The film turned up at an antique sale in Taylor, Michigan, the Associated Press reported Thursday. Film historian Paul Gierucki thought he was buying an ordinary Keystone Studios movie. When he finally watched it, he was shocked and had to show the film to his friend, Richard Roberts, to be sure he could believe his eyes. The two men help organize the annual Slapsticon festival in Arlington, Virginia, and A Thief Catcher will make its debut at this year's fest (July 15-18).
Chaplin was one of the biggest stars of the silent era, and his films have mainly been well-documented and well-preserved, so A Thief Catcher is the first time in over 60 years a major change has been made to his filmography. 1914 was the year he made his film debut, at around age 25, and he made more than 35 short comedies that year. The newly-found film also stars Ford Sterling, Mack Swain, Edgar Kennedy, and Al St. John, all familiar faces in old Chaplin films.