Silent films were popular in the late 19th and early 20th century, when technology could not combine motion picture and sound at the same time. Dialogue was described through gestures, mime and title cards. However, many picture houses employed musicians to accompany the films they aired to provide the audience with emotional cues to the film. The first time a live musician was used was a guitarist in 1895 in Paris. Traditionally, live music for silent film was improvised by the musicians, or complied of theatrical music of the time. This progressed to full scores written specifically for the film by a composer, when full-length features became more commonplace.
Charlie Chaplin is one of the most well-known and beloved actors from the silent film era. His iconic look and walk are something people still recognise to this day. Born in 1889 in London, Chaplin began performing as a young child, with his first performance at the age of 5. By the age of 14 he had left school and registered with a talent agency in the West End. His performing took him to America where he entered the film industry, signing with Keystone Studios in 1913. It was here, in his second film that his iconic look ‘The Tramp’ was created:
"I wanted everything to be a contradiction: the pants baggy, the coat tight, the hat small and the shoes large ... I added a small moustache, which, I reasoned, would add age without hiding my expression. I had no idea of the character. But the moment I was dressed, the clothes and the makeup made me feel the person he was. I began to know him, and by the time I walked on stage he was fully born."
Following on from his work with Keystone, Chaplin signed with the Mutual Film Corporation, which inspired then name of the Chaplin Mutual Comedies, which this year celebrate their 100th Anniversary. The Mutual Comedies are widely celebrated as an iconic example of film from this era and are considered some of the best examples of Chaplin’s work.
Chaplin himself also realised the importance of music in film, and as his career progressed he took an increasing interest in the accompaniment of his features. From 1931 onwards, due to technology advances Chaplin was able to compose the scores to his films alongside other composers. Famous songs that Chaplin composed include ‘Smile’, which is still recognised to this day.
This idea of live music to film is something that is becoming increasingly more popular now. Theatres around the country and the world are now screening films accompanied by a live orchestra. Films from Jaws to Love Actually are being screened on 40ft screens with a full concert orchestra performing in tandem.
ROSL ARTS are joining in with this phenomenon as part of our 65th anniversary celebrations. On Friday 27 October, we will be screening the Chaplin Mutual Comedies alongside live music in the Princess Alexandra Hall, featuring 1995 ROSL Annual Music Competition winner Ashley Wass on piano, alongside internationally renowned violinist Matthew Trusler.
Tickets for this unique screening are available now and it is an event not to be missed! See the video below for an exciting clip of Ashley and Matthew in action.
To book, click here, or ring 020 7408 0214 ext. 219.
Chaplin's Musical Mutual Comedies
Music and film are two things that you automatically place together. Films such as Star Wars, Jurrasic Park and Harry Potter are instantly recognisable by their iconic theme tunes. However, 100 years ago there in the silent film era, there was only music to accompany a motion picture, but no dialogue.