Showing posts with label music. Show all posts
Showing posts with label music. Show all posts

Monday, December 14, 2015

LIMELIGHT wins the award for Best Original Dramatic Score at the 1973 Academy Awards + the Mystery of Larry Russell's nomination

Candace Bergen accepts the award on behalf of Chaplin who was not present. This footage was new to me.

Although the film was released in 1952, it wasn't shown in Los Angeles until 1972 & therefore wasn't eligible for an Oscar until then. The award was presented to Chaplin and his collaborators Raymond Rasch & Larry Russell, except the latter had nothing to do with the film. This was evidently a flub on the part of the Academy. By 1973, both Larry Russell and Raymond Rasch were deceased (Rasch's son and Russell's daughter accept the awards on their behalf at the ceremony). When the Academy asked Chaplin who arranged the music, he answered Raymond Rasch. When Rasch's widow was asked who else arranged the score with her husband, she said "someone named Russell." The Academy immediately thought of Larry Russell, who was also a music arranger. When the Academy asked Russell's widow if he had worked on the film, she only said "he must have." But he didn't. According to David Robinson's Footlights & The World of Chaplin's Limelight (2014) a letter exists in the Chaplin Archives that shows that, before work on the film began, Russell had offered his services as conductor, but they were declined and at no time was he ever employed by the studio.* It appears that the award should have been given to composer/arranger Russell Garcia. In an interview in 2008, Garcia was asked why he never made an effort to correct the mistake himself: "I don't want to make trouble for anyone or spoil anyone’s fond thoughts or memories...I've won plenty of awards. I just forgot about it." Read more of his interview here. Garcia passed away in 2011.

Strangely enough, Robinson's book also notes that Garcia's name appears nowhere in the daily records of the Chaplin Studio. "If he worked on the music, it can only have been a purely private arrangement between himself and Rasch." While this might be true, a photo does exist of Garcia & Chaplin at a recording session for Limelight.

Below is a photo from my collection, taken at the same time as the photo above. I thought the man next to Chaplin (in the white shirt) might be Garcia as well. I might be wrong but the hair and shirt are similar. The man at far left is Raymond Rasch. 

*According to Robinson, following Russell's nomination in 1973, his widow "asked for a one-third share in performance royalties in the Limelight music--a claim which she quickly retracted, saying 'that she had made her claim due to a misunderstanding."

Friday, November 13, 2015

Recording session for MODERN TIMES, November 1935

 At right, Chaplin shakes hands with conductor Alfred Newman. 

Eighty-years ago this month, Chaplin recorded the music for Modern Times, his final silent film. The sessions were held on a soundstage at the United Artists Studios, with a 65-piece orchestra conducted by Alfred Newman.1 Chaplin had composed the music himself, with the help of arrangers David Raksin and Edward Powell, including the "love theme" which would become one of his most famous melodies, better known as the pop standard "Smile."2

