Silent Movie Mondays return to Seattle’s Paramount Theatre tonight with a celebration of New York City during the Silent Era. Four classic films provide excitement, enterainment, and a flashback look at what it meant to be one of the largest cities in the world nearly a century ago. Once again Jim Riggs is behind the mighty Wurlitzer organ, lending a live soundtrack that transforms the film experience to magic.
April 4 – It
Clarence G. Badger, USA, 1927, 72 min.
The 1927 masterpiece, It, stars Clara Bow as Betty Lou Spence, a poor sales girl at a large department store. In this straight-forward Cinderella-esk story, Betty sets her sights on winning the love of the rich owner’s son, Cyrus Walthm Jr. (Antonio Moreno). Her smoldering glances grab the attention of Cyrus and she convinces him to take her on a date. Betty introduces him to the proletarian pleasures of life, taking him to early day Coney Island for rollercoasters, hot dogs and a grand old time. Then, drama strikes with lies, assumptions, wedding proposals and near-death-experiences. Will love conquer early New York social class barriers, or will both leave heartbroken?
This spring’s silent film series, I Love New York, is accompanied by live music from the historic Mighty Wurlitzer Organ, one of the last three remaining organs of its kind to reside in its original environment, played by critically acclaimed organist Jim Riggs.
Other films in the series include:
April 11 – Speedy
Harold Lloyd, USA, 1928, 86 min.
Speedy was both Harold Lloyd’s last silent film as well as his only film to get an Oscar nomination. A fine example of why Lloyd was even more popular than Chaplain or Keaton at the end of the silent era. This fast paced dramatic comedy explores the theme of modernization, pitting the last horse drawn trolley in the city against the evil forces of the transit monopoly. Filmed on location in New York, the film features the most extensive shots of Manhattan of its time. Many of the historically interesting sites include Coney Island’s Luna Park, Columbus Circle and Wall Street. Baseball legend Babe Ruth has a cameo role as a very harassed fare when Speedy is working as a cabbie. Their wild ride ends at the old Yankee Stadium, and the film captures one of the Bambino’s record-setting 60 home runs from the 1927 campaign.
April 18 – The Crowd
King Vidor, USA, 1928, 100 min.
This realistic, bittersweet drama of the day-to-day existence of an ordinary American is as relevant today as it was in 1928, just before the great stock market crash. In director King Vidor’s Academy Award nominated timeless silent masterpiece we see James Murray, an everyman white-collar worker, trying to make it with his wife in the big city of New York. Here Murray copes with cramped living conditions, a boring job, and a limited life of regret. Released on the eve of the Great Depression, Vidor’s sharp social commentary raises questions about both the dominance of industrialization and the rise of the modern metropolis. Although strongly influenced by the German Expressionist works of Murnau and Lang, The Crowd is notable for its extensive location shooting in New York City and its naturalistic visual style, both of which produce a vivid portrait of the city and its social stratification.
April 25 – The Cameraman
Edward Sedgwick, Buster Keaton, USA, 1928, 67 Min.
The first film he made after moving to MGM, The Cameraman is arguably Buster Keaton’s last truly great work before the studio system stifled him. Here “The Great Stone Face” is cast as an aspiring, but lousy, newsreel cameraman in quest of the perfect shot, and, of course, the requisite pretty but oblivious Keaton ingénue. Buster keeps missing the great shot, but we never do – the Tong War, the Yankee Stadium solitary baseball routine, the Coney Island sequence – these are all vintage Keaton and vintage New York.