STRAIGHT SHOOTING, THE GENERAL and More Set for Music Box's Silent Cinema Series, Fall 2013
This fall, Music Box Theatre's monthly Second Saturday Silent Cinema series screens a trio of excellent matinées. John Ford's remarkable first picture Straight Shooting - a Western, naturally - bows today, September 14, followed by Buster Keaton's must-see masterpiece The General on October 12 and the stop-motion sci-fi classic The Lost World on November 9. Named by Chicago magazine as the Best New Film Series of 2011 and hailed by the Chicago Reader's J.R. Jones as one of the best movie matinée series in the city, the Silent Cinema Series is presented the second Saturday of each month at noon. All films are shown authentically in 35mm at proper silent film speed and aspect ratio with live accompaniment by Dennis Scott at the Music Box theatre organ.
September 14: Straight Shooting (John Ford, 1917, 60m). Ford's first feature follows Cheyenne Harry (Harry Carey), a freelance outlaw hired to intervene in a dispute between a scheming rancher and a farmer. Both a tragic murder and growing affection for The Farmer's daughter leads Harry to a moral reckoning regarding his gun-for-hire ethos. Similar to Ford's later Westerns, Straight Shooting never veers into action for the sake of action. It is leisurely and steadily paced, accented by pauses and reflections, yet Ford knows when to heighten the tension, especially in the film's exciting climax. Archival print courtesy of the Library of Congress.
October 12: The General (Buster Keaton, Eddie Cline & Clyde Bruckman, 1926, 75m). Consistently ranked among the greatest films ever made, Buster Keaton's The General is one of the most brilliantly conceived and executed comedies, silent or not. Rejected by the Confederate army as unfit and taken for a coward by his beloved Annabelle Lee (Marian Mack), young Johnnie Gray (Keaton) sets out to singlehandedly win the War with the help of his cherished locomotive. What follows is the most cleverly choreographed comedy ever recorded on celluloid. Johnnie wages war against hijackers, an errant cannon, and the unpredictable hand of fate while roaring along the iron rails - exploiting the comic potential of Keaton's favorite filmic prop: the train. Insisting on accuracy in every detail, Keaton created a remarkably authentic historical epic, replete with hundreds of costumed extras, full-scale sets and the breathtaking plunge of an actual locomotive from a burning bridge into a river.
November 9: The Lost World (Harry O. Hoyt, 1925, 106m). Based on the 1912 novel of the same name by Sherlock Holmes creator Arthur Conan Doyle (who makes an onscreen appearance), this innovative and groundbreaking 1925 silent film featured amazing stop-motion animation from Willis O'Brien, years prior to his work on King Kong. A group of explorers led by Professor Challenger (Wallace Beery) travels to the Amazonian jungle searching for a legendary secluded plateau where dinosaurs have managed to survive unmolested for millions of years. Joined by renowned hunter John Roxton, the group does indeed find the prehistoric creatures. They even manage to bring one alive back to London, which, if we're being honest, was probably not the best idea. Restored print courtesy of the George Eastman House.
Second Saturday Silent Cinema features begin at noon at the Music Box Theatre, 3733 N. Southport Avenue. Admission is $10; $8 for students and seniors. www.musicboxtheatre.com/collections/saturday-silent-cinema
Dennis Scott, Music Box Theatre's house organist, is an internationally known silent film organist dubbed the "Master of Magic Notes" by Suzanne Lloyd, granddaughter of the comic genius Harold Lloyd. Scott began accompanying silent films in the 1970s, when he started playing theater pipe organs installed in pizza parlors in the Midwest and the West Coast. He is a co-founder of the Silent Film Society of Chicago. Ongoing at the Music Box, he plays weekend intermissions, the annual Sing-Along Sound of Music, Sing-Along Grease, Valentine's Day Sing-Along and the acclaimed Music Box Christmas Sing-Along, a Chicago holiday tradition for nearly 30 years. For Music Box's Second Saturday Silent Cinema Series, Scott accompanies a classic silent film, live, at noon on the second Saturday of each month on the Music Box Theatre organ. The series was named the "Best New Film Series of 2011" by Chicago magazine and "Best Matinee Film Series of 2012" by the Chicago Reader.