The 1914 film, “A Thief Catcher,” was missing for so many years that people forgot Charlie Chaplin made a brief cameo as a buffoon Keystone cop, with his familiar twitches and gestures.
The film turned up late last year at a Michigan antique sale. Film historian Paul Gierucki thought he was buying just another Keystone Studios comedy.
He didn’t actually watch the 16mm print for months. Then, in March, he realized he had one of Chaplin’s earliest films.
The first public screening since perhaps 1914 comes Saturday at a comedy film festival in Arlington, Va.