Bologna Modern Times

Bologna Modern Times

Alessandra Garofalo



Modern Times opens with the sequence of the mass of workers/sheep that go in a hurry to the factory and this year on July 4th, a similar mass of people was seen rushing inside a theatre to watch the movie itself. The theatre was the Teatro Comunale di Bologna and the screening was a special one: the projection of Modern Times with Charlie Chaplin’s musical score newly restored by Timothy Brock and the 64 instruments of the orchestra of the Teatro Comunale performing it. There is no doubt that the occasion deserved a mass scene as mentioned and I feel so lucky to have been one of those little sheep.

Teatro Comunale at BolognaThe evening started at 9 o’clock when Michael and Christopher Chaplin were invited on the stage of the Teatro to say a few words (with the prompt translation of Cecilia Cenciarelli) about their famous father and to give a special thank-you to the organization and the sponsors. The frame of the Teatro Comunale was also amazing for it is a very old theatre opened in 1763 and recently restored with its gold decorated boxes that were crowded for the occasion. Soon after the speech, the lights went down and the clock of the opening title appeared while Timothy Brock gave the initial flick of his baton, which started the orchestra. Now, until that moment I was wondering how a restored soundtrack would be, especially because I already loved the music as it is in the recorded version. Would the restored version be much different from it? Would it have some new tunes?

Timothy BrockWell, already from the start, being a total novice of music culture as I am, I confirmed my suspicions that hearing a soundtrack played by a great orchestra is already a totally different experience than listening to the recorded version, even if that were played in Dolby Surround-sound. Of course with a live orchestra you have the pleasure of appreciating various passages from the various instruments that could be lost during the recording. Anyway, it is very emotional to hear so many instruments playing the lovely Modern Times musical score. I’ve learned later that the orchestra director worked very diligently in restoring the score, for he concentrated on it for 16 months and had to check the various partitures that all together formed a pile of over a half meter in height.

The movie went on with the usual laughing in the background that has distinguished its performance for 71 years now and that I think will never end. The first explosion was for the Factory Director when he gives up the too-difficult puzzle and starts reading Tarzan comics. As usual, the movie ended too early. I guess that laughter in an audience gives you the freedom to laugh even louder than when watching the film alone and so the time flies even faster. At the end the public reserved an ovation of nearly 10 minutes for Tim Brock who, naturally, then directed it to the master, Charlie Chaplin.

Modern Times is a very well known masterpiece and among all its qualities, there is also the one that makes it a never-ending joy to see, for watching Charlie’s gimmicks are even more funny when you realize: “hey, these things happen to me, too!” And then it is impossible to keep from laughing. I wonder how many people can imagine themselves in the restroom scene in which the Director of the factory has installed a big screen and scolds Charlie for wasting his time? I can easily feel a little like Charlie when some of my work has to be done so quickly that I rush, even in those private moments.

About the author:

An admirer of Charlie Chaplin and other things cinematic, Alessandra Garofalo lives in Trieste, Italy and has an engineering degree in naval construction, working now for a large Italian ship construction company. Her biggest hobbies are photography, history and traveling and she is a former volunteer firefighter.

An Evening at the 18th Annual Silent Film Gala

 

An Evening at the 18th Annual Silent Film Gala
with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra

Carl Wilson

 

Every year in early June since 1990, nestled in the lush foothills of Bel Air, something wonderful happens in Royce Hall on the beautiful UCLA campus: The Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra holds their annual silent movie night.

To have an opportunity to see your favorite silent films on a big screen is a rare pleasure indeed. To see your favorite films with live orchestral accompaniment is something that goes beyond words. It is something to be savored, for it is a fleeting moment that exists only for the time that you are witness to it. With the superb instrumental perfection, precision and timing of the Chamber Orchestra, it is always nothing less than pure magic.

I first discovered this affair in 1991 and witnessed Chaplin’s City Lights on the big screen for the first time. With the orchestra being conducted by Carl Davis, I was so excited about the evening that I quickly forked over the $150 to attend the gala dinner after the film. It turned out to be worth every penny—priceless, actually.

