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Greetings All, 

I work in small theater and I have decided that I want expose more people to silent films. I have been given the green light for my project and while I have many thoughts of my own I was wondering what silent film would you play first to really grab people to spark an interest so they may return for future screenings? Any input would be welcome.     CHEERS!   BombayBob

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1st:  WHY do you feel the need?  Silent films aren't everybody's "cuppa", and force-feeding them won't change their minds.  But I do feel that NOTHING should be dismissed out of hand and that silents should at least be given a "go" before any rejection.   But I can't think what might get people into the theater to lose time they won't get back if they're dissatisfied.

My initial thought is to find those silents that were later remade with sound and/or color.  Like BEN-HUR('25) or KING OF KINGS('27).  People familiar with their later remakes might come in out of curiosity.  At least, that was MY reason for sitting through the silent originals.  And possibly a lot of Keaton or Lloyd comedies to at least get 'em in the door.  And maybe, management willing, offer them as "double features" pushing the nostalgia up a notch.

Good luck with this project and please keep us informed as to how it goes.

And +1 on the Chaplin idea. ;)

Sepiatone

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3 hours ago, bombaybob said:

Greetings All, 

I work in small theater and I have decided that I want expose more people to silent films. I have been given the green light for my project and while I have many thoughts of my own I was wondering what silent film would you play first to really grab people to spark an interest so they may return for future screenings? Any input would be welcome.     CHEERS!   BombayBob

I must say I envy you! This sounds like a great idea.  I hope you can get someone to provide a music score as well.

My pick would be Phantom of the Opera, especially if you can get a pianist or organist to accompany the film. The others have suggested some good films as well (although, I think with Chaplin, he is an acquired taste). I'd also consider Sunrise and Street Angel, which are fine love stories. For an initial showing, I'd stay away from longer films though (say, over two hours) as patrons might not be willing to invest that much time, especially if they are new to silent films.

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Aelita's a good one (that "twist" ending gets 'em every time) :)

Also, can't go wrong with the usual comedy suspects--I'd seen Harold Lloyd's Safety Last with an audience when the Criterion restoration played theaters a couple of years ago, and folks who come for the iconic clock-hanging in the second half discover most of the funny first department-store half for the first time.  But if you can't get that one, Criterion's also got a restoration of The Freshman, saw that one back in college with an audience.

Also just mentioned on one of the other threads what a darling Clara Bow was in It (1927)--The title refers to what we now take for granted as a smart, indefinably cute and sexy chemistry onscreen, and if that's It, boy, has Clara got it.  Most folks would hear her name and go in expecting some Mack Sennet bathing beauty, but it's surprising what contemporary appeal she has in both this and Wings.

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On 11/9/2017 at 8:27 AM, slaytonf said:

You can't miss with Chaplin.  Try Modern Times (1936), City Lights (1931), or The Gold Rush (1925).  But also include as a short appetizer The Immigrant (1917).

The Immigrant and The Rink are probably the most iconic short appetizers to get folks into the silent-Chaplin mood.  Especially if you showed a short before the first drama, for folks who don't realize silent ever made anything besides comedies.  If you're really worried about first-time audiences, try Chaplin's narrated 1940 sound version of The Gold Rush, which gets first-timers used to the idea of pantomime stories.

And as I'm in the minority wilderness in finding the 1984 Giorgio Moroder "Metropolis" more watchable than the ponderous Fritz Lang original, probably best not to get into a debate about either.  Try Lang's Destiny (1921) instead, where Fritz did an anthology-story mix and threw in his attempt at a fantasy "Thief of Bagdad" knockoff.

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10 hours ago, EricJ said:

And as I'm in the minority wilderness in finding the 1984 Giorgio Moroder "Metropolis" more watchable than the ponderous Fritz Lang original, probably best not to get into a debate about either.

You are not entirely alone in that wilderness, although rather than disliking the more traditional score, I'll watch either depending on my mood. Newcomers to silents might find the Moroder score more approachable. On a similar tangent, if you can find a copy of 1912's Cleopatra with the score by Chantal Kreviazuk & Raine Maida, it makes for an interesting experience - folks tend to either love it, or hate it.

