b. Charles Spencer Chaplin, 16 April 1889, Walworth, London, England, d. 25 December 1977, Vevey, Switzerland. One of the most important and influential filmmakers of all time, music was only a small part of Chaplin’s achievements. Owing to his silent films, by the time that sound came in Chaplin was a legend and loved by millions. Although he chose to make City Lights (1931) and Modern Times (1936) as silent films, he did have music on the soundtracks, writing the scores himself. Eventually bowing to the concept of talkies, he continued to compose scores for the few remaining films he made: The Great Dictator (1940), Monsieur Verdoux (1947), Limelight (1952), from which also came the song, ‘Smile’ (with John Turner and Geoffrey Brooks), A King In New York (1957), and A Countess From Hong Kong (1967), from which came ‘This Is My Song’, with Pierre Delanoë, a number 1 hit in the UK for Petula Clark. Another of his songs is ‘Eternally’. Informed accounts of Chaplin’s working methods draw attention to the fact that for all his manifold skills, he could neither read nor write music. Reportedly, he would whistle or hum snatches of melody to others who would then write and develop these themes into the finished work. For example, David Raksin was employed in this capacity on Modern Times, although they argued heatedly over the project. An album of the Modern Times score was recorded by an orchestra conducted by Alfred Newman for United Artists Records; that for A Countess From Hong Kong with orchestra conducted by Lambert Williamson was made for Decca Records.
Chaplin was awarded a special Oscar for his multiple off-camera roles on The Circus (1928), an Oscar for the music for Limelight, awarded in 1972 the year in which the film was belatedly eligible following its first screening in Los Angeles, and in that same year he received another special Oscar for his overall contribution to film. In 1975, he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II. His half-brother, Syd Chaplin, appeared in some films and was Chaplin’s business manager. His son, Sydney Chaplin, named after his uncle, has appeared in films and on Broadway. Film actress Geraldine Chaplin is Chaplin’s daughter and made her debut in Limelight.