On that evening I had the chance to meet Chaplin’s eldest living son Sydney and his daughter Jane. Also on hand were Jack and David Totheroh, the son and grandson of Rollie Totheroh, Chaplin’s long time cameraman. It was a fantastic evening! I was so at a loss for words upon meeting Jack Totheroh that I quipped something along the lines of, “Wow, to think that when you were a child, your dad would come home upset because he had a bad day working for Charlie Chaplin…” With a twinkle in his eye and an obviously clear memory in his mind, he paused, laughed and said, “You got that right.”

That evening brought me as close to Chaplin the man that I have ever been or most likely ever will be. Sadly, so few people remain from that era.

                                                                                                                   
I know that Chaplin would be a great fan of these live orchestral screenings himself. So it goes without saying that after such an evening, the annual event has become something of a ritual with me.

This year, Saturday, June the 2nd was the Chamber Orchestra’s 18th annual silent movie night and they chose Chaplin’s The Pilgrim (1923) and Keaton’s Sherlock, Jr. (1924) to dazzle the audience. Conducted by Timothy Brock, it was another performance to be remembered. I am always excited for those in attendance who have never witnessed such a thing as this.

The Pilgrim is one of my favorite Chaplin films. As in all of his films, only the essentials are given to tell the story. While most writers and critics focus on Chaplin’s brilliant pantomime of the story of David and Goliath, for me there are other moments in the film that I love: Chaplin’s encounter on the train with the sheriff and the escalating look of panic and horror on his face, Chaplin throwing the broken bottle of booze on the sidewalk behind Mack Swain, and the night time antics with Charlie trying to stop his old prison pal from getting to the mortgage money he wants to steal. These moments had the audience in stitches. While this film is often remembered for being banned in some states because of its apparent mockery of the clergy, one cannot help but note the irony of Chaplin weighing the collection boxes and the thankful look he gives to one side of the room and the accusatory look he gives to the side of the chapel that hasn’t given enough. After all, he intends to steal it. This prescient vignette is a wonderful parable that strikes at the heart of future events in some of the mega-churches that America has produced over the years. In retrospect, he got it right. This moment is far more insightful and more predictive of the future than Chaplin’s wandering off into the sunset, straddling the US/Mexico border.Charlie recovering mortgage money That was just Chaplin being funny. For me, the most intriguing moment in this film is when Chaplin transformshimself from Parson into a slick gambler-cum-Buffalo Bill character by merely manipulating his existing costume. When he yanks a concho off of a passing cowboy’s chaps and sticks it to his chin to complete the look, his persona immediately changes into the character that he has almost instantly created. He is no longer the tramp, but a slick, confident cowboy outlaw. Setting aside the hilarity of the moment, it makes me wish that Chaplin had taken on roles other than the tramp when he was at the height of his fame. He would have been brilliant.

Speaking of brilliance, in 1959 Chaplin wrote a score for this film and the Chamber Orchestra reproduced and performed it perfectly. They dispensed with Matt Munro’s singing of “Bound forTexas” written by Chaplin, and played the song without the vocal track. The score was played so perfectly that one often forgets that he is witnessing two brilliant performances at the same time. Experiencing a Chaplin film with orchestral accompaniment is always worth the price of admission and is an experience that stays with you for a life time.

This year the Chamber Orchestra commissioned Timothy Brock to write a score for Sherlock, Jr. Last year he wrote the score for Harold Lloyd’s Safety Last. Clearly Mr. Brock has taken over the reins as the loving caretaker of these brilliants films of the past that have been handed down to us without music. It must be a Herculean task to write a score of that length, but Brock has come into his own as writer of silent film music, and his score for Sherlock, Jr. proved it again.

Sherlock, Jr. stands on its own as wholly unique in the silent era. Not since the early 1900’s when Georges Méliès created movie magic by simple film edits had a film been taken to such innovative heights as this one. Many of the specialeffects still leave me baffled.

In this film the premise is simple; a lovelorn theater projectionist who aspires to be a detective, has lost his girl, because he is wrongly accused of stealing a watch to pay for a gift. The watch was actually stolen by his love rival who has set up Buster to take the blame. Keaton falls asleep in the projection booth and dreams himself into the movie he is showing. He steps right into the screen, where he becomes the most famous detective in the world. His “Watson” style sidekick in the dream film is hilarious as he appears out of nowhere in new disguises and at the most opportune moments. The edge-of-your-seat pool table scene in which one of the balls is a bomb had the audience in roars of laughter, as well as the scene in which Buster finds himself riding on the handlebars of a motorcycle sans a driver. Mr. Brock’s intense score during this scene must have sent a few of the musician home a little sore that evening. For its strange premise, innovative effects, brutal “Buster” slapstick comedy and non-stop hilarity, this film is a must see for any silent film aficionado. I hope that this film will be re-issued in the near future with Timothy Brock’s score.

 I have found over the years that there are those who would compare Chaplin and Keaton. I prefer not to engage in comparing these artists, because one cannot compare apples and oranges. True, they are both comedians, but that is where the comparison stops. No one could tug at the heart strings like Chaplin, no one revolutionized story telling on film as Chaplin did, and no one portrayed humanity on film like Chaplin did. Keaton was unique in his ability to make us laugh out loud, make us cringe with his physicality and be completely in awe of the images he stuffed into a frame of film. Cinema would not have been the same without them, so it was a fitting tribute to show them side by side on this extraordinary evening.

Carl-WilsonAbout the author:
Carl Wilson is a professional magician and lives in Southern California with his wife and son. Carl has had an abiding interest in Chaplin and his films since the age of 8. In his spare time he enjoys 3D photography and introducing younger generations to Chaplin by sponsoring movie nights in his community.

A King in New York

A King in New York

Written by: Michael Vogelle

During 1971 I became a Charlie Chaplin fan. I read My Autobiography along with everything else I could get my hands on. I started collecting his films on Super 8. In January 1972 an article appeared in the New York Times entitled “Chaplin to Visit City; Salute Set April 4th.” It described all the meetings and efforts to convince Charlie to come to the United States after twenty years in exile. It mentioned that tickets were $1,000 to $10. I sent in a check (courtesy of Dad) for twenty dollars to the Film Society at Lincoln Center. And waited. Finally the tickets came! I’m sure I took them out and stared at them every single day for three months! I couldn’t believe it!

Charlie and Oona arrived in New York on April 3rd. They attended a dinner in their honor at the home of Oona’s childhood friend Gloria Vanderbilt. Early the next day my brother Frank and I made the trip into Manhattan. We went to the Lincoln Art Theater at 57th St., east of Broadway, where we saw a matinee showing of City Lights, a first time for me. What a day and night this was going to be. The Lincoln Art was showing many Chaplin films. In fact, Modern Times had just ended after three months!

Finally it was time to make our way to Philharmonic Hall at Lincoln Center. Stretched out in front was a huge banner of the Little Tramp with the words “Hello Charlie.” Many of the store and restaurant windows had posters of Chaplin as well. Lincoln Center is a gorgeous place with huge windows and a large fountain. As we waited to enter Philharmonic Hall, I noticed a very elegantly dressed lady holding a $250 ticket (this allowed one to attend a champagne reception following the films), but I suppressed the urge to snatch the ticket out of her hand and run.

We took our seats (second terrace, I still have the ticket stub!) and waited. On the stage there were what seemed to be a hundred photographers and film cameramen. I noticed something to our left on the first terrace…it was Charlie and Oona! I shouted “there he is!” to my brother. The reaction of the audience was thunderous. It must have lasted five minutes or more. Everyone cheered, yelled, clapped and waved. Charlie blew kisses, put his hand over his heart, and waved to us. He pointed to his wedding ring, then toward Oona, and gave a shrug. This was New York welcoming Charlie. All sorts of feelings were going through that audience, not the least of which was a feeling of joy and wanting to make Charlie feel loved after the bitterness of his long exile. Charlie was in a tux, and I remember vividly his very pink face and snow white hair.

The lights dimmed, and The Idle Class began (according to the Times, it was a favorite of Oona’s) When “Written, Produced, and Directed by Charles Chaplin” appeared on the screen, the audience roared with a great cheer and more applause. It was very nice that Edna Purviance’s name was greeted with a similar loud ovation. When the train stopped and the tramp emerged, there were screams and shouts and another long cheer. As you can imagine, every gag brought laughter and screams of delight from the 2,000 or so people. The biggest reaction came from the whiskey shaker gag.

Then it was time for The Kid. I remember that I really found the music score just beautiful (which Charlie had recently done) and it stayed with me for days after (a bit of this accompanies the open of Unknown Chaplin). I remember looking over at Charlie, his hand resting under his chin, his glasses on, watching himself on the screen from fifty years earlier. At that moment I thought to myself, “I’ll never forget this.” The feeling was simply magical.

