Silent Clowns Film Series

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Until further notice, the Silent Clowns Film Series
programming is on hold, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
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we may be able to resume presenting our monthly shows.

Buster Keaton Our Hospitality

The Silent Clowns Film Series
Winter-Spring 2020 programming

Series produced by Ben Model
Series programmed by Bruce Lawton
Live piano accompaniment by Ben Model
Film notes by Steve Massa


Saturday, January 11, 2020 at 2:30pm
W.C. Fields in "So's Your Old Man" (1926)
special guest speaker: Dr. Harriet Fields, granddaughter of W.C. Fields

When anyone thinks of W.C. Fields they immediately hear his nasal drawl and muttered asides, but Fields made his first movies in the silent era and we’re happy to present his rare 1926 feature SO’S YOUR OLD MAN. Filmed at Paramount’s Long Island Studio (today’s Kaufman-Astoria Studio), the picture contains lots of Queens locations, as well as Fields’ famous Ziegfeld Follies golf routine. Opening is W.C.’s film debut – 1915’s POOL SHARKS..

This program will be presented on 16mm film.
wc fields
Saturday, February 8, 2020 at 2:30pm
Harold Lloyd in "Girl Shy" (1924)

Remembered today as the “third genius” of silent comedy, Harold Lloyd was first at the box-office in the 1920s. GIRL SHY ('24) is not as well known as SAFETY LAST! ('23) or THE FRESHMAN ('25), but is equally as funny, and was the initial independent production for the Harold Lloyd Corporation. Extra added attraction MISS FATTY’S SEASIDE LOVERS ('15) has
Lloyd learning his craft in support of Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle.

This program will be presented on 16mm film.
Harold Lloyd


Saturday, March 14, 2020 at 2:30pm
Buster Keaton in "Our Hospitality" (1923)
*new restoration by Lobster Films*

Trains frequently play important parts in Keaton films, particularly today’s OUR HOSPITALITY ('23). Buster’s second feature film is set in 1831 and has him take a slow train from rural New York City to end up embroiled in the middle of a Hatfield and McCoy feud. The train and Buster (watch for him) turn up in our closer short THE IRON MULE ('25). This stars Al St. John and was directed and written by Keaton's mentor Roscoe Arbuckle.

Digital presentation of new restoration by Lobster Films, courtesy of Kino Lorber
Buster Keaton


Saturday, April 11, 2020 at 2:30pm
Charlie Chaplin: An Essanay Afternoon

This 131st Chaplin birthday celebration focuses on his second year in  lms at Essanay. Not content to have his screen character be a figure of fun, today’s bill of HIS NEW JOB ('15), BY THE SEA ('15), THE BANK ('15), and POLICE ('16), illustrates Charlie’s development into a comic underdog, hero, and lover. Chaplin’s inspiration and hard work produced films that remain fresh and funny for audiences of all ages.

Digital presentation of new restorations by Lobster Films, courtesy of Flicker Alley 
Charlie Chaplin

Clara BowFall-Winter 2019

"Wonder Women of the Silents"
This season, we spotlight a choice selection of some of the brightest and most charismatic female stars to grace the silent screen with their presence. While the plot elements and scenarios for leading females were often limiting and cut from the same cloth, (finding positions, warding off mashers, yearning and looking for the ideal mate) the scintillating personalities of these women - infused with wit, charm and moxie - most often transcended their obvious "sex appeal" or "IT" qualities. These pioneers of the cinema paved the way not only for the screwball and determined actresses to come (think Carole Lombard and Barbara Stanwyck) but continue to inform today's strongest and nuanced female portrayals (such as Gal Godot's enchanting 'Wonder Woman').

