Silent Sundays

Silent Sundays is Toronto’s only semi-monthly, year-long celebration of silent cinema.

Created by journalist and film programmer Eric Veillette, the series launched in 2009 and has lived up to its original intentions of screening silent films, with live piano accompaniment, in an authentic silent movie house like the Revue Cinema, which opened in 1912. Featuring family-friendly comedies, adventure films, even the occasional fright film, the series caters to the Revue’s neighbourhood crowd, and the results have consistently filled the century-old cinema’s seats with cinephiles, families and the uninitiated alike. The National Post‘s Lia Grainger says the atmosphere “is so convincing it makes you want to check that your bonnet isn’t blocking anyone’s view” and that it showcases “a simple charm rarely duplicated in cinema today.”

When running times permit, features are accompanied by a short film, and always preceded by topical slide-show and musical hit parade playlist from the film’s release year.

In 2014, the series was re-named Silent Revue.

Top image edited from 1935 photo of the Revue credited to the Archives of Ontario.
All programming copy written by Eric Veillette, Ellen Moorhouse and Alicia Fletcher.

Programmer: Alicia Fletcher
Founding programmer: Eric Veillette
Resident accompanist: William O’Meara
Guest accompanists: Laura Silberberg, Jordan Klapman, Tania Gill, Makia Matsumura
Presentation: 35mm, 16mm, HD
Venue: The Revue Cinema, 400 Roncesvalles Ave., Toronto. (416) 531-9950

Top image edited from 1935 photo of the Revue credited to the Archives of Ontario.
Copy below written by Eric Veillette, Ellen Moorhouse and Alicia Fletcher.

 

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June 8, 2014: Buster Keaton in THE NAVIGATOR

The Navigator (1924)
Directed by Donald Crisp
Written by Clyde Bruckman
Starring Buster Keaton, Kathryn McGuire, and Frederick Vroom
HD | 90 min., including short

About the film

Well, Buster’s really done it this time: after suffering a rejected marriage proposal, Keaton (here as spoiled playboy Rollo Treadway) embarks on a solo honeymoon trip to Honolulu, only to find himself adrift on a helmless ship without a steward in sight.

Up against swordfish, a ravenous octopus, and an island of cannibals, a newly self-reliant Keaton battles the seas, all while protecting the girl of his dreams and remaining as stoic as ever. Some of Keaton’s most memorable stunts can be seen here, including a hilarious deep-sea dive!

According to the New York Times in 1924, “The Navigator is an excellent panacea for melancholia or lethargy, as it is filled with ludicrous and intensely humorous situations…” – or, in other words, it’s the perfect Silent Sundays season closer and a great family outing!

Despite some stiff competition in Toronto when it premiered at the Loew’s Yonge St. Theatre in October, 1924 – Rudolph Valentino appeared in Monsieur Beaucaire at the neighbouring Regent – the Toronto Daily Star praised Buster’s antics:

“If you want to laugh as you have never laughed before, cancel all other dates and come to Loew’s Yonge Street theatre to see Buster Keaton in The Navigator, the Metro Goldwyn Picture playing here this week. The Navigator is the comedy of all comedies. It actually keeps you in a continual fit — and “fit” is the right word — of laughter. Buster has become nautical, but you don’t have to be nautical yourself to enjoy it. The Navigator shows Buster at sea on an ocean liner with no crew: it presents his adventures at the bottom of the ocean in a submarine, and in a diving suit; it shows him amid the cannibals on the South Sea Islands. This comedy is a classic in its class, with laugh bubbles bursting out through every foot of the film. It’s something you’ve got to see.”

The film’s 1924 premiere also featured vaudeville program consisting of “six exceptionally big acts, the feature attraction being Jean Barios, the star of fashion.”

Promotional poster by Craig Caron.

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September 12, 2013: F.W. Murnau’s SUNRISE

SSSunrise

Sunrise (1927)
Directed by F.W. Murnau
Written by Carl Meyer
Starring Janet Gaynor, William O’Brien, and Margaret Livingston
Produced by Fox Film Corporation
HD | 79 min.

About the film

Come out for a Silent Sundays special presentation held at the beautifully restored Wychwood Barns, operated by Toronto’s Artscape. In participation with the Barns and St. Clair streetcar’s centennial celebration, we are screening F.W. Murnau’s Sunrise.

Featuring one of the most famous trolley sequences in cinema history, Sunrise is a film perfectly suited for a screening in a former streetcar repair house. Sweeping the first-ever Academy Awards ceremony with honours for Janet Gaynor (the original Best Actress), its outstanding cinematography, and a special award for its uniqueness and artistry, today the film is lauded as a masterpiece and is consistently cited on numerous best of lists, including AFI’s Top 100 films of all time.

Sunrise is an unconventional love story that transcends all others with its ability to create a fairytale-like world within the rapid pace of a modern city. Not to be missed!

About the accompanist

Musical accompaniment was an integral part of the silent era. We once again welcome pianist William O’Meara, who has gained worldwide recognition for his silent film work. He has performed at the TIFF Cinematheque, Nuit Blanche, the Toronto Silent Film FestivalLe Giornate del Cinema Muto in Pordenone, Italy and as far east as Perm, Russia, where he played the organ to the noted Russian silent, Man with a Movie Camera.

Silent Sundays is curated by media archivist Alicia Fletcher and was founded in 2009 by journalist Eric Veillette. Screenings are held from October – June at the historic Revue Cinema (400 Roncesvalles Ave.).

FREE Admission. Seating is limited. Please arrive early.

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September 14 & 15, 2013: Harold Lloyd in SPEEDY

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Speedy (1928)
Directed by Ted Wilde
Starring Harold Lloyd, Ann Christy, and Bert Woodruff
Produced by The Harold Lloyd Corporation
HD | 85 min.

Silent Sundays at the Revue Cinema goes on vacation and visits the beautiful Artscape Wychwood Barns for a special screening of the Harold Lloyd’s comedic masterpiece Speedy.

About the film

Harold Lloyd plays the loveable titular character, an out-of-work soda jerk who must defend New York City’s last horse-drawn trolley, operated by his sweetheart’s grandfather and threatened by the city’s electric railway developers. Speedy perfectly encapsulates the tension between old-fashioned mores, associated with small town values, and the city’s newly modernized ideals.

