Charlie Chaplin at Burns Film Center


Happy new year!

Tuesday's show of Chaplin Mutuals – programmed by silent film comrade Bruce Lawton, who also introduced the show – was a big success. We arrived at the Burns film center to discover the show had been moved from their medium-sized theater to the big one because of the number of ticket sales. By the time we started the show the place was sold out.

Seen at left is the JBFC's Clavinova, on the stage and off to the side. The instrument was donated a few years ago, and this is what I always play when I accompany silents there. While it's not acoustic, it's got a decent sound and can be easily moved form one cinema to the other. They run it into the house sound system, when we're in the big theater there, but only amplify it a little but...just enough for people sitting in the way back.

We ran 16mm prints from my collection, and Bruce grouped them in a great way: first The Pawnshop and The Rink, and then a brief spoken intro while the operator changed reels, followed by The Cure and The Immigrant. The house was nearly half-full with children, and the films got huge laughs from start to finish. It was really satisfying for me to see the support we got this year, and that we get every year when we do this comedy shorts show there, from parents who bring their kids. Chaplin is what got Bruce and me hooked on silents when we were little kids – something we mentioned in our intro – and we love sharing these films with kids.

Here's a shot of my Charlie Chaplin necktie, which my wife bought me as a present some years ago. A few people complemented me on the tie after the show.

I thought my playing went pretty well, and it was interesting playing for The Immigrant when shown at 24fps. I've been playing for it at AMMI for school groups at 20 or 21 fps for the last couple years, a few times a month, and I'd not realized till Tuesday's performance that I'd taught myself to play for it at the other speed to such a degree that a lot of what I "usually" do didn't quite fit. One nice thing is that the waltz I use when the boat is rocking back and forth did fit. The film works better at 24fps, I think...not just my sensibilities but from listening to the audience. The film gets way more laughs at the faster speed. One nice thing about the show is that I finally found something that made the sequence in The Pawnshop with Charlie and Albert Austin and the wind-up clock really work and get the laughs it deserves. I don't think I was undermining the sequence in previous shows, but I always felt the sequence – a real gem, all in a sustained 3 or 4 minute two-shot – should have gotten more laughs. And this time it really landed. Must remember what worked for next time I play for this one...

Am looking forward to see what 2009 brings. My January is packed with shows, and the rest of the year has a number of my regular bookings already in place – monthly series at the CAC, orch scores for Boise in Feb, etc. etc. – and it'll be fun to see what percolates and falls into place this year.

See you at the silents!

Ben

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