Series programmed by Bruce Lawton
Live piano accompaniment by Ben Model
Film notes by Steve Massa


Saturday, Sept 14 at 2:30pm
Clara Bow has…"It" (1927)

Clara Bow is remembered as “the It Girl,” and this is the film that started it all. Magnetic and vivacious, Bow burned brightly on the screen for only ten years. Besides IT ('27) she starred mostly in comedies like MANTRAP ('26) and RED HAIR ('28), as well as the blockbuster aviation drama WINGS ('27). Unhappy in sound films, she retired at age 28 in 1933. Slapstick Diva par excellence Alice Howell kicks o the show in her two-reeler CINDERELLA CINDERS ('20).
This screening of “IT” is made possible courtesy of Photoplay Productions. Grateful thanks to Kevin Brownlow & Patrick Stanbury.
clara bow IT
Saturday,  Oct 12 at 2:30pm
Mad About…Mabel!

Although Mabel Normand is the most famous female name in silent comedy history, her films are rarely shown and she's sometimes better remembered for the scandals she was linked to instead of her deft comedic talents and lively screen presence. To highlight both her dramatic and comic skills, we're presenting her shorts MABEL, FATTY AND THE LAW ('15) and SHOULD MEN WALK HOME? ('27), as well as her 1921 Goldwyn feature WHAT HAPPENED TO ROSA

stan and ollie
Saturday, Nov 9 at 2:30pm
Colleen Moore as…"Irene" (1926)

One of the most popular silent screen stars, Colleen Moore arrived in Hollywood at age fourteen in 1916, and by 1923 was a star. With her trademark bobbed hair-do, she appeared in stories such as ELLA CINDERS ('26), ORCHIDS AND ERMINE ('27), and this season's IRENE ('26) where she played a feisty working girl who gets her Prince Charming by the end of the picture. Opening for Ms. Moore is Martha Sleeper in her only starring comedy SURE-MIKE! ('25).

Appreciative thanks: Joseph Yranski & Mark Heller.
Colleen Moore
Saturday, December 21 at 2:30pm
Dorothy Gish as…"Nell Gwyn" (1926)

Although not as well remembered as her sister Lillian, Dorothy Gish was a popular star who appeared in dramas, but specialized in light comedy. Starting out in films with Lillian as a teenager under the guidance of D.W. Griffith, Dorothy moved on to starring vehicles such as PEPPY POLLY ('19) and THE COUNTRY FLAPPER ('22). Today, few of her films have survived, so we're proud to present NELL GWYN ('26), one of four features made in England at the end of the silent era which gave her the opportunity to use all of her considerable talents.

Mary Pickford

Larry SemonSummer 2019

"1929: The Stop of the Silents"
As sound began to invade Hollywood studios in the late 1920s, the still young medium of motion pictures had reached an apex. The language of pictorial storytelling, sans recorded sound, had fully developed into something rather glorious, with those, both in front of and behind the camera, all at the height of their artistic and creative powers. Yet it came to pass that 1929 was (for the most part) the final year in which silent and sound product co-existed. While silents were being phased out and the new craze and technology took over, the industry had to develop and learn a new language. Here we sample some of the silents' most sublime swansongs.

This is season is dedicated to Ron Hutchinson (1951-2019) who passionately saved
so much from the silent-to-sound era.

Series programmed by Bruce Lawton
Live piano accompaniment by Ben Model, Makia Matsumura or Bernie Anderson
Film notes by Steve Massa
Series produced by Ben Model


Saturday, May 11 at 2:30pm
"Spite Marriage" (1929)
Not only was SPITE MARRIAGE Buster Keaton's  nal silent feature, but also his last opportunity to work with a modicum of freedom before MGM clamped down on him with the arrival of sound. Little-seen and under-appreciated, this overlooked gem includes some of Keaton's most famous routines which he would recreate on stage and television into the 1960s. Opening the show for Buster is Koko the Clown in one of his last silents, KOKO'S CONQUEST. Guest piano accompanist: Makia Matsumura.
Spite Marriage
Saturday, June 8 at 2:30pm
Laurel & Hardy: Holding Their Own

Laurel & Hardy came together as a team in 1927, after years of solo work, and by 1929 had become screen icons recognized around the world. Already familiar with their contrasting shapes and shared derbies, as well as Laurel's grin and cry and Hardy's slow-burn and delicate gestures, audiences loved them and were ready to follow their transition to sound. Today's selection of 1929 shorts— WRONG AGAIN, BIG BUSINESS, DOUBLE WHOOPEE, and BACON GRABBERS — is the climax of their silent screen career. Special guests: Jonathan M. Smith and Bob Greenberg as Stan & Ollie
. Piano accompaniment by Ben Model.

