On Wednesday, 29th June, Bonhams will auction off the only known surviving copy of Zepped, a seven-minute Charlie Chaplin film that features the Little Tramp taking down a German zeppelin. Until 2009, when Morace Park purchased the reel on Ebay for a pittance, this film had been lost to history. From the Guardian and the Daily Mail:
Park – who, when he is not buying and selling antiques as a hobby, runs a company that develops products with inventors – bought the film “from someone else who deals in bits and bobs”. When his parcel arrived, he didn’t even bother to open it for a while. But when he did, he unfurled a little of the film and saw the title: Charlie Chaplin in Zepped. “I Googled it,” he said, “and then my interest was pricked. I couldn’t find any sign of it on the internet.”
Further research by film historians showed that the film was probably produced in about 1916, as propaganda to reassure Britons concerned by zeppelin raids from Germany. It was likely a compilation film, put together from existing footage, and possibly against Chaplin’s wishes. An advertisement for a showing in Manchester in 1917 is the only surviving evidence of the film having shown publicly.
ClearChampion, an independent film production company, is currently producing a documentary about the lost film, The Rarest Film In the World? See excerpts on their YouTube channel, or follow the project on Twitter here.