Chaplin Music Timeline

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May 22



Not much is known about Katz’s career in the 40 years following his time with Chaplin on LIMELIGHT beyond his death in San Francisco at the age of 82.

November 1


Leighton Lucas

After conducting A KING IN NEW YORK, Lucas’s film career ended with the close of the 1950s and a slate of undistinguished films. he returned to his roots in the world of ballet, premiering Pavane for Mary about Mary, Queen of Scots with the Edinburgh Ballet Theatre in 1963 and later arranging the music of Jules Massenet for Kenneth MacMillan’s Manon in 1974. In 1967, he published Mini Music, a series of music clerihews that includes a prescient “If I had a computer / instead of tutor, / Who knows / What I mightn’t compose?” Lucas later became a professor at the Royal Academy of Music and died in London at age 79.

August 24


Rudy Schrager

As a freelancer not tied to any studio, Schrager continued to find work after MONSIEUR VERDOUX, though usually scoring “B” pictures. With the new threat of television wreaking havoc on the film industry, the musicians union was not allowing its members to work in the new medium. As a result, Schrager became involved with David Chudnow, a music director and producer who, with a nod to music practices during the silent days, specialized in assembling scores for films. Schrager joined a team of composers who would write new music or adapt music they had previously written and used. Chudnow recorded the music in Europe where the labor was cheaper than in Hollywood and provided pseudonyms for his composers to protect them from the wrath of the musicians union. Schrader took over as musical director on the Lux Radio Theatre from Louis Silvers in 1949 and continued in that position for four years with the Lux Video Theatre. In addition to numerous film scores, Schrager composed for television, including such popular Westerns as Rawhide, Gunsmoke, and The Big Valley before dying in Los Angeles just days shy of his 83rd birthday.

February 28


Edward Powell

Powell orchestrated nearly every Alfred Newman for 30 years, as well as classics by Franz Waxman and Alex North, and later became a member of the Board of Governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. He died at the Motion Picture & Television Hospital in Woodland, California, at age 74.

March 28


Carmen Dragon

After working as part of the GREAT DICTATOR music team, Dragon continued with a distinguished music career. He worked on over 30 films, including classics like INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS and winning an Oscar for COVER GIRL. He won an Emmy for conducting the Glendale Symphony Orchestra 1964 Christmas special, an organization he headed for 20 years, and received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Dragon died of cancer in Santa Monica at age 69.

June 15


Meredith Willson

Following his work on THE GREAT DICTATOR, Willson scored one more film, William Wyler’s pungent adaptation of Lillian Hellman’s THE LITTLE FOXES starring Bette Davis, receiving his second Oscar nomination. During the war, Willson worked for the Armed Forces Radio Service and played a regular character on the George Burns and Gracie Allen radio program. He also wrote hit songs like “You and I,” a number one hit for Glenn Miller, “Two in Love,” and “May the Lord Bless You and Keep You.” In 1957, he performed a Broadway hat trick as composer, lyricist, and librettist of the phenomenally successful The Music Man, which beat West Side Story for the Best Musical Tony Award. His follow-up, The Unsinkable Molly Brown, ran for two seasons, but Here’s Love, his 1963 adaptation of Miracle on 34th Street, flopped, and his fourth musical, 1491, about Columbus’s attempts to finance his famous voyage, never made it to Broadway. Willson died of heart failure in Santa Monica, California, at the age of 82. In 1991, his third wife, Rosemary Willson, donated $5 million to The Juilliard School in memory of her late husband. The school’s first residence hall bears his name to this day.

July 30


Peter Knight

Though his time with Chaplin on A KING IN NEW YORK was short-lived, Knight went on to a successful career with the likes of dusty Springfield, Scott Walker, Peters and Lee, and the Moody Blues, arranging, conducting, and co-composing the band’s 1967 concept album Days of Future Passed, which included the classic “Nights in White Satin.” In the late 1970s, Knight worked with The Carpenters on their two Christmas specials, and scored and conducted the Los Angeles Philharmonic on the duo’s 1977 album Passage, including the trippy classic “Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft.” Knight’s television work included shows by Morecambe and Wise, Bruce Forsyth, Harry Secombe, and the Song by Song by… series. In film, he orchestrated scores by Philippe Sarde (TESS, GHOST STORY, QUEST FOR FIRE) and Trevor Jones (THE DARK CRYSTAL). After Knight died of lung cancer at age 68, Yorkshire television launched the annual Peter Knight award to honor excellence in musical arranging.

December 22


After writing the lyrics for “Eternally,” “Smile,” and “Mandolin Serenade,” Parsons continued working at the Peter Maurice Music Company. Parsons died in Eastbourne, East Sussex, England, at age 77.

April 26


After working as part of Meredith Willson’s team on THE GREAT DICTATOR, Arnaud continued his musical career in Hollywood, composing, arranging, orchestrating, and conducting—often uncredited. He received an Academy Award nomination as part of the team adapting the music for Willson’s THE UNSINKABLE MOLLY BROWN. Today, Arnaud is best known as the composer of “Bugler’s Dream,” which was originally written as part of Felix Slatkin’s “The Charge Suite” for his 1958 instrumental album Charge! NBC first used the piece as part of the 1964 Olympics and it has gone on to be the musical identity of the Games. Arnaud died in Los Angeles at age 86.

August 9


David Raksin

Like his collaborators on MODERN TIMES Alfred Newman and Edward Powell, , Raksin went on to a celebrated career in Hollywood. As a composer, he worked without credit on forty-eight films before finally sharing screen credit on THE ADVENTURES OF SHERLOCK HOLMES in 1939. His big break came when Newman and Bernard Herrmann refused to score Otto Preminger’s 1944 film noir, LAURA. Newman, who was head of the 20th Century Fox music department, assigned Raksin to write the score and Raksin’s haunting theme became an instrumental and jazz classic. He went on to score over 100 films, including FOREVER AMBER, THE BAD AND THE BEAUTIFUL, PAT AND MIKE, and SEPARATE TABLES. Raksin, a former member of the Communist Party briefly in the 1930s, was called before the House Un-American Activities Committee and reluctantly named names of 11 party members who were dead or who had already been named. “What I did was a major sin,” he said in a 1997 interview with the Los Angeles Times, “but I think I did as well as most human beings would’ve done under torture…. But there I was, a guy with a family to support and a fairly decent career that was about to go down the drain.” Raksin taught film composition at the University of Southern California beginning in 1956 and was an eight-term president of ASCAP from 1962 to 1970. He also served as an advisor on the 1991 Chaplin biopic directed by Richard Attenborough. in a devastating span of three weeks in 2004 that saw the deaths of film music greats Jerry Goldsmith (July 21) and Elmer Bernstein (August 18), Raksin died from heart failure at his home in Los Angeles, age 92.

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