Last night we went to the Betzwood Silent Film Festival, held on the campus of Montgomery County Community College.
It was fabulous!
You may remember from this post that we live on the site of the Betzwood Studios, which was owned by Siegmund Lubin. The studios produced dozens of silent movies in the early years of the 20th century. Each year the college hosts a silent film festival featuring some of the existing movies. Last night was the 25th festival.
In the first part of the program, Professor Joseph Eckhardt gave a talk on Lubin and his movies. The prof is the expert on the studios. The talk was really interesting -- we learned how the films were shot, who starred in them, and how the young women film assemblers put the movies togther, shot by shot.
As fascinating as that was, however, the real treat was seeing the movies, especially because there was musical accompaniment and sound effects! Don Kinnier, an organist who specializes in silent film music, played the organ splendidly. He also handed out various noisemakers to volunteers in the audience, who used them to provide the sound effects -- rifles shooting, horses galloping, and train whistles blowing.
We saw five films:
- The Deputy's Peril
- The Sheriff's MIstake
- The Vagaries of Fate
- The Price of Victory
- A Partner to Providence
What was really interesting was that in three of the films, the leading lady is a really strong, independent character, not a frail shrinking violet. In fact, in the first two movies, she saves the leading man, not the other way around! And, in The Price of Victory (a Civil War drama), the heroine actually dives into the river and blows up a bridge (and herself!) to ensure that the Confederates win the battle. (The fact that the river is obviously shallow enough to wade across is beside the point.)
But my favorite was A Partner to Providence, because it has a really amazing train wreck in it. I'm not kidding -- it's an actual head-on collision between two steam locomotives! It's incredible that the print is still in good enough shape that you can really see the smash. Take a look for yourself -- just click the link up there and then watch the movie. The wreck happens at 2:58.
Anyway, we loved it. It makes our new home just that much more special. Thanks Professor Eckhardt, thanks Don Kinnier, and thanks to everyone who made the festival possible -- especially Seigmund Lubin!