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Modern Times (1936) - Cleveland Orchestra / L'Albatros

Modern Times (1936)
87 minutes, Black & White
English, Partial Sound
Tuesday, December 11, 8 p.m.
Celebrity Series
The Cleveland Orchestra @ Severance Hall
William Eddins, conductor

Dinner at 5:30 to 6 p.m. – Show at 8 p.m.

Music Cleveland! and Ciné Arts Cleveland! are pleased to sponsor a joint meet-up event at Severance Hall with The Cleveland Orchestra and Charlie Chaplin!

And, we are excited to offer a Members-Only 50-percent discount on tickets in all sections of the hall. Opt to purchase Box Seats that list for $110 and pay just $55. A little to rich for you? Then choose Balcony seating with a published price of $40, and you’ll pay just $20. Just some of the great values of being a member.

Music Cleveland! and Ciné Arts Cleveland! A 50-percent discount for Members!

Last year the Orchestra played the musical score of Chaplin’s iconic silent film City Lights to a sold out hall. I expect that to be repeated this year as the Orchestra plays Chaplin’s very own score to his classic, mostly silent masterpiece – Modern Times.

Modern Times is a comedy film by Charlie Chaplin that has his iconic Little Tramp character struggling to survive in the modern, industrialized world. The film is a comment on the desperate employment and fiscal conditions many people faced during the Great Depression, conditions created, in Chaplin's view, by the efficiencies of modern industrialization. The movie stars Chaplin, Paulette Goddard, Henry Bergman,Stanley Sandford and Chester Conklin, and was written and directed by Chaplin.

Modern Times was deemed "culturally significant" by the Library of Congress in 1989, and selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry. Fourteen years later, it was screened "out of competition" at the 2003 Cannes Film Festival.

Modern Times trailer (click here)

Time: 5:30 to 6 p.m.
Location: L'Albatros,

11401 Bellflower Rd, Cleveland, OH

Go to the Orchestra Web Site and select your seats (click here)

Dinner: L'Albatros

11401 Bellflower Rd, Cleveland, OH

Time: Arrival around 5:30 to 6 p.m.

Members Note: Please don’t forget your annual Membership Fees. You may use the PayPal link in the upper left margin of the home page or pay the Organizer/Host in cash at your next event. Your dues help cover the costs of being on and related administrative costs. Organizers are not compensated and do this for their love of music, fine wine and food, and, of course, friendship. And, our sincere thanks to those members who are current with their dues!

You may join Music Cleveland! and pay the annual fee of $10 and your dues for Ciné Arts will be waived – two groups for the price of one. But, you must have paid the membership fee before CAC dues can be waived.

At a Glance

The glory of silent films are "in" again. Last season’s performance sold out, so don’t miss this new opportunity to experience a classic film with its original score as written by Charlie Chaplin himself performed live by The Cleveland Orchestra. In the final appearance of Chaplin's iconic Little Tramp (the character that brought him world fame), the incomparable actor-director created a comedy about humanity's struggle to survive amidst the changing industrialization of the world.

View Opening Scenes (click here)

Dinner: L'Albatros,11401 Bellflower Road, Cleveland,[masked]
Time: Arrive between 5:30 to 6 p.m.


Chaplin's last 'silent' film, filled with sound effects, was made when everyone else was making talkies. Charlie turns against modern society, the machine age, (The use of sound in films?) and progress. Firstly we see him frantically trying to keep up with a production line, tightening bolts. He is selected for an experiment with an automatic feeding machine, but various mishaps leads his boss to believe he has gone mad, and Charlie is sent to a mental hospital... When he gets out, he is mistaken for a communist while waving a red flag, sent to jail, foils a jailbreak, and is let out again. We follow Charlie through many more escapades before the film is out. Written by Colin Tinto [masked]

Assembly Line Scene (click here)

This scene reminds me of the famous Lucille Ball scene with Ethel in the chocolate factory. No doubt Chaplin influenced her and many others.

Lucy/Ethel – Chocolate Factory scene (click here)


According to the official documents, the music score was composed by Chaplin himself, and arranged with the assistance of Alfred Newman. The romance theme was later given lyrics, and became the pop standard "Smile", first recorded by Nat King Cole and later covered by artists as Sammy Davis Jr., Dean Martin,Tony Bennett, Trini Lopez, Eric Clapton, Barbra Streisand, Diana Ross, Michael Bublé, Petula Clark, Liberace, Judy Garland, Madeleine Peyroux, Plácido Domingo and Dionne Warwick, Michael Jackson andRobert Downey, Jr. (included on the soundtrack for the film Chaplin).

Modern Times was the first film where Chaplin's voice is heard as he performs Léo Daniderff's comical song Je cherche après Titine. Chaplin's version is also known as The Nonsense Song, as his character has to sing it in gibberish (due to losing the shirt cuff on which the lyrics were written, and thus having to make up the lyrics on the spot). The lyrics are nonsensical but appear to contain words from French and Italian; the use of deliberately half-intelligible wording for comic effect points the way towards Hynkel's speeches in The Great Dictator.

According to film composer David Raksin, the music was written by him as a young man wanting to make a name for himself. Chaplin would sit, often in the washroom, humming tunes and telling Raksin to "take this down". Raksin's job was to turn the humming into a score and create timings and synchronization that fit the situations. Chaplin was a violinist and had some musical knowledge, but he was not an orchestrator and was unfamiliar with synchronization. Raksin later created scores for such films as Laura and The Day After.


Modern Times portrays Chaplin as a factory worker employed on an assembly line. After being subjected to such indignities as being force-fed by a "modern" feeding machine and an accelerating assembly line where he screws nuts at an ever-increasing rate onto pieces of machinery, he suffers a nervous breakdown and runs amok, throwing the factory into chaos. He is sent to a hospital.

Following his recovery, the now unemployed factory worker is mistakenly arrested as an instigator in a Communist demonstration. In jail, he accidentally ingests smuggled cocaine, mistaking it for salt. In his subsequent delirium, he stumbles upon a jailbreak and knocks out the convicts. He is hailed a hero and is released.

Outside the jail, he discovers life is harsh, and tries to get arrested after failing to get a decent job. He runs into an orphaned gamine girl (Paulette Goddard), who is fleeing the police after stealing a loaf of bread. To save the girl, he tells police that he is the thief and ought to be arrested. A witness reveals his deception and he is freed. To get arrested again, he eats an enormous amount of food at a cafeteria without paying. He meets up with the gamine in the paddy wagon, which crashes, and the girl convinces the reluctant factory worker to escape with her. Dreaming of a better life, he gets a job as a night watchman at a department store, sneaks the gamine into the store, and even lets burglars have some food. Waking up the next morning in a pile of clothes, he is arrested once more.

Ten days later, the gamine takes him to a new home—a run-down shack that she admits "isn't Buckingham Palace" but will do. The next morning, the factory worker reads about a new factory and lands a job there. He gets his boss trapped in machinery, but manages to extricate him. The other workers decide to go on strike. Accidentally paddling a brick into a policeman, he is arrested again. Two weeks later, he is released and learns that the gamine is a café dancer. She tries to get him a job as a singer. By night, he becomes an efficient waiter though he finds it difficult to tell the difference between the "in" and "out" doors to the kitchen, or to successfully deliver a roast duck to table through a busy dance floor.

During his floor show, he loses a cuff that bears the lyrics of his song, but he rescues his act by improvising the story using an amalgam of word play, words in (or made up of word parts from) multiple languages and mock sentence structure while pantomiming. His act proves a hit. When police arrive to arrest the gamine for her earlier escape, they escape again. Finally, we see them walking down a road at dawn, towards an uncertain but hopeful future.

Eating Machine scene (click here)

Full Discussion of Film (click here)

Set in the 1930s during the Great Depression era, the film's main concerns (and those of the oppressed Tramp) echo those of millions of people at the time - unemployment, poverty, and hunger. It has a number of wonderfully inventive and memorable routines and scenes that proclaim the frustrating struggle by proletarian man against the dehumanizing effects of the machine in the Industrial Age (at the time of Henry Ford's assembly line), and various social institutions.

The scenes of the Tramp find him alternating between scenes as an assembly-line factory worker (where he is literally fed by a machine and then - when the monotony overtakes him - becomes the 'food' in the cogs and gears of another machine), a shipyard worker, a department store night watchman, an overstressed singing waiter, or an occupant in jail. The Tramp also finds himself dealing with various authority figures during his exploits: a 'Big Brother' factory boss, a minister, juvenile child-care authorities, a sheriff, a shipyard foreman, a department store manager, etc.


Modern Times is often hailed as one of Chaplin's greatest achievements, and it remains one of his most popular films. French philosophers Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir and Maurice Merlau-Ponty named their journal, Les Temps modernes, after it. The iconic depiction of Chaplin working frantically to keep up with an assembly line inspired later comedy routines including Disney's Der Fuehrer's Face (Donald Duck alternately assembling artillery shells and saluting portraits of Adolf Hitler) and an episode of I Love Lucy titled "Job Switching" (Lucy and Ethel trying to keep up with an ever-increasing volume of chocolate candies, eventually stuffing them in their mouths, hats, and blouses). This was Chaplin's first overtly political-themed film, and its unflattering portrayal of industrial society generated controversy in some quarters upon its initial release.

The film exhibits notable similarities to a 1931 French film directed by René Clair entitled À nous la liberté (Liberty for Us) — the assembly line sequence is a clear instance. The German film company Tobis Film sued Chaplin following the film's release to no avail. They sued again after World War II (considered revenge for Chaplin's later anti-Nazi statements inThe Great Dictator). This time, they settled with Chaplin out of court. À nous la liberté director Clair was an outspoken admirer of Chaplin, was flattered by the notion that the film icon might imitate him, deeply embarrassed that Tobis Film would sue Chaplin and was never part of the case.

