S&H Film Review

Chaplin adapted by Carl Davis The Gold Rush Charles Chaplin, Mack Swain, Georgia Hale. London Philharmonic Orchestra/Carl Davis 2 December 2000

Large screen projection of silent films behind the full LPO on the Festival Hall platform is a winning formula, and this occasion was of special interest because the music was by Charlie Chaplin himself and the 1925 score had been reconstructed closely by Carl Davis. The illustrated programme, always informative in this series, discuss the vicissitudes of the restoration process until the best possible prints are brought to an avid international public. Large halls are easily filled and these occasions are regularly memorable.

The Gold Rush is the one in which gold prospectors are shadowed by a black bear, starvation enforces a diet of boiled boot - the laces delicately manipulated like spaghetti - and a wooden cabin comes to an exceedingly precariously balanced halt on the edge of oblivion, its see-sawing depending on the relative weight of Charlie and his huge companion.

The music serves well in its place, and in later life Chaplin composed (with help) scores for a number of other silent films. It was played by the LPO with the right mixture of gusto and swooning sentimentality, and no-one would want it different. One admired again the extraordinarily subtle and precise communication that these film actors achieved, leaving you to guess (often quite easily) what they are thinking, feeling or saying. Chaplin believed in a thorough grounding in pantomime, and that a tiny gesture may convey more than a hundred words.

The response from a packed RFH was tumultuous and badges of members of the Chaplin Society, who would have travelled from far and wide, were much in evidence.

The next Silver Screen Classic to be shown with full orchestral accompaniment by the LPO will be Intolerance by D.W. Griffith (1916) with an original score by Carl Davis, who conducts as usual - Saturday 20 January.

Meanwhile, for the transition between Silent and Talkie Movies, treat yourself to Singing in the Rain at the Royal National Theatre.

Peter Grahame Woolf

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