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June 1, 2010 > Charlie Chaplin is back

Charlie Chaplin is back

By Mona Shah

The strut, the cane, the bowler, the mustache... they'll all be back this weekend in honor of Niles' most famous and beloved son. The Niles Main Street Association and Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum invite you to join them June 5 and 6 in a celebration of silent film icon Charlie Chaplin in historic downtown Niles. Lots of fun activities are planned for the weekend including "penny carnival games" and plenty of "Charlie's" roaming the streets.

Come dressed like Charlie Chaplin to compete for your chance to win a prize. A look-alike contest will be held on Sunday; participants will meet at the Essanay Silent Film Museum located at 37417 Niles Boulevard at 2 p.m.

In addition, Edison Theater - home of the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum - will also present the five films Chaplin made in Niles. He stayed in Niles for three months and in that time he made one and two reelers that featured Niles Canyon, a few glimpses of the town, studio and train yard, as well as Golden Gate Park, an unpaved Great Highway, windmills that still stand and apartment houses in Oakland.

David Kiehn, museum historian, elaborated on Chaplin's involvement with the Essanay Film Company: "From all reports, Charlie Chaplin and Broncho Billy [Anderson] became friends. Anderson believed that Chaplin was being wasted at the Keystone Studio and should be given more freedom to do what he was capable of. Anderson was able to provide Chaplin with a protective atmosphere in Niles that allowed him to expand and explore his talent - Charlie was given free rein. Being at Essanay gave him the boost he needed to create films that made him world famous. And, of course while in Niles, he had the chance to meet Edna Purviance, who would be another catalyst for change. As his leading lady, she brought out his sentimental side and added complexity to his character."

Tickets are 50 cents (suggested donation); popcorn and snacks will be available. The proposed schedule includes: 11:30 a.m.: A Night Out w/ Ben Turpin, 12:30 p.m.: In The Park, 1:30 p.m.: The Champion, 2:30 p.m.: A Jitney Elopement, 3:30 p.m. The Tramp.

On both days, there will be a free showing of "The Bootcake." a documentary about what an Australian filmmaker discovered when she went to Adipur, India where they celebrate Charlie's birthday each year. One herbalist prescribes Chaplin DVD's as part of his health plan for his patients. Using Chaplin's antics as medical treatment is just one interesting focus of this 73-minute film.

On Saturday night at 7:30 p.m., "The Gold Rush," will be the feature presentation. This film is accompanied by a musical score performed by pianist Bruce Loeb. Tickets (suggested donation, $5) will be on sale from Noon to 4 p.m. on both days or online- seating is very limited. Made in 1925, this film is the one that has Charlie doing the "dinner roll dance" with forks acting as legs and little buns as feet moving across his dinner plate in a choreographed number. As well, you can witness the famous scene where as a starving prospector; he is forced to eat his boot to survive. (That is the "boot" in reference in "The Bootcake" film as well.)

Enjoy the charming historic setting and support Old Town Niles. Find a unique treasure in one of over 40 stores, have a laugh with a Charlie impersonator, catch an old movie, and treat yourself to a slice of hometown Americana.

For more information call (510) 742-9868 or visit Information about the silent film museum can be found by calling (510) 494-1411 or visit

Rena Dein, Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum contributed to this article

Charlie Chaplin Days
Saturday, June 5 and Sunday, June 6
11 a.m. - 4 p.m.
Old Town Niles, Fremont

Essanay Film Museum
37417 Niles Blvd., Fremont

(510) 742-9868

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