was this sequence timed to music? could be…

I’ve found in numerous in Chaplin films that certaiin sequences and routines fit a musical beat and structure, that a bit of business will fit nicely an 8 or 16 bar phrase. It may have been an innate thing with Chaplin, and he may not have intended this at all. First time it popped up was when I wrote my orchestral score to “The Adventurer”. The sequence in which Charlie is at the cocktail party and, while chatting with party guest Marta Golden, swipes a drink from Loyal Underwood standing next to him. The piece of music I wrote, in a moderato 4/4 meter, fit the rhythm of the routine just right. Playing for “The Immigrant” a couple times a year at the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria, NY I found the same to be true of a few sequences in that film as well.

Well, I’ve been meaning to post video this for some time. Some years ago when Bruce programmed “The Scarecrow” at The Silent Clowns Film Series I discovered the meal sequence fits a beat and musical structure, and this became part of the score. While I’d found that numerous Chaplin scenes did this, but it was fun seeing this in Keaton, beyond the obvious, deliberate musical numbers in Buster’s films (e.g. Steamboat Bill, Play House).

While it’s possible (probable?) that Buster had music played on set to keep a beat for this sequence, what ever it was wasn’t a waltz. Remember, what we’re watching (at 24 fps) is sped up about 50% from the speed it was shot at (16 fps).

I also think Roscoe Arbuckle unofficially co-directed much of this short. “Life of the Party” was released Nov 1920, and “The Scarecrow was released Dec 1920, so Roscoe may have had the down-time…besides his dog Luke is featured in most of the film and you don’t think Roscoe just dropped Luke off and went fishing do you? Big Joe Roberts is practically a stand in for Roscoe, character-wise, rather than being the menacing villain he usually plays. Anyway, it’s just a theory…

The audio you hear in this clip was recorded live in performance at the Egyptian Theater in Boise, ID in September 2010, when I accompanied a couple of shorts on the theater’s original-installation Robert Morton theatre organ. Click here to see my video blog post from that event.

Here’s the newly uploaded video:

Playing for “Speedy” tonight at the Riverdale YM-YWHA. Have chosen “All On Account of a Transfer” as an opening short, since it concerns trolleys and was shot at/near the Edison studios in the Bronx, not too far from the Riverdale Y.

See you at the silents!


0 0 votes
Article Rating
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments