If the score alone is anything to go by, Charlie Chaplin
was a sad figure away from the screen, depsite being a lively comic genius when on display. Whenever this score is mentioned, director Richard Attenborough tells of how Barry's mournful and instrospective main title theme made him cry. The opening scene is of Chaplin removing his makeup which isn't anything special in itself, but when coupled with Barry's music, the character of the private man is transcribed in music beautifully. Chaplin's sad, dejected, yet romantic theme provides the central melody, but that is not to say the score is not without more joyful moments. Early Days in London and cues such as The Wedding Chase feature music written in a style that echoes the kind of chase music that Chaplin's own movies and brings a lighter tone to what could have become a very overbearing and sombre score.
A couple of Chaplin's own compositions are worked in for certain occasions, most notably Smile which is a lovely theme that works well alongside Barry's music. Salt Lake City Episode features music from Chaplin's score to City Lights
and is absolutely typical silent movie music. It must be said that it has perhaps more energy than Barry's imitation, but I suspect that had this frenetic style of writing been used more often, it would have swamped Attenborough's more sensitive film. There are two versions of the The Roll Dance both of which sound strangely familiar although I can't place them. There is occasionally a dip into Barry's more epic disposition, most notably in the rousing and percussive opening of To California which shines a little optimism after the strangely subdued Charlie Proposes.
The only negative feature of the score is Robert Downey Jnr's unflattering performance of Smile which is neither good on its own terms nor fits in with the rest of the score. However its location at the end of the disc means it can easily be missed out. I would not argue that this is a terribly atypical Barry score; it features all the major components of a typical contemporary Barry score, strong themes, lush orchestration, perfect attention to the dramatic needs of the film and of course rounded cues that function beautifully with or without the pictures. However, the occasional break into lightly comedic scoring along with Barry's willingness to appropriately place some of Chaplin's own music in the mix provides for a superior example of Barry's work and ranks as one of the highlights of his more recent output.
Read other recent reviews by Tom Daish: The Snow Files: The Film Music of Mark Snow
, The 7th Voyage of Sinbad