A Burlesque On Carmen

Charles Chaplin

T. it.: Carmen Charlot. Sog.: dal racconto Carmen di Prosper Mérimée. Scen.: Charles Chaplin. F.: Roland Totheroh. Scgf.: Albert Couder. Int.: Charles Chaplin (Darn Hosiery), Edna Purviance (Carmen),Jack Henderson (Lillas Pastia), Leo White (Morales), John Rand (Escamillo), May White (Frasquita), Lawrence A. Bowes (gitana), Bud Jamison, Frank J.
Coleman (soldati). Prod.: Jess Robbins, George K. Spoor per The Essanay Film Manufacturing Company. Pri. pro.: 18 dicembre 1915. DCP. 2 bobine / 2 reels D.: 31’ Bn. 

T. it.: Italian title. T. int.: International title. T. alt.: Alternative title. Sog.: Story. Scen.: Screenplay. F.: Cinematography. M.: Editing. Scgf.: Set Design. Mus.: Music. Int.: Cast. Prod.: Production Company. L.: Length. D.: Running Time. f/s: Frames per second. Bn.: Black e White. Col.: Color. Da: Print source

Film Notes

Chaplin intended this burlesque of Cecil B. DeMille’s popular film Carmen, starring the great opera diva Geraldine Farrar with Wallace Reid as Don Jose, to be released as a two-reel short. After Chaplin left Essanay, the company inserted discarded material and produced new scenes with Ben Turpin and Leo White, extending the film to four reels so it could be sold as a
feature when belatedly released in April, 1916 (long after DeMille’s film had come
and gone). The altered version of the A Burlesque sent Chaplin to bed for two days, and he
filed a lawsuit against Essanay for mutilating his work; however, the film was judged to be Essanay’s to use as they wished, which emboldened them in 1918 to create Triple Trouble out of other leftover Chaplin footage, as well as two feature films edited from portions of Essanay- Chaplin shorts. The version I prepared in 1999 attempts to reconstruct the two-reel version of A Burlesque on Carmen, based upon an affidavit from the lawsuit provided by the
Chaplin archives in which Charlie details his intended two-reel version. It was impossible to be guided exactly by Chaplin’s testimony. Some of Chaplin’s original shots were removed in the process of editing the four-reel expansion, which now seems to survive only with reissue intertitles from 1928. A few 1916 shots are retained for continuity in this version and most of the intertitles derive from DeMille, but we hope it captures Chaplin’s intention. For those familiar with DeMille’s production, the two-reel A Burlesque on Carmen is actually one of the better Essanay- Chaplin comedies.
David Shepard


Scoring for a Lost Film

In 2012, I was commissioned by the venerable and storied Spanish institution, Teatro de la Zarzuela de Madrid, to compose a new score to a film that was, in essence, lost. Having restored the original Hugo Riesenfeld compilation in 1995, I was happy to finally get the chance to compose my own ‘send up’ of the original, just as Chaplin did to DeMille in 1915. My view was to put Bizet through the Chaplin grinder and see what came out. Every composer who adapts overtly famous music for comic purposes, runs the very real danger of sounding like (American comic bandleader) Spike Jones. This had to be avoided at all costs. As genius as the City Slickers were, it goes against all Chaplin musical philosophy: Comedy is killed by comic music. Therefore it was my intention that the music had to be treated somewhat seriously, without indignation, but letting the color of the ‘period’ orchestration do the comic work for me. In other words, I did not want to write a ‘Carmen foxtrot’, but rather something what City Lights could have sounded like if Chaplin had used Bizet’s La Habanera, instead of Padilla’s La Violetera. My orchestrational model being, in fact, City Lights, my efforts were focused towards hearing the Bizet through 1920’s ears, somewhat like a hotel-orchestra arrangement. Granted, there is something unsettling about ‘modernizing’ Carmen and utilizing instruments like a sousaphone or banjo, but it does seem to underline the fact that Bizet’s music can live, and survive (I hope), through all forms of loving mistreatment. The orchestration for A Burlesque on Carmen is: piccolo, flute, clarinet, bassclarinet, two alto saxophones, tenor saxophone, baritone saxophone, two cornets, trombone, sousaphone, piano, celesta, percussion, banjo, four violins, two violas, two violoncellos, and contrabass.
Timothy Brock

Copy From

Da: Blackhawk Collection/Lobster Films. Original score composed by Timothy Brock, freely adapted from the music of George Bizet, and commissioned by Teatro de la Zarzuela, Madrid