Program 171
"The Music of Charlie Chaplin"

MUSIC: Chaplin: “Smile” (“Ton sourire est dans mon coeur”) from Modern Times (Les Temps modernes) performed by Michel Villard and his Orchestra, arranged by Michel Villard [Vogue VG 651 600009, track 4] [under the following]

Hello and welcome to Compact Discoveries. I’m your guide, Fred Flaxman. The music in the background is called “Smile.” It is from the Charlie Chaplin movie, Modern Times. Can you name the composer? Well it was Charlie Chaplin himself. He not only produced this classic film, directed it, and starred in it -- he also wrote the tunes for the film score. And he not only did this for Modern Times, he did this for many of his films. So stay with me for the next hour and we’ll enjoy together “The Music of Charlie Chaplin.”

MUSIC: Fades out

Michel Villard and his orchestra.

Charles Spencer Chaplin lived from 1889 until 1977. He was born into a musical family in London. Both of his parents were singers as well as actors. Charlie and his brother Sydney took to the stage at an early age, Charlie rapidly gained a reputation as a fabulous tap dancer.

In 1910 he travelled to the United States as a featured player with the Fred Kamo Repertoire Company and became a big hit everywhere he performed. When he returned to the U.S. two years later he was offered a motion picture contract and joined Mack Sennett and the Keystone Film Company.

When that contract came to an end, he signed up with the Mutual Film Corporation, and by the time that contract expired in 1917 he was popular and wealthy enough to go out on his own and start his own film production company. Two years later he joined forces with Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford and D.W. Griffith to launch United Artists, with each of the artists retaining entire control of his or her respective productions. As part of United Artists, Chaplin made eight feature-length films, including Modern Times in 1936.

The melody “Smile” from that film became a smashing success on it own, recorded by, it seems, every popular singer to come along in the years since 1954 when John Turner and Geoffrey Parsons added the lyrics. The singers have included Nat King Cole, Johnny Mathis, Natalie Cole, Barbra Streisand, Judy Garland, Diana Ross, The Lettermen, Eric Clapton, Michael Jackson, Robert Downey Jr., Tony Bennett, Josh Groban, and Jimmy Durante.

And there have been many different instrumental versions as well. Let’s listen to some of them now -- all very different -- plus one version with the lyrics. First we’ll hear I Salonisti on a Sony classical release, then Itzhak Perlman on violin with the Boston Pops conducted by John Williams on a Sony Classical CD, next pianist Susanne Kessel’s version on an Oehms Classics compact disc, and finally David Hobson, one of Australia’s best-known tenors, singing “Smile” accompanied by Sinfonia Australis conducted by Guy Noble on an ABC Classics CD from down under.

MUSIC: Chaplin: "Smile" from Modern Times performed by I Salonisti [Sony Classical SK 61731, track 10]  [2:40]

MUSIC: Chaplin: "Smile" from Modern Timesperformed by Itzhak Perlman with the Boston Pops Orchestra conducted by John Williams [Sony Classical SK 60773, track 3]  [Sony Classics SK 60773]  [3:39]

MUSIC: Chaplin: "Smile" from Modern Times performed by Susanne Kessel on the piano [Oehms Classics OC 534, track 19]  [1:56]

MUSIC: Chaplin: "Smile" from Modern Times performed by tenor David Hobson with Sinfonia Australis conducted by Guy Noble [ABC CLassics 476, 160-4, track 18]  [3:15]

Charlie Chaplin’s most famous tune, “Smile,” originally from his film Modern Times. I played four different versions back to back: first I Salonisti, next Itzhak Perlman with the Boston Pops conducted by John Williams, then pianist Susanne Kessel, and finally tenor David Hobson accompanied by Sinfonia Australis conducted by Guy Noble.

You are listening to “The Music of Charlie Chaplin” on this hour of Compact Discoveries. I’m your guide, Fred Flaxman.

