Showing posts with label David Raksin. Show all posts
Showing posts with label David Raksin. Show all posts

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

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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.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Working With Charlie Chaplin: Vol. 2: Lunch Time

Lunch on location

"Most days we went to lunch at Musso and Frank's, a nearby restaurant that is to this day one of my favorites. Charlie, Henry Bergman (who appeared in any Chaplin films), Carter de Haven, Sr. (who had been a famous actor, and was the father of Gloria de Haven), and I would travel in splendor in Charlie's limousine. We always sat in the same corner table in the back room and had the same rather bored waiter. Almost anyone else would have been elated at the prospect of serving an artist of such eminence, but this one was onto all of Charlie's tricks and affected to be unaffected by them. But I loved every minute of it. Charlie had certain little songs with which he would order lunch, and we learned to sing them along with him. One of them, to the tune of 'I Want A Lassie,' went: 'I want a curry; a ricy, spicy curry, With a dish of chutney on the side!' Another, to the melody of 'Irish Eyes Are Smiling,' went: 'An I-rish Stew, with veg-e-ta-bles...!' All were performed with gusto. Diners who were startled by the sudden outbursts from the corner table seemed to be quickly mollified at the thought of enlivening their dinner conversations with the accounts of the luncheon entertainment. --David Raksin, "Life With Charlie Chaplin," Quarterly Journal Of The Library Of Congress, 1983

"[Eating] his lunch of a single tomato...he could never understand why the crew needed a whole hour for lunch when he only took a couple of minutes" --Robert Lewis, Slings and Arrows, 1996

"At lunchtime, Oona would arrive on the set with a carton of cottage cheese and pineapple, or hard-boiled eggs. They would sit in his little portable dressing room nibbling away contentedly until [Robert] Aldrich called, "OK! ready for the next shot!" --Jerry Epstein, Remembering Charlie, 1989

"Charlie Chaplin had lunch [at Musso & Frank's] almost every day; his favorite was the boiled lamb with caper sauce."--"Coast Grill Still Thriving," Bridgeport Post, July 1, 1964

 Oona lunches with Charlie

"At precisely 4:00 pm...Gino [Chaplin's butler] would appear with a silver tray containing a pot of tea, a wedge of chocolate cake, and an assortment of sweet biscuits. At this point Mr Chaplin would then absent himself from the room for five minutes. Occasionally he would remain, sitting in the armchair facing me and I would feel waves of suppressed irritation wafting over me as he tapped his fingers on the arm of his chair and dared me with his eyes to linger a moment longer than he considered necessary." --Eric James, Making Music With Charlie Chaplin, 2001

"We always went off to the same place [for lunch], Musso & Frank's, and Chaplin made a point of banning all talk of the script. At the end of the meal, he would make a silent sign to [Henry] Bergman, who produced the money and paid the bill. I never remember Chaplin carrying money." --Alistair Cooke, Six Men, 1956

"At twelve o'clock on the second day, I yelled, 'Lunch!' The silence was terrific. You could hear the jaws drop. Nobody yells on a Chaplin set, not even Mr. Chaplin. Chuck came over, in that exquisite ballet-dancer gait of his. Pleasantly he asked me, 'What was that, m'love?' (Chuck called me 'm'love' during all the twelve weeks we worked. It's his term for Annabella--in the picture.) So I explained. People who aren't geniuses get hungry at noon...Chuck thought it was a wonderful idea. He couldn't imagine why somebody hadn't told him about it before. So for the duration of the picture, I called lunch. And now that I think of it, maybe that's the reason the crew and other members of the cast used to insist that I come around to the set even on the days that I didn't appear in the script!" --Martha Raye, Movieland, Feb. 1948

"Charlie Chaplin and Edna Purviance used to be [at Graham's Confectionery] almost daily. At that time, Charlie was not the cultured man he is today. He was a rather bad-tempered little customer, inclined to make temperamental scenes. I remember he nearly scared one of the girl waitresses to death one day by yelling, as he pounded his hand on the table, 'I want service! My time is money! Give me service or I'll get out? I can't wait around here all day!'...Charlie is a very different person, now" --Picture Play, September 1926

"Perhaps his emotional state can be best illustrated by the food he eats. One week he solemnly informs us that he is a vegetarian, that meat is bad for one, and that lettuce and fruit form the ideal food. We all become vegetarian. The next week, he looks up and says: 'What I need is a big juicy steak. Good meat to build up the body and brain.' The following week it becomes cantaloupe filled with ice cream. 'Everybody is eating too much,' he says. 'One can work much better on light lunches.'" --Virginia Cherrill, Picturegoer magazine, Dec. 9th, 1935

Afternoon tea on the set of Sunnyside.

