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Harken back to a time when silence was golden

Event: Inaugural ChaplinFest at William S. Hart Park celebrates silent-film era

Posted: February 6, 2011 1:30 a.m.
Updated: February 6, 2011 1:30 a.m.

The Master’s College student Alicia Ramos takes a photograph of a vintage movie that was used as a prop in the 1992 film “Chaplin,” starring Robert Downey Jr. The camera was on display as part of the Santa Clarita Valley 2011 Chaplin Fest held at William S. Hart Park in Newhall on Saturday.

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If Trekkies are a testament to the success of Star Trek, then the appearance of at least one “Chappy” at Santa Clarita Valley’s first ever ChaplinFest this weekend bodes well for organizers hoping to make it a tradition.

Legendary cowboy movie star William S. Hart surely would have been proud to watch young and old show up at his park to honor not only one of his contemporaries, but one of the world’s most recognizable movie stars ever.

When Chaplin — the iconic silent-film comic — chose to film his last cinematic moment on Sierra Highway, he may have just put Santa Clarita Valley on the map of international film festivals, or so organizers hope.

Chaplin filmed the final scene of his film “Modern Times” 75 years ago Saturday, on a desolate stretch of Sierra Highway near Wallace Canyon Road.

If there was ever a single metaphoric image for the demise of silent films, the inconic shot of Chaplin as the Little Tramp character alone walking off into the sunset is surely a contender.

The people attending ChaplinFest were treated to actual Chaplin artifacts, such as the Keystone bowler hat and Billy club, courtesy of the History Department of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.

“The festival did what we hoped it would do, in terms of bringing in different age groups, families and individual fans,” said Beth Werling, one of five festival organizers who works as the natural history museum’s collections manager.

For 9-year-old Milo Sherman, who arrived at ChaplinFest with his father, Patrick, the visit was research for a school project.

“We had to dress up and do biographies of famous people, and I chose Charlie Chalpin,” the boy said, adding that he recently watched “Modern Times” and legitimately liked it.

“I really like it,” he said, even when he was reminded the film is not shot in 3-D, has no interactive component, isn’t in color and has no spoken word.

One of the star guests of the festival was actress Tippi Hedren, now 81, who starred in Chaplin’s “Modern Times” and who dedicated a special monument to the location of the final scene of that movie.


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