Showing posts with label Radio. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Radio. Show all posts

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Listen to Chaplin, Nigel Bruce, and others in a political roundtable discussion on KFWB, December 1942

I've posted this before, but it seemed appropriate to post again since the election. Chaplin enjoyed a good political argument and was very passionate about his beliefs, which comes through in the following discussion. I have a feeling he would be just as worried about our country now as he was then.

"On Wednesday, December 16, 1942, Charlie Chaplin  made one of the most unusual radio broadcasts of his career. His friend Robert Arden asked him to appear on America Looks Abroad, a 45-minute political roundtable talk show not unlike the ones heard on countless cable news networks today. The program aired on KFWB in Los Angeles, owned and operated by Warner Brothers Pictures. Then, as now, KFWB was a major station with a wide broadcast range, but it was unlikely that the  program was heard beyond Southern California."1

Besides Chaplin, the other panelists included Nigel Bruce (who was later cast as Mr. Postant in Limelight), Sir Cedric Hardwicke, Dr. Emil Ludwig, the biographer of Napoleon whom Chaplin met in France in 1931, and Mutiny On The Bounty directer Frank Lloyd.

The somewhat shady & opportunistic Arden met Chaplin in 1941 and became part of his small inner circle of friends. He is mentioned often in Chaplin's FBI file since the two shared what it called "leftist proclivities." Arden was also involved in the Joan Barry scandal. In fact, he may have been the one who suggested introducing Barry to Chaplin in the first place. Two years later in 1943, he was indicted for his participation in Chaplin's alleged violation of the Mann Act (aka conspiring to deny Joan Barry of her civil rights).  Ironically, the infamous incident in which Joan Barry broke into Chaplin's home with a gun occurred one week after this broadcast on December 23rd, 1942.

Arden and Chaplin

More about this broadcast and Arden's relationship with Chaplin can be found in Rob Farr's essay "Chaplin On The Radio--Part II" in Limelight and The Music Hall Tradition.

Now a little about this recording. It is missing the opening introductions & begins with Arden announcing the topic of the day: "The Question of Unity: How much unity do we have to have to bring this war to a successful conclusion?" Chaplin does not talk about his personal life nor his films. He only discusses politics--something he loved to talk about. And at times he gets very passionate about it. He will discuss the "bugaboo about Communism" & during one particularly heated response declares: "I am going to be Communistic." His remarks are often met with applause from the audience. This is a Chaplin most of us have only read about but not heard.

For those who only want to hear the Chaplin parts, the longest ones can be found at :50 & 6:53 (responding to comments by Nigel Bruce), 17:50, 19:20, 27:35, & his final remarks are heard at 41:20. However sprinkled in between these segments are some back and forth exchanges between Chaplin & the other panelists that are certainly worth hearing, if you have time.

1Rob Farr, "Chaplin On The Radio--Part II"

Friday, July 29, 2016

Chaplin delivers a radio broadcast in support of Roosevelt's "Buy Now" campaign, October 24th, 1933

Broadcasting nationally at 7:30pm from Columbia outlet KHJ in Los Angeles, Chaplin appealed to the country to show its support for President Franklin D. Roosevelt's N.R.A. (National Recovery Administration). It had been five years since his last national radio broadcast, so this was the first time many listeners had heard his voice and were "surprised and thrilled at his British accent."

However, in keeping with past radio appearances, he was struck with a severe case of "mike fright" before going on the air. Employees of KHJ said he was the "most nervous person they had ever seen broadcast....he paced the floor muttering over and over, 'Twenty million people' as though the thought of addressing such a vast audience was appalling." He reportedly "consumed half a box of medicated throat discs and several cups of java before going on....Station audiences went fidgety watching [him] perspire."

"[Chaplin] rehearsed his opening joke several times and when the time came for him to deliver it he almost had a spasm. But as the broadcast progressed he warmed to his subject and began striding about and gesticulating. On one occasion he missed the microphone by a fraction of an inch when impulse prompted him to wave an arm."