Below is Hollywood reporter Sidney Skolsky's eyewitness account of one of the recording sessions:
Chaplin sits in a camp chair on a large recording set at the United Artists studio, supervising the scoring. His hair is gray. He has a stubble gray beard. He wears black patent leather shoes with white suede tops, and his right arm is carried in a sling.3 A blue silk muffler serves as a sling. Chaplin broke his thumb in the door of his auto. 
Al Newman stands on a small platform, waving a baton at 65 musicians. David Raksin, who made the music arrangements for Chaplin, is also present to supervise. 
There is a screen hanging in midair in back of the orchestra. The part of Modern Times being scored will be shown on the screen. Chaplin is chewing gum in time with the orchestra. Only a few of Chaplin's personal friends among the magazine writers and several visitors from the Soviet cinema have seen sections of the picture. No newspaperman has seen a flash of it. I walk on the set, stand and watch. Soon Chaplin sees me. He grins a broad "Hello" and then says it. I approach him. "I'd like to watch you work. May I?" Chaplin has always been congenial to me. "Stay around," he answers, "but don't tell too much." 
The orchestra starts rehearsing the music for the factory sequence in which Chaplin revolts against being a slave of the machinery. He throws the place into confusion and does a wild dance. The music is as difficult as the scene. Every note must be timed exactly with the film, and the music is not loud and brazen as expected of factory sounds. The orchestra rehearses these few bars again...again...again. An hour later, they're still doing these few bars. The orchestra stops playing. The men leave their chairs. There's time out for five minutes, like a football team. It is strenuous work. The musicians work only three, four hours at the most, at a stretch. Then they have an hour for relaxation. Yesterday, they worked from 9 in the morning until 4 o'clock the next morning, and about half a reel was completely scored. It costs Chaplin on the average of $1,000 an hour to score this flicker. 
L-R: Charles Dunworth (asst. to Alfred Newman), Alfred Newman (conductor), CC, David Raksin (arranger),
 Paul Neal (recording engineer), and Edward Powell (arranger). 
Now, after several hours of rehearsing, Al Newman and Chaplin agree they will try to record this scene. The signal is given. The picture is ready to be flashed on the screen. The man in the sound booth is ready to pick up the music and capture  it. I am invited to sit in the sound booth with Paul Neal, for here I can see the picture and hear the music as it is recorded. He is the only man on the set who sees and hears the flicker as if it were being shown in a theater. Chaplin, with the baggy trousers, the big shoes and black hair, is on the screen. The Chaplin with neat clothes and gray hair sits looking at him. 
The flicker is on. Chaplin is performing. The first impression is very strange. I see Chaplin moving, his mouth opens--but no sounds, no words are heard. For a moment I believe something is wrong. Then I remember it is a silent flicker. The orchestra plays the same few bars again and again, and the picture is started over and over. By now I am becoming accustomed to silent pictures.4 Chaplin watches the picture and listens to the music. He jumps up to stop the music. He okays a take. He asks Newman or Raksin or Neal how it sounded. 
It is really interesting to watch Chaplin watch Chaplin. He never laughs at him, but is always intent. Chaplin when talking about the Chaplin on the screen says, "The little feller does that..." or "He doesn't do that..." But he never calls the Chaplin on the screen "I." To him the Chaplin on the screen is a character. 
--Sidney Skolsky, "Chaplin's Modern Times," Washington Post, November 27, 1935

Chaplin is seated at right near the conductor's podium.

Photos by Max Munn Autrey


1Alfred Newman would eventually walk out on the film after a blow up with Chaplin. According to David Raksin: "They were operating on ragged nerves, and after one bad take Charlie had accused the players of "dogging it"--lying down on the job. At this, Newman, who at the best of times had a hair-trigger temper, had broken his baton and stalked off the stage, and was now refusing to work with Chaplin." ("Life with Charlie," 1983) Newman never returned. Arranger Edward Powell took over as conductor for the remainder of the sessions.
2Lyrics were added to the melody in 1954 by John Turner and Geoffrey Parsons.
3You can see the sling on Chaplin in the last photo if you look closely. He is also wearing it in this photo taken at a party for H.G. Wells around the same time.
4By 1935, talkies had been around for nearly a decade and silent films were a thing of the past.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Sheet music for "Those Charlie Chaplin Feet"

This was a popular song during the "Chaplinitis" craze of 1915. The cover includes a couple of candid photos from By The Sea.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Meredith Willson on Charlie's "twiddeldy bits"

“The themes we use, excepting for a bit of Wagner and Brahms interpolation, are about half Mr. Chaplin’s and half mine, with my development and orchestration. And it’s uncanny how right he always is when technically he isn’t a musician and can’t read a note of music. In scoring the picture we’d run it through, then in this place or that one he’d sing a few notes; something he’d call a ‘twiddeldy bit,’ and it would unerringly work out to be exactly what the sequence needed.” --Photoplay, December 1940
Willson was Musical Director for The Great Dictator (1940) which received an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Score. But he is best remembered for composing the hit musical The Music Man. 

Willson & CC at the Chaplin Studios.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Spring Is Here

"Spring Song" (Limelight, 1952)

Charlie's handwritten notes for "Spring Song" with slightly different lyrics:

Limelight: Project Chaplin No. 1 / ©Roy Export SAS

Spring is here
Birds are calling
Wagging their tails for love

Flies are flying
Skunks are crawling
Wagging their tails for love

It's in the air
It's everywhere
The sun, below and above
Fish are swimming
Stingers stinging
Wagging their tails for love

Wales [sic] are churning
Worms are squirming
Wagging their tails for love

What is this thing
On which I sing
That makes us all bewitch
What is this thing
That comes in spring
That gives us all the itch

Oh it's love, it's love
love love love love love love....

