Fall Cinesation in Massillon, OH 2008

Am posting from the Canton/Akron airport, where I've arrived at the gate with plenty of time to spare, courtesy of Philip Carli and his merry Oldsmobile. Nice to see the airport has complimentary wi-fi (ya hear that, LGA & EWR?!)…

Saw a lot of great film, missed a few good ones too probably (I've learned that surviving these festivals often means missing films instead of seeing everything), and got to visit with some people I haven't seen in a while, and got to meet a few new folks as well.

Thursday eve:
Throwing the Miditzer together was a breeze, as always. The Cinesation arranged to rent a MIDI keyboard from a local music shop, through whom they also purchased the OnStage keyboard stand I've found most affordable/suitable for Miditzer use (thank you, R&H Music on Lincoln Way East!). Philip took the first film, the 1926 Viola Dana / Kenneth Harlan The Ice Flood, which was a nice backwoods logging camp type melodrama. I've gotten to see more Viola Dana in Massillon than anywhere else. I then played for a Ken Maybard western called The Grey Vulture a western a la A Modern Musketeer where Maynard keeps fantasizing himself as medieval hero "The Grey Vulture" so there were cowboy horse chases as well as a couple done in armor.

Friday:
The morning kicked off with one of my fest highlights (not counting the (sound) films I missed) – Soul of the Beast, in which Vernon Dent is seen in the opening sequence as comedy releif, looking like his goofy bumpkin character I've seen him portray in a couple of shorts from a solo series he did before his stint at Sennett. The print was a gorgeous old 16mm original, and the film was fun; Oscar the elephant had a nice showdown with nasty villain Noah Beery toward the end, and Madge Bellamy is adorable.

Then a show I missed (a 1930's western), followed by another highlight -- the Eric Grayson technicolor rarities show. One of the nice things – for me anyway – about the Cinesation is that it's a place I get to see a bit of real Technicolor every year. After this I accompanied Olive Thomas's last film Everybody's Sweetheart (1920), which was a real rarity. It was an okay drama, and a little out of character from what I usually expect from a Ms. Thomas picture, and had a number of unpredictable story turns.

I was a little weary (not from playing, though) and skipped the rare Hayakawa silent The Typhoon, which I understand went over well.

Following Friday evening's 7pm show of Lillian Gish in Sold For Marriage a woman came up to me to complement me on my playing for the film. What was unusual (and special, I think) was that she said she was 90 (didn't look like she was over 80) and that her cousin has played for silent movies back when they were just called movies. Her cousin played piano and also organ at the Ritz theatre in NYC. She was visiting family in Massillon and came to see the show, and said some nice things abot my playing and how well the score fit the picture.

I missed the late show of For Whom the Bell Tolls (but probably shouldn't have)...

Saturday:

Slept in, missing the Burns & Allen College Swing and most of the silent False Faces, which we ran at the Silent Clowns some years ago. I ducked in and out of the theatre while it was running and caught a few bits and pieces of it, and was reminded there is NYC location footage, but ultimately the projection speed of 17 fps made it too hard for me to watch.

Then lunch, and the catching of the last chunk of the feature Captain Marvel. The matinee was me on Miditzer accompanying, first, a newly restored Educational kids 'n aninals 2-reeler called Billy Believes starring a young Jackie Condon (of Our Gang). Jackie eats too much cake and has nightmares in which a bear and a lion terrorize him and his parents and the African-American handyman in the building. This nugget was followed by a picture I'd recommended for the Cinesation, the Connie Talmadge Her Sister From Paris, which I'd seen at Joe Yransky's "Meet the Music Makers" series in NY this past February. The film went over really well – a lot of nice buzz from attendees afterward – and was the first show I played at the fest where I felt a little magic happened during the score for me.

The evening show was the silent version of All Quiet on the Western Front. I'd never seen this film (amazing, huh?) and this film impressed the heck out of me, and made me want to see the original sound version, although I don't know if I'll be able to watch it on a television set after seeing this beautiful 35mm print in a 1916 movie house.

Sunday:
No more silents today, and I skipped The Lives of a Bengal Lancer and caught the first ten minutes of the Lee Tracy Crashing Hollywood (mainly becuase it was preceeded by L&H in Twice Two, where they play each other's wives). After a final cartoon – the Fleischer sing-along Ain't She Sweet which had a lot of great cartoon gags – it was time to pack up the Miditzer and my pedals and say good-byes.

* * * * *
Had a great time this year as always. It's kinda neat that I play two festivals in September that are held in 1916 movie theaters (the Cinesation and "Silent Film Days" in Norway) to kick off the year (yes, my calendar year starts in Sept in my head, because of the school year and the SCFS season). A number of people asked me about future offerings on altscore.com and it reminded me that I've been meaning to post a score for the Helen Gardener Cleopatra that I'd recorded for a friend a few years ago.

I've got 7 shows in the next 5 days, all at MoMA (except Tues):
  • Mon - Monsieur Beaucaire and Janice Meredith
  • Tues - The Cheat at a film history class at Pratt
  • Weds - So's Your Old Man and Zaza
  • Thurs - So's Your Old Man
  • Fri - Humoresque
I'll post again with photos from the Cinesation, when I get a moment...

See you at the silents!

Ben

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