His 900-word speech began as follows:
When I was notified from Washington to speak in behalf of the N. R. A., I was asked to be serious. So when I am asked to be serious, I shall be serious. Like the young lady at a Jewish ball, when a young gentleman went up to her and said: ‘Excuse me, are you dencing?' she answered: ‘Are you esking” ‘Sure, I'm esking.’ ’Den, I’m dencing.’ So, like the young lady, then I am serious."
He continued...
As you know, the code of the N. R. A. is for reducing the hours of labor, raising the wages to a higher level and increasing the purchasing power of the people. Whether this can be accomplished or not depends upon the patriotism and goodwill of every citizen of this country.

Stressing the necessity of “buying now," he said:
Those who are fortunate enough to have money should spend it. Be like the little boy who was given 10 cents and was asked what he would do with it. He said: ‘I'm going to buy an ice cream soda!' But, said the giver: ‘Wouldn't you like to give it to a missionary to help the savages in Africa?' ‘Sure, but I'll buy an ice cream soda and ask the soda clerk to do that.'
He then referred to the 11,000,000 unemployed:
Naturally this appeal is not made to them. But there are 90,000,000 people in America, myself included, who have means--who have the purchasing power to buy now and can help to put those unemployed back to work. After all, we are not making any sacrifices. On the contrary, it is to our advantage if we buy now, because prices are bound to rise later on. 
Concluding, he said:
In March when all the banks were closed the people cried for action. Now President Roosevelt has given us that action. The Government has given us a program, and now it is our turn for action.  

Boston Globe, October 24th, 1933
Los Angeles Times, October 25th, 1933
Variety, October 1933

Monday, October 26, 2015

BBC Radio Interview with Chaplin from October 15th, 1952

Charlie is interviewed by film producer Michael Balcon, actor John Mills and critics Dilys Powell and Paul Holt.

Duration: 29 minutes

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Chaplin gives his first radio broadcast to promote A Woman Of Paris

Chaplin was extremely nervous about his radio debut, which took place on October 3rd, 1923 at WOR in Newark, NJ. Before going on he paced the studio and continuously mopped his brow. "You can face the camera," he told J. M. Barnett, director of WOR, "knowing that if you make a mistake, if you slip up, you can try again; you can make over the picture. Think of all the thousands of people out there in the world hanging onto everything I say." Charlie frowned, mopped his brow again, and said pitiably, "I don't know what to say, I haven't prepared a speech."

Seated before the microphone, he nervously squirmed, gulped, buttoned and unbuttoned his coat. Finally he braced himself and opened his mouth: "My friends, this is all way beyond me. I’m glad you can’t see me—I am nervous as a witch.” He continued: "It is to me ghastly to think of you out there in your homes with Tom, Dick, Katherine, Harry and the baby all gathered around, and me here by this funny little thing perforated with holes (the thing, not I), my knees trembling, my hands tightly clasped."


In the course of the broadcast, which lasted half an hour, he did some imitations, including an imitation of a jazz band. "I can play any instrument of the orchestra," he declared, "Just listen." Then, one by one, he signaled the various members of a jazz band specially engaged for the occasion and made each man do his bit. "Now I'll play them all at once," he said, and the orchestra broke into "The Blue Danube." Chaplin concluded the broadcast by telling the listeners: "If you have nothing else to do, go to see my new picture, which I directed, A Woman Of Paris."

Afterward, Charlie told the studio director that he "lost nine pounds in fifteen minutes" (due to stage fright) and could sign a statement to that effect.

"As he left the studio, he asked anxiously, 'Did I talk sense into that thing?' Then he shook his fist at the microphone, grinned the grin that has earned him a fortune and went on his way."

Radio Digest, October 27th, 1923
Pictures & The Picturegoer, May 1924

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Dodge Brothers Radio Hour

Back Row: Albin Kesley Schoepf (Dodge Bros. rep.), Douglas Fairbanks & Joseph Schenck, president of UA.
Front Row: Dolores Del Rio, John Barrymore, CC, D.W. Griffith & Norma Talmadge.