Featuring incredible footage of 1920s Coney Island, complete with shockingly dangerous amusement park rides, Speedy is not to be missed! Baseball legend Babe Ruth also makes an appearance. Frankly, if you love Chaplin and/or Keaton, but are unfamiliar with Lloyd, you must see Speedy, as it rivals the very best of the slapstick masterpieces!

This screening is in participation with the Barns and St. Clair streetcar centennial celebration.

About the accompanists

Featuring live accompaniment by musicians and composers Tania Gill (Saturday screening) and William O’Meara (Sunday screening).

Saturday, September 14, 2:30 – 4:30pm
Sunday, September 15, 4 – 6pm

FREE Admission. Seating is limited. Please arrive early.

Silent Sundays is curated by media archivist Alicia Fletcher and was founded in 2009 by journalist Eric Veillette. Screenings are held from October-June at the historic Revue Cinema (400 Roncesvalles Ave.).

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June 23, 2013: Buster Keaton in THREE AGES

2013-SS-Three_Ages-promoThree Ages (1923)
Directed by Eddie Cline, Buster Keaton
Written by Clyde Bruckman, Joseph A. Mitchell
Starring Buster Keaton, Wallace Beery, Margaret Leahy
16mm | 85 min.

Live piano accompaniment by William O’Meara.

About the film

For the finale of Silent Sunday’s fourth season, Buster Keaton brings us dinosaur mayhem, Roman chariot races and Jazz-Age hullabaloo, all in one uproarious film!

In Three Ages, Keaton faces his usual challenge: how to beat a formidable rival (this time played by Wallace Beery) and win the girl of his dreams. However, there’s a hilarious catch. Having won the girl in one historic time period, our hero must repeat the challenge in another.

Designed as a spoof of D.W. Griffith’s oh so serious Intolerance, Three Ages was the first feature that Keaton wrote, directed, produced and starred in, and offers unforgettable costumes, sets, and gags!

Buster will be preceded by Buster, in The Playhouse (1921), an absurdist short said to have been inspired by Windsor McCay, in which Keaton out-Keatons himself.

About the accompanist

Musical accompaniment was an integral part of the silent era. The Revue once again welcomes pianist William O’Meara, who has gained worldwide recognition for his silent film work. He has performed at the TIFF Cinematheque, Nuit Blanche, the Toronto Silent Film FestivalLe Giornate del Cinema Muto in Pordenone, Italy and as far east as Perm, Russia, where he played the organ to the noted Russian silent, Man with a Movie Camera.

Promotional poster by Craig Caron.

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May 26, 2013: Betty Bronson in PETER PAN

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Peter Pan (1924)
Directed by Herbert Brenon
Written by Willis Goldbreck, based on the play by J.M. Barrie
Starring Betty Bronson, Ernest Torrence, George Ali
16mm | 105 mins

Live piano accompaniment by William O’Meara

About the film

Silent Sundays gets a sprinkle of fairy dust with an adaptation of one of the most beloved children’s stories of all time! On May 26th, Peter Pan whisks the Darling children off to Never-Never Land – where along with the Lost Boys they learn to fly, swim with mermaids, rescue Princess Tiger Lily, and torment the nefarious Captain Hook.

Silent Sundays gets a sprinkle of fairy dust with an adaptation of one of the most beloved children’s stories of all time! On May 26th, Peter Pan whisks the Darling children off to Never-Never Land – where along with the Lost Boys they learn to fly, swim with mermaids, rescue Princess Tiger Lily, and torment the nefarious Captain Hook.

Silent Sundays gets a sprinkle of fairy dust with an adaptation of one of the most beloved children’s stories of all time! On May 26th, Peter Pan whisks the Darling children off to Never-Never Land – where along with the Lost Boys they learn to fly, swim with mermaids, rescue Princess Tiger Lily, and torment the nefarious Captain Hook.

Silent Sundays gets a sprinkle of fairy dust with an adaptation of one of the most beloved children’s stories of all time! On May 26th, Peter Pan whisks the Darling children off to Never-Never Land – where along with the Lost Boys they learn to fly, swim with mermaids, rescue Princess Tiger Lily, and torment the nefarious Captain Hook.

Lost for decades, and consequently rarely seen, the 1924 version of Peter Pan is one of the most visually spectacular films of the era and a wonderful introduction to silent film for a younger audience.

About the accompanist

Musical accompaniment was an integral part of the silent era. The Revue once again welcomes pianist William O’Meara, who has gained worldwide recognition for his silent film work. He has performed at the TIFF Cinematheque, Nuit Blanche, the Toronto Silent Film FestivalLe Giornate del Cinema Muto in Pordenone, Italy and as far east as Perm, Russia, where he played the organ to the noted Russian silent, Man with a Movie Camera.

We also welcome a special appearance by Makia Matsumura, an accomplished silent accompanist from New York City, who will perform the shorts preceding the feature film.

Promotional poster by Craig Caron.

 

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January 27, 2013: Charles Chaplin’s THE GOLD RUSH

GoldRushPosterSilentSundaysCraigCaron

The Gold Rush (1925)
Directed by Charles Chaplin
Written by Charles Chaplin
Starring Charles Chaplin, Mack Swain, Georgia Hale, and Tom Murray
16mm | 95 mins.

Live piano accompaniment by William O’Meara

About the film

Join us for this edition of Silent Sundays and see the highest-grossing silent comedy of all time – Charlie Chaplin’s masterpiece, The Gold Rush! Written and directed by Chaplin, The Gold Rush sees the beloved Tramp seek adventure, fortune, and love at the risk of great peril in the frigid Klondike.

Although the Tramp freezes and starves as he braces the harsh realties that met the thousands of gold seekers, The Gold Rush is heartwarming and uplifting, due in large part to the Tramp’s gentleness in an environment of treachery and greed. Chaplin often claimed that he would most like to be remembered for this film – one need only look to The Gold Rush’s iconic “roll-dance” and meal of boiled shoe to recognize the soundness in Chaplin’s choice.

When the film premiered at the Regent Theatre on August 15, 1925, the lineup spiralled along Adelaide St.

Of the film, the Daily Star wrote: “The one and only Chaplin has put his heart, his art and his soul into the cameras that “shot” his latest picture. With that genius which is peculiarly his own, and against the background of old Klondike gold rush days, he has depicted with subtle tender and delicate master strokes the struggle of man’s eternal hunt for happiness, its heartbreaks and tears, its laughter and joy. The worldly riches that become his in the course of the story do not make up for the bitter loneliness of his heart and soul. They are only a means to an end.”