"When Dad was engrossed, he lost all conception of time. Lunch hour might come and go without a break, especially as no one would find the temerity to interrupt and tell him that it was twelve noon. Sometimes it would be as late as two o'clock before he would come to his senses and dismiss the company for an hour. Syd and I always took lunch with Dad in his dressing room." --Charles Chaplin, Jr., My Father Charlie Chaplin, 1960

"When we'd go on location, Sid would have his half-brother Wheeler keep an eye on the food-line. They had a special table set up for Charlie and the heads; I always sat over with the workmen and I think Charlie got a little put out about it, too. They'd break their necks; they'd do anything for me. I'd say, 'I'm no better than they are. What the hell, I don't have to sit over there and listen to all this and that.' Charlie happened to see Wheeler Dryden checking on me; he had a notebook, checking on every guy as he went along taking his dinner. Charlie finally said, 'Listen, what have they got over there to eat?'--where all the crew and everybody was eating. 'Well, so what, what have we got here?' You feed them over there the same that this table is eating. Regardless of what we got here, they eat the same thing. Remember that. See that you do.' Always for the underdog." --"Roland H. Totheroh Interviewed," Timothy J. Lyons, ed. Film Culture, Spring 1972

Friday, August 22, 2014

Chaplin sketch with signature, c. 1935

From "Life With Charlie Chaplin" by David Raksin,
 Quarterly Journal of the Library of Congress, Summer 1983

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

"The Chaplin Coat Of Arms"

This sketch was drawn by Chaplin in 1935 when working on the score for Modern Times and presented to his musical assistant David Raksin.


From "Life With Charlie Chaplin" by David Raksin,
 Quarterly Journal of the Library of Congress, Summer 1983

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, August 16, 2013

Random Excerpt

From "Life With Charlie Chaplin" by David Raksin (Chaplin's musical assistant on Modern Times)
Quarterly Journal Of The Library Of Congress, Summer 1983:
I loved to egg Charlie on, to provoke him into an improvisation--which was not too hard to do. And I especially enjoyed his fluent way with the argot of London costermongers, in which certain words are made to substitute for others with which they rhyme.1 I was listening to Charlie kidding with Alf Reeves one morning, and he said, "Oh, I'm all right, by my Obson's is givin' me trouble. I musta got me daisies wet." Charlie liked to have me ask what all of that meant, but by then I had already learned from him that Obson's was cockney for Hobson's Choice (a play), and hence stood in for "voice." In the same way daisies stood for "daisy roots," and meant "foots." Another time he said to Mr. Reeves, "I can hardly keep the minces open." (For "mince pies" rhymes with "eyes.") And, "Can't wait till I get home and lay the barnet ["barnet fair" equals "hair"] on the titwillow ["pillow] and go bo-peep ["to sleep"]." He also had a favorite, very rude poem that began, "While sittin' one day by the Anna Maria ["fire"], a-toastin' me plates o' meat ["feet"], I 'eard a knock on the Rory O'Moore ["door"] which made me old raspberry beat ["raspberry tart" equals "heart"]." 2
On a more sober note--too sober, as it turned out--my old friend, Oscar Levant, who was a member of the circle with which I ran in my spare time, told me one day that Arnold Schoenberg, with whom he was studying, was eager to meet Chaplin. I spoke to Charlie at once, and it was arranged for Schoenberg to visit the studio a few days later. The great composer appeared with Mrs. Schoenberg for the meeting. I greeted them at the gate and took them into the projection room, where I introduced them to Charlie. In no time at all it was evident that the conversation which ensued was headed for a stalemate. Schoenberg, with his strong sense of his own eminence and his intellectual rigor, seemed baffled by the disparity between Chaplin's preeminent position as a film artist and his casual urbanity. It was disconcerting for Schoenberg to find that the cinematic genius he admired so much did not affect the serious demeanor which is in some cultures perquisite of greatness.  And although Charlie was on his best gracious-host behavior, the feeling soon grew awkward and painful, and it was with a sense of relief that I saw the visit end....After the Schoenbergs left, Charlie said to me, "You were curiously chaste...?" I tried to explain that the irreverent schoolboy was, finally, somewhat awed, but gave up in embarrassment. 
L-R: CC, Mrs. Schoenberg, Arnold Schoenberg, David Raksin
In Charlie Chaplin: The Forgotten Years, Geraldine Chaplin remembered how her father and Uncle Syd would speak in Cockney slang during Syd's visits to Vevey. "No one would understand them," she said. 
I would love to hear the rest of this poem!

