Smile (Charlie Chaplin song)

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Song by Nat King Cole
Published1936 (Instrumental theme), 1954 (Lyrics added to song)
WriterJohn Turner
Geoffrey Parsons
ComposerCharlie Chaplin
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Song by Nat King Cole
Published1936 (Instrumental theme), 1954 (Lyrics added to song)
WriterJohn Turner
Geoffrey Parsons
ComposerCharlie Chaplin

"Smile" is a song based on an instrumental theme used in the soundtrack for the 1936 Charlie Chaplin movie Modern Times. Chaplin composed the D minor music, while John Turner and Geoffrey Parsons added the lyrics and title in 1954.[1] In the lyrics, based on lines and themes from the film, the singer is telling the listener to cheer up and that there is always a bright tomorrow, just as long as they smile. "Smile" has become a popular standard since its original use in Chaplin's film. It was used as the theme song on The Jerry Lewis Show from 1967-69.

Original version[edit]

The song, originally sung by Nat King Cole, charted in 1954.

Other versions[edit]

In 1954, the same year Cole's rendition was released, two covers were released in the United Kingdom by Lita Roza and Petula Clark in 1954. Clark later re-recorded it for her 1968 album The Other Man's Grass Is Always Greener, by which time she was a personal friend of Charlie Chaplin. 1954 also saw the a cover by Sunny Gale.

Jazz guitarist Royce Campbell recorded it on his album, Get Happy (2007). Jeff Lynne recorded it for his album Long Wave (2012), along with other old standards.

Diana Ross also recorded a version on both her self-titled Top 5 album in 1976 and then as part of her Tony Award winning, An Evening with Diana Ross cast album, show and television special.

The song was also recorded by Nat King Cole's daughter, Natalie, and included on her 1991 album, Unforgettable... with Love.

Michael Jackson's brother, Jermaine Jackson, sang "Smile" at his memorial service on July 7, 2009, at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, shortly after Michael Jackson's friend Brooke Shields mentioned it had been Jackson's favorite song. He also sang it in an interview with Today at Neverland before the memorial and only days after Michael had passed.

The song has since charted at #74 in the UK, #71 in Germany, #70 in Switzerland and at #56 in Australia.

Tony Bennett covered the song. In 1966, he released his cover on The Movie Song Album, and in 2006 he recorded a duet version with Barbra Streisand for his Duets: An American Classic album.[2][3]

Deana Martin recorded "Smile” in 2009. The song was released on her album, Volare, in 2009 by Big Fish Records.

The American actress and singer Audra McDonald performed the song at Joan Rivers' funeral in New York on September 7, 2014.

Michael Jackson version[edit]

Single by Michael Jackson
from the album HIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book I
FormatCD single, 12" single
RecordedMarch 11 - 12, 1995 at the Olympic Studio, London, England (UK)
Length4:55 (album version)
4:10 (short version)
Writer(s)Charlie Chaplin (music)
John Turner, Geoffrey Parsons (lyrics)
Producer(s)David Foster
Michael Jackson
Michael Jackson singles chronology
"On the Line"
HIStory Continues track listing
"Little Susie"

Singer Michael Jackson recorded the song for his 1995 double album HIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book I. It was planned to be released as the eighth and final single from the album in 1997 but was canceled days before its release date. Only a few copies from the Netherlands, Germany and South Africa (where the record distribution was started previous to the withdrawal) were saved as the other copies were withdrawn.

James Hunter of Rolling Stone wrote a negative review: "the climactic version of Charlie Chaplin's "Smile" has zero point of view on itself; its blend of rampaging ego and static orchestral pop is a Streisand-size mistake."[4] Entertainment Weekly called this song "destined-for-Disney rendition."[5]

Track listing[edit]

CD maxi single[6]

  1. "Smile" (short version) – 4:10
  2. "Is It Scary" (radio edit) – 4:11
  3. "Is It Scary" (Eddie's Love Mix Edit) – 3:50
  4. "Is It Scary" (Downtempo Groove Mix) – 4:50
  5. "Is It Scary" (Deep Dish Dark and Scary Radio Edit) – 4:34

12" maxi single[6]

Promotional single

  1. "Smile" (short version) – 4:10

Promotional CD single

  1. "Smile" (short version) – 4:10
  2. "Is It Scary" (radio edit) – 4:11


Chart (2009)Peak
U.S. Billboard Hot Digital Songs56[7]
Chart (2009)Peak
UK Singles Chart74[8]
Swiss Singles Chart70[9]

Robert Downey Jr. version[edit]

In the 1992 film Chaplin, a version of the song by Actor Robert Downey, Jr. can be heard during the closing credits, and later released in 2004 as an alternative ballad take on his debut album The Futurist.

Josh Groban version[edit]

Josh Groban recorded a cover of the song, and released it in 2006 as a digital single and a bonus track on internet exclusive editions of his Awake album.[10][11] He performed the song in some of his concerts as well as the annual Capitol Fourth concert of 2011, broadcast on PBS.[12]

Phyllis Diller and Pink Martini version[edit]

"Smile", originally by Charlie Chaplin, serves as the closing track and features American actress and comedienne Phyllis Diller (1917–2012). Pink Martini and Diller recorded the song in January 2012 in her living room in Los Angeles, and the group released it upon her death.

Gloria Estefan version[edit]

Gloria Estefan covered the song for her 2013 album, The Standards. Each edition of the album included a duet Spanish version with Laura Pausini, "Sonríe," adapted by Estefan herself. Other editions include the original English-lyric version, a solo Spanish version, an Italian duet version with Pausini ("Sorridi"), and/or a solo Italian version.[13]

Hollywood Bowl Performances, 2013[edit]

During the 2013 Hollywood Bowl summer season, the song was performed by no less than six different singers at different concerts. These included: Josh Groban with the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, Dr. John in his tribute to Louis Armstrong, Tony Bennett, Natalie Cole, Kristin Chenoweth with the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, and George Benson in his tribute to Nat King Cole.[14]

66th Primetime Emmy Awards[edit]

Sara Bareilles performed the song during the "In Memoriam" segment of the 66th Primetime Emmy Awards ceremony on August 25, 2014.[15]


  1. ^ Linda Wada. "Smile". Edna Purviance, Charlie Chaplin's Leading Lady - Welcome to Paradise. Retrieved 2010-05-02. Scans of the sheet music clearly attribute authorship of the music and lyrics. 
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^ (Posted: Aug 10, 1995) (1995-08-10). "Michael Jackson: HIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book I : Music Reviews : Rolling Stone". Retrieved 2014-02-03. 
  5. ^ Reviewed by David Browne on Jun 23, 1995 (1995-06-23). "HIStory: Past, Present, and Future Book I Review | Music Reviews and News". Retrieved 2014-02-03. 
  6. ^ a b "MICHAEL JACKSON - SMILE (SONG) - CD Info". 
  7. ^ U.S. Billboard Hot Digital Songs
  8. ^ "Michael Jackson | Artist". Official Charts. Retrieved 2014-02-03. 
  9. ^ Steffen Hung. "Michael Jackson - Smile". Retrieved 2014-02-03. 
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^ Gloria Estefan (2013). The Standards. Sony Music. 
  14. ^ Alvin Wilson, Property Master, Hollywood Bowl
  15. ^ "Sara Bareilles + Billy Crystal Lead Moving ‘In Memoriam’ Tribute at Emmys". August 25, 2014. 

External links[edit]

External video
Chaplin's original sound on YouTube: Modern Times. (0:40:22-, 0:42:44-, 0:52:16-, 1:06:39-, and full version 1:21:25-)