It seems odd at this late date to think about seeing new silent films, but that’s what happening. “People are finding them everywhere,” says Tom Hart, program development coordinator for Boulder’s Chautauqua Auditorium and curator of the Chautauqua Silent Film Series. One rediscovered feature, Daughter of Dawn, will be featured in the 31st annual silent-film festival, which starts June 1 in the historic wooden theater.
“We are always looking for a balance between the popular and the educational but still entertaining,” he says. “The more obscure films, though very worthy in quality and content, are supported by the popular and highly recognized films.”
So this year's schedule deftly mixes favorite actors such as Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin and Harold Lloyd while spotlighting lesser-known comic actresses Marion Davies (Show People) and Colleen Moore (Why Be Good?). It also features heartthrob John Gilbert in two very different roles: the swashbuckler of Bardelys the Magnificent and the WWI doughboy of The Big Parade. And, for a change of pace, the festival will screen Jean Cocteau’s 1946 masterpiece Beauty and the Beast, paired with a new score composed by Philip Glass in 1995.
Colleen Moore as the sassy heroine of Why Be Good?
Daughter of Dawn also features a new score, this one by the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra, which will premiere it at the film’s screening on August 3. The 1920 “docudrama” was shot on location in Oklahoma and features two of Comanche chief Quanah Parker’s children. The only print languished for decades in the garage of a private detective in North Carolina, who received it as payment for work on a case.
Chaplin is represented with an apt pairing of his sentimental favorites, A Dog’s Life (1918) and 1921’s The Kid, both tales of Chaplin's Tramp character saving and protecting figures even cuter and more helpless than he is. A Harold Lloyd double feature, For Heaven’s Sake and Number, Please?, is on the bill, and Buster Keaton gets a healthy slice of attention. The series opens with his most popular film, The General, and his overlooked The Goat; later in the summer comes a pairing of Keaton's great silent film, 1928’s The Cameraman, with one of his earliest successes as a stooge for Fatty Arbuckle, 1918’s The Cook.
John Gilbert finds out the horrors of war in The Big Parade.
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The best live musical accompaniment in the region, provided by Mont Alto, Hank Troy, Rodney Sauer and Ed Contreras, will return this summer, augmented by the superb acoustics of the all-wood Chautauqua Auditorium. It all adds up to one of the most pleasant movie-going experiences in Colorado.
The Chautauqua Silent Film Series will run from June 1 through August 9 at the Chautauqua Auditorium, 900 Baseline Road, Boulder. For tickets and information, visit chautauqua.com/events/film.