Chaplin’s masterpiece ran at the Regent for seven consecutive weeks.

About the accompanist

Musical accompaniment was an integral part of the silent era. The Revue once again welcomes pianist William O’Meara, who has gained worldwide recognition for his silent film work. He has performed at the TIFF Cinematheque, Nuit Blanche, the Toronto Silent Film Festival, Le Giornate del Cinema Muto in Podenone, Italy and as far east as Perm, Russia, where he played the organ to the noted Russian silent, Man with a Movie Camera.

16mm print courtesy of a private collector.

Promotional poster by Craig Caron.

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December 9, 2012: THE LOST WORLD

THE LOST WORLD (1925)

Dir. by Harry O. Hoyt
Based on the novel by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Starring Wallace Beery, Bessie Love, Lewis Stone
Special Effects by Willis O’Brien
16mm | 106 mins.

Live piano accompaniment by Tania Gill

About the film

Back by popular demand! Our first repeat screening!

It might feel like another Ice Age is approaching, so come warm up and enjoy the stop-motion animation epic, The Lost World! Before the classic adventure epics King Kong, The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms and Jason & The Argonauts was The Lost World, Willis O’Brien’s first major foray into feature-length stop-motion animation.

With all its Brontosaurus-stomping, city-destroying fun, the film is balanced with a romantic subplot.

Explorer Professor Challenger (Wallace Beery) is taking quite a beating in the London press thanks to his claim that living dinosaurs exist in the far reaches of the Amazon. Newspaper reporter Edward Malone learns that this claim originates from a diary given to him by fellow explorer Maple White’s daughter, Paula (Bessie Love).

Malone’s paper funds an expedition to rescue Maple White, who has been marooned at the top of a high plateau. Joined by renowned hunter John Roxton, and others, the group goes to South America, where they do indeed find a plateau inhabited by pre-historic creatures, one of which they even manage to bring back to London with them.

In keeping with the Jurassic theme, Winsor McKay’s beloved silent animated short, Gertie the Dinosaur (1914) will precede the feature. Note: a very special Vaudeville-esque surprise will accompany Gertie!

About the accompanist

As part of the Silent Sundays tradition, a live musical performance will accompany the film. Composer and pianist Tania Gill joins us at The Revue, marking her first performance for Silent Sundays!

Silent Sundays is Toronto’s only dedicated, year-long celebration of silent cinema. Screenings take place at the 100-year-old Revue, where some of the silent films shown actually played there upon their respective premieres.

16mm print courtesy of the Silent Toronto Archives.

Promotional poster by Craig Caron.

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October 27, 2012: Dr. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE

Poster - Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1920)_04Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde (1920)
Directed by John S. Robertson
Starring John Barrymore, Brandon Hurst, Nita Naldi
Based on the story by Robert Louis Stevenson
B&W | 16mm
Programme length 95 min.

Featuring live piano accompaniment by William O’Meara.

About the film

Silent Sundays returns for the Halloween season with John Barrymore’s bravura performance in Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, inspired by Robert Louis Stevenson’s 1886 novella about man’s internal struggle with good and evil.

The celebrated actor, who struggled with his own personal demons, played the character without the use of prosthetics or heavy makeup, instead relying on the ability to contort his face to chilling effect.

But Barrymore’s 1920 turn as the dual characters was not the first film adaptation of Stevenson’s story — five earlier versions had been released, among them a lost 1908 version by William Selig. The same year that Barrymore played the role, Conrad Veidt (The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, Casablanca) also played the characters in Der Januskopf, directed by F.W. Murnau.

Unlike other genres, such as the perennial Western and Musical, horror has never lost its popularity. While the uninitiated continue to cite the origins of horror as the Universal monster series from the early 1930s, those more informed recognize that almost every iconic horror character and narrative has an ancestor from the silent era.

Well before Karloff, Frankenstein’s monster made his film debut in 1914, when Edison produced its sixteen-minute version of Mary Shelley’s genre defining work.  In 1911 the American Thanhouser studio released a version of The Mummy, only to be followed a year later by another British version released by Britannia Films (only the latter survives). And, even before it found its embodiment in Lon Chaney Jr. in the 1940s, the Wolf Man terrorized John Gilbert and Norma Shearer in Fox’s 1924 incarnation of the iconic Universal horror story. Truly, any mention of horror in the silent era must cite the films of Lon Chaney Sr. and his pioneering prosthetic effects. Reputedly, his embodiment of the Phantom of the Opera in 1925 (directed by Rupert Julian) had viewers fainting in their seats, succumbing, much like Mary Philbin’s Christine, to the ghastliness behind the mask.

The feature will be preceded by a silent horror short, D.W. Griffith’s Edgar Allan Poe (1909), as well as a chapter from The Woman in Grey, a serial starring Arlene Pretty.

About the accompanist

Musical accompaniment was an integral part of the silent era. The Revue once again welcomes pianist William O’Meara, who has gained worldwide recognition for his silent film work. He has performed at the TIFF Cinematheque, Nuit Blanche, the Toronto Silent Film FestivalLe Giornate del Cinema Muto in Pordenone, Italy and as far east as Perm, Russia, where he played the organ to the noted Russian silent, Man with a Movie Camera.

16mm print courtesy of the Silent Toronto Archives.

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June, 2012: Keaton’s THE CAMERAMAN

The Cameraman (1928)
Directed by Buster Keaton & Edward Sedgwick
Story by Clyde Bruckman
Starring Buster Keaton, Marceline Day and Harold Goodwin
16mm | 67 min.

Live accompaniment by William O’Meara

About the film

In his last truly great film, Buster Keaton plays a tintype photographer desperately trying to make a go as a newsreel cameraman, all the while attempting to woo starlet Marceline Day with the help of his sidekick monkey.

The Cameraman was Keaton’s first film for MGM, a period the comedian would later call the “worst mistake of my career.” Within a year he would lose creative control over his productions. Later films such as Spite Marriage, Free and Easy, and Parlour, Bedroom and Bath, although containing a few good gags, lack the meticulous, fine-tuned chaos of his earlier independent efforts.

