If I ask you, "Who is the man pictured in the above photo?" what will be your reply?
"Charlie Chaplin," you say, right?
"Nope," I reply. "It's definitely NOT Charlie Chaplin!"
"Okay," you say, "So maybe it's one of the many Chaplin 'wannabes' who sprang up in silent films after Chaplin -- and his famous "Little Tramp" character -- had burst upon the scene (such as the gent pictured in the following stereographic photo, issued circa 1925)?" (Please excuse the "eBay" text partially obscuring this and some of the other scans in this post, by the way. I'll explain about that later!)
"Nope!" I reply again.
"Okay, Mr. Fox! Maybe you did a little bit of computer voodoo with a still pic of Robert Downey, Jr. portraying Chaplin in the 1992 eponymous biopic? Or maybe you did that with a shot of someone else playing the role of Chaplin?"
Nope! (I'm enjoying this far too much, by the way.)
Here's a little background, fellow babies:
Charles Spencer Chaplin (1889-1977) had barely begun his film career when his second film premiered in early 1914. This film was the very first to introduce the character known as the Little Tramp.
Here's Chaplin's own tale of how the look of the character came to be: "[On] the way to the wardrobe I thought I would dress in baggy pants, big shoes, a cane and a derby hat. I wanted everything to be a contradiction: the pants baggy, the coat tight, the hat small and the shoes large. I was undecided whether to look old or young, but remembering Sennett had expected me to be a much older man, I added a small moustache, which I reasoned, would add age without hiding my expression."
The use of this superb illustration of Charlie Chaplin's
Little Tramp has been graciously permitted by its artist,
Yep. That's how Chaplin himself explained the look of the character, and its origins.
"Fine. Whatever!" you say. "So who is the guy on the freakin' postcard?"
Postcard? Yes, it's a postcard. I actually own it. And the reason that the stereographic photo of the Chaplin impostor above and two of the scans below have "eBay" superimposed on 'em is because I (unsuccessfully) tried selling them as a pair several years ago, on eBay. That's when I made the scans. I would have made new scans for this post, but I'll be damned if I know where the freakin' postcard is right now!
Okay, let's take a look at the entire front view of the card (and note that the hat is normal-sized, and that the coat is somewhat baggy, not tight, and also note the absence of a cane)...
And a close-up of the front view (Sure looks like ol' Charlie, dunnit? But it isn't!)...
And now, the back view...
And a close-up of the back view...
"Wait a minute, Foxy!" you say. "1909? WTF?!?" (Or maybe you say "WTH," if you're so inclined. Heh.)
Yeah, 1909. Five years before the Little Tramp showed up on-screen, and one year before Chaplin ever set foot in the USA!
So, is this a remarkable coincidence? Maybe. Or did Chaplin see this outfit on the very same postcard -- well, another one just like it, I mean -- and decide to improve upon it? Maybe.
And is this li'l ole century-old postcard a one-of-a-kind, mouth-watering collector's item? Maybe.
It's also for sale... if and when I can ever find the damned thing, that is!
By the way... I hope you're not too disappointed by the fact that after all of my exposition, I've only told you "what" it is, and not who it is.
I really don't know who it is, y'see... just that it's not Charlie Chaplin!
Thanks for your time.
P.S. ~~ Attention, fellow babies! If you've ever read the "Pleasantview" series on the Simpson/Lynch Studios blog which I share with my writing partner, Skip Simpson, you're probably going to want to read this post! Trust me!