In close collaboration with the Association Chaplin, the Cineteca di Bologna launched the Chaplin Project in 1999 with the declared aim to restore all of Charlie Chaplin's films and to bring them back to the big screen. Over the last ten years, adding on to the great work previously carried out by Kevin Brownlow and Photoplay Production with The Gold Rush and City Lights, the specialist staff at Cineteca di Bologna's laboratory L'Immagine Ritrovata has restored all Charlie Chaplin's works from the First National films onward – “A Dog's Life”, “Shoulder Arms”, “Sunnyside”, “A Day's Pleasure”, “The Kid”, “The Idle Class”, “Pay Day”, “The Pilgrim”, “A Woman of Paris”, “The Circus”, “Modern Times”, “Monsieur Verdoux”, “Limelight”, “A King in New York”. In 2003, together with the British Film Institute and Lobster Films, the Cineteca’s team began working on the restoration of the thirty-five Keystone short comedies Chaplin made and starred in 1914.
In the same year, the Chaplin Project embarked on the challenging and delicate task of digitising and cataloguing the filmmaker's paper and stills archive with the twofold objective to preserve this invaluable material and to make it available to students, researchers and cinéphiles, thus encouraging further research on Chaplin. The whole archive corpus is also at the core of a series of publications aiming at shedding new light on Chaplin and his art.
Spanning the career of cinema’s most universal man, shedding light on how he worked, played and lived, the Charlie Chaplin Archive, consists of roughly 130.000 pages (hand-written and printed documents as well as press clippings) and 10.000 photographic units from the late 1880s until the 1990s. From the first hand-written notes of a story line to the shooting of the film itself, stage by stage documentary evidence of the development of a film, or a project that never even became a film, the archive contains also poems, lyrics, drawings, programmes, contracts, letters, magazines, travel souvenirs, comic books, cartoon strips, praise and criticism, censorship papers etc.
Since Chaplin was not only writer, director, actor but also producer and distributor of his films, his private and studio papers and stills were kept together (with very few exceptions) and are well preserved. In this respect, the Chaplin Archive, managed by the Association Chaplin, constitutes an absolute singularity, easily justifying the Cineteca di Bologna’s decision to digitise it in its entirety. The complete digital collection is available at the Chaplin Research Centre at the Cineteca di Bologna Library and partially online at www.charliechaplinarchive.org.
The journey to Bologna is not the first the Chaplin documents have made: unable to go back to the United States where his visa was revoked in 1952, Chaplin asked his half brothers Wheeler Dryden and Sydney Chaplin to inventory his documents and personal belongings and organise their shipment to Europe. His films were sent to the UK, while photos and documents went to Switzerland where they were stored for decades in the cellar of the Manoir de Ban, Chaplin’s Lake Geneva estate. Following Lady Chaplin’s death in 1991, the papers were removed for storage in a more secure, fireproof archive in Geneva; some of them were sent to the Association’s Paris office for research and inventory. When the cataloguing and digitising in Bologna are completed, the original documents will return "home" to the Manoir de Ban.
All documents in the Chaplin Archive are property and/or copyright of Roy Export Company Establishment and the Association Chaplin.