The film opened to much fanfare when it originally premiered at the Loew’s Yonge St. Theatre on September 29, 1929, replacing Pola Negri in Loves of an Actress. The talkies had arrived the previous year, but Keaton would wait until 1930 to speak, in Free and Easy.

The screening will be preceded by the simian-starring Go West, a short film by Hal Roach.

For the finale of our third season, the programme will be introduced by John Sebert, who directed Buster in his final film, The Scribe, an industrial safety short shot and produced in Toronto.

About the accompanist

Musical accompaniment was an integral part of the silent era. The Revue once again welcomes pianist William O’Meara, who has gained worldwide recognition for his silent film work. He has performed at the TIFF Cinematheque, Nuit Blanche, the Toronto Silent Film FestivalLe Giornate del Cinema Muto in Pordenone, Italy and as far east as Perm, Russia, where he played the organ to the noted Russian silent, Man with a Movie Camera.

16mm print courtesy of a private collector.

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April 29, 2012: F.W. Murnau’s THE LAST LAUGH

 

The Last Laugh (Der letzte Mann – 1924)
Directed by F.W. Murnau
Cinematography by Karl Freund
Written by Carl Mayer
Starring Emil Jannings, Maly Delschaft
75 mins | 16mm

Live piano accompaniment by Laura Silberberg

About the film

Legendary German director F.W. Murnau’s masterpiece offers us a peep-hole view into the life of an aging hotel porter (Jannings), too enfeebled to carry out his tasks, who is demoted to the role of bathroom attendant. The film explores integrity, pride, and the importance of rank and uniform in post-war Germany,With one exception, the film’s lack of inter-titles offers the audience a more immersive, purely visual experience, courtesy of master cinematographer Karl Freund.

The portly Jannings, who later starred alongside Marlene Dietrich in The Blue Angel, was the first German film star to prosper in the United States. And whereas flappers like Louise Brooks or Clara Bow could convey their intentions using a coy smile or the batting of an eye-lash, Jannings expresses his fall from grace using his entire body.

Only twenty-nine at the time, Jannings’ performance is one of the most lauded in silent film history. As Matthew Josephson wrote in the contemporary Masters of the Motion Picture: “The idiotic old creature is interpreted with as much eclat, sympathy, intimacy, and frankness, as let us say, Chaplin interprets Chaplin.”

The film, along with all other German exports, was banned in Ontario upon its original release.

Preceded by Glimpses of Toronto, a late 1920s silent travelogue showing Toronto at the time of the film’s Ontario premiere in 1928.

Co-presented by Silent Toronto and the Goethe Institut.

About the accompanist

Silent Sundays welcomes Laura Silberberg, a Doctoral student in music composition at the University of Toronto. She has composed music in a variety of genres, including orchestral, chamber, choral, electroacoustic and top 40/popular music. Laura also composed the score for a children’s musical, In Harmony, which has been published and performed in Canada and the United States. Laura’s compositions and piano improvisations have been featured live on CBC Radio’s Here and Now show three times, as Metro Morning with Andy Barrie.

Laura has performed her compositions across Canada, the United States and in Japan. Her compositions have been performed by such renowned performers as the Gryphon Trio, Beverley Johnston and Peter Stoll, and the Amadeus Choir, having won the International Amadeus Songwriting Competition nine times. Laura was honoured by Maclean’s Magazine as one of 50 up and coming young Canadians under 30. She has received several scholarships from the University of Toronto for academic and musical excellence as well as three Ontario Graduate Scholarships.

Laura has accompanied several silent films at TIFF Bell Lightbox, the Toronto International Film Festival as well as the Toronto Silent Film Festival.

Introduction by Charlie Keil, associate professor of Cinema Studies, University of Toronto.

16mm print courtesy of the Silent Toronto Archives.

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February 26, 2012: William A. Wellman’s Wings

Wings
Directed by William A. Wellman
Starring Clara Bow, Charles Rogers, Richard Arlen, Gary Cooper
Written by John Monk Sanders & Hope Loring
1927 | 139 min (plus intermission) | 16mm

Live piano accompaniment by William O’Meara.

About the film

With The Artist contending for Academy Award glory, join us on Oscar day as we present the first and (so far!) only silent film to win best picture.

Clara Bow, the “It” girl of the 1920s, is the starlet most often requested by our audience members and we’re glad she’s finally gracing the Revue’s silver screen, in William A. Wellman’s epic tale of World War I aviation.

In the early 20th century, most people experienced flight not in the seat of a rickety bi-plane, but in the seat of a theatre. In the annals of aviation films, Wings was one of the first big Hollywood productions to make the spectator feel as though they were smack dab in the middle of the action.

Jack Powell (Rogers, who later married Toronto’s own Mary Pickford) enlists for the Air Service with his pal David Armstrong (Arlen). After rigorous training, where they meet budding star Gary Cooper, they are sent to France to fight the Germans. Mary (Bow), who fancied David back home, joins the Ambulance service overseas and runs into him during the film’s Parisian nightclub sequence, which features some dazzling, bubbling cinematography (Clip here, courtesy of the TCM blogs). Bow, not playing her usual Fifth Avenue flapper, is coquettish but still drop-dead sexy as a kind-hearted girl next door.

But any kind of romance takes second stage over the film’s dazzling aerial visuals. Upon its premiere at the Princess Theatre on January 9, 1928, the Toronto Daily Star said that Wellman’s picture “is one of swift thrilling action in the air, in which one rides with the winged knights with a realism never before attained in film art. One rides with a victor one moment, with the vanquished the next. One thrills with conquest, shudders in the stark reality of death, and wonders as bullets dot the instrument board.”

About the accompanist

Musical accompaniment was an integral part of the silent era. The Revue once again welcomes pianist William O’Meara, who has gained worldwide recognition for his silent film work. He has performed at the TIFF Cinematheque, Nuit Blanche, the Toronto Silent Film Festival, Le Giornate del Cinema Muto in Pordenone, Italy and as far east as Perm, Russia, where he played the organ to the noted Russian silent, Man with a Movie Camera.

16mm print courtesy of a private collector.

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January 15, 2012: King Vidor’s La Boheme

La Boheme (1926)
Directed by King Vidor
Starring Lillian Gish, John Gilbert, Renee Adoree
Based on the book by Henri Murger
120 min | 16mm

Live piano accompaniment by William O’Meara.