The film did attract criticism for being almost completely silent, despite the movie industry having long since embraced the talking picture. Chaplin famously feared that the mystery and romanticism of the tramp character would be ruined if he spoke, and feared it would alienate his fans in non-English speaking territories. His future films, however, would be fully-fledged "talkies" – although without the character of the Little Tramp.


Supposedly was to be Charles Chaplin's first full sound film, but instead, sound is used in a unique way: we hear spoken voices only when they come from mechanical devices, a symbol of the film's theme of technology and dehumanization. Specifically, voices are heard from:
• The videophones used by the factory president
• The phonographic Mechanical Salesman
• The radio in the prison warden's office

Charles Chaplin allows the Tramp to speak on camera for the first time during the restaurant scene, but insisted that what the Tramp says be universal. Therefore, the song the Tramp sings is in gibberish, but it is possible to follow the story he tells by watching his hand gestures.

Paulette Goddard's character's name is Ellen Peterson.

The film originally ended with Charles Chaplin's character suffering a nervous breakdown and being visited in hospital by the gamin, who has now become a nun. This ending was filmed, though apparently only still photographs from the scene exist today (they are included in the 2003 DVD release of the film). Chaplin dropped this ending and shot a different, more hopeful ending instead.

This was one of the films that, because of its political sentiments, convinced the House Un-American Activities Committee that Charles Chaplin was a Communist, a charge he adamantly denied.

A full dialogue script was written for the film, as Charles Chaplin had intended to make a complete talkie. According to a documentary on the DVD release, Chaplin went so far as to film a scene with full dialogue before deciding instead to make a partial talkie.

Discounting later parodies and novelty films, this was the last major American film to make use of silent film conventions such as title cards for dialogue. The very last dialogue title card of this film (and thus, it can be said, the entire silent era) belongs to The Tramp, who says "Buck up - never say die! We'll get along."

Co-star Paulette Goddard actually made significant story contributions.

According to a fall 1935, issue of Variety, Charles Chaplin was expected to run behind schedule on the release of the movie as he tweaked the soundtrack. He also wanted to chop over 1,000 feet of film from his then existing cut.

According to Paulette Goddard, Chaplin was deeply and profoundly involved in the recording of the musical score. He spent days upon days in the recording studio writing themes, and only left when Paulette begged him.

In 2007, the American Film Institute ranked this as the #78 Greatest Movie of All Time.

During filming, Paulette Goddard was still working for less than $100 a week as a chorus girl for the Goldwyn Studios.

Shown as the opening film at the newly restored Silent Movie Theatre (Los Angeles), by Charles Lustman' on November 7th, 1999.

If you want to learn more - Here is a good academic discussion of Modern Times by Dr. Jorn K. Bramann of Frostburg State University in Maryland (click here)


A variety of parking options are available for concerts at Severance Hall, including guaranteed pre-paid parking passes (purchased through the Ticket Office or via the website).
The Case Western Reserve University Campus Center Garage is located directly adjacent to Severance Hall (parking entrance is off East Boulevard), with stair and elevator access to Severance Hall. Event parking in the Campus Center Garage can be purchased for $10 per vehicle when space permits. However, the garage often fills up well before concert time and only patrons who purchase pre-paid parking passes are ensured a parking space.

Pre-Paid Parking for the Campus Center Garage can be purchased in advance for $14 per concert by calling the Ticket Office or through the website. Pre-paid parking guarantees you a space, but availability of pre-paid parking passes is limited.

Alternatively, if you have already purchased tickets, you can purchase pre-paid parking online through the concert Event Calendar. Above the calendar, check the box “for ticket holders who wish to purchase tickets only” under Select a Type of Event. The calendar will then show available parking.

Parking can also be purchased through the Ticket Office by calling[masked]-1111.
Limited additional event parking is available in the Case Western Reserve University Lot 1 off Euclid Avenue across from Severance Hall, or at the University Circle Lot 13A on Adelbert Road, and at the Cleveland Botanical Garden parking garage on East Boulevard. Space at these lots may be particularly limited during weekday daytime hours. Some on-street parking is also available, but often fills up well before curtain time.

Ciné Arts Cleveland! – We are: Movie lovers · Indie Film · Theater & Performance Art · Movie Nights · Classic Films · Italian Film · Film · Cinema and Films · British Film · Film Festivals · Foreign Films · Movies/Dinner · Independent Film · Books and Movies Discussions · Movie Fans

Who: The Cleveland Orchestra plays Charlie Chaplin
What: Modern Times (1936)
When: Tuesday, December 11 @ 8 p.m.
Where: Severance Hall in University Circle
With: Music Cleveland! and Ciné Arts Cleveland!

*Parking Information at bottom of post.

A 50-percent discountforCiné Arts Cleveland! -Music Cleveland!
Early purchase is suggested as another sell-out is expected. Published prices for tonight are: Box Seats — $110; Orchestra Level — $75, $60; Dress Circle — $80, $55, $40; Balcony — $55, $40, $35.
Just do the math, to borrow a political phrase. If you make an early decision and purchse your tickets now, you will have a tremendous selection at a great price.

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  • Bill J.
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