Charles Chaplin: The Film Music
Composer: Charlie Chaplin
Conductor: Carl Davis
Performed by: Deutches Symphonie Orchester Berlin
Released: 1995, RCA Records

City Lights
Composer: Charlie Chaplin
Conductor: Carl Davis
Performed by: The City Lights Orchestra
Released: 1991, Silva Screens

Chaplin, Charlie: Essential Film Music
Composer: Charlie Chaplin
Conductor: Carl Davis
Performed by: City of Prague Philharmonic
Released: 2006, Silva Screens

Chaplin, Charlie:
The original music from his movies

Released: 1995, Blue Moon

Though he had no technical musical skills, he nevertheless began writing melodies beginning in the 1910s, and even formed the Charlie Chaplin Music Company around 1915. With the help of arrangers and orchestrators, Chaplin composed the scores of all his movies beginning with ‘City Lights’ in 1931. One of Chaplin’s biographers, David Robinson, has written:

“[City Lights] was Chaplin’s first film score. Modestly Chaplin
once told a reporter, “I really didn’t write it down. I la-la-ed
and Arthur Johnson (the arranger) wrote it down.”

Later, when he restored some of his earlier works he wrote music for them (e.g. The Gold Rush and The Kid). Interestingly, although he couldn’t read or write music, he played the piano, organ and violin. His method of scoring films (similar to the technique used by Paul McCartney today) was to sing or play a violin or a piano to a true musician who would write the music down for later orchestration. Afterwards, as the music was being played by ‘professional’ musicians, Charlie would direct the music, requesting and adding changes.

Another of his biographers, Carl Davis, has written:
“For my own part I discovered that Chaplin — though he was in the
strict sense musically illiterate (he could neither read nor write
music) — was extremely musical in his understanding of what a score
should be and should do. He had a great melodic gift, largely shaped,
I am sure, in the English music halls in which he spent his early
career. Above all, he possessed an extraordinary sense of rightness
in setting music to his films.”

During one of his interviews, orchestra leader Skitch Henderson, provided an interesting personal sidelight on Chaplin’s character. Ca. 1938, Chaplin had his own private studio on Sunset Boulevard, next to the Schwab Drugstore. One day, MGM told a young Skitch Henderson to go to that address and help Chaplin with some music. After a while, Chaplin came in, elegantly dressed – even with white gloves. Chaplin called him ‘Lyle’- Skitch’s given name. During these meetings, where the music for some film would be worked out, Chaplin would hand Skitch some ‘scratchy’ lead sheets, and ask him to play a left hand…etc. He would frequently remind Skitch that ‘this is My Music’. Chaplin always demanded his ‘billing’.

Many years later, some friends induced Skitch to visit Chaplin at his home in Switzerland, in an effort to get Chaplin to do some film work. Chaplin came out onto the terrace, elegantly dressed, and greeted him simply with a “hello Lyle”. Still calling Skitch by his formal name. That was Chaplin….always ‘Charles’…never ‘Charlie’.

For his later movie scores, Chaplin conducted the orchestras of such films as ‘A King In New York (1957)’, and ‘A Countess From Hong Kong’ (1967 starring Marlon Brando and Sophia Loren). In the early 1970s, for the re-releases of his early films, Charlie re-worked the scores of such pictures as ‘A Day’s Pleasure’; ‘The Kid’; and ‘Pay Day’. In 1977, a year before his death, the 88 year old Chaplin composed the score for his 1923 movie ‘A Woman Of Paris’ (re-released in 1978 – 2 weeks after his death in Dec. 1978), and was working on the music for a film that he still hoped to make, – ‘The Freak’.

Among Chaplin’s songs are:
“Limelight”, from Film ‘Limelight’. Ca. 1973, he won an
&nbs; Oscar for his music to the film ‘Limelight’.
“Foxtrot”, from Film ‘Idle Days’
“Park Avenue Waltz”, from Film ‘A King In New York’
“Novelty Song”, from Film ‘The Great Dictator’

Chaplin went on re-scoring the music for his old silent films to the end of his life. As he himself said, he “…..may have had to “la-la” my compositions, but I was a faultless judge of what to use.” Though not necessarily warm, Chaplin was always a polite and proper person, and easy enough to get along with.

Another very interesting sidelight on Charlie Chaplin concerns his older brother, Sydney – “Syd”. Both boys grew up in poverty in London, England. Syd became an actor and helped his younger brother Charlie to get into the business. Years later, when Charlie was in Hollywood, he returned the favor helping to get Sydney in the Hollywood films. In 1925, Syd was starred in a Silent version of the comedy “Charlie’s Aunt” (No – the “Charlie” does not refer to Chaplin.) In 1926, Syd was starred in another Hollywood produced comedy, the “Better ‘Ole”, based on the British wartime (WWI) comic strip “The Better ‘Ole” by artist Bruce Bairnsfather. In between pictures, Syd became Charlie’s business manager. He eventually made Charlie the highest paid star of his day.

Charlie Chaplin – …