Charlie Chaplin back on screen in Calgary: performers add new sounds to classic silent movie

WATCH: Some Calgary performers are bringing surprising sounds to the stage this weekend. As Gil Tucker shows us, it’s all about adding to the high points of a classic movie using some decidedly low-tech methods.

A silent movie from 1935 is getting a new soundtrack at a fundraising event in Calgary.

The screening of Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times will feature specially-created recorded sounds, along with live music by a six-piece band.

Veteran Calgary sound designer and musician Peter Moller is coordinating the project and said he’s excited to be bringing new sounds to a silent classic.

READ MORE: Hundreds dress-up as the “Tramp” to celebrate Charlie Chaplin’s 128th birthday

Moller and his fellow performers will use items such as children’s toys, shoes, a teacup and saucer, and an old novelty gift standby — a set of clattering teeth — to create the live soundtrack.

“There is a section where Chaplin is being force-fed some corn on a rotating device,” Moller said. “While that is happening, [we set off the clattering teeth].”

The performers will also knock together two coconut shells to accompany horses whenever they appear on screen.

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“All these little sounds, just to enhance [the movie],” Moller said. “And honestly, just to have fun.”

Moller said the themes explored in Modern Times remain relevant to modern audiences.

READ MORE: Long lost silent film by Canadian star Mary Pickford gets new life

“It was a reaction to industrialization that was coming on,” Moller said. “The disparity between the rich and the poor — what was going on then is still happening now.”

Modern Times screens on Friday, Sept. 6 and Saturday, Sept. 7 at The Grand, a historic theatre that opened in 1912 in downtown Calgary.

The theatre presented live shows for decades during the early part of the 20th century, hosting visits by stars such as the Marx Brothers.

The Modern Times screenings are raising money to help The Grand support a new generation of performers in a renovated and revitalized space.

It’s a theatre that holds special meaning for Moller, who first set foot in the building as a four-year-old in 1959.

“That is my first recollection of seeing a movie, ever,” Moller said, “To be able to be in this theatre, it’s awesome.”

He’s hoping the event will help attract more people to future performances at The Grand.

“It’s so incredible to see this space being utilized again!” Moller said. “This is an incredible asset to Calgary.”

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