In the early days of Hollywood movies, folks hadn’t yet figured out how to put sound to sync with film. The golden age of silent movies was 1904-1928.
One of the biggest stars of the era was Charlie Chaplin, whose “Little Tramp,” silently glided through various adventures.
The Columbus Symphony Orchestra’s annual Valentine’s Day concert, featuring Chaplin’s “City Lights,” is set for Sunday.
“We are presenting this wonderful love story as our Valentine’s Day concert,” said CSO conductor and music director George Del Gobbo. “It has become our practice to present that particular concert on the actual Valentine’s Day, no matter what day of the week that is.”
Del Gobbo said “City Lights” is one of Chaplin’s best films.
“Written three years or so after the arrival of ‘talking’ motion pictures, it is evidence of the fact that Chaplin preferred the silent medium. Still, as an acknowledgement of what was current in the film world at the time, he called his movie, ‘A Comedy Romance in Pantomime.’”
The film has sound effects, but no one actually talks, CSO executive director JJ Musgrove said.
Del Gobbo said Chaplin was instrumental in practically every aspect of the film’s production, including writing the musical score.
“So, not only will the audience be looking at Chaplin’s images, they will be listening to his music,” Del Gobbo said.
Unlike other silent films, there are not too many subtitles.
“Apart from titles indicating the time of day, etc., there is very little in the way of conversation transcribed to writing in the film. The actors convey their sentiments strictly via body language and acting.”
Chaplin’s musical score is challenging, Del Gobbo said.
“It is challenging, but not terribly difficult to coordinate the music with the movie,” he said. “There are no monitors, no time codes, etc. I’ll be watching the movie along with everyone else and attempting to coordinate the action on the screen with the music.
“The only difference between me and audience members is that I will have watched the film 50 times and have learned the music in advance. The music has some difficult passages, but is nothing that the orchestra hasn’t seen before.”
Before the audience goes into the Bill Heard Theatre, they will be treated with champagne and chocolate-covered strawberries.
“I hope everyone enjoys this infrequent look back at the amazingly talented actors and directors who made movies before movies could talk,” Del Gobbo said. “Perhaps we could all take a lesson from them and talk less and look (and truly listen) more.”