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

"Auld Lang Syne"

In his autobiography, Chaplin wrote that certain songs created the mood for his films. For The Immigrant it was an old song called “Mrs. Grundy," for Twenty Minutes Of Love, a popular two-step called "Two Much Mustard," Jose Padilla's "La Violatera" set the mood for City Lights, and lastly, for The Gold Rush, the mood was created with "Auld Lang Syne," which Charlie hears the revelers singing during this poignant scene in the film.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

"There's Always One You Can't Forget"

Written by Charles Chaplin

From Oh! That Cello by Thomas Beckmann

This song, plus two other Chaplin compositions (“The Peace Patrol” & “Oh! That Cello”), were published by the short-lived Charlie Chaplin Music Publishing Company in 1916.

The song's lyrics tell a sad story of lost love:
I sit alone at twilight gazing in the firelight glow
And my mem'ry takes me back again, to days of long ago
Those happy days when you and I would share the sun and rain
Ah! What I would give, if I could live those happy days again
There's always one, you can't forget, There's always one, one vain regret
Tho' grief is dead--mem'ry survives. Fate linked we two, mated our lives
Why did we meet only to part, love comes but once into the heart
Tho' it may cause pain and regret, there's always one you can't forget
Tho' destiny decreed that we should live our lives apart
Yet your mem'ry dear will ever be engraven in my heart
The pain and anguish were endured, unspoken and unseen
Why it nearly breaks my heart to think of what might have been

Sheet music for "There's Always One You Can't Forget"

Monday, December 9, 2013

Chaplin with his musical collaborators for Modern Times, 1935

L-R: Charles Dunworth (asst. to Alfred Newman), Alfred Newman (conductor, uncle of Randy Newman), CC, David Raksin (arranger), Paul Neal (recording engineer), and Edward Powell (arranger). Photo by Max Munn Autrey.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Color home movie footage from The Great Dictator

This behind-the-scenes footage was taken by Charlie's half-brother, Sydney, during production of The Great Dictator. This is my edit of the original 26-minute footage which can be found on both the MK2 & Criterion DVD sets of the film.

Music: "The Great Dictator", from Charlie Chaplin: Essential Film Music, Carl Davis, conductor, & "Falling Star" from Oh! That Cello by Thomas Beckmann

Don't miss:

Opening shot & .21: Charlie (in costume) behind the camera
2:30: Charlie loses his temper.
2:49: Assistant director, Wheeler Dryden, Charlie's half-brother (Dryden is also the voice of the translator, Heinrich Schtick, during Hynkel's speech)
3:02: Betty Chaplin (later Betty Chaplin Tetrick, Charlie's cousin), at left wearing a white blouse, and Syd's wife, Gypsy. They are seen again at the 5:33 mark.
4:17: Henry Bergman (Bergman is not in the film but has an uncredited role as assistant).
4:28: Charlie waves to his brother.
4:45: Syd's panning shot taken from the roof of the Chaplin Studio garage, note the Hollywood sign in the distance, the set from City Lights where Charlie assessed the nude statue (5:00), & the Chaplin studio gate (5:31).

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Chaplin & John Philip Sousa, 1916

Sousa described the event in his autobiography Marching Along:  
It was at the Hippodrome Sunday feature concerts in 1915 [sic] that I first met that public idol, Charles Chaplin.  We had been reveling in the vocal gifts of Melba, Culp, Garden and Fremstad.  Charlie was therefore quite a departure.
“I want to lead your band!”  said Charlie.
“In what number?”  I asked.
“The Poet and Peasant overture,” he confidently replied.
At the rehearsal he mounted the podium, took my baton and as the band started the stately measures of the opening, he proceeded to beat time fully four times too fast!  That well-known blank expression came over his face but this time it was involuntary.  “That isn’t it!” he exclaimed.  I smiled.  “But I’ve played it many years,” I reminded him.  Suddenly I realized that he remembered only the allegro and had forgotten all about the moderato, so I told the band to begin again, this time with the allegro, and we were off!  On the night of the performance, the audience, reading his name on the program and never having seen him in the flesh, suspected a trick—-some clever impersonator of Chaplin—but, as he came from the wings, he did his inimitably funny little step and slowly proceeded to the band platform.  The house, convinced, rang with applause.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

"Nightclub Suite" from City Lights

This music, written by Chaplin, is from the film's original soundtrack (not the Carl Davis re-recording) complete with the sound effects when Charlie eats spaghetti.

From the CD: The Music Of Charles Chaplin, Vol. 2: The Talkies

Friday, August 9, 2013

Chaplin conducts the Abe Lyman Orchestra

As a publicity stunt in 1925, Charlie guest conducted the Abe Lyman Orchestra for a gramophone recording of two of his own original compositions: “Sing A Song” & “With You Dear, In Bombay." The songs may have been played in cinemas before screenings of The Gold Rush or the sheet music to the songs used by cinema musicians to accompany certain scenes during the film. Additional note: Charlie himself plays a short violin solo on both songs: “Sing A Song” (around the 1:40 mark) & "Bombay" (around 4:05).

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

"La Violetera"

Charlie was so taken with Spanish singer Raquel Meller's interpretation of Jose Padilla's "La Violetera" that he used the song in City Lights. I have a feeling he was probably a little taken with Raquel herself and like Charlie did with many of his female friends/companions, he offered her the role of Josephine in his never-to-be-made Napoleon movie.

Chaplin & Raquel Meller on the set of The Circus, 1926
Charlie met Raquel again in 1931 when City Lights premiered in the south of France. Meller performed the song as part of the opening program. May Reeves recalls the event: "During our stay at Juan-Les-Pins, City Lights premiered at Antibes. It was a great event for all the Côte d'Azur, heightened by the presence of Chaplin & Raquel Meller, who sang "La Violetera" with immense success. She admired Chaplin very much and asked him to write a scenario for her."

France, 1931. Charlie & Raquel are on the left. May Reeves is on the right. 

Sunday, January 6, 2013

"Swing Little Girl" sung by Charlie Chaplin

In 1968, Charlie created a new score for The Circus. He also wrote lyrics to a theme song called "Swing Little Girl" which was to be played over the opening credits while Merna Kennedy swings on a trapeze.  Three male vocalists made a demo of the song and Charlie chose the rendition he liked best. This recording, made by a British singer named Ken Barrie, still exists in the Chaplin archives. But according to arranger Eric James, the interpretation, though good, was not quite what they were looking for. Since Charlie privately enjoyed singing the song, James suggested that they record him, just so that he and his family could have it to listen to with orchestral accompaniment. Charlie happily complied and his rendition was the one that was chosen for the film. He was 79 years old.

Cover of the soundtrack LP for The Circus, released in Germany in 1970

Monday, November 12, 2012

Love Theme from Modern Times

Composed by Chaplin, this tune later became known as "Smile" (with lyrics added by John Turner & Geoffrey Parsons). Here is the original, instrumental version from the film, which I prefer.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

A song from CITY LIGHTS

This romantic tune accompanies the scene in which Charlie purchases flowers from the blind girl (after asking the millionaire for money) and then gives her a ride home in the Rolls Royce the millionaire has just given him.

The music, written by Chaplin, is from the original score for the film, which I prefer. Not the Carl Davis re-recording. To me, there is a difference.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Terry's Audition

Music composed by Charles Chaplin

Terry auditions for Mr. Postant as Neville plays the piano, Limelight (1952). Melissa Hayden, a dancer with the New York City ballet, doubles for Claire Bloom in this scene (as well as all of the dance scenes in the film).

After Terry's audition, Calvero, who had been watching the audition in the wings, is left alone in the theater and the lights are shut off around him.

Note: One of the tunes Neville plays in this scene is the same tune the kid making cookies at the progressive school in A King in New York is humming.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Charlie conducts the Abe Lyman Orchestra

As a publicity stunt in 1925, Charlie guest conducted the Abe Lyman Orchestra for a gramophone recording of two of his own original compositions: “Sing A Song” & “With You Dear, In Bombay”. The songs may have been played in cinemas before screenings of The Gold Rush or the sheet music to the songs used by cinema musicians to accompany certain scenes during the film. Additional note: Charlie himself plays a short violin solo on both songs: “Sing A Song” (around the 1:40 mark) & "Bombay" (around 4:05).