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Silent-era Movie Theaters Live On

Across the United States, there are wonderful examples of movie theaters built during the silent film era that still screen films today. This sampling of images of such theaters comes from the Margaret Herrick Library’s Tom B’hend and Preston Kaufmann Collection, which covers more than 5,000 U.S. theaters that operated between the late 1890s and the late 1980s. The photos, papers and blueprints in this enormous collection represent the only surviving record of some theaters.

June 13 - HUMORESQUE (1920)

Introduced by Cari Beauchamp, biographer of HUMORESQUE’s screenwriter, Frances Marion.

Restored 35mm print from UCLA. The first Photoplay Medal of Honor went to Frank Borzage’s film version of Fannie Hurst’s short story, a tearjerker about a young violinist who journeys from New York’s Jewish slums to international fame with the help of his doting mother.

With live musical accompaniment composed by Michael Mortilla, and performed by Mortilla on piano and Nicole Garcia on violin.

Preceded by Buster Keaton in ONE WEEK (1920) and an animated logo of silent stars designed by Richard Williams for the Pordenone Silent Film Festival in Italy.

"Humoresque" Program

June 20 - TOL’ABLE DAVID (1921)

Introduced by film historian and preservationist David Shepard.

35mm print from MoMA. Richard Barthelmess had a breakout hit with this touching drama about a small-town boy who comes of age when confronted by a trio of violent criminals, directed by two-time Oscar nominee Henry King.

With live musical accompaniment composed and performed on piano by Alexander Rannie.

Preceded by Harold Lloyd in NEVER WEAKEN (1921).

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"Tol'able David" Program


Introduced by film historian and Fairbanks biographer, Jeffrey Vance.

Newly restored 35mm tinted print from MoMA. Douglas Fairbanks had one of his greatest successes with this lavish swashbuckler based on the classic English hero.

With live musical accompaniment performed by Clark Wilson on an Allen Theatre Organ.

Preceded by Charlie Chaplin in PAY DAY (1922).

"Douglas Fairbanks in Robin Hood" Program

July 11 - THE COVERED WAGON (1923)

35mm print courtesy of the Paramount Pictures Collection at UCLA. This epic adventure of pioneers on a dangerous journey along the Oregon Trail is considered one of the first great Western films and features scenes filmed on location in Nevada and Utah.

With live musical accompaniment provided by Will Ryan and the Cactus County Cowboys.

Preceded by surviving fragments of 1924’s Photoplay Medal recipient ABRAHAM LINCOLN, and images from THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME (1923) projected in 3D.

"Covered Wagon" Program

July 18 - THE BIG PARADE (1925)

Introduced by film historian Kevin Brownlow.

Newly restored 35mm tinted print from Warner Bros. King Vidor directed John Gilbert in this moving drama about a young soldier’s experiences in World War I, which became one of the highest-grossing silent films of all time.

With a recorded stereo orchestral score composed by Carl Davis.

Preceded by BROWNIE'S LITTLE VENUS (1921) starring Baby Peggy.

"The Big Parade" Program

July 20 - THE GENERAL (1927)

Comedy Special

Introduced by film historian Kevin Brownlow.

35mm print from the original negative from Photoplay Productions. Actor-director Buster Keaton’s Civil War comedy about a Confederate train engineer is considered one of the star’s masterpieces, mixing classic slapstick with spectacular action sequences.

With a recorded stereo orchestral score composed by Carl Davis.

Preceded by a “then-and-now” presentation by John Bengtson outlining the filming locations for silent era comedies by Chaplin, Keaton and Lloyd.

"The General" Program

July 25 - BEAU GESTE (1926)

Introduced by film historian Frank Thompson.

Ronald Colman and William Powell starred in this first film version of Percival Christopher Wren’s classic adventure novel about three brothers who join the French Foreign Legion to protect their family’s honor.

With live musical accompaniment by the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra.

Preceded by Harry Langdon in SATURDAY AFTERNOON (1926).

"Beau Geste" Program

August 1 - 7TH HEAVEN (1927)

Introduced by film historian Janet Bergstrom.

Restored 35mm print courtesy of 20th Century Fox. Frank Borzage won the first Oscar for Directing – Dramatic Picture for this romantic drama pairing Janet Gaynor and Charles Farrell as young lovers in Paris on the eve of World War I.

With live musical accompaniment composed and performed by Michael Mortilla on piano, Nicole Garcia on violin and Frank Macchia on winds.

Preceded by Charley Chase in MIGHTY LIKE A MOOSE (1926) and a surviving fragment from the 1928 lost film, THE PATRIOT, directed by Ernst Lubitsch, courtesy of Cinemateca Portuguesa-Museu do Cinema.

"7th Heaven" Program

August 8 - FOUR SONS (1928)

Four-time Best Director winner John Ford helmed this drama about four brothers in World War I, one of the few of Ford’s silent films that still exists.

Preceded by Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy in TWO TARS (1928) and a fragment from the 1928 lost film THE CASE OF LENA SMITH, directed by Josef von Sternberg, courtesy of the Austrian Film Museum, Vienna.

"Four Sons" Program

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