BEVERLY HILLS, Calif., Oct. 23 (UPI) -- Hollywood is celebrating the diamond anniversary of "The Circus," regarded by Charles Chaplin fans as one of the screen legend's finest pictures -- even though it is not as well-known as Chaplin classics such as "Modern Times," "City Lights" and "The Great Dictator."
Chaplin wrote, directed and starred in the picture, in which his iconic Tramp character inadvertently becomes a hit in the circus while trying to escape from the police, who mistake him for a pickpocket. He's immediately hired as a performer, only to find that he can't be funny intentionally. In keeping with Chaplin's penchant for romanticism and sentimentality, the Tramp falls for the circus owner's daughter but has competition from a dashing young rival.
To celebrate the anniversary, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences screened a restored print of the movie on Friday, with a 26-piece orchestra performing the score that Chaplin composed in 1969 -- more than 40 years after the movie's premiere. Several members of Chaplin's family, including actress Geraldine Chaplin, attended the screening.
She told United Press International that making "The Circus" was quite an ordeal for her father.
"The misfortunes were just unbelievable," she said.
The first four weeks of shooting, which involved difficult tightrope-walking scenes, had to be reshot after the film stock came back from the lab ruined by scratches. The spoiled footage represented something like 700 takes.
"Then a fire destroyed the set, and the firemen destroyed what the fire didn't destroy," said Geraldine Chaplin. "Then his mother died. Then there was this huge, ugly, insane divorce from Lita Grey."
Grey was an actress who had starred in Chaplin's 1921 features "The Kid" and "The Idle Class." In order to protect his assets from the divorce settlement, Geraldine Chaplin said her father hid the fact that he was making "The Circus" and hid all the footage he had shot.
"Then Lita decided she would name five actresses he had slept with," said Chaplin. "One was Marion Davies (who at the time was William Randolph Hearst's mistress). She was frightened of being exposed so my father paid off Lita Grey."
With the divorce out of the way, shooting resumed, but the ordeal had turned Charles Chaplin's hair white and aged his face considerably -- so he had to reshoot even more scenes.
"Then the tax man came in, and my father owed $1 million," said Geraldine Chaplin.
There's more, but it all added up to a movie that Geraldine Chaplin said eventually "brought back too many bad memories for daddy" -- even though she said it was "wonderfully received" when it arrived in movie theaters.
"It's the same message as in all of my father's films," she said. "He's always for the underdog against injustice."
Charles Chaplin's reputation was built on titles such as "Modern Times," "The Great Dictator" and "The Gold Rush." Geraldine Chaplin said "The Circus" ranks among her father's best work, even though it doesn't have the same cachet as the other titles.
"I think maybe because it wasn't shown for so long," she said. "I think it maybe also had something to do with the music. When my father started writing music for his films, he dug up 'The Circus' and wrote that."
With arrangement and orchestration help from collaborators including David Raksin and Eric James, Charles Chaplin came up with a musical score that is rich and imaginative. Robert Israel, who conducted the orchestra at the academy screening, said Charles Chaplin was musically illiterate but had a great ear and knew what he wanted to hear from each instrument.
"I think he had enough experience in English music halls," said Israel, "to know what he wanted from the music."
Israel is something of an expert on silent movie music, having spent more than 20 years accompanying silents and composing music for documentaries and silent film reissues.
Geraldine Chaplin said that Warner Bros. Home Video is planning to release all of her father's movies, starting with "The Great Dictator." She said the home video package will include color home movie footage shot by her uncle, Sidney Chaplin, on the set of Charles Chaplin's 1940 satire of Nazi Germany.
A publicist at Warner Bros. Home Video confirmed that plans call for releasing Chaplin titles, but said an official announcement would come at a later date. Charles Chaplin died nearly 25 years ago, on Christmas 1977, at 87.