[optional one-minute break not included in the total timing of the program]

Now some other music by Charlie Chaplin from his film Modern Times. First from Michel Villard and his Orchestra on a Vogue CD from France, then Carl Davis conducting the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra on a Silva Screen CD release.

MUSIC: Chaplin: “Titine” from Modern Times performed by Michel Villard and His Orchestra [Vogue VG 651 600009, track 1]  [1:40]

MUSIC: Chaplin: music from Modern Times performed by the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Carl Davis [Silva Screen SILCD1198, CD 1, track 7]  [3:52]

Music by Charlie Chaplin from his movie Modern Times. First we heard Michel Villard and his Orchestra. Then a more recent recording with Carl Davis conducting the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra.

Today we might call Charlie Chaplin a “control freak.” He liked to manage all aspects of the films he produced, once he was in a position to do so. When the synchronisation of recorded sound with film became possible, he embraced it wholeheartedly and added music composer to his other skills. His upbringing against a backdrop of the London music hall very much influenced his filmmaking, including the film scores.

As he himself put it: “One happy thing about sound was that I could control the music, so I composed my own. I tried to compose elegant and romantic music to frame my comedies in contrast to the tramp character, for elegant music gave my comedies an emotional dimension. Musical arrangers rarely understood this. They wanted the music to be funny. But I would explain that I wanted no competition. I wanted the music to be a counterpoint of grave and charm, to express sentiment, without which ... a work of art is incomplete.

In 1942 Chaplin added a musical score to The Gold Rush. Here’s Carl Davis conducting the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra with those wonderful tunes.

MUSIC: Chaplin: music from The Gold Rush performed by the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Carl Davis [Silva Screen SILCD1198, CD 1, track 4]  [4:23]

Charlie Chaplin’s music for The Gold Rush. Carl Davis conducted the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra on this Silva Screen release.

My all-time favorite Charlie Chaplin film is not one of his comedies, although it has comic parts. It is a drama called Limelight, and it was released in 1952. It stars Charlie Chaplin and co-stars Claire Bloom.

While Chaplin was touring to promote the film, he was refused re-admittance to the United States, which was suffering from McCarthyistic intolerance and repression. The film was not shown by many theaters at the time, but in 1972 it was given a wide U.S. release and honored at the Academy Awards.

Every time I see Limelight, I sit there with tears in my eyes even though I know and tell myself over and over that it is “only a movie.” I’m sure that part of the reason for my emotional reaction is the music, which is my favorite melancholy Chaplin tune. Here it is as performed by Michel Villard and his orchestra from a 1972 Vogue recording from France.

MUSIC: Chaplin: the theme from Limelight performed by Michel Villard and His Orchestra [Vogue VG 651 600009, track 7]  [2:57]

Charlie Chaplin’s theme from his movie Limelight. Michel Villard conducted his orchestra.

More melancholy music now from the king of comedy. This is from the 1931 romantic comedy silent film, City Lights. Describing his music for City Lights, Chaplin said: “It is all simple music, you know, in keeping with my character.” It may be simple, but, to me, it is simply beautiful.

MUSIC: Chaplin: “Violetera” from City Lights performed by Michel Villard and His Orchestra [Vogue VG 651 600009, track 2]  [3:50]

Music by Charlie Chaplin from his movie City Lights. Michel Villard conducted his orchestra.

Here are some more tunes from City Lights, this time performed by the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Carl Davis.

MUSIC: Chaplin: music from City Lights performed by the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Carl Davis [Silva Screen SILCD1198, track 6]  [5:15]

Music from Charlie Chaplin’s filmscore for his movie City Lights performed by the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Carl Davis.

Charlie Chaplin’s film, A King in New York, dates from 1957. It is about a recently-deposed European monarch who seeks shelter in New York City, where he becomes an accidental television celebrity and is later wrongly accused of being a Communist. When you know Chaplin’s personal story, the autobiographical references are rather obvious. This was Chaplin’s last leading role. The film was produced in Europe after his exile from the U.S. in 1952. It did not open in the United States until the early 1970s.

