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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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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Watching Napoleon with Kevin Brownlow

Watching Napoleon with Kevin Brownlow

Last week, on assignment for France 24, I attended the U.S. premiere of film historian Kevin Brownlow’s most recent restoration of Abel Gance’s monumental 1927 silent epic Napoleon. Under the auspices of the San Francisco Silent Film Festival, over the course of four nights, roughly 12 000 people experienced cinematic history. Gance’s film hadn’t graced a North American screen since a Francis Ford Coppola-produced roadshow played several cities, including Toronto’s O’Keefe Centre, over thirty years…

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Silent Toronto at the Pordenone Silent Film Festival

I arrived in Pordenone, Italy last night for the giornate del cinema muto, the world’s most important silent film festival, where I’ll be part of this year’s collegium. I’ll be tweeting from @SilentToronto about all the goings-on! Festival highlights include a lengthy programme examining the pre-Hollywood work of Michael Curtiz, the treasures of the west (featuring Canuck-centric flicks like Mantrap starring Clara Bow and William Beaudine’s The Canadian), several Disney Laugh-O-Gram cartoons, the recently-discovered The…

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The Unholy Three visits TIFF Bell Lightbox

An archival 35mm print of Tod Browning’s The Unholy Three (1925), an early mingling of the underworld with the macabre, visits TIFF Bell Lightbox on Saturday, June 25 at 8pm, with piano accompaniment by Laura Silberberg. The film, which stars Lon Chaney, premiered in Toronto on August 4, 1925, at Shea’s Hippodrome. It was preceded by a travelogue showing a “bevy of bathing beauties” at Coney Island and a short comedy starring Harry Langdon. Shea’s…

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