The Keystone Ensemble in “A Thief Catcher”

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On February 19, 1914 Keystone released its short comedy A Thief Catcher. This minor picture features the Keystone Kops, and Ford Sterling (who also directed). Sterling plays a character named “Suspicious John” who calls the Kops when he spies some “yeggs” lurking about his house. The film might have remained far more obscure than it is if not for the discovery in 2010 by film scholar Paul Gierucki of the presence of one Charles Chaplin amongst the Kops. This has raised historical interest in the film immeasurably. It’s one of Chaplin’s earliest films. So early in fact that he (who became a star practically overnight) is still being lumped in among the Kops just like any other Keystone comedian. But if you watch with an eagle eye you’ll see him dart in and out of the frame from time to time. George Jeske is one the other Kops; Edgar Kennedy and Mack Swain play crooks.

For more on silent and slapstick comedy don’t miss my new book: Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Mediaalso available from amazon.com etc etc etc

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To learn more about show biz historyconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

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