Buster Keaton 1895-1966

Buster Keaton died forty-five years ago today, and Silent Toronto would like to offer posthumous thanks for all the laughter that has filled (and continues to fill) Toronto cinemas.

Seven Chances premiered at the former Shea’s Hippodrome in October, 1925. Last year I was fortunate to attend a screening at Casa Loma where the film was accompanied by Clark Wilson at the helm of the mighty, rumbling Wurlitzer organ.

As I wrote in the Toronto Star in March, 2010, this organ was no stranger to Keaton’s farce — it was in use at Shea’s Hippodrome when the film premiered. It was saved when Shea’s was demolished in 1957 in order to build Nathan Phillips Square. Moved to Maple Leaf Gardens, it provided music for radio broadcasts and in 1964, it was purchased by the Toronto Theatre & Organ Society. It has been housed at Casa Loma since.

Here is a photo, courtesy of Gordon McLeod, showing longtime Shea’s organist Quentin MacLean at the Wurlitzer console while it was at Maple Leaf Gardens.

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