stan and ollie
Saturday, July 13 at 2:30pm
Domestic Disturbances
The Hal Roach Studios was known as “The Lot of Fun,” and during the silent era developed the house style where human foibles and the frustrations of everyday life were magnifed a hundred times over. A PAIR OF TIGHTS, UNACCUSTOMED AS WE ARE, MOVIE NIGHT and SATURDAY'S LESSON represent the studio's silent summation as it was poised to continue its comic focus into the new sound medium. Guest piano accompanist: Bernie Anderson.
Douglas Fairbanks Thief of Bagdad
Saturday, August 10 at 2:30pm
"The Iron Mask" (1929)
After coming from the stage and beginning his film career in comedy, Douglas Fairbanks became the ultimate 1920s screen swashbuckler in enormous hits like THE MARK OF ZORRO ('20) and THE BLACK PIRATE ('26). For his final silent epic, THE IRON MASK, Fairbanks reprised his favorite role of D'Artagnan in a sequel to his THE THREE MUSKETEERS ('21), creating perhaps the most sumptuous and elaborate of his movie adventures. Koko the Clown is back in his animated adventure KOKO'S HYPNOTISM.
Guest piano accompanist: Bernie Anderson
Unknown Chaplin

Larry Semon

January – April 2019

We open our 2019 season with a parade of birthday salutes (beginning with a "encore sendoff" for the ever-popular Harold and Charley) as well as a 95th anniversary screening of one of the silent era's most groundbreaking epic action fantasies — willed into being by its exuberant producer-star, Douglas Fairbanks. Let the festivities begin!

Series programmed by Bruce Lawton
Live piano accompaniment at all shows by Ben Model (except where noted)
Film notes by Steve Massa

Saturday, January 12 at 2:30pm
"Safety Last" (1923)
Last season's tribute to Harold Lloyd and Charley Chase spills over into this program where we present SAFETY LAST! ('23) — not only Lloyd's most famous film, but the image of Harold hanging from the clock is one of the most indelible bits of movie iconography. Charley Chase opens in his early Keystone PEANUTS AND BULLETS ('15) and his Roach one-reeler STOLEN GOODS ('24).
Safety last
Saturday, February 9 at 2:30pm
Larry Semon: The Frenetic Fool

Look up "silent movie clown" in the dictionary and you're liable to see Larry Semon's picture – the bowler hat, chest-high balloon trousers, wind-up toy movements, and pasty white face. There are explosions, chases, crashes, and spectacular falls aplenty in DUNCES AND DANGERS ('18), FRAUDS AND FRENZIES ('18), THE SAWMILL ('22), HER BOYFRIEND ('24), and KID SPEED ('24). Look for Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy in early roles

Larry Semon
Saturday, March 9 at 2:00pm (note earlier start time!)
"The Thief of Bagdad"
Douglas Fairbanks had been a popular light comedian on stage and screen, but starting with 1920's THE MARK OF ZORRO he became the movie's premiere swashbuckler. The Arabian Nights fantasy THE THIEF OF BAGDAD ('24) is perhaps his greatest adventure, and is a visual extravaganza — complete with a magic chest, flying carpet, fire-breathing dragon, and princess in distress.
Douglas Fairbanks
                            Thief of Bagdad
Saturday, April 13 at 2:30pm
It's Mutual! – A Charlie Chaplin 130th Birthday Tribute
Our salute to the crowned genius of film comedy focuses on his much loved Mutual period with a rare screening of the first episode of Brownlow & Gill's acclaimed documentary UNKNOWN CHAPLIN ('83). Enticing Mutual outtakes are showcased that reveal Chaplin's working methods. Also with the Mutual "bookends" THE FLOORWALKER ('16) and THE ADVENTURER ('17).

Piano accompaniment at this show by Bernie Anderson.
Unknown Chaplin