About the film

With the modern-day silent film The Artist in full Oscar contention, Silent Sundays returns with a true gem from the silent era. Two of its greatest stars (Gish, Gilbert) and one of its greatest directors (Vidor) presented the screen’s first adaptation of Puccini’s opera, La Boheme. Gish, at the height of her stardom, plays Mimi, an orphaned embroiderer about to lose her Paris apartment, who falls in love with Rodolphe (Gilbert), a playwright in the same predicament.

Rarely screened and unavailable on DVD in Canada, this devastating love story was a box office smash for Metro Goldwyn Mayer upon its release and played to packed houses for two solid weeks in Toronto’s Regent Theatre in May, 1926.

About the accompanist

Musical accompaniment was an integral part of the silent era. The Revue once again welcomes pianist William O’Meara, who has gained worldwide recognition for his silent film work. He has performed at the TIFF Cinematheque, Nuit Blanche, the Toronto Silent Film Festival, Le Giornate del Cinema Muto in Podenone, Italy and as far east as Perm, Russia, where he played the organ to the noted Russian silent, Man with a Movie Camera.

16mm print courtesy of the Silent Toronto Archives

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October 30, 2011: Paul Leni’s The Cat & The Canary

 

The Cat and the Canary (1927)
Directed by Paul Leni
From the stage play by John Willard
Starring Laura La Plante, Creighton Hale, Arthur Edmund Carewe
82 mins | 16mm

Featuring live piano accompaniment by Laura Silberberg.

About the film

Overshadowed by horror masterpieces of the 1920s like F.W.  Murnau’s Nosferatu and Rupert Julien’s The Phantom of the Opera, German director Paul Leni offered Hollywood two under-rated gems: The Man Who Laughs and The Cat and the Canary. The latter, a rarely-screened, stylized haunded house whodunit features just enough laughs to entertain the kids!

Influencing later “old dark house” films, the atmospheric silent introduces Annabelle West (La Plante) as the sole inheritor of a family will, provided she is deemed sane. Events take a mysterious turn when the lawyer disappears and Annabelle’s sanity comes into question. Based on a famous stage play, the film was dubbed “The Mystery Thriller of the stage filmed with new effects!”

When it premiered at the Uptown Theatre in September of 1927, the Daily Star called the film an audience phenomenon: “No audience ever shrieked quite so hard and so often here as that at the opening performances of this adaptaion of the well-known ghost play.”

The haunted house whodunit genre was popular genre throughout the 1920s. D.W. Griffith’s One Exciting Night was released in 1922 and Lon Chaney had spooked audiences in The Bat in 1926, but the Daily Star was quick to praise The Cat and the Canary: ”The fun in this ghost picture that so much resembles The Bat is created by the unexpected — not always the usual. There is nothing in the ghost technique of this that Lon Chaney and The Bat producer and other mystery people have not exploited. But the characters are more uncommon and the atmosphere are of the spook sort, less of the sheerly fantastic.”

The feature will be preceded by a short film.

About the accompanist

Silent Sundays welcomes Laura Silberberg, a Doctoral student in music composition at the University of Toronto. She has composed music in a variety of genres, including orchestral, chamber, choral, electroacoustic and top 40/popular music. Laura also composed the score for a children’s musical, In Harmony, which has been published and performed in Canada and the United States. Laura’s compositions and piano improvisations have been featured live on CBC Radio’s Here and Now show three times, as Metro Morning with Andy Barrie.

Laura has performed her compositions across Canada, the United States and in Japan. Her compositions have been performed by such renowned performers as the Gryphon Trio, Beverley Johnston and Peter Stoll, and the Amadeus Choir, having won the International Amadeus Songwriting Competition nine times. Laura was honoured by Maclean’s Magazine as one of 50 up and coming young Canadians under 30. She has received several scholarships from the University of Toronto for academic and musical excellence as well as three Ontario Graduate Scholarships.

Laura has accompanied several silent films at TIFF Bell Lightbox, the Toronto International Film Festival as well as the Toronto Silent Film Festival.

 

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June 26, 2011: Douglas Fairbanks is Don Q, Son of Zorro!

Silent Sundays, our long-running celebration of silent cinema, celebrates its second anniversary at the Revue Cinema with Douglas Fairbanks in Don Q, Son of Zorro, on Sunday, June 26 at 4:00 p.m.

Don Q, Son of Zorro
Directed by Donald Crisp
Written by Jack Cunningham and Kate Prichard
Starring Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Astor, Jean Herscholt
1925 | 105 mins | 16mm

Live piano accompaniment by William O’Meara.

About the film

A follow-up to The Mark of Zorro (1920) sees swashbuckling Douglas Fairbanks reprise his role as the famed masked avenger, this time playing his whip-cracking son. Studying abroad, Don Q spends most of his time loving, fighting and most importantly, defending his family’s honour after he is framed for murder by a jealous rival.

An underrated entry in the canon of the silent star most famous for The Thief of Bagdad, Robin Hood and The Black Pirate, Don Q packs plenty of thrills and a great performance by Mary Astor (The Maltese Falcon)

The film will be introduced by media archivist and Fairbanks scholar Alicia Fletcher.

About the accompanist

Musical accompaniment was an integral part of the silent era. The Revue once again welcomes pianist William O’Meara, who has gained worldwide recognition for his silent film work. He has performed at the TIFF Cinematheque, Nuit Blanche, the Toronto Silent Film Festival, Le Giornate del Cinema Muto in Italy and as far east as Perm, Russia, where he played the organ to the noted Russian silent, Man with a Movie Camera.

Entire programme length 104 min.

16mm print courtesy of the Silent Toronto Archives

 

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May 1, 2011: Eisenstein’s Strike & Chaplin’s Work

Strike
Directed by Sergei Eisenstein
Written by Sergei Eisenstein, Grigori Aleksandrov
Silent (w/ Russian and English inter-titles)
1925 | 82 mins | 16mm

Live piano accompaniment by William O’Meara.

About the film

Just in time for May Day, the ambitious first feature by the renown director of The Battleship Potemkin (1925) tells the story of a factory workers revolt in pre-revolutionary Russia. In this look at oppression and individualism, Eisenstein’s sweeping camera motifs and juxtaposed montages innovated upon the cinematic language created by his fore-runners.

The feature will be preceded by a short, Work (1915), where Charlie Chaplin — who would later be no stranger to the plight of the labour movement — plays a paperhanger who causes nothing but grief for his rich boss.

