Seventy-five years ago this week, silent film icon Charlie Chaplin released his black and white classic "Modern Times," which was filmed, in part, in a remote area of Santa Clarita.
To help commemorate the occasion, a Hesperia monument maker has created a granite marker that was unveiled at a dedication ceremony last Saturday.
"We're working on it right now," Maria Sotelo, who operates High Desert Monuments with her husband Charles Sotelo, said last week. "It's going to be really cool."
The three-inch thick black granite marker is 32 inches wide, 20 inches tall and weighs nearly 400 pounds. To evoke a bygone era when Chaplin was king of the silent film era, the marker is printed in black and white. A portion of the marker will be engraved, while photos and other components will be etched utilizing a high-tech lithographic process.
Charles Sotelo, who works as supervisor at a heat treating plant when he's not creating grave markers and monuments, transported the item to the Santa Clarita site on Friday.
The location of Chaplin's final film shoot is currently on private land, so the commemorative site someday could be moved to a public area nearby, Maria Sotelo said. "We can relocate it if needed."
The marker features several photos from "Modern Times," which featured "Smile," a song whose music was written by Chaplin and later became a standard. One photo shows Chaplin and co-star Paulette Goddard walking down a Santa Clarita road.
"If you look up you'll see the same stretch of street."
And, according to Maria Sotelo, not much has changed at the location. "There was like nothing out there."
"Modern Times" was released on Feb. 5, 1936. The comedy has been regarded as Chaplin's most important work. In the movie, Chaplin, portraying his classic "Little Tramp" character, tries to adapt to an ever-changing, industrialized world. Despite its humor, "Modern Times" also serves as a commentary on the Great Depression of the 1930s. The film is regarded as one of the last great silent films.
Last year, High Desert Monument created a granite gravestone for Jack Norworth, who wrote "TakeMe Out To The Ballgame." Norworth died in 1959, but the previous marker at his gravesite didn't adequately tribute the man who wrote one of the most iconic songs in America, Sotelo said.
Like Chaplin, Sotelo says she and her husband are constantly thinking outside of the box when creating markers, gravestones and monuments. While the larger companies often create look-alike markers in factories, the entrepreneurial High Desert Monuments has the freedom to be more creative and flexible.
"We want to do stuff that nobody else can offer," Sotelo said.