Showing posts with label Limelight. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Limelight. Show all posts

Saturday, September 3, 2016

"Studio closed. Labor Day"

This production report shows that the Chaplin Studio was closed on Labor Day, September 1st, 1952. It also records Chaplin's final days in Hollywood--Sept. 5th being the last day he ever set foot in the studio he built in 1918. The next day, he left California for London for the premiere of Limelight, not to return until 1972.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Editing LIMELIGHT, 1952

Click to enlarge

With Chaplin are cameraman Rollie Totheroh (in vest and tie), assistant producer Jerry Epstein (in dark sweater), and editor Joseph Engel (first and second photo at right). Limelight was Chaplin's last film made at his own studio in Hollywood.

Jerry Epstein recalls what it was like editing the film with Chaplin:
Charlie and I worked in the cutting room for a little over six months. Charlie never allowed anyone but himself to edit his films. The cutter's job was merely to assemble every sequence into long shot, medium shot and close-up, and splice the film together after Charlie had decided where he wanted the cuts. 
It could have been clear sailing, but we had a bungler as our editor. Cutting rooms are usually well-ordered: all the film takes are labelled and easily located. Ours was in total chaos; our editor couldn't find anything. The minute Charlie asked for a take, he began shaking and opening every tin in sight. Rolls of film tumbled onto the floor. It was like a W.C. Fields film. I thought Charlie would have a stroke. His precious Limelight! Luckily I knew each take by heart, and was always able to locate what Charlie wanted. The editor, meanwhile, would be muttering, "But that was never filmed; there's no such take!" --Jerry Epstein, Remembering Charlie, 1989.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Day By Day: 1936

Friday, January 24th: Chaplin and Paulette Goddard attend the opening of Col. de Basil's Ballet Russes at the Philharmonic Auditorium in Los Angeles.

Chaplin looks at the Ballet Russes program. See it here.

It's well-known that Chaplin had a lifelong affection for ballet. According to his son, Charlie, Jr.: "Every time a ballet troupe came to town Dad would take in the performance, not once but several times. He knew the stories, the music, and all the parts by heart." He also incorporated ballet into a number of his films. But perhaps his greatest tribute to his love of ballet was his 1952 film, Limelight. It's not commonly known but the origins of the Limelight story can be traced back to projects he intended for Paulette in the late 1930s. One story involved a male dancer named Tamerlain and a female dancer (Paulette) who befriends him. He also toyed with the idea of making a film with a circus or vaudeville theme. In a story called The Passion Of Vaudeville, Chaplin plays an aging clown and Paulette plays his younger protégée. They marry but she eventually falls in love with a handsome younger artist. Sound familiar?

You can read more about these projects and how they evolved into Limelight in Charlie Chaplin: Footlights with The World of Limelight by David Robinson.  It's a fascinating story.

Monday, December 14, 2015

LIMELIGHT wins the award for Best Original Dramatic Score at the 1973 Academy Awards + the Mystery of Larry Russell's nomination

Candace Bergen accepts the award on behalf of Chaplin who was not present. This footage was new to me.

Although the film was released in 1952, it wasn't shown in Los Angeles until 1972 & therefore wasn't eligible for an Oscar until then. The award was presented to Chaplin and his collaborators Raymond Rasch & Larry Russell, except the latter had nothing to do with the film. This was evidently a flub on the part of the Academy. By 1973, both Larry Russell and Raymond Rasch were deceased (Rasch's son and Russell's daughter accept the awards on their behalf at the ceremony). When the Academy asked Chaplin who arranged the music, he answered Raymond Rasch. When Rasch's widow was asked who else arranged the score with her husband, she said "someone named Russell." The Academy immediately thought of Larry Russell, who was also a music arranger. When the Academy asked Russell's widow if he had worked on the film, she only said "he must have." But he didn't. According to David Robinson's Footlights & The World of Chaplin's Limelight (2014) a letter exists in the Chaplin Archives that shows that, before work on the film began, Russell had offered his services as conductor, but they were declined and at no time was he ever employed by the studio.* It appears that the award should have been given to composer/arranger Russell Garcia. In an interview in 2008, Garcia was asked why he never made an effort to correct the mistake himself: "I don't want to make trouble for anyone or spoil anyone’s fond thoughts or memories...I've won plenty of awards. I just forgot about it." Read more of his interview here. Garcia passed away in 2011.

Strangely enough, Robinson's book also notes that Garcia's name appears nowhere in the daily records of the Chaplin Studio. "If he worked on the music, it can only have been a purely private arrangement between himself and Rasch." While this might be true, a photo does exist of Garcia & Chaplin at a recording session for Limelight.

Below is a photo from my collection, taken at the same time as the photo above. I thought the man next to Chaplin (in the white shirt) might be Garcia as well. I might be wrong but the hair and shirt are similar. The man at far left is Raymond Rasch. 

*According to Robinson, following Russell's nomination in 1973, his widow "asked for a one-third share in performance royalties in the Limelight music--a claim which she quickly retracted, saying 'that she had made her claim due to a misunderstanding."

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Buster Keaton & Martha Raye reenact the music hall finale from LIMELIGHT on THE MARTHA RAYE SHOW in 1956

Few Americans saw Limelight upon its initial release in 1952. Although it had received positive critical reviews, it was subjected to widespread boycotts because Chaplin was thought to be a Communist. So it's ironic that while a scant number of people saw the film in 1952, a few years later many saw one of its final scenes reenacted on television.

