Born in Philadelphia, pianist Arnheim first worked with Abe Lyman (drums) as part of a trio (with Henry Halstead on violin) in 1919 at the Sunset Inn in Santa Monica, California. Arnheim went with Lyman when he formed his own dance band. The two co-penned with Chaplin the two promotional songs for THE GOLD RUSH—”Sing a Song” and “With You, Dear, In Bombay.”
Born in New York City, Johnston was well known as Irving Berlin’s “personal music secretary.” Since Berlin couldn’t read or write music (like Chaplin), Johnston transcribe and arrange Berlin’s music, much as he did for Chaplin on CITY LIGHTS. He also arranged and conducted the first Music Box Revue at Berlin’s new Music Box Theatre in 1921, and he continued to serve those roles on subsequent Berlin musicals. When Berlin went west to Hollywood in 1929, he took Johnston with him, where he orchestrated the scores for PUTTING ON THE RITZ, MAMMY, and REACHING FOR THE MOON. Johnston was Berlin’s pianist for twenty years but when Berlin went back east, Johnston stayed out west.
Born in Leipzig, Eisler studied with Arnold Schoenberg and Anton Webern, and in 1923 composed the first twelve-tone work by a Schoenberg disciple, Palmström, Op. 5, and applied for membership in the Communist Party of Germany, though he allowed the application to lapse. Eisler started teaching at the Marxist Workers’ School in Berlin in 1928, and continued to write protest songs and kampflieder (“songs for the struggle”). His 27-year friendship and creative partnership with Bertolt Brecht began in 1930, and two years later, he became a committee member of the International Music Bureau in Moscow and later served as its chair. When Hitler came to power in January 1933, Eisler quickly went into exile, living in Vienna, London, Paris, and Copenhagen. When Chaplin met Eisler at Clifford Odets’s party in 1939, Chaplin thought it would be a great joke if Eisler helped him with the music for THE GREAT DICTATOR. Eisler later worked with Chaplin on MONSIEUR VERDOUX and, at Chaplin’s request, composed six cues for a proposed re-release of THE CIRCUS.
Arranger on MONSIEUR VERDOUX, Schrager was born in Czernowitz, Bukovina, Austria-Hungary, and began his film career in 1939 contributing uncredited music to the score of STANLEY AND LIVINGSTONE, along with Robert Russell Bennett, David Buttolph, Cyril J. Mockridge, Reginald Bassett, David Raksin, Edward Powell, and Louis Silvers. Silvers, the composer and conductor of the popular Lux Radio Theatre, hired Schrager as his rehearsal and orchestra pianist, and to serve as his assistant. In 1941, when the ASCAP ban forced Silvers (an ASCAP member) out of his compositional duties, Schrager took over composing and arranging for every episode. Schrager eventually took over the baton permanently in 1950.
Chaplin’s conductor on CITY LIGHTS and MODERN TIMES was born in New Haven, Connecticut. Newman had a full career on the vaudeville circuit as the “The Marvelous Boy Pianist” before eventually picking up the baton and becoming the youngest musical director in the country. In 1919, he was hired by Victor Herbert to conduct The Dream Girl. The following year he began a decade-long stint on Broadway conducting musicals for the likes of George Gershwin and Rodgers & Hart. Newman moved to California in 1930 to work with Arthur Johnston on Berlin’s REACHING FOR THE MOON and conduct the film. In 1931, the same year he conducted CITY LIGHTS, Newman scored his first film with a theme that became a pop standard, STREET SCENE.
Charles Sr.’s last recorded stage appearance was in September 1900 at the Granville Theatre of Varieties in Walham Green. On April 29, 1901, he was admitted to St. Thomas’s Hospital, where he died on May 9. Though “an Uncle Albert from Africa” paid for the funeral, Charles was buried a pauper’s grave in Tooting Cemetery. Chaplin carried with him a distant memory of “sitting in a red plush seat” watching Charles perform. “I’m very proud of my father,” he said, “and a little disappointed. He was a fine artist but he drank too much.” For the rest of Hannah’s life, Chaplin’s said, “Mother would tell stories about him with humour and sadness.”
Mason City, Iowa’s most famous son had an illustrious career long before he worked with Chaplin. , studied composition with Mortimer Wilson and conducting with Henry Hadley at the Institute of Musical Art in New York, known today as the Juilliard School of Music. To help meet expenses, he played in the orchestras of the Rivoli and Rialto theaters under the direction of Hugo Riesenfeld. At age 10, Willson became only the second player ever to be hired by John Philip Sousa without an audition. Three years later, he joined the New York Philharmonic in 1925, playing under Arturo Toscanini. Willson’s first film scoring gigs were for two B films at Tiffany-Stahl Productions—Peacock Alley and what he called “a horrible thing” titled The Lost Zeppelin. In 1932 Willson became the music director for NBC’s Western Division and produced as many as 17 radio programs a week for the next 10 years. Chaplin contacted Willson to help with the score for THE GREAT DICTATOR after hearing his second symphony, Missions of California, which premiered in April 1940 with and the Los Angeles Philharmonic.
Conduct0r on A KING IN NEW YORK, Lucas was born in London and got his start as a boy dancing with Diaghilev and later with Anton Dolin and Alicia Markova. He wrote ballets and operas, and eventually became an arranger and orchestrator for Jack Hylton’s band. Lucas got his start in films in the early 1930s, doing mostly uncredited work. His first official credit was musical director for the 1935 British farce HYDE PARK CORNER, with his most notable score in 1950 for Alfred Hitchcock’s STAGE FRIGHT.
The famous lyricist of “Moonglow” and “String of Pearls,” DeLange was born in Long Island, New York. In the early ’30s, he became well known as the front man for the Hudson-DeLange Orchestra, a joint venture with composer/arranger Will Hudson. DeLange’s Hollywood career began as a bit player and stuntman. As a lyricist he wrote for everyone from Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, and Louis Armstrong to Nat “King” Cole, Duke Ellington, and Benny Goodman. During one 41-week run between 1937 and 1939, there was at least one Eddie DeLange song at the top of radio’s Your Hit Parade, each week but one. With Chaplin and Meredith Willson, he added the lyrics to “Falling Star,” a song based on a melody from THE GREAT DICTATOR.
Born in Lyon, France, Arnaud worked on some of the biggest musicals of the 1930s as a staff arranger at M-G-M, including BORN TO DANCE, BROADWAY MELODY OF 1938, and BABES IN ARMS. He orchestrated Max Steiner’s massive score for GONE WITH THE WIND, the classic Munchkinland sequence from THE WIZARD OF OZ, and PINOCCHIO’s harrowing Monstro scenes. Arnaud was “one of the boys” Meredith Willson brought one to help orchestrate and arrange THE GREAT DICTATOR.
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