If you have the time (at roughly 2.5 hours), 1924's The Thief of Bagdad is a very watchable, more traditional, romp with Douglas Fairbanks Sr that most should enjoy.

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2 hours ago, Pier_Angeli said:

Show Al Jolson's 'The Jazz Singer'.  I know it's not truly silent but that's a good one.  Also show Fritz Lang's 'Metropolis'.  Tonight I watched the 1925 silent 'The Wizard of Oz' with Dorothy Dwan. 

They have showed them before,  Here is a 1910 "Wizard of Oz" version you may not be aware of.

 

Check out the 1933 animated "Wizard of Oz" on Youtube, never seen it until now.

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I bought the special edition 3 disc "Jazz Singer" back in 2009, love the 2 bonus disc.

Jazz_Singer_3_DVD.png

 

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Y'know, another good idea up there was having an organ accompanist.  I don't know where you're located Bombay, but there's still a few old theaters in existence here in Detroit that still have their screens and organs in place.  The Redford Theater,  the Senate Theater and the Royal Oak theater.  

Royal Oak has been a concert venue for years now, but still has their old Wurlitzer in place( Josef Zawinul of Weather Report once started their concert with him rising up out of the "pit" while playing it).  The Senate has an "Organ Society" that meets there and has for years.  But, the Redford Theater still occasionally shows silents and also has an "Organ preservation society" that meets there regularly as well.  And they're about the only old movie house that shows "classic" movies as well.  Sadly, when they restored Detroit's old FOX Theater, it's old organ was beyond repair and was never replaced.  They occasionally show classic films there, but more often use it for special features and concerts.

Sepiatone

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On 11/9/2017 at 7:09 AM, bombaybob said:

Greetings All, 

I work in small theater and I have decided that I want expose more people to silent films. I have been given the green light for my project and while I have many thoughts of my own I was wondering what silent film would you play first to really grab people to spark an interest so they may return for future screenings? Any input would be welcome.     CHEERS!   BombayBob

I'd suggest Ben Hur, the Three Musketeers, or the Thief of Bagdad. Any Ramon Navarro or Douglas Fairbanks movies really. 

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Yes, an Organ as accompaniment to the films would be very exciting. The Stanford Theatre in Palo Alto, CA, used to have a Wurlitzer for their silent films, and they would nearly always sell out (even on on Wed night showing!)

The classic comedies are probably a sure bet, as well as any dramas which are timeless favorites such as Phantom Of The Opera, Ben-Hur, King Of Kings, Thief Of Baghdad,Nosferatu, Broken Blossoms, Metropolis, Flesh And The Devil, The Big Parade, The Merry Widow, The Sheik, Greed, and Sunrise.

I hope it works out for you, bombaybob. If I lived there, you would see me at every showing!

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I'd start with the shorter movies, and the comedies since I think the humor looks less dated than the silent acting.  One Week might be a good example.  Laurel and Hardy shorts might be another, since those are names people should recognize.

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13 hours ago, Swithin said:

Given your name, Bob, you might be interested in the excellent and exciting The Indian Tomb, parts I and I (1921):

 

It is a great film! Great performance by Conrad Veidt.

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Well I belong to a small film group and will tell you no one shows up for silent films.

It's very hard to convince modern moviegoers-even those who like classic film- to give silents a try. We tried screening Harold Lloyd's SAFETY LAST and attendance was lighter than usual.

I absolutely agree with showing a Chaplin first, just the name recognition should pique interest. Comedies are more enjoyable for the novice silent viewer....a drama, or anything over 80 minutes will have "lulls" and modern audiences will have a harder time sticking with it.
Showing a Buster Keaton short as a warm up is always a good idea too- both Chaplin & Keaton films are succinct and acceptable for most modern audiences.

When we held Cinefest, we had live pianist (along with film projection) , but a good pianist (and projectionist) is expensive & hard to find. Keep it simple and just play your DVD with music included.

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