About the accompanist

Musical accompaniment was an integral part of the silent era. The Revue once again welcomes pianist William O’Meara, who has gained worldwide recognition for his silent film work. He has performed at the TIFF Cinematheque, Nuit Blanche, the Toronto Silent Film Festival, Le Giornate del Cinema Muto in Italy and as far east as Perm, Russia, where he played the organ to another noted Russian silent, Man with a Movie Camera.

About the series

Silent Sundays launched in 2009 with the intention of screening silent films in an authentic silent movie house like The Revue, which opened in 1912. By selecting family-friendly comedies and adventure films, the series caters to the Revue’s neighbourhood crowd, and the results have consistently filled the Revue’s seats with cinephiles, families and the uninitiated alike. The National Post‘s Lia Grainger says the atmosphere “is so convincing it makes you want to check that your bonnet isn’t blocking anyone’s view” and that it showcases “a simple charm rarely duplicated in cinema today.”

Entire programme length 104 min.

16mm print courtesy of the Silent Toronto Archives

 

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March 13, 2011: Buster Keaton in Steamboat Bill, Jr.

 

Steamboat Bill, Jr.
Directed by Charles Reisner
Written by Carl Harbaugh
Starring Buster Keaton, Tom McGuire, Ernest Torrence
1928 | 85 min. | 16mm | Rated G

Live piano accompaniment by William O`Meara.

Silent Sundays, our long-running celebration of silent cinema, returns to the Revue Cinema with Buster Keaton in Steamboat Bill, Jr. on Sunday, March 13 at 4:00 p.m.

About the film

In Steamboat Bill, Jr., Keaton plays a young man, just out of college, who tries to follow in his father’s footsteps as a Mississippi steamboat captain. The film contains some of Keaton’s most spectacular, injury-defying stunts.

As always, the feature will be preceded by a programme of trailers and shorts, one of them a travelogue showcasing Toronto when Steamboat Bill, Jr premiered at the Loew’s Yonge St. Theatre in early January, 1929!

Keaton had some rough competition that week – the talkies! At the Tivoli, audiences thrilled at Toronto’s first all-talking feature film, The Terror, while the Uptown flickered away with Paramount’s first talkie, Interference, starring William Powell.

Of those three, Keaton’s silent aquatic epic is the only one remembered today.

About the accompanist

Musical accompaniment was an integral part of the silent era. The Revue once again welcomes pianist William O’Meara, who has gained worldwide recognition for his silent film work. He has performed at the TIFF Cinematheque, Nuit Blanche, the Toronto Silent Film Festival, Le Giornate del Cinema Muto in Italy and as far east as Perm, Russia, where he played the organ to Man with a Movie Camera.

About the series

Silent Sundays launched in 2009 with the intention of screening silent films in an authentic silent movie house like The Revue. By selecting family-friendly comedies and adventure films, the series caters to the Revue’s neighbourhood crowd, and the results have consistently filled the Revue’s seats with cinephiles, families and the uninitiated alike. The National Post‘s Lia Grainger says the atmosphere “is so convincing it makes you want to check that your bonnet isn’t blocking anyone’s view” and that it showcases “a simple charm rarely duplicated in cinema today.”

The Revue Cinema is located at 400 Roncesvalles Ave. Show starts at 4pm. Admission is $12 non-members/$10 members/$6 seniors & children.

 

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January 16, 2011: Douglas Fairbanks is The Thief of Bagdad

The Thief of Bagdad (1924)
Directed by Raoul Walsh
Written by Achmed Abdullah & Douglas Fairbanks
Starring Douglas Fairbanks, Anna May Wong, Julanne Johnston
16mm | 140 min.

Live piano accompaniment by William O’Meara

About the film

Douglas Fairbanks produced and starred in the 1924 silent fantasy based on an Arabian Nights tale. The movie is rich in special effects: flying carpets, monsters, a cloak of invisibility, the lithe and athletic Fairbanks as well as a brief appearance by Anna May Wong, the first Chinese-American movie star.

A major epic, the film was a genuine smash with Toronto audiences when it premiered  at the Princess Theatre in November of 1924. A twenty-piece orchestra accompanied Fairbanks’ daring feats in the King St. theatre which rarely screened films. Like the neighbouring Royal Alexandra Theatre, the Princess was renown for its live stage shows.

About the accompanist

Musical accompaniment was an integral part of the silent era. The Revue once again welcomes pianist William O’Meara, who has gained worldwide recognition for his film work. He has performed at the TIFF Cinematheque, Nuit Blanche, the Toronto Silent Film Festival, Le Giornate del Cinema Muto in Italy and as far east as Perm, Russia, where he played the organ to Man with a Movie Camera.

About the series

Silent Sundays launched in 2009 with the intention of screening silent films in an authentic silent movie house like The Revue. By selecting family-friendly comedies and adventure films, the series caters to the Revue’s neighbourhood crowd, and the results have consistently filled the Revue’s seats with cinephiles, families and the uninitiated alike. The National Post‘s Lia Grainger says the atmosphere “is so convincing it makes you want to check that your bonnet isn’t blocking anyone’s view” and that it showcases “a simple charm rarely duplicated in cinema today.”

The Revue Cinema is located at 400 Roncesvalles Ave. Show starts at 4pm. Admission is $12 non-members/$10 members/$6 seniors & children.

 

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November 7, 2010: Buster Keaton’s The General

The General (1926)
Directed by Buster Keaton, Clyde Bruckman
Starring Buster Keaton, Marion Mack, Glen Cavender
16mm | 85 min.

Live piano accompaniment by William O’Meara.

About the film

Orson Welles called the 1926 film the greatest comedy, the greatest Civil War film and possibly the greatest movie ever made. Make no mistake, though, The General is no army hero. It’s a locomotive, and, along with fiancée Annabelle Lee, is one of two great loves for Keaton’s character. The General really existed. It’s now safely housed in a Civil War museum. And the train chase that will have you sitting on the edge of your seat actually happened.

In Toronto, Keaton’s films always played to great fanfare, but very few people know this city was host to his final film appearance.

In 1920, Keaton worked on a series of shorts at Paramount with Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle. He was soon given his own production unit, and later released films like Sherlock Jr. and Three Ages. Although The General is now recognized as perhaps Keaton’s finest achievement, it was unpopular when it was released and proved a financial failure.