Michel Villard conducts “You, My Love” from A King in New York, followed by the “Mandolin Serenade” from the same film performed by the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Carl Davis.

MUSIC: Chaplin: “You, My Love” from A King in New York performed by Micehl Villard and His Orchestra [Vogue VG 651 600009, track 11] [2:41]

MUSIC: Chaplin: “Mandolin Serenade” from A King in New York performed by the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Carl Davis [Silva Screen SILCD1198, track 11]  [3:48]

Music from Charlie Chaplin’s 1957 film A King in New York. First you heard “You, My Love” performed by the Michel Villard orchestra, then the “Mandolin Serenade” played by the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Carl Davis.

As you’ve heard, much of Chaplin’s best tunes were romantic and sentimental, which may, at first glance, seem strange for a man who was and still is world-famous as a comedian. But, as I mentioned earlier, he himself said that he didn’t want competition from the filmscore and he thought serious music would give his films some emotional depth. Nevertheless, his music was not always serious.

MUSIC: Chaplin: music from A Dog’s Life performed by Micehl Villard and His Orchestra [Vogue VG 651 600009, track 3]  1:40]

Music from Charlie Chaplin’s 1918 silent film, A Dog’s Life. Chaplin played opposite “Scraps,” the dog, as “co-star.” The dog was the hero of the movie, helping the little tramp and his girlfriend toward a better life. Chaplin’s brother, Sydney, had a small role, making this the first time the two appeared on the screen together. Dogs appeared with Chaplin in several other films as well: The Champion in 1915, The Gold Rush in 1925, City Lights in 1931, and Modern Times in 1936.

There is no dog in Chaplin’s 1967 comedy, The Countess from Hong Kong. It was the last film directed by Charlie Chaplin, and was one of only two films Chaplin directed in which he did not play a major role (the other was the 1923 movie A Woman of Paris). It was Chaplin’s only color film. Chaplin's cameo marked his final screen appearance.

The movie starred Marlon Brando, Sophia Loren, Tippi Hedren, and Sydney Earle Chaplin, Chaplin's second son. It was for the most part a critical failure. But others considered the film among Chaplin's best works, and Chaplin himself considered it his greatest film. Neverthless, the bad reviews upset Chaplin considerably.

The theme music, written by Chaplin, became the hit song "This Is My Song" for Petula Clark.

MUSIC: Chaplin: theme music (“This is My Song”) from The Countess from Hong Kong performed by Michel Villard and His Orchestra [Vogue VG 651 600009, track 9]  [2:20]

Michel Villard and His Orchestra playing the theme from Charlie Chaplin’s last film, The Countess from Hong Kong.

MUSIC: Chaplin: “Smile” (“Ton sourire est dans mon coeur”) from Modern Times (Les Temps modernes) performed by Michel Villard and his Orchestra, arranged by Michel Villard [Vogue VG 651 600009, track 4] [under the following]

And that concludes this hour of Compact Discoveries devoted to the “The Music of Charlie Chaplin.” I hope you enjoyed the music. This is Fred Flaxman thanking you for listening, and reminding you to go to compactdiscoveries.com for complete information on all of these programs as well as the opportunity to stream them on demand, read their transcripts, order CDs used in the programs, and enjoy articles about compact discs.

Special thanks to ArkivMusic.com for supplying some of the recordings used in this program.


ANNOUNCER (Steve Jencks): Compact Discoveries is made possible in part by Story Book Publishers and their latest offering, a tongue-in-cheek memoir by Compact Discoveries host Fred Flaxman called “Sixty Slices of Life ... on Wry: The Private Life of a Public Broadcaster.” Information and ordering at sixtyslices.com. And by the financial support of Isabel and Marvin Leibowitz, and an anonymous donor from Palm Beach, Florida. And by contributions to local public radio stations by listeners like you. Thank you.

Total Program Timing: 58:00


 
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