By Megan Westberg
It’s a credit to Charlie Chaplin’s composing chops that his theme to Modern Times, “Smile,” has held up so resolutely since it first graced the silver screen in 1936. Though many arrangements have made heavy use of soaring strings throughout the years, “Smile” has often been found in the province of singers—see classic renditions by Nat King Cole and Judy Garland appear alongside more modern takes on YouTube—who have wrung every ounce of hope out of its yearning melody time and again.
But without a singer to remind the listener to smile, would he or she do so anyway, through the power of the melody itself?
Violinist Philippe Quint certainly thinks so, and set about envisioning and directing this music video (co-produced by Quint and Darondo Productions), in which he plays an instrumental arrangement with pianist Marta Aznavoorian and violinist Joshua Bell. Chaplin’s granddaughter, actress and model Kiera Chaplin, also appears in the video. Of his inspiration, Quint says, “I began to visualize a music video concept that would be a dedication to humanity with its many social, political, religious, and diversity issues. As the lyrics say, ‘That’s the time you must keep on trying. Smile, what’s the use of crying? You’ll find that life is still worthwhile, if you just smile . . .’. With these words of love and aspiration, I hope that this video brings some joy and healing to our planet.”
Quint’s rendition of “Smile” was initially released on an album of Chaplin works for violin and piano, called Chaplin’s Smile, in January on Warner Classics. Joined by pianist Marta Aznavoorian, the album includes music from seven of Chaplin’s other movies, including A King in New York, The Great Dictator, City Lights, and The Kid.