Monday, July 1, 2013

Charlie & Food

  • Charlie and I lived together, sharing the same room, for more than two years, and many's the time we cooked our dinners in our room. I fried the chops, while Charlie sat close to the door playing his mandolin to keep the landlady from hearing the sizzling of the meat over the gas--which was put there for lighting purposes only and not with any idea of cooking!  --Stan Laurel, Film Weekly, Sept. 1929. Reprinted in Peter Haining's Charlie Chaplin: A Centennial Celebration
  • Perhaps his emotional state can be best illustrated by the food he eats. One week he solemnly informs us that he is a vegetarian, that meat is bad for one, and that lettuce and fruit form the ideal food. We all become vegetarian. The next week, he looks up and says: "What I need is a big juicy steak. Good meat to build up the body and brain." The following week it becomes cantaloupe filled with ice cream. "Everybody is eating too much," he says. "One can work much better on light lunches." His favorite dish I remember to be banana nut ice cream. --Virginia Cherrill, Picturegoer magazine, Dec. 9th, 1935. 
  • Every Tuesday at the Manoir was the cook's day off, and my mother used to take over the kitchen. She is surprisingly good over a cookstove. Tuesday was the day when she cooked for my father all his favorite dishes. None of the five star Cordon Bleu routine, but things he must have had, or wished he'd had, as a kid in South London...tripe and onions, steak and kidney pie, and stews with dumplings in them. But his craziest food fad is for a thing called Almond Joy. They're an American chocolate bar with an almond on top of them. The Swiss, with a swinging chocolate industry, don't encourage outsiders, and you can't buy Almond Joy there or in England. So any visitor he has coming in from the States loads up with candies for the old man. --Michael Chaplin, I Couldn't Smoke The Grass On My Father's Lawn, 1966.

  • Most days we went to lunch at Musso and Frank's, a nearby restaurant that is to this day one of my favorites. Charlie, Henry Bergman (who appeared in any Chaplin films), Carter de Haven, Sr. (who had been a famous actor, and was the father of Gloria de Haven), and I would travel in splendor in Charlie's limousine. We always sat in the same corner table in the back room and had the same rather bored waiter. Almost anyone else would have been elated at the prospect of serving an artist of such eminence, but this one was onto all of Charlie's tricks and affected to be unaffected by them. But I loved every minute of it.  Charlie had certain little songs with which he would order lunch, and we learned to sing them along with him. One of them, to the tune of "I Want A Lassie," went: "I want a curry; a ricy, spicy curry, With a dish of chutney on the side!" Another, to the melody of "Irish Eyes Are Smiling," went: "An I-rish Stew, with veg-e-ta-bles...!" All were performed with gusto. Diners who were startled by the sudden outbursts from the corner table seemed to be quickly mollified at the thought of enlivening their dinner conversations with the accounts of the luncheon entertainment. --David Raksin, "Life With Charlie Chaplin," Quarterly Journal Of The Library Of Congress, 1983
  • The Chaplins ate outdoors as often as possible, on a large terrace overlooking a long expanse of lawn, and the mountains in the distance. Wild strawberries with heavy cream provided an occasion for a kind of dramatic production by Chaplin. He would choose the best-looking ones and present them, one at a time, to Oona, to himself, to a guest, and to each of his children--in that order. At the close of one such production, he shared a confidence with me. "Every once in a while," he said, "the old lady and I get out the caviar and champagne. And we don't invite anybody else. We sit here gorging ourselves. Just the two of us." --Lillian Ross, Moments With Chaplin, 1980