In this version, filmed before a live studio audience, Martha Raye1 plays Chaplin's role of Calvero, wearing a pot-bellied tux and, as an additional nod to the man she considered her idol, a Tramp mustache (Chaplin didn't have the Tramp mustache in Limelight). Keaton is wearing glasses and a tux but not the large mustache he wore in the film. Unlike the film version, this routine belongs to Keaton, who reworked the material from the original and restored some of the gags that had been cut from the final film, including his fall at the beginning and the bit where the piano lands on Martha's foot. We also see a variation on the high shirt collar business. When Martha's face is hidden behind the collar, Keaton pulls her head up by the hair "lengthening" her neck. Chaplin filmed a similar sequence but didn't use it (in the film he simply tears off the collar).

There has been a lot of talk over the years that Chaplin cut Keaton's best bits from the Limelight. Yes, he deleted a couple of good Keaton gags but it was for the purpose of the film. It would have made no sense for the Keaton character to upstage Calvero in this scene. The final music hall routine was supposed to belong to Calvero, it was his moment.

For a more in-depth comparison of the two routines, see Dan Kamin's essay, "The Three Ages Of Limelight" in Chaplin's Limelight & The Music Hall Tradition, edited by Frank Scheide and Hooman Mehran (McFarland, 2006).

1Raye appeared alongside Chaplin in Monsieur Verdoux (1947) as the indestructible "Annabella Bonheur."

Friday, March 20, 2015

Spring Is Here

"Spring Song" (Limelight, 1952)

Charlie's handwritten notes for "Spring Song" with slightly different lyrics:

Limelight: Project Chaplin No. 1 / ©Roy Export SAS

Spring is here
Birds are calling
Wagging their tails for love

Flies are flying
Skunks are crawling
Wagging their tails for love

It's in the air
It's everywhere
The sun, below and above
Fish are swimming
Stingers stinging
Wagging their tails for love

Wales [sic] are churning
Worms are squirming
Wagging their tails for love

What is this thing
On which I sing
That makes us all bewitch
What is this thing
That comes in spring
That gives us all the itch

Oh it's love, it's love
love love love love love love....

Monday, January 5, 2015

Charlie & Oona at a train stop in Chicago on their way to New York City, January, 1950.  Chaplin was traveling to NY to audition leading ladies for his upcoming film, Limelight.

Lillian Ross of the New Yorker, who was also a friend of the Chaplins, spent some time with Charlie during this visit & wrote an interesting little article about it here.  Her observations of Chaplin are always fascinating.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Editing Limelight, 1952

Other familiar faces include cameraman Rollie Totheroh in the background on the right. Assistant producer Jerry Epstein, wearing a dark shirt, in the photos on the left. The man on Charlie's left is probably editor Joseph Engel.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

World premiere of Limelight, October 16th, 1952

The world premiere took place at the Odeon Theater in London in the presence of Queen Elizabeth's sister, Princess Margaret, who later told Claire Bloom, "I laughed and cried and cried and laughed."

Above: Newsreel footage of the premiere. 

Charlie and family at the premiere.
Son Sydney (who plays Neville) towers over all of them.

A page from the program for the London premiere.
( Source: Limelight, Chaplin Project, N.1)

The film opened in the U.S. a week later. However because of the negative feelings about Chaplin in America at the time, it was banned in many theaters. Chaplin eventually withdrew the film from circulation. When it was re-released in 1972, Chaplin & Ray Rasch won the Academy Award for Best Original Score.

Letter from the American Legion to United Artists requesting suspension of the film's distribution.
( Source: Limelight, Chaplin Project, N.1)

In July 1953, Charlie & Oona received a touching letter from brother, Sydney, who had just attended a private screening of the film with his wife, Gypsy, in California:
"We think it is a 'masterpiece' and the greatest Charlie has ever made. There are no superlatives I could use to do justice to it. It was so well acted, so beautifully balanced between laughter and pathos. Gypsy and I cried like kids, so much so, that we waited for everyone to leave the room before we left our seats. You did an excellent piece of acting Charlie and so did Claire Bloom....
It's a good thing you have not my brooding nature. If I had had to endure the persecution you have received in this country, someone would have been murdered. I think it is a damnable crime that such a picture as 'Limelight' should be banned in America....I get a great satisfaction when I hear people praise your work. It makes me very proud of you and I console myself with the thought that I am Charlie Chaplin's brother, which is my usual form of introduction and which does not arouse in me the slightest thought of jealousy. I glory in your success and bask in your 'Limelight'" (Syd Chaplin: A Biography, Lisa K. Stein, McFarland, 2010)

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Oona doubles for Claire Bloom in Limelight

Chaplin recruited his wife, Oona, to double for Claire Bloom in one brief scene after the actress had returned to England. It was just as well since the film was already a family affair with seven members of the Chaplin family appearing in it, including all of Charlie's children at the time (except baby Victoria).

Oona as Terry.
Charlie and Oona on the set. Photo by Florence Homolka.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Charlie directs the ballet sequence for Limelight

Charlie (in costume as Calvero and wearing glasses) is being watched by cameraman Karl Struss (tall man in center), Buster Keaton (in white shirt), Jerry Epstein (behind Buster), & assistant director Robert Aldrich (behind Chaplin).

Photo by W. Eugene Smith

Friday, February 15, 2013

Happy Birthday, Claire Bloom

Below, Claire talks about working with Charlie at a 60th anniversary screening of Limelight in Oct. 2012 (Norman Lloyd was also present at this event. A link should come up for his talk about halfway through Claire's. If not, click here to watch. It is not to be missed.)