On March 29th, 1928, six of United Artists' biggest stars gathered behind locked doors in Douglas Fairbanks' studio bungalow to do a nationwide broadcast on the Dodge Brothers Radio Hour. The show would be heard not only in people's homes but also in movie theaters in a 55-city hookup. Radio had fast become a popular form of entertainment by the late 1920s and was the movies' only competition. Mixing the two was a controversial move:
R.F. Woodhull, president of the Motion Picture Theater Owners of America, protested that broadcasting the voices of favorite screen stars during normal show times would sharply reduce attendance. In fact, MGM, Paramount and First National had all been approached by the radio people and had passed on the project. Only Joseph M. Schenck, president of United Artists, was willing to take the risk. In the face of Woodhull's protestations, Schenck could only respond that all the contracts had been signed and the broadcast had to go on.1

On the program that evening were Douglas Fairbanks, who gave a speech on exercise and self-confidence & also served as master of ceremonies, Dolores Del Rio sang the title song to her forthcoming film "Ramona," Norma Talmadge discussed women's fashions, D.W. Griffith read an essay about love,  John Barrymore, not surprisingly, presented a soliloquy from Hamlet, and Chaplin told "characteristic stories."2 Paul Whiteman's Orchestra performed a number of tunes and Dodge Brothers president, Edward Wilmer, spoke for ten minutes, much to the chagrin of the audience, about the company's latest "Standard Six" model. Mary Pickford was originally on the bill but was forced to back out due to the death of her mother. Gloria Swanson was also asked to participate but declined saying that she felt her audience would prefer to see her rather than hear her.

Ad from Capital Times, Madison, WI

Douglas Fairbanks introduced "Charles Chaplin" as "the hardest working man I know." Audibly nervous, Chaplin spoke to the audience: "Ladies and gentlemen, in thanking my good friend, Douglas, I admire the spirit in which he remains modest about himself while extolling the achievements of others." Chaplin then told several "humorous" stories. Including one about how he was once complimented by a lady who thought he was Harold Lloyd. Another was about a cake, and one story he attributed to Ed Wynn. He closed by saying "I  must now get behind the screen, where I am more eloquent than here." His performance brought mixed reviews. The Syracuse Journal was pleasantly surprised by the "heavy, masterful tones, with an unmistakeable English accent." The Chicago Tribune noted that "he had a nice little voice" although it was "a bit nervous and hesitating at times." The reviews in Variety weren't so kind. Abel wrote: "Rather see Charlie in makeup than hear Charles from now on" Chaplin was not only the "only star to stutter," but the stories he told had been heard before. After the broadcast, Chaplin remarked that he nearly died from "mike fright" & was worried as to how had done.

The broadcast also had its share of technical problems. There were complaints of static due to bad weather. A number of theater owners claimed that the entire program was inaudible because of it.
However the biggest problem was the reaction of the audience, especially at the Fifth Avenue Playhouse in New York where patrons booed, hissed, stamped their feet, and yelled "take it off!" until theater managers were forced to comply. Some theaters tried to show newsreels and silent comedies during the broadcast but it didn't help. Numerous patrons left the theater in disgust. Others demanded that the theater bring back the regular feature. The overall consensus was that the broadcast was a flop. As Variety succinctly put it: "Movie stars should be screened not heard."

Following the show, Chaplin hosted a "buffet supper" at his home. "Having received from Dodge Brothers a $5,000 check for five minutes' talk, Chaplin felt he could afford to entertain Wall Street right royally which he did until three o'clock in the morning. Fifty people attended the supper, featured by a speech by the comedian on "Capital and Labor" that sent Otto Kahn into convulsions of laughter!"3

This was not Chaplin's first radio broadcast. In 1923, he appeared on WOR in New Jersey to promote A Woman Of Paris. He went on to do a handful of radio broadcasts over the next twenty years. Read more about them here.

1Rob Farr, "Screened But Not Heard, The Big Broadcast Of 1928," 2000
2New York Times, March 30th, 1928
3Mayme Peak, Boston Globe, April 11, 1928

Other sources:

Chicago Tribune, March 30, 1928
Decatur Daily Review, March 30, 1928
Film Daily, April 1, 1928
Syracuse Journal, April 1, 1928
Variety, April 4, 1928

Farr, Rob, "Screened But Not Heard, The Big Broadcast Of 1928," 2000
Crafton, Donald, The Talkies: American Cinema's Transition to Sound, 1926-1931, 1999