Silent Film Festival Program Details
The following overview was written by world-class expert on the subject, David Shepard of Film Preservation Associates. It is thanks to his life-long passion for the genre that the Silent Film Festival is made possible.
LEAVE ‘EM LAUGHING
A comedy short was part of every silent film program, and we’ve gathered three winners for this family-friendly show. THE ADVENTURER (1917) was the last, fastest and most popular of Charlie Chaplin’s Mutual series. An escaped convict at a party given by the daughter of the judge who sentenced him, Charlie outwits all pursuers by disguising himself as a lamp! A PAIR OF TIGHTS (1928) stars the female comedy team of Anita Garvin and Marion Byron double dating a couple of cheapskates, its highlight being an elaborate routine involving the purchase of four ice cream cones. In LEAVE ‘EM LAUGHING, Stan Laurel has a toothache although the dentist extracts Oliver Hardy’s molar by mistake; then, high on laughing gas, the boys create traffic mayhem.
OLD HEIDELBERG (1927)
Based upon the same source as Sigmund Romberg’s famous operetta “The Student Prince,” this is one of the most sublime experiences of the silent screen, thanks to scintillating direction by the great Ernst Lubitsch, charming performances by Ramon Novarro, Norma Shearer and Jean Hersholt, and A-plus production values from a major studio in Hollywood’s golden age. Plus a highly imaginative cartoon from Fleischer studios, “Ko-Ko the Cop.”
PASSING FANCY (DEKIGOKORO) (1933)
Japan continued improving silent cinema for almost a decade after the west converted to sound, including this masterwork from famed director Yasujiro Ozu. A dysfunctional father seeks a mate to help raise his educated though rambunctious son played by Tomio Aoki, one of silent cinema’s great child actors. Surely it ranks among Ozu’s finest works, in a career that stretched from the 1920s to the 1960s.
KENO BATES, LIAR (1915) and THE WHISTLE (1921)
Two films inspiring admiration for William S. Hart whose “good bad man” was a major attraction during the first decade of American features. Hart’s direction of the western short “Keno Bates, Liar” proves his filmmaking was as polished as anyone’s in 1915; “The Whistle,” a realistic drama about industrial exploitation of child labor and other factory workers, retains great impact even today.
HANDS UP! (1926)
If Buster Keaton hadn’t made “The General,” this would be famous as the best silent comedy about the Civil War. Its star Raymond Griffith, “the top hat comedian,” plays a Confederate spy charged with keeping a shipment of Nevada gold from the Union. Some aficionados rank Griffith with Chaplin, Keaton and Lloyd, and they may have a point. But there’s no argument that “Hands Up!” is a rediscovered treasure, and you will never forget the closing gag. Plus an excellent comedy short, “Movie Night” (1929) with Charley Chase.
THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI (1919) plus THE UNKNOWN (1927)
Made in Germany just after the end of World War I, “Caligari” is one of the most famous early films, notable for its highly stylized sets and expressionist acting. Dr. Caligari may be a traveling showman who performs an act with a murderous sleepwalker (Conrad Veidt) -– but he may be the director of an insane asylum: you decide. We have an excellent tinted print. In another circus story Lon Chaney is Alonzo the Armless in “The Unknown,” probably the most perverse if unforgettable film ever to come from a major American studio. Joan Crawford is featured.
All programs feature outstanding live music performed by Frederick Hodges
at the Steinway piano.
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