Conversations in the Lobby: Anatomy of a Book Launching II

Next was a very lovely lunch at this restaurant called “Diana” and the list of guests was a veritable who’s who of Chaplin people. Kate Guyonvarch and Peter Wyeth–for those of you who went to the London conference, he was our host on that occasion—also Bryony Dixon from the BFI was there. Cecilia Cenciarelli and Michaela Zegna from Progetto Chaplin. Maestro Timothy Brock. Kevin Brownlow, David Robinson, Dr. and Mrs. Chuck Maland, Dr. Frank Scheide, and Gian Luca Farinelli. And then, in the last few minutes, Michael and Patricia Chaplin arrived and were introduced all around.

That was truly enough for one day, but not so. During lunch that day, Cecilia got a call asking if I would consider being interviewed for a popular cult radio program called “Hollywood Party” for RAI 3 Radio (similar to NPR) out of Rome. Sure! So about 7 o’clock (this is why I missed three Keystones) I went into this small room at the Cineteca and took part in the most complicated radio interview you can imagine. My interviewer was a guy named Tatti Sanguinetti, an associate of Fellini’s I guess, and he was sitting at the desk right in front of me. I was to hold the telephone handset to my ear. He would speak to me on the phone in Italian (although he was in the same room!), Cecilia would then translate his questions, I would answer them into the phone in English and she would then translate them into Italian on another handset. Six questions delivered with my answers, at the speed of lightning. And then we all had the pleasure of sticking around and watching one of Fellini’s leading ladies, Sandra Milo from 8 ½, do a very kitchy interview. Seventy years old and looking incredible in a black fishnet top with black undergarments visible underneath. Stiletto heels and blonde hair. Amazing.

As a bit of a sidebar, the restored Keystones, with one exception, are a real treat. The ones I saw were The Fatal Mallet, The Star Boarder, A Busy Day, The Face on the Barroom Floor and Caught in a Cabaret. The last one was still very difficult to look at really, but the others were great. Who knew that The Star Boarder, for instance, has a scene with Charlie on the tennis courts? It has to be the first filmic record of this, for sure. Charlie in a skirt in A Busy Day is always funny, especially when you can see his expressions so clearly, but The Fatal Mallet was my favorite. If you remember, Charlie, Mack Sennett, some young boy child and Mack Swain, all vie for the favors of Mabel Normand in this one, and with the film so well restored, I was able to enjoy all the nuances of the thing for the first time. The films I missed because of the interview included His Prehistoric Past (and, boy, I hated to miss this one), Between Showers, and The Knockout, which is mostly Roscoe Arbuckle anyway.
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