Festival honoring Chaplin, Fremont’s silent film history to be held this weekend

It’s going to be a sunny, summer-like weekend with plenty to do. Topping the list for some will be the annual Charlie Chaplin Days festival, held in Niles. Here’s some more info about it:

Charlie Chaplin Days, scheduled from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, will feature movies, art exhibits and carnival games on the same streets where the screen legend honed his craft 98 years ago.

The event will focus “on what he did best — making movies and making people laugh,” said Rena Kiehn, the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum spokeswoman and store manager.

Niles was the center of Bay Area filmmaking from 1913 to 1916, when the Essanay Film Manufacturing Company made silent movies. Meanwhile, the British-born Chaplin started his film career in 1914 at Keystone Studios in Hollywood, where he earned $150 a week while working alongside Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle and other silent film notables.

Essanay executives lured Chaplin to Niles by offering him an 800 percent raise and a $10,000 signing bonus, according to the museum. He filmed a handful of movies in Niles in 1915 before heading back to Los Angeles at the end of the year, once again for a bigger paycheck. Essanay closed its studio doors for good a few months later.

The festival aims to celebrate that short-lived but historically significant era. On Saturday and Sunday, five movies that Chaplin filmed in Niles will be screened.

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Chris DeBenedetti

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