Chaplin Music Timeline

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1914
July 28

CARMEN DRAGON BORN

Carmen Dragon

Part of the arranging and orchestrating team Meredith Willson employed on THE GREAT DICTATOR, Dragon was born in Antioch, California. He was a composer, arranger, conductor, educator, and radio and television personality, logging 5,000 hours of radio broadcasts, including his time with Willson.

December 1

CHAPLIN SIGNS ESSANAY CONTRACT

CHAPLIN SIGNS ESSANAY CONTRACT

After Mack Sennett refused to offer Chaplin more money to stay at Keystone, Chaplin signed with the Essanay Film Manufacturing Company for an unprecedented $1,250 a week, plus a signing bonus of $10,000.

1916
January 1

CHAPLIN FORMS MUSIC PUBLISHING COMPANY

Chaplin co-founded the Charlie Chaplin Music Publishing Company with his old friend Bert Clark, a vaudevillian and former Keystone co-worker. The office was a room on the third floor of Blanchard hall, a now-demolished office building in downtown Los Angeles office building. The company published three of Chaplin’s early songs.

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January 22

KATE (HILL) MOWBRAY DIES

Chaplin said his aunt “wove in and out of our lives sporadically. She was pretty and temperamental and never got along very well with Mother. Her occasional visits usually ended abruptly with acrimony at something Mother had said or done.” Kate died of cancer in London

February 20

CHAPLIN CONDUCTS SOUSA’S BAND

Chaplin & John Philip Sousa

Chaplin appeared for one performance at a benefit concert starring John Philip Sousa’s band at the Hippodrome in New York. At an invitation from Hippodrome general manager Charles B. Dillingham, Chaplin agreed to appear at the benefit on two conditions—Sousa’s band would play one of his own compositions (“The Peace Patrol,” plus von Suppé’s Poet and Peasant Overture), and his fee would go to charity.

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February 26

CHAPLIN SIGNS MUTUAL CONTRACT

Chaplin signs his Mutual contract

Chaplin’s contract with the Mutual Film Corporation called for 12 two-reel comedies at a salary of $10,000 per week with a signing bonus of $150,000, totaling $670,000 a year. “Next to the war in Europe Chaplin is the most expensive item in contemporaneous history,” proclaimed Mutual’s publicist.

April 12

RUSSELL GARCIA BORN

Russell Garcia & Chaplin

Controversial arranger on LIMELIGHT (and LIMELIGHT conductor Keith Williams’ tutor), California-born Garcia was one of the founding fathers of the West Coast big band sound and an early pioneer of atonal arranging. During World War II, he was a staff arranger at NBC radio before serving in the army infantry. As a trumpet player after the war, he toured with the bands of Al Donahue, Horace Heidt, and Bob Crosby, and later recorded with Harry James’s bands. In Hollywood, Garcia studied composition and arranging with Ernst Toch, Edmund Ross, and Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, and conducting with Sir Albert Coates. While teaching at Westlake College of Music in Los Angeles, he developed his classic workbook The Professional Arranger-Composer.

July 10

THE VAGABOND RELEASED

The Vagabond (1916)

This short is the first appearance of Chaplin playing the violin, using his unique instrument with the fingerboard reversed. In the film, the Tramp uses his violin to seduce a gypsy prisoner (Edna Purviance). Chaplin played the instrument on the set, including “The Honeysuckle and the Bee,” the song he famously heard the night “music entered my soul” as a young boy.

1917
March 1

RAYMOND RASCH BORN

Raymond Rasch

LIMELIGHT arranger Rasch was born in Toledo, Ohio. He began his music career in radio before heading to the West Coast. Rasch worked with Donald O’Connor and the vocal group the Smoothies, and also played piano for Tommy Dorsey, Freddy Martin, Horace Heidt, and Ina Ray Hutton.

June 17

CHAPLIN SIGNS FIRST NATIONAL CONTRACT

J.D. Williams of First National Exhibitors Circuit, Edna Purviance, Chaplin

Chaplin signed with the First National Exhibitor’s Circuit for 8 films in 18 months in return for $1 million, plus a $75,000 signing bonus. Chaplin was now his own producer and would shoulder the costs, while First National paid for the prints and advertising, and received 30% of the total rents for their distribution fees, splitting the remaining net profits equally with Chaplin. Even more importantly, after 5 years, the rights to his films reverted to Chaplin. Those rights gave Chaplin control over their presentation and allowed him to repackage them—whether as a compilation (THE CHAPLIN REVUE), separately, or paired— and compose new scores later in his career.

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