Jorge Finkielman

The film music recorded by Roberto Firpo

irpo, is one of the most important artists ever to grace this world. He had the honor to introduce, in 1912, the piano in orchestral recordings in Argentina solving the technological problems that prevented its inclusion.

His enormous discography, nearly 2900 recordings, spanned between 1912 and 1959. He was the first artist to be under an exclusivity contract with a recording company, Max Glücksmann’s.

Glücksmann was also a film distributor, exhibitor, and (at that time) a film producer. He realized the opportunity to display his gallery of recording artists in his movie theater chain throughout Argentina and Uruguay as an excellent way to promote disks.

Roberto Firpo, then managed to increment his popularity playing music in movie theaters finally setting down at the Florida theater in the Buenos Aires downtown. An amusing anecdote took place during a performance in 1918 sharing the show with the Gardel-Razzano duo. Performing his own pasodoble “Que salga el toro”, at a moment the orchestra shouted the title, “Que salga el toro” (Bring the bull). Then, Carlos Gardel mocking as a bull smashed directly in the orchestra...

Beyond this joke, Roberto Firpo was able to play themes (not just tangos), that were themes for many films. Many of these films are lost today, and the recordings, for the most part, are very difficult to find. EMI did frankly bad with the Roberto Firpo’s recording, only making available today quite a minimal portion of his vast discography.

Unfortunately, it seems that no Argentines with knowledge about the history of film ever bothered to study Firpo’s discography, as well as those of the contemporary artists, to see what is related to movies. The same happens when reading the themes recorded by Francisco Canaro and Carlos Gardel. Happily, the Gardel recordings exist and are available.

In Roberto Firpo’s case there were to exceptional events directly related to films. In 1923, José A. Ferreyra wanted to synchronize the exhibition of his film “La muchacha del arrabal” with 78 r.p.m. disk. It was not possible, but Roberto Firpo played with his orchestra live music, including the main theme of the film that he himself wrote with Ferreyra and Leopoldo Torre Ríos.

Also in 1923, when Wallace Reid died, Firpo wrote in his honor an excellent waltz called “Eternamente” (Eternally). The original music sheet featured a still of Reid with two Paramount Pictures logos in the bottom of it. The waltz turned to be extremely popular and Firpo recorded it several times. Mercifully, EMI did reprinted it in an LP in 1974 his final version (from 1950) and recently it was reprinted in a CD that is available.

What follows is a series of recordings done by Roberto Firpo that are related to films, for the most part musical themes for silent films. Despite it was quite difficult to compile, I guess this list is both incomplete and filled with mistakes. I hope someone could correct it. (see list)

Alma en pena”, tango that was the theme of the 1928 Buenos Aires Film production of the same name directed by Julio Irigoyen.

“Arizona”, one step de Adolfo R. Avilés.
Probably the musical theme of the 1918 Douglas Fairbanks film of the same title. The composer later became a film critic.

Arrepentido”, tango de Rodolfo Sciammarella.
Tango from the 1936 S.I.D.E. production Ayúdame a vivir directed by José A. Ferreyra and starring Libertad Lamarque.

“Carlitos”, tango de Julio De Caro.
Six years before he was honored to have him in his audience in Paris, in 1925 De Caro wrote this theme dedicated to Charlie Chaplin.

“Carmen [c]”, shimmy de Maurice Ivain.
Probably the musical theme of the 1918 German production directed by Ernst Lubistch.

Carmen”, waltz de Enrique Delfino.
Written by who was probably the best Argentina’s silent film piano player this waltz was probably the theme for the 1927 Fox Film production directed by Raoul Walsh and starring Dolores Del Río, Don Alvarado, Victor McLaglen, and Nancy Nash.

“Cenicienta”, fox trot de Carlos A. Sánchez.
This was probably the theme for Paramount's 1925 production A Kiss for Cinderella.

“Cleopatra”, tango de José Martínez.
Piano player José Martínez wrote this theme for the 1917 Fox Film production starring Theda Bara.

“Corazón ante la ley”, march de Eleuterio Iribarren.
This march was the theme of the film of the same title. Originally a silent, it became in a matter of months in Argentina's first sound film. It also featured a tango called “Chinita” (by the same composer and lyrics by Enrique Carrera Sotelo) that was recorded by Carlos Gardel.

“Del abismo a la cumbre”, fox trot de Emilio Iribarne y Mario Valdez
This fox trot was the main theme of a Fox Film starring George O'Brien released in Argentina in 1925.

“Dr. Mabuse”, shimmy de Osmán Pérez Freire.
Main theme for the 1922 German film directed by Fritz Lang.

El alma de la calle (Callecita del suburbio)”, tango de Raúl de los Hoyos y José A. Ferreyra.
Also knwon as “Callecita del suburbio”, this was an alternate theme for El organito de la tarde, starring María Turgenova and directed by José A. Ferreyra in 1925.

