marceline Orbes and Francis ‘Slivers’ Oakley, a pair of once-legendary Edwardian comedians who entertained millions, inspired silent-era superstars Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton, but who died in obscurity by their own hands. The film explores the overlapping lives of Orbes, Oakley, Chaplin, and Keaton, asking questions about the psychological and social pressures faced by the people who make it their life’s work to make us laugh. Looking for Charlie is a personal journey and exploration of the forgotten comedians who set the tone for a century of laughter.
In the coming weeks we will be launching a new trailer and website for Looking for Charlie but you can learn more from the production diary currently being kept on this site.
#3 – Over the Rainbow – Why we are making a black and white documentary.
#2 – The Breakdown – A breakdown of our film. What are we trying to accomplish and how are we going about that task?
#1 – Honesty in Documentaries – A discussion about the role honesty and subjectivity play in the making of a documentary like ours.
Whilst you are waiting on our first full length trailer, you can watch this video podcast which explores some of the reasons that we are making this film.
Introducing Looking for Charlie
I will be updating this website with updates as Looking for Charlie moves from production into post-production over the coming weeks. Please check back for updates and don’t forget to visit the main page of this website for the most up-to-date news on the film as well as a range of other content, including new film reviews and new episodes of the free podcast series, The Artist in American History.