Chaplin was notorious for dragging both violin and cello on tour in his
earlier days with the Karno troupe, and for practicing long hours on both
instruments during his lengthy hotel stays. Stan Laurel (later of Laurel and
Hardy fame), Charlie’s early New York hotel room-mate, is quoted in the book,
“Stan & Ollie” as still seeing Chaplin practicing the violin or cello to cover
the noise of his own vigorous cooking. In the marvelous photo biography of
Chaplin by Jeffrey Vance there is a rare, touching picture of Charlie serenading
fellow actor Jackie Coogan with his violin during a break in the filming of
“The Kid.” Chaplin was and played left-handed, and he had both his violin and
cello restrung and rebuilt. Of course many fine players, whether right- or left-
handed, play a sringed instrument the “conventional” way. The reality is that
a string player has to master and coordinate two different techniques, both
equally challenging, left hand AND bow technique!

Also not well known is Chaplin’s intense involvement with the background
music to most of his films. Although he could not read music, he spent months
dictating and supervising the creation of the scores for his later films, and even
composed new material in his later years for his early silent movies. The list of
his musical neighbors and acquaintances is vast and included composers
Arnold Schönberg, Igor Stravinsky, composer-pianist Sergei Rachmaninoff,
pianists Vladimir Horowitz, Ignacy Paderewski, Arthur Rubinstein,
and violinists Jascha Heifetz and cellist Pablo Casals
(their photos are shown in Charles Chaplin, My Autobiography).