Monday, April 20, 2009

April update

Today Steve Massa and I were at MoMA screening Thanhouser films with Charles Silver for a program we're working on for October. The program will help the Thanhouser Film Corp. celebrate the company's centenary; Ned Thanhouser will be doing a program with the LOC as well as at MoMA during the last weekend of October, and we were screening MoMA's holdings on Thanhouser films. Saw a few real gems, like The Marble Heart and A Dog's Love starring Shep the dog. Here's a photo of the studio, located at the intersection of Warren, Grove and Center streets in New Rochelle, from the Thanhouser website. The website offers 9 dvd volumes of films, and there will be more released in October.

While we were at MoMA Steve and I picked up freshly printed copies of the May members calendar, with Cruel and Unusual Comedy listed inside. Steve and I are putting finishing touches on our online film notes for the shows, which we are posting on a blogspot site, and will make those "live" in a couple of weeks.

Last Thursday I accompanied Harold Lloyd's The Kid Brother at Wesleyan University. This was my fourth annual show for them, and one of the treats doing shows there is getting to see Jeanine Basinger (pronounced BAY-singer, like a vocalist fom San Francisco). She is a delight and such a big fan and proponent of silent film. I brought my 16mm print of Dog Shy with Charley Chase to open for the feature, and the film absolutely killed (no surprise) and Jeanine and I and some fans who stayed around afterward talked about how great Chase is and how his films should be seen more. Also chatted about Lloyd and his mastery. As always, I brought the Miditzer to their beautiful theater – also the first place I ever used the Miditzer for a performance – and their state of the art sound system made the instrument sound amazing.

Have been plowing through photoplay music from the collection donated to the Silent Clowns a year ago by Ted Simons, over 360 pieces of vintage silent film music in arrangements for small orchestra. A week or so ago I went through the 5 boxes of music, organized them all by series and cataloged them, and pulled the piano/conductor parts. Some of it is really great, and could stand on its own. I'm earmarking pieces I like for the Schirmers book as I go.

Had a great Silent Clowns show of Chaplin shorts on Sunday. One of our best turnouts of the season, and a great show put together by Bruce. It's also our last show at the New-York Historical Society, where we've been since 2005 (and were also there from 2000-2002). A number of our regular audience members have been coming up to me or emailing me with ideas of places to check out and its been really touching seeing all this support.

There are loads of other things brewing, shows being booked or percolated, and I'll be gearing up soon for the Julien Duvivier retrospective at MoMA that'll include a number of his silents. More info as it becomes solidified, important or cool.

Up next, it's Arbuckle/Keaton shorts in 35mm at the Cinema Arts Centre!

See you at the silents!

Monday, April 06, 2009

Cruel and Unusual Comedy in MoMA calendar

Just got the PDF of MoMA's May/June 2009 members calendar, with the full listings for Cruel and Unusual Comedy in it. Am posting the pertinent pages from the calendar here; click on the images below to see them larger.

Unfortunately, due to space restrictions, there was no way to include info or a blurb about each individual program or any of the films, aside from title, date and running time. Steve Massa and I are creating our own online film notes for the shows on our own (not-affiliated-with MoMA) website, and those will be up in early May.

Friday, April 03, 2009

WNYC art.culture podcast

Margaret Pickering interviewed me after Wednesday's show of Wild Bill Hickok. She's a blogger on WNYC's culture page. This podcast appeared on their page today and runs about 10 mins 20 seconds. The segment with me is brief, and starts at around 08:40.

Click on the image below to go to WNYC's art.cult page.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Wild Bill Hickok at MoMA

Just played show #2 of Wild Bill Hickok (1923) will William S. Hart. Yesterday's show went well, and today's went a little better. I was a little more focused and also backed off a little more. On the second pass I was also able to get a better handle on a western-type flavor on the theatre organ, something that comes much easier on piano. Had fun (both times) using the piano rank for the saloon scenes.

Tried using "Old Dan Tucker" as a final theme today, sort of the way "Jubilo" works in the Will Rogers picture of the same name. I'm not sure if "Old Dan Tucker" fits the character of Hickok, but the song is identified with him onscreen at the beginning and about 1/3 to 1/2 of the way in.

Character actor Leo Willis turns up in a small role at the beginning of the film. He's one of Lloyd's brothers in The Kid Brother, and turns up in tons of other Roach films and other comedy shorts. I found this photo of Willis seen at right on and was posted there by his great-granddaughter.

A woman chatted me up atfter the show, asking about the Miditzer. I did my usual Miditzer talk – plugging the instrument, its creators, MoMA's purchasing the equipment, and the importance of hearing that sound at silent film shows. In talking about the lack of theater organs in NYC, she mentioned that there was a movie palace hwere she grew up, in Idaho called the Egyptian. Irony strikes again, as this is the theater where the Treasure Valley Youth Symphony has performed my orchestral scores for the last 6 years, and I've actually been there twice now (2006 and 2008). The Egyptian in Boise, ID has a Robert-Morton theatre organ which is an original installation.

One more show of Wild Bill tomorrow, then on Sunday it's So's Your Old Man at the Silent Clowns.

See you at the silents!