The comedy called A Thief Catcher was made in 1914 and was missing for so many years that Chaplin's appearance in it as a buffoon policeman had been forgotten.

The 10-minute movie was discovered by the American cinema historian, Paul Gierucki, who bought a can of old film marked "Keystone" at an antiques sale in Michigan.

He assumed it was just another Keystone Cops movie and didn't watch the 16mm reel for months.

When he finally looked at the film, which is in good condition, he was amazed to see what looked like Chaplin emerging from the bushes in a police uniform, several sizes too big, armed with a nightstick.

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