Keaton soon went to MGM, the assembly-line of movie studios. As an independent auteur, he had been a one-man gag department; now he had a whole team creating gags for him and he lost creative control of his films. While still funny, films like Spite Marriage and Free and Easy lacked the spontaneity often seen in his earlier films.

In 1965, he made his final silent film, The Railrodder, for the NFB. He then came to Toronto for The Scribe, an industrial short for the Construction Safety Association of Ontario. Helming the project was John Sebert, noted photographer and author of The Nabes, a book about Toronto movie-houses, including The Revue. As a first-time director, Sebert was in awe of Keaton. Unlike the suits at MGM, he let the great Stone-Face loose: “You didn’t direct Buster too much,” he said to Marion Meade in her biography of Keaton.

Although 70 years old at the time, Keaton still performed his own stunts, although they relied more on timing than physical strength.

Sebert was also shocked to see Keaton smoking multiple packs of cigarettes per day. “He always had a cigarette in his hand,” he told Meade. “Then he’d go into these coughing fits that lasted four or five minutes. The racking that poor guy went through was terrible.”

Keaton passed away in 1966, at a time when his films were being rediscovered by a new generation. But thanks to the efforts of film preservationists, The Revue audience can appreciate the genius of what Roger Ebert claims is “arguably, the greatest actor-director in the history of the movies.”

About the accompanist

Musical accompaniment was an integral part of the silent era. The Revue once again welcomes pianist William O’Meara, who has gained worldwide recognition for his film work. He has performed at the TIFF Cinematheque, Nuit Blanche, the Toronto Silent Film Festival, Le Giornate del Cinema Muto in Italy and as far east as Perm, Russia, where he played the organ to Man with a Movie Camera.

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June 20, 2010: Wallace Worsley’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame

The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923)
Directed by Wallace Worsley
Starring Lon Chaney, Patsy Ruth Miller, Norman Kerry, Brandon Hurst
Based on the novel by Victor Hugo
85 mins | 16mm

Live piano accompaniment by William O’Meara

About the film

The Hunchback of Notre Dame, which saw producer Carl Laemmle reproduce Paris and its fabled cathedral on the Universal backlot, blends the spectacle film with melodrama and horror.

Although not terrifying by the standards Universal would set a few years later with The Phantom of the Opera (once again starring Chaney) and The Man Who Laughs (starring Conrad Veidt), Lon Chaney Sr.’s performance as the hunch-backed Quasimodo makes this film essential viewing for fans of horror and early cinema.

His makeup, both repulsive and piteous, consisted of a misshapen face made of mortician’s wax; his mouth, full of fang-like teeth, was wired open; a wig of matted hair sat atop his crooked skull and the skin-tight rubber suit he wore, which made it impossible to stand up straight, was plastered with animal hair. And all for the love of a woman!

Chaney, who always created his own makeup, strove for the grotesque, often playing cripples and could display a sense of pathos not often seen in character actors of his generation.

A rarely-seen Toronto newsreel, trailers featuring comedy giants and a short – all silent – will precede the feature. Entire programme approximately 110 mins.

About the accompanist

Musical accompaniment was an integral part of the silent era. The Revue once again welcomes pianist William O’Meara, who has gained worldwide recognition for his film work. He has performed at the TIFF Cinematheque, Nuit Blanche, the Toronto Silent Film Festival, Le Giornate del Cinema Muto in Italy and as far east as Perm, Russia, where he played the organ to Man with a Movie Camera.

 

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March 14, 2010: Mack Sennett’s TILLIE’S PUNCTURED ROMANCE

silent_sundays_tilliesTillie’s Punctured Romance (1914)
Directed by Mack Sennett
Starring Marie Dressler, Charlie Chaplin, Mabel Normand, Chester Conklin, Mack Swain
85 mins | 16mm

Live piano accompaniment by William O’Meara

About the film

Tillie’s Punctured Romance, starring Charlie Chaplin, Mabel Normand and Canada’s own Marie Dressler is one of Hollywood’s earliest feature-length comedies. Director Mack Sennett (born in Quebec’s eastern townships) was inspired to make the feature after seeing the momentous efforts of his mentor D.W. Griffith in Birth of a Nation. Released in November, 1914, Tillie’s premiered in Toronto on August 17, 1915, at the Strand Theatre on Yonge St.

Tillie’s was produced while Chaplin was still creating his iconic Tramp character, so you’ll see a Chaplin here that you perhaps have never seen before — an opportunistic, villainous city slicker, with a pencil-thin mustache and derby hat, who latches on to Tillie (Dressler), a farmer’s daughter. His girlfriend (Normand) from the city also gets in on the action once she realizes Tillie is heir to a multi-million-dollar fortune.

Chaplin’s Tramp character, with his toothbrush mustache, bowler hat, baggy pants and heart of gold, is, along with Mickey Mouse, perhaps one of the most recognized screen icons in the world. And he helped teach me English.

As a 5-year-old French Canadian living in Northern Ontario, I learned to read English while flipping through a mammoth book about Hollywood history called The Movies. The few pages devoted to Chaplin, among all of the other cinema pioneers, actors, genres, clowns, and even monsters, consumed my attention.

Thanks to a videocassette found at Kresge’s in the early 1980s, Tillie’s was the first Chaplin film I ever saw. It also features other stars from Sennett’s Keystone studios, including Edgar Kennedy, Chester Conklin, Mack Swain and Charley Chase. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. As always, a short subject will precede the feature.

About the accompanist

Musical accompaniment was an integral part of the silent era. The Revue once again welcomes pianist William O’Meara, who accompanies Tillie‘s last year during TIFF’s Shhh! Silent Film Screenings. O’Meara has gained worldwide recognition for his film work. He has performed at the TIFF Cinematheque, Nuit Blanche, the Toronto Silent Film Festival, Le Giornate del Cinema Muto in Italy and as far east as Perm, Russia, where he played the organ to Man with a Movie Camera.

