Charlie Chaplin, Waiter of Modern Times

In his 1936 film "Modern Times", Charlie Chaplin redefines movie history in his act as a waiter in a restaurant comissioned to sing. Interestingly enough, not much is known about what exactly he sings, what it might actually mean, and where it came from.

Chaplin as a waiter in Modern Times

Charlie Chaplin is actually singing to the tune of "Je cherche après Titine" (I'm looking for Titine), a song by Frenchman Léo Daniderff (lyrics by M. Bertal, B. Maubon and Henri Lemonnier) and first released in 1917. Titine is the diminutive of some feminine first names like Martine and Clémentine. The lyrics are nonsensical but appear to have words from French and Italian. It wouldn't be the first time he uses foreign gibberish, however- he would fake German in "The Dictator" a few years later.

The Université de Napierville has a wonderful collection of French songs from 1870 to 1945 and provided me with the following:

In 1917, shortly before the First World War ended, the French soliders in the trenches were known to have sung to the tunes of La Madelon, another famous pre-war song. For the "sammies", the American soldiers in Europe at the time, the song was harder to remember, but it turns out that Titine, for some reason or another, was easier to recall. Hence, after having whistled it, sung it, played it on the harmonica, on the guitar or on the piano, they brought it back with them to the United States. While the story of the song could have ended then and there, it became a popular symbol of the end-of-war Paris and the 20s, and it became a hallmark of the era when Charlie Chaplin immortalized it in his first talkie film.

Download Charlie Chaplin's rendition in mp3 format

What he sang Notes on what he sang The original French The French translated
Se bella giu satore
Je notre so cafore
Je notre si cavore
Je la tu la ti la twah

La spinash o la bouchon
Cigaretto Portabello
Si rakish spaghaletto
Ti la tu la ti la twah

Senora pilasina
Voulez-vous le taximeter?
Le zionta su la seata
Tu la tu la tu la wa

Sa montia si n'amora
La sontia so gravora
La zontcha con sora
Je la possa ti la twah

Je notre so lamina
Je notre so cosina
Je le se tro savita
Je la tossa vi la twah

Se motra so la sonta
Chi vossa l'otra volta
Li zoscha si catonta
Tra la la la la la la
cavore - from cavort?
Voulez-vous le taximeter?: Fr Would you like the taximeter?
Je cherche après Titine
Titine, oh ! Titine !
Je cherche après Titine
et ne la trouve pas

Je cherche après Titine
Titine, oh ! Titine !
Je cherche après Titine
et ne la trouve pas

Mon oncle le baron des Glycines
Qui a des fermes et des millions,
M'a dit : Je pars pour l'Argentine
Et tu connais mes conditions :
Mon héritage je te le destine
Mais tu ne toucherais pas un rond
Si tu ne prenais pas soin de Titine
Pour qui j'ai une adoration... "
Y a huit jours qu'elle n'est pas rentrée
Et je suis bien entitiné...

Elle avait les yeux en losange
Un regard très compromettant
Elle était frisée comme un ange
Et s'tortillait tout en marchant
Titine, avec son coeur frivole
Changeait de flirt dix fois par jour
J'en avais honte, mais ce qui me désole
C'est qu'elle est partie pour toujours
C'était ... vous la reconnaîtrez bien
Une chienne qui a vraiment du chien.
I'm look for Titine
Titine, oh ! Titine !
I'm look for Titine
and I cannot find her

I'm look for Titine
Titine, oh ! Titine !
I'm look for Titine
and I cannot find her

My uncle the baron of Glycines
Who had farms and millions
Told me: I'm leaving for Argentina
And you know my conditions:
My heritage is yours
But you will not touch a single thing
If you do not take care of Titine
For whom I have a liking..."
It has been eight days she hasn't returned
And I'm very much enthralled...

She had her diamond-shaped eyes
A very compromising look
She was like an angel
And would wiggle as she walked
Titine, with her frivolous heart
Changed her flirt ten times a day
I was ashamed but what makes me sorry
Is that she is gone for good
It was... you would recognize it easily
A female dog with many followers.