One of Scotland’s forgotten Hollywood stars who inspired slapstick legend Charlie Chaplin, is to take centre stage at a film festival dedicated to the age of silent movies.

Glasgow-born comedian Billie Ritchie made over 70 movies, many while dressed in tramp’s clothes, complete with walking stick, mini moustache and baggy trousers.

His films were made ten years before Charlie Chaplin appeared on the screen in a similar style, prompting accusations that the slapstick star had copied the Scot’s comedy style.

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But while Chaplin went on to become a global legend of the silver screen, Ritchie faded into obscurity.

He died at the age of 43 from stomach cancer apparently linked to injuries sustained after being kicked by an ostrich.

Now the his life is to be remembered as part of Hippfest, Scotland’s only festival dedicated to silent film. It will be held next month at The Hippodrome in Bo’ness, the country’s oldest-purpose built cinema.

Edinburgh University academic Trevor Griffiths, who has researched Billie Ritchie's life, said the festival was an ideal setting to reintroduce Scotland to one of its earliest film stars.

“Long dismissed as just another Charlie Chaplin impersonator, an examination of his career illustrated by rare footage from some of his surviving films reveals Billie to be a star in his own right, securing him international fame as ‘The Man Who Makes the World Laugh’,” he said.

Ritchie travelled the world alongside Charlie Chaplin and Stan Laurel as part of a comedy troupe before leaving to make silent films.

Many of his short films featured him as a drunk tramp character in ridiculous situations – almost identical to later Chaplin performances.

As well as featuring a talk on the screen star’s life, the five day film festival will combine silent movie screenings with world-class music. Among the highlights is a performance by Scottish singer-songwriter Gerda Stevenson, who will recite poetry and songs to celebrate the life and work of Scottish filmmaker, botanist and writer Isobel Wylie Hutchison, who travelled to Alaska and Greenland in the 1920s and 1930s where she filmed the landscape, flowers and indigenous people.

Festival goers will also have a chance to see a screening of Laurel & Hardy’s final silent film, Unaccustomed as We Are, and Grass: A Nation’s Battle for Life, a powerful trek through Persia in the 1920s directed by Merian C Cooper and Ernest B Schoedsack who both went on to direct the first King Kong film.

Multi-instrumentalist David Allison will open the festival with a new score written to accompany a rare screening of The Last of the Mohicans: the first film adaptation of James Fenimore Cooper’s classic novel.

Unveiling the Hippfest programme, Festival Director Alison Strauss said it contained a range of new features. “We’ve been busy rummaging the world’s archives, signing up the world’s best silent film accompanists and musicians and conjuring up ideas with a wide range of partners.

“People will find unparalleled comedians, long-forgotten pioneers, ground-breaking work and revelatory new scores alongside youth projects, workshops for school children and grown-ups, walks and talks.”