  • Charles Chaplin likes stewed tripe and hates whiskey. He does like good wines, and drinks cocktails when the occasion seems to require it. Before prohibition, he always had a well-stocked cellar, never drank much himself, and always was a perfect host alcoholically. Since prohibition came, the same is true. Besides stewed tripe, he likes lamb stew. Those are two of his three favorite dishes. He dislikes seasoning, never uses sauces or violent condiments and doesn't care for highly spiced dishes. The one exception is curry, the hotter the better. That's his third favorite dish. He is utterly inconsistent about eating. Sometimes he will go for twenty-four hours or longer without taking a morsel. Then he'll eat four or five meals within the next day. He goes on diets but never keeps them up. He went rabidly on a raw vegetable diet for several days. "Look at animals," he said, "they eat raw vegetables and are healthy. The elephant is the biggest and strongest animal; he eats only vegetables." That night, Charlie ate two beefsteaks, rare.
  • His cook will work for a day or two to prepare an epicurean meal for him. Charlie sits down and it is served. He doesn't like the looks or aroma of something before him. So he leaves the table and goes to a cheap lunch counter and eats ham and eggs. He likes to eat at drug store lunch counters. His favorite restaurant is Henry's. The proprietor is his assistant director. When he is served something he likes very much, he takes as many as five helpings. It makes him violently ill. --Harry Lang, "No Talkies For Charlie," Photoplay, May 1930
  • I went to Chaplin’s house. And they served dinner in the living room, and I remember they served chicken, loose chicken. And there was a bowl in the middle so you could help yourself. And the plate was quite large, and it was like a soup, but not quite—it was wonderful looking. And Charlie gets a spoon, slurp, both hands, the bread, slurp, and I’m going, "Oh my God! Uuuh!" And I’m going, "I don’t believe this!" ‘cause I’m very proper, and Oona was so proper, but you know, I figured she knows what to do, I’ll just follow what she does, just consider everything normal and keep on going. And it was the funniest thing, because it was such a shock! I’d never seen anybody schlurp it in and chew with an open mouth and with everything going at once. And laughing and talking and everything, and I’m going, "Oh my God!" --Interview with Marilyn Nash, Limelight magazine, Spring 1997
  • Looking across to the little boats bobbing gently by the quayside at Avalon, I was startled by a deferential cough and turned to see Chaplin standing over me. He had come up from below as lightly as a grasshopper and was standing there in an attitude of a butler awaiting orders, head cocked expectantly, a napkin over the left forearm, his hand poised in a kindly step-this-way freeze. It was the silent movie call to breakfast and we went below. I have seen only one other man dispatch a meal with such speed. But whereas Adlai Stevenson, belying his general reputation for delicacy shovelled the stuff in with hands as pudgy as baseball mitts, Chaplin disposed of eggs and bacon and a wad of pancakes almost as  a display of sleight of hand. One of the permanent pleasures of being with him was to watch the grace and deftness with which he performed all physical movements, from pouring syrup to swerving like a matador just out of the line of an oncoming truck. --Alistaire Cooke, Six Men, 1956
  • He was a great entertainer. It was always nice to go out with him. He'd do these amazing things with fish in the restaurant too. He'd always ask for a trout that's boiled alive. It's sort of twisted into a funny position and he would take the trout and look at it and say, "Oh, Emma, darling!" And kiss the trout on the lips, and suck out its eyes. We'd all be screaming. "Oh, daddy! Oh, how can you! It's so horrible." He'd ask for the wine, taste it, spit it out and the say, "Wonderful." He loved an audience and we, his kids, were a fantastic audience for him. --Geraldine Chaplin, Variety, April 2003.
  • Chaplin conveys the stigma he felt, as a "nondescript of the slums" and underlines the depth of their destitution, by citing simply the absence of a home-cooked dinner on Sunday. "Even the poorest of children sat down to a roast that night," he reports, a ritual that distinguished one poor class from the beggar-class, "and we were that...The shame of it —especially on Sunday!" But they just couldn't afford it. On the other side of the same coin, something they could afford that Chaplin loved, was bread and dripping. This was fried bread sopped in beef juice: that was what impoverished English families ate when they couldn't buy anything else to eat. It was what was left from other foods: bread was used to sop up juice and melted fat from some meat that had been cooked and eaten, often long before. It was a staple of the poor. The night they returned from his father's funeral, this was all there was to eat--they even had to sell a little oil stove in order to buy bread. His association with it is pleasant: "There were times when I would stay home, and Mother would make tea and fry bread in beef dripping, which I relished...."
  • His wealth is not just protection, it is his revenge for the stinging humiliations he endured as a nobody. But his greatness? He continually returned to the term, "clown," "nothing but a clown," until I asked him directly whether he had any idea of what it was that linked him to the millions of people who felt so close to him, who loved his "tramp" who worshipped him as something more than an actor, as something more personal than a showman. His whole answer, in strong, decisive terms, was: "Yes. Bread and dripping." --Peter Steffens, "Charlie Chaplin: The Victorian Tramp," Ramparts, March 1965

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

David Raksin visits Charlie on his last day in Hollywood, 1952

Source: "David Raksin: A Composer In Hollywood" by Jon Newsom, Quarterly Journal Of The Library of Congress, 1978