For the first and only time in my life I heard people in the audience hissing the villain during the climactic part of the picture. The laughter, cheers and tears never let up. When the film ended, the lights came up and the ovation was louder than ever, everyone facing Charlie and shouting “bravo” over and over. Finally we quieted and Charlie spoke briefly: “Tonight is my renaissance, I’m being born again. It’s easy for you, but difficult for me to speak tonight as I feel very emotional. However I’m glad to be among so many friends. Thank you.”

According to the papers the next day there were many famous people there, but I was only interested in one. There are wonderful photographs taken by Candace Bergen of that night that were published in Life magazine a few weeks later. I think I floated out of Lincoln Center that night. I knew we had been part of something extraordinary, magical. Seeing City Lights for the first time, and later The Idle Class and The Kid with the man himself. The glow of that wonderful night has stayed me for these last thirty five years. Bravo indeed.

Four years ago my friend and I attended the premiere of the Richard Schickel documentary, and I had a chance to speak with Geraldine Chaplin. I told her of my New York experience, and she said “oh I should have been there!”
Michael Vogelle

About the author:

I am currently a Manager of Broadcast Operations at Showtime Networks. I live on eastern Long Island with my wife Julia, and our daughters Lana and Renee.

Chaplin at Gateway Theatre

Chaplin at Gateway Theatre

Review by: Angel McNamara
February 14, 2007

 

Charlie Chaplin Goes to War, also known as Chaplin: The Trial of Charles Spencer Chaplin, Esq. at the 2002 Shaw Festival in Ontario, is about Chaplin’s writing process of The Great Dictator. This one-man play is set in 1939 at Chaplin’s screening/dressing room at Chaplin studios. Simon Bradbury, who also wrote this play with Dan Kamin, plays Chaplin during his artistic struggle to finish this film. His personal struggle became so intense that the “rushes” start to talk to him on the screen as well as voices from the people in his life, including Douglas Fairbanks, who had recently passed away. This play also addresses the possible insanity that Chaplin felt during the process of creating his masterpiece.

The play starts right away with Chaplin waking up at his studio trying to figure out his script. If a viewer had no idea of the significance of The Great Dictator, it is at this point that a person could get lost in the story. The story felt rushed, being 90 minutes with no intermission, but Simon gave a great performance just the same. Overall this play was well done; the staging was great–especially the use of a projector screen with footage of Chaplin, played by Simon, interacting with Chaplin on stage. The ending also includes the famous speech from The Great Dictator.

For more information, please visit www.gatewaytheatre.com.

About the reviewer:

Angel McNamara lives in Vancouver, British Columbia and has been a Charlie Chaplin fan since she was 14 years old. She is a graduate of the Broadcast and Media Communications in Television program at the British Columbia Institute of Technology and is currently working in the Film and Television industry.

A Chaplin Mystery 1

The photo below is by Alfred Eisenstaedt and is a source of mystery for Chaplin aficionados. Eisenstaedt himself listed it as having been shot in 1928 in Berlin at the Berlin Press Club. However, we all know that Charlie wasn’t in Berlin in 1928. Therefore, presumably it was shot in Berlin in March 1931 when he was there. However, Charlie’s brother Syd (shown in the photo) was not with him in Berlin in March 1931. So where and when was it shot? And, is the woman May Reeves? Let me know your educated guesses below and don’t forget to sign it if you want credit! Just hit the questions/comments? link below.
Chaplin Mystery
thelittlefellow.org

A Chaplin Mystery II

Thanks to Alessandra from Italy for solving the Chaplin mystery. Time for another one!!Is the person in the Little Tramp costume below our Charlie?  Several folks have looked at this one for me and have come up with no conclusive answer.  I thought maybe some identification of the place or the fellow he’s linking arms with may help.  I want to think the large fellow is actor and restaurateur  Nat Goodwin, which would make it seem more plausible that this was Charlie.  What do you all think?
Chaplin Mystery
thelittlefellow.org

Citizen of the World

Evidence of Charlie’s continued adulation throughout the world can be seen everywhere you turn. Below are a few unexpected sightings on my own trips around the world. Do you have some to add? Chaplin is the living embodiment of Goethe’s aperçu: Man would not be the noblest creature on earth if he were not too noble for it.–Walter Benjamin
Chaplin at Cinemateque Française, Paris, France
Chaplin at Hollywood
Where is Charlie?
Where is he in this photo? Let me know by clicking Questions/Comments?