Tillie’s premieres at the Strand

There can be no question about the hit Tillie’s Punctured Romance, the “funniest motion picture comedy in the world,” as it is called, has made, and will make all this week, in Toronto. From the moment the doors of the Strand opened yesterday morning til they closed after the ninth successive performance at night, the theatre was packed, while for the evening shows hundreds were waiting, in a long line stretching nearly to King street, to gain admission. The comedy is furiously funny, as it can scarcely help being with Marie Dressler as the star and Charlie chaplin as her principal support. There are so many rapid-fire comedy climaxes, with clever pantomime and acrobatics in between, that the photo-play is well worth seeing time and time again. It will be presented at the Strand all this week.” – Toronto Daily Star, August 16, 1915

16mm print courtesy of the Silent Toronto Archives

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January 8, 2010: THE LOST WORLD

THE LOST WORLD (1925)

Dir. by Harry O. Hoyt
Based on the novel by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Starring Wallace Beery, Bessie Love, Lewis Stone
Special Effects by Willis O’Brien
16mm | 106 mins.

Live piano accompaniment by William O’Meara

About the film

It might feel like another Ice Age is approaching, so come warm up and enjoy the stop-motion animation epic, The Lost World! Before the classic adventure epics King Kong, The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms and Jason & The Argonauts was The Lost World, Willis O’Brien’s first major foray into feature-length stop-motion animation.

With all its Brontosaurus-stomping, city-destroying fun, the film is balanced with a romantic subplot.

Explorer Professor Challenger (Wallace Beery) is taking quite a beating in the London press thanks to his claim that living dinosaurs exist in the far reaches of the Amazon. Newspaper reporter Edward Malone learns that this claim originates from a diary given to him by fellow explorer Maple White’s daughter, Paula (Bessie Love).

Malone’s paper funds an expedition to rescue Maple White, who has been marooned at the top of a high plateau. Joined by renowned hunter John Roxton, and others, the group goes to South America, where they do indeed find a plateau inhabited by pre-historic creatures, one of which they even manage to bring back to London with them.

In keeping with the Jurassic theme, Winsor McKay’s beloved silent animated short, Gertie the Dinosaur (1914) will precede the feature. Note: a very special Vaudeville-esque surprise will accompany Gertie!

About the accompanist

Musical accompaniment was an integral part of the silent era. The Revue once again welcomes pianist William O’Meara, who accompanies Tillie‘s last year during TIFF’s Shhh! Silent Film Screenings. O’Meara has gained worldwide recognition for his film work. He has performed at the TIFF Cinematheque, Nuit Blanche, the Toronto Silent Film Festival, Le Giornate del Cinema Muto in Italy and as far east as Perm, Russia, where he played the organ to Man with a Movie Camera.

Silent Sundays is Toronto’s only dedicated, year-long celebration of silent cinema. Screenings take place at the 100-year-old Revue, where some of the silent films shown actually played there upon their respective premieres.

16mm print courtesy of the Silent Toronto Archives.

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October 18, 2009: Buster Keaton’s Seven Chances!

Seven Chances (1925)
Directed by Buster Keaton
Written by David Belasco
Starring Buster Keaton, Ruth Dwyer, T. Roy Barnes
56min. | 16mm

Live piano accompaniment by William O’Meara.

Back in June, a select group of cinephiles, families from the neighbourhood, purveyors from local emporiums and a handful of kids up to no good gathered at the Revue for the launch of Silent Sundays, a new series aimed at celebrating silent cinema. For nearly two hours, they laughed, cheered and howled at the various athletic feats Buster Keaton overcame in order to get the girl.

About the film

Due to the overwhelming response we received from College, both Buster Keaton and pianist William O’Meara, who recently accompanied a selection of silent comedies during TIFF, return to the Revue with Seven Chances (1925).

This time around, Buster’s got a busy day ahead of him: in order to claim a 7 million dollar inheritance, he must find a bride by 7pm! With a bevy of flappers and vamps in tow, it’s an inventive bit of slapstick, full of momentous gags, including one of the greatest chase scenes of the silent era. “Keaton proves he’s a master at building the comedy until it reaches its absolute breaking point,” says critic David Schwartz.

And to start the laughs early, Seven Chances will be preceded by a selection of short silent films!

About the accompanist

Musical accompaniment was an integral part of the silent era. The Revue once again welcomes pianist William O’Meara, who has gained worldwide recognition for his silent film work. He has performed at the TIFF Cinematheque, Nuit Blanche, the Toronto Silent Film Festival, Le Giornate del Cinema Muto in Italy and as far east as Perm, Russia, where he played the organ to the noted Russian silent, Man with a Movie Camera.

About the series

Silent Sundays launched in June, 2009 with the intention of screening silent films in an authentic silent movie house like The Revue, which opened in 1912. By selecting family-friendly comedies and adventure films, the series caters to the Revue’s neighbourhood crowd, the results filling the Revue’s seats with cinephiles, families and the uninitiated alike.

16mm print courtesy of a private collector.

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June 28, 2009: Buster Keaton in COLLEGE

silent_sundaysCollege (1925)
Directed by James Horne
Starring Buster Keaton, Anne Cornwall
16mm | 75 min.

About the film

College pits the great stone-face as Ronald, an academic who sparks controversy after denouncing athletics as a complete waste of time. But when his girlfriend falls for the school jock, his attempts to woo her back inadvertently make him the school’s worst athlete. Although not the credited director, let’s not be fooled: the technical mastery of Keaton’s gags – always the driving force of his films – could not have been orchestrated by anyone but Buster. Come laugh along to an early example of the ‘nerd vs. athlete’ film later seen in Revenge of the Nerds and Old School.

About the accompanist

Musical accompaniment was an integral part of the silent era. The Revue welcomes pianist William O’Meara, who has gained worldwide recognition for his silent film work. He has performed at the TIFF Cinematheque, Nuit Blanche, the Toronto Silent Film Festival, Le Giornate del Cinema Muto in Italy and as far east as Perm, Russia, where he played the organ to the noted Russian silent, Man with a Movie Camera.

The slapstick genre represents a challenge for the accompanist: : “Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd are very fast-paced,” he says, referring to episodes such as Lloyd dangling from a clock in Safety Last. “That scene would require constant shots of musical adrenaline, but once a certain plateau is reached, you can lose an audience.”

About the Revue

The Revue, at 400 Roncesvalles Ave., is the perfect venue for a silent film revival and might well have screened College when it was first released in 1927. The theatre, which opened in 1912, held the record for the longest continuously operating theatre in Ontario, and possibly in Canada, before it closed in June, 2006. The community-based non-profit Revue Film Society, with the support of local residents, businesses and cinephiles, reopened the cinema in October, 2007.

16mm print courtesy of a private collector.

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