Irish filmmaker George Clarke thinks he’s found a time traveler after viewing footage from the 1928 Hollywood premiere of the Charlie Chaplin film, “The Circus”. Tonic.com reports that a lady seen walking behind a zebra is doing something inexplicable.
According to Clarke, the woman, or someone dressed in woman’s clothing, is clutching a cell phone or something black next to her ear. In the footage, the person stops, turns and moves her lips as if talking to someone on the phone. Clarke believes this person is a time traveler caught on film. He’s shown the footage to hundreds of people and says no one to date has been able to offer him a viable explanation for the clip.
If a person in 1928 indeed has a cell phone or other type of questionable modern technological device, it would be an anachronism; whether accidental or deliberate, it’s an anachronism nonetheless. Some anachronisms in movies are unintentional.
Ridley Scott’s 2000 epic “Gladiator” has a lot of history behind it. A Roman general, Maximus (Russell Crowe), is disgraced by a new Emperor named Commodus (played expertly by Joaquin Phoenix). The movie entails Maximus getting his revenge upon Commodus.
“Gladiator” was an easy one for me to nitpick. I can’t help it-I’m a writer by nature and can pick apart a story very quickly. There was a lot of iron in “Gladiator,” and some of the jails were locked with padlocks and unlocked with keys. These fancy locks that we take for granted today weren’t invented until the mid-1800s.
Other weird things that happened in the movie included calling Maximus “The Spaniard,” yet Spain, and even the Spanish language, wasn’t even around yet. Spain wasn’t settled until later in the Roman Empire, especially since they were fighting in Germania (present day Germany). Spain would have been referred to as “Hispania,” and Maximus should have been called “The Hispanic.” Plus, Russell Crowe didn’t speak with a Hispanic accent in the film either. Perhaps Antonio Banderas would have been better (a la “The 13th Warrior”).
Charlie Chaplin’s Anachronism
There’s a perfectly logical and scientific explanation for the Charlie Chaplin footage which has nothing to do with time travel. If you walk through the sequence and look at how the shot is set up, the sun is behind the camera so that the zebra and buildings are well lit. The black object in the woman’s hand is simply a dark shadow. As to why this person is clutching her ear could be that she was holding something to keep it off the ground, like a long piece of clothing. The person has a lot of clothing on, and she could have been transporting something.
As to the reason why she’s talking, if you look at where the zebra is in relation to the edge of the shot, the person likely stopped to talk to someone off-screen who wouldn’t have been far away or out of earshot.
It’s easy to take something that we take for granted and transfer it onto another time or place. It happens all the time in human existence. We anthropomorphize animals to walk and talk like humans (a la cartoon animals). Because it looks like such a normal thing to see in modern times, of course we are going to think that someone is talking on a cell phone when there is another explanation.
Time traveler? No, that is the least logical explanation of them all.
Rossitto, Rachel, “Time Traveler on Cell Phone in ’20s Charlie Chaplin Film (VIDEO)”, Tonic.com.
YouTube, “Chaplins Time Traveler”, YouTube.com.