Index

Index

Links

Listed below are some of the websites I have found useful and interesting. If you know of some I’ve overlooked, please email me.
Edna Purviance
Visit Linda Wada’s great site on Chaplin’s leading lady, Edna Purviance. Also great info on Charlie, Syd Chaplin, Dinky Dean and much, much more.
Discover Chaplin
Great new Chaplin merchandise and licensing site! Check it out for what’s new and trendy in Chaplin wear and accessories. Get your Warner/MK2 Chaplin DVDs here!
Charlie Chaplin Archive
Cineteca di Bologna’s great online Charlie Chaplin archive. All original Chaplin documents. Watch it grow!
Eastman House Charlie Chaplin Photos
Great collection of rare Chaplin photos, including a group of Nickolaus Muray photos and some very early (circa 1918) color photos of Charlie as the Little Tramp.
Charlie Chaplin Heritage Museum
The official Charlie Chaplin Museum site to be developed at Chaplin’s Manoir de Ban in Vevey, Switzerland (opening circa 2006). Watch the developments!
Chicago Herald Tribune Chaplin Photos
A great collection of rare Chaplin newsphotos online.
Charlie Chaplin Research Institute
The British Film Institute has opened a Chaplin research center in London. Stay tuned for more developments here, too!
Limited Edition Charlie Chaplin Poster
Cult Prints have recently launched a limited edition Charlie Chaplin poster which has been overseen by the official Chaplin biographer, David Robinson.

A Comedian Sees the World

A Legion d’honneur medal, “hate” mail from King George, a photo of a tanned and smiling Chaplin posing with Mahatma Ghandi and entourage, a pith helmet, an idea for a new “topless” male swimsuit, and evidence of a foiled assassination plot. These assorted souvenirs only begin to tell the story of Charlie Chaplin’s second world tour, conducted in 1931-2—a tour from which he returned a changed man, changed by the people he met, the places he visited and the ramifications of the Great Depression he witnessed. A Comedian Sees the World was Chaplin’s memoir of this tour, originally published in five installments in a popular American periodical known as The Woman’s Home Companion from September 1933 to January 1934. It was never available to Chaplin’s large world audience outside of the United States at that time. Progetto Chaplin’s new edition, the first in book form, allows the memoir to acquire its first new audience since its initial publication. This being the 75th anniversary of Chaplin’s second tour, there can be no better time to open the pages of his memoir and let him act as a guide through 1930s Europe and Asia as he saw and experienced it.

The archival evidence strongly suggests that A Comedian Sees the World is the first piece of writing Chaplin engaged in on his own. In its pages, the reader will see Chaplin’s political consciousness awakening, a consciousness that will go on to influence his films for the remainder of his career. Excerpt from A Comedian Sees the WorldThe memoir also makes a writer out of Chaplin, for with its completion he began an accomplished writing life to include essays, poems, short stories and criticism as well as film scripts. The editor of this new edition, Dr. Lisa Stein, has worked to uncover a wide-ranging collection of visual and verbal artifacts from the Chaplin archives and other venues to contextualize the memoir for today’s readers. The memoir is enhanced by annotations that include original draft material excised from the final version, contemporary news article information and/or alternative versions of events recounted by other memoirists. More than 75 photos and illustrations adorn this edition, including the original full-color illustrations from the Woman’s Home Companion series, a never-before-seen collection of photos/artifacts compiled by a 1931 admirer, and scans of the original manuscript and typescript. Dr. Stein’s introduction provides a narrative of historical, cultural and biographical context for the work, as well as a description of the archival documents and an analysis of the tour’s specific influences on Chaplin’s later film work.

This new edition of Chaplin’s travel memoir Excerpt from A Comedian Sees the Worldhopes to usher in an era of new scholarship that looks beyond the great film work to his many other areas of creative endeavor, but especially to his writing. The draft evidence for this memoir clearly shows Chaplin’s evolution as a writer—that he engaged in the same sort of drafting and redrafting of manuscript pages as he would shoot and reshoot film scenes. Chaplin the writer, in all of his manifestations, has yet to be considered adequately.