“El barquero del Volga”, shimmy arr. W. Webb.
Theme for the 1926 Cecil B. De Mille film of the same name, The Volga Boatman.

Eternamente”, waltz de Roberto Firpo.
Waltz that was originally conceived in 1923 after the death of actor Wallace Reid, it turned to be one of Roberto Firpo's most popular themes.

“Grand Splendid”, tango de Enrique Delfino.
When Max Glücksmann opened his most important movie theater in, the Grand Splendid, Enrique Delfino wrote this tango. Delfy recorded this tango in a piano solo for Glücksmann.

“La vendedora de Harrods”, tango de Domingo Salerno.
Theme for the Argentine film production of the same name directed by Francisco Defilipis Novoa and starring Berta Singerman.

“La muchacha del arrabal”, tango de Roberto Firpo, José A. Ferreyra y Leopoldo Torre Ríos.
Written for the film of the same name by the composer and the filmmakers themselves. It was also recorded by Carlos Gardel and Ignacio Corsini (with the Firpo orchestra).

La mano que aprieta”, tango de Horacio Mackintosh.
Main theme for a 1916 serial.

La marca de fuego”, tango de Juan Maglio, (Pacho).
This tango was the main theme for the Cecil B. De Mille production of the same title (the original name is The Cheat), that was presented in Argentina by Paramount Pictures several years after its original release in the United States.

“Lobo de mar”, tango de Sebastián Piana.
Tango that was the main theme of the 1926 film of the same name, "The Sea Wolf" in English, starring and directed by Ralph Ince.

“Loco lindo [b]”, tango de Carlos Di Sarli, Ernesto Famá y Conrado Nalé Roxlo.
Main theme of the 1936 Argentina Sono Film production of the same title. Composer Carlos Di Sarli never recorded it.

“Love nest (Mary)”, fox trot de Hirsch.
This was probably the main theme for the 1918 production The Love Nest, a World Film Corporation production directed by Tefft Johnson.

“Lydia”, tango de Francisco Pracánico.
Probably the main theme of the 1918 Denmark production of the same title.

“Max Linder”, tango de M.C. Firpo.
A 1914 tango in honor of the French comedian.

“Muchachita de Chiclana”, tango de Anselmo Aieta.
Tema de la película de 1926 del mismo título dirigida por José Ferreyra. El compositor Anselmo Aieta escribió también un vals llamado “Cine Bolívar”.

Organito de la tarde”, tango de Cátulo Castillo.
This originally instrumental theme won the third price of the first Max Glücksmann tango contest that was broadcasted on radio (it was the very first event originally conceived by the then new media), which ended on November 1924. In order to have all the tango that were awarded recorded by Carlos Gardel, lyrics were added by demand of Glücksmman. Cátulo Castillo's father, José González Castillo, wrote the lyrics in 1925. The popularity of the Gardel recording lead to a film version directed by José A Ferreyra in that year. For his film, Ferreyra also included as an alternate theme “El alma de la calle” that he wrote with composer Raúl de los Hoyos.

Perdón viejita”, tango de Osvaldo Fresedo y José Antonio Saldías.
This tango was the first recording Osvaldo Fresedo did for Max Glücksmann in late 1925 after leaving the Victor company. Fresedo accompanied with his orchestra the singing of Carlos Gardel in a very popular recording that lead to a José A. Ferreyra film adaptation in 1927. For that occasion, Osvaldo Fresedo recorded this tango for a third time. María Turgenova, the leading actress, used to sing the tangos of the films in which she appeared in the few Argentine movie theater that presented domestic productions. In 1932, the film was reissued with a soundtrack and Turgenova recorded the Fresedo theme; this version, as well as the film, do exist.

Ranita”, tango de Eduardo Pereyra y José Rosito.
This was the main theme of a Jackie Coogan film released in Argentina with the same title, probably My Boy.

“Reina de Saba [b]”, shimmy de Emilio Iribarne y Mario Valdez.
Main theme, written by Argentina's Fox Film composers, for the 1921 J. Gordon Edwards production of the same name, The Queen of Sheba.

“Resaca [b]”, tango de Fallace.
This was probably the theme of the 1916 Atilio Lipizzi production of the same name, based on a play by Alberto Weisbach adapted for the screen by José González Castillo.

“Rey Pastor”, shimmy de Emilio Iribarne y Mario Valdez.
Main theme for the 1925 Fox Film production (The Shepherd King) directed by J. Gordon Edwards.

“Salomé [b]”, tango de R. Stolz.
Probably the theme for the 1918 Fox Film production directed by J. Gordon Edwards and starring Theda Bara.

“Sota caballo y rey”, camel trot de Emilio Iribarne y Mario Valdez.
Main theme for the 1923 Fox Film production of the same name, Cameo Kirby, directed by John Ford and starring John Gilbert.

“Thais”, camel trot de Armando La Valle.
Theme probably written for a 1924 reissue of the 1917 Goldwyn film of the same title, originally shown in Argentina in 1918.