Auction News

Chaplin’s early Sherlock role up for sale


1903 playbill for the play Sherlock Holmes an early appearance of Charlie Chaplin

One of the first printed records of Charlie Chaplin as a performer will be sold at auction. 

The playbill listing the young actor will be sold as part of an archive prepared while Chaplin worked on his autobiography with publisher Max Reinhardt.

Reinhardt owned and ran the Bodley Head publishing house. In 1964 he worked closely with Charlie Chaplin on Chaplin’s autobiography and an accompanying book of photographs. 

Researching the book brought together a large collection of papers and images from Chaplin’s life. Some are being sold in eight lots with a total estimate of £30,000 to £50,000 at Bonhams in London from June 7 – 20.

Reinhardt and Chaplin were close friends. The movie star was godfather to his daughter. She is selling the archive to benefit the MaxLiteracy charity, which promotes reading. 

Alongside extensively revised and annotated proofs of My Autobiography are personal mementoes like the 1903 playbill recording Chaplin’s performance as Billy in Sherlock Holmes at Wolverhampton’s Grand Theatre. 

portrait photograph of Charlie Chaplin by Edward Steichen

This Edward Steichen portrait of Chaplin brings together one of the 20th century’s great dramatic talents and one of its best photographers.

The play marked an important step in Chaplin’s rise to greatness. His work as Holmes’ pageboy on three provincial tours was good enough to earn him the role on the West End stage alongside the great William Gillette. 

Chaplin was around 14 when the play began, and left it two-and-a-half years later an accomplished and experienced stage performer. 

Buyers should expect to pay up to £800 for the playbill.

A huge collection of Chaplin photographs is sure to attract interest.  

More than 1,700 pictures brought together by Reinhardt for My Life in Pictures will be sold together. 

Collage of images of Charlie Chaplin

Extracts from a collection of Chaplin images show the breadth of his work.

They should realise £3,000 to £5,000 on estimate. 

Three pictures of Chaplin taken by Edward Steichen are listed separately with an estimate of £2,000 to £4,000. Steichen is one of the most important photographers, collectors and curators of the 20th century and he caught Chaplin at significant times in 1925 and 1931.

Matthew Haley, head of UK books and manuscripts at Bonhams, said: “It is a remarkable and important collection and all the more special that it is being sold to support such a fantastic cause.”

Chaplin is one of the most collectible of all entertainment figures. To call him a film star is not enough: he was a music hall star, stage actor, writer, director, producer, political activist, and pioneer of artist power in Hollywood. 

Much of Chaplin’s work is now considered art, and artefacts of his life and work are very collectible and can be valuable. 

Just last week two Chaplin posters were sold at auction in Dallas for $118,750 (City Lights, 1931) and $47,500 (The Kid, 1921).

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