Time travel: Cell phone used in Charlie Chaplin film?

by | Oct 28, 2010

Okay, I just saw this on the WGN News and it’s pretty freaky. It’s a very short segment associated with Charlie Chaplin‘s 1928 silent film The Circus in which a peculiar old woman is caught on film — apparently talking on a cell phone as she walks by.

The sequence was discovered by filmmaker George Clarke, of Yellow Fever Productions in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

In the YouTube video above, “Chaplins Time Traveler,” which has received 1,525,855 views at this writing, Clarke says he believes he is the first person to find this unusual moment in the 1920s footage. He bought the film as part of a DVD box set (The Chaplin Collection, Vol. 2) because he’s a Charlie Chaplin (and Jackie Chan) fan, and as a filmmaker, he tends to pay attention to the details, such as movie extras.

The footage showing the “time traveler” (Clarke is not jumping to any conclusions on that, but he does declare the object a mobile phone) does not come from Chaplin’s actual movie, but from one of the DVD extras, “The Hollywood premiere [1928],” which is also included on The Circus (2 Disc Special Edition). It is shot in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. Clarke has screened it to at least 100 people over the past year or year and a half, and still has no satisfactory explanation.

The mobile phone is actually older than I realized. According to Wikipedia, the “first mobile telephone call made from a car occurred in St. Louis, Missouri, USA on June 17, 1946, but the system was impractical from what is considered a portable handset today.”

If the time traveler in the Chaplin footage is using a cell phone, it’s a fairly thin and modern model.

Writing in a Washington Post item titled “Charlie Chaplin Cell Phone Woman is the worst time traveler ever,” Alexandra Petri reasons that a true time traveler could have chosen so many cooler destinations. She figures the old woman “just likes walking with her hand on her face, because she doesn’t want the camera to capture that side of her soul.”

George Clarke urges you to study the DVD for yourself, then send him your comments.

As for myself, I think Clarke is right about the mysterious person being a man. Look very closely, and you’ll recognize him as Steve Jobs’ secret beta tester — Mr. Frank Lloyd Wright!


Have anything to add?

My latest

Another Week: Number 40

Late afternoon waterskiing on Brown's Lake in Burlington, Wisconsin, Friday, September 29, 2023 Rabbit, rabbit. We continue to ride the fluctuations. Amy's appetite for solid food has waned. Vomiting lurks after any small bite....

Another Week: Number 39

Sign pointing to Radiation Oncology in Specialty Clinics Building at Froedtert Hospital, Wauwatosa, Wisconsin. Logistically speaking, our pace through the cancer Habitrail has become more hurried. Amy is on several tracks at...

Another Week: Number 38

Amy Czerniec in neuro-opthalmologist's examination room, Froedtert Hospital Vision Services, Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, September 15, 2023. We continue to scurry through our cancer Habitrail — up and down the interstate, parking...

Another Week: Number 37

First day of school at Mitchell School, Racine, Wisconsin, September 5, 2023. I always imagine this week as the beginning of a long chute to the new year. Summer is a thirteen-week plateau, floating lazily on peaceful waters —...

Another Week: Number 36

Cups for clean pens and used pens at Froedtert Neuroscience Clinic check-in, Wauwatosa, Wisconsin. Seven more days are in the books as Amy and her doctors strategize against cancer. She made three more trips up to Froedtert in...

Another Week: Number 35

Kenosha Transit electric streetcar along 54th St. at 2nd Ave. on August 22, 2023. Neither of us has been getting enough exercise this summer, but I particularly wanted Amy to get some steps in, so we did a slow mile at Sanders...

Another Week: Number 34

Murky AI “art” displayed in the Level 4 corridor of Froedtert Clinical Cancer Center, Wauwatosa, Wisconsin. More headaches and nausea for Amy, and another indictment for former president Donald Trump (just looking at those four...

Another Week: Number 33

Sugar maple tree turning colors at Mitchell School in Racine, Wisconsin, August 11, 2023. We have arrived at the end of summer. The sugar maple at the northwest corner of Mitchell School which indicates this to me annually has...

Another Week: Number 32

Amy Czerniec on Tuesday, August 1st, awaiting release from her 8CFAC room at Froedtert Hospital, Wauwatosa, Wisconsin. It's amazing how things can sometimes turn around when several teams of first-rate professionals use the...

Another Week: Number 31

Whiteboard welcome message at 8CFAC, Froedtert Hospital, Wauwatosa, Wisconsin. We were caged this week — Amy in her cold hospital room, pinned to her pillow by pain in her cranium, and me commuting between there and our...