When Charlie Chaplin comes to town

When Charlie Chaplin comes to town

The silent Keystone comedy, Kid Auto Races at Venice, should have been exactly that — a newsreel documenting a soapbox derby race. But as children race along an audience-lined pathway, a curious fellow wearing a bowler hat and baggy pants emerges into the frame, constantly interrupting the shot. The man is Charlie Chaplin. In cinematic terms, he was the original photobomber. Released in February, 1914, the film marks Chaplin’s first publicly screened appearance as the…

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Buster Keaton’s final word

Buster Keaton’s final word

This piece was originally published by the Toronto Star on March 5, 2013. It appears here in a slightly edited form. Buster Keaton, who rose to fame in the 1920s, directed and starred in some of the most famous films of the silent era. The General (1926) is ranked 34th on Sight and Sound magazine’s list of the 50 greatest films of all time. Nearly four decades later, during a chilly October in 1965, Keaton was in Toronto, appearing…

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Charles Dickens in the silent era

Charles Dickens in the silent era

This article was originally published by the Toronto Star on December 28, 2012. The silent era saw the production of about 100 films based on Dickens’ work. Eight shorts, made between 1901 and 1912 — including the earliest filmed version of A Christmas Carol — will be shown on Monday as part of the Dickens on Screen series at TIFF Bell Lightbox. Capturing Dickens on film was an obvious leap for filmmakers, says Adrian Wootton,…

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The Last Laugh: Banned in Ontario

The Last Laugh: Banned in Ontario

Released in 1924, Murnau’s film was not screened in Ontario until 1928. During the winter of 1925, F.W. Murnau’s masterpiece, The Last Laugh, was shown to a very exclusive group of Ontario movie-goers. The audience was the Ontario Board of Censors, and while they were no doubt impressed by the film’s dazzling cinematography and lack of subtitles, the film was banned simply because it was made in Germany. Murnau’s film was screened in other provinces…

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Modern-day silent films at the Toronto Silent Film Festival

Modern-day silent films at the Toronto Silent Film Festival

When Shirley Hughes launched the Toronto Silent Film Festival in 2009, she never thought that a modern-day silent film like The Artist could claim the Best Picture Oscar, sparking a revival of interest in early cinema. Closing tonight, the festival has long placed importance on connecting the past to the present. The opening night film, Our Dancing Daughters (1928), starring a young Joan Crawford, draws many parallels to the Oscar-winning film. “It’s a great example…

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