This amazing publicity still comes from Kevin Brownlow and David Gill’s great book Hollywood, which accompanied their beyond-amazing TV series of the same name. I think that book was the first serious film book I ever owned.
Screen left — Chaplin mans the camera. Screen right — Keaton wields a sign reading “OK” and prepares to deliver a “KO”.
Just think, if Chaplin had started the motor and exposed just a few frames of film, that would technically constitute a whole other Chaplin-Keaton collaboration, years before LIMELIGHT.
I wonder who originated the (unjustified) rumour that Chaplin cut this scene to favour himself and omit Buster’s funniest gags? (It’s a brilliant sequence, but let’s face it, it does not show signs of having been savagely truncated. At all.) Also, I wonder if Chaplin came up with all the stuff himself, or, as seems likely, Keaton contributed ideas — he was only hired as an actor, but both men were adept collaborators who had used gag men at their studios… This leads to a further question about Chaplin’s collaborations with his actors in general — one expects, working without a script, he was open to suggestions from them, and indeed he loved to hire experienced comedians for key roles in his films. The talkie THE GREAT DICTATOR gives more work to vaudevillians than to veterans of the silent age, but still finds a spot for Chester Conklin. We know CC often directed actors by performing their roles for them (as does Polanski), which argues for a more controlling approach, but still, I wonder…