100 years of “The Little Tramp"

In preparation of the festivities planned for the centenary of the first appearance of Charles Chaplin's infamous character, the Cineteca di Bologna, in cooperation with the Association Chaplin, has commissioned from Timothy Brock a new score for the very first “Little Tramp” film, KID AUTO RACES AT VENICE (1914).

 

Brock, serving as score preservationist for the Chaplin estate since 1999, has been closely associated with the Chaplin family archives in the restoration of all 13 of his original scores for live performance. He is also the composer of two new scores for the Chaplin films, THE IMMIGRANT (1917) and BURLESQUE ON CARMEN (1915), as well the score to Kevin Brownlow's acclaimed documentary THE TRAMP AND THE DICTATOR (2001).

 

KID AUTO RACES AT VENICE, which runs 7 minutes, was the first time 1914 audiences around the world had seen Chaplin as they had come to know him for the next 100 years.

 

Chaplin himself relates the story: 

 

“I had no idea what makeup to put on (...)However, on the way to the wardrobe I thought I would dress in baggy pants, big shoes, a cane, and a derby hat. I wanted everything to be a contradiction: the pants baggy, the coat tight, the hat small and the shoes large. I was undecided whether to look old or young, but remembering Sennett had expected me to be a much older man, 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 make-up made me feel the person he was. I began to know him, and by the time I walked on to the stage he was fully born.”

 

The short film was so instantly popular, that Chaplin was compelled to make some 80 more “Tramp” shorts and features before his last silent film, MODERN TIMES (1936), brought an end to the tramp character for good.

 

On scoring for Chaplin, Timothy Brock says,

 

“It's not very often one gets the chance to compose for his films, simply because Charlie's done it already. And there's no competing with those because they're perfect. But then there's the shorts that have no scores, and that gives us composers a chance to come up with something of our own. But even then I feel as though I am under Charlie's scrutiny. Music was extremely important to him, to say the least.”

 

KID AUTO RACES AT VENICE was restored by the British Film Institute and the Cineteca di Bologna, and will be shown world-wide in concert as a short subject before many Chaplin features. The world premiere takes place at the Teatro de Zarzuela in Madrid on December 30, 2013, with Mr. Brock conducting.

 

 

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