This past Friday night, we attended the opening of the Silent Film Society of Chicago’s Silent Summer Festival at the Portage Theatre.
The show was Running Wild, starring W.C. Fields, in a much more sympathetic role than you may be accustomed. The feature was preceded by the Buster Keaton short “My Wife’s Relations,” a classic Keaton piece where Buster finds himself going through an unintentional marriage after being accused of throwing a brick through a window. (Just go with me here.) Both films were presented in very nice, clean 35mm prints– much clearer than what you’d find on YouTube or older VHS collections. Musical accompaniment was by organist Dennis Scott, and pre-show entertainment came via the West End Jazz band. Despite a few technical glitches the event was a huge success.
Before the show, we had a brief conversation with Professor Pierce, who has provided live Theremin accompaniment at previous Festival shows. He told us there was no Theremin on this year’s program, saying it was “kind of like accordions; you want to limit how much you give the people.”
This is always one of our favorite summertime events, and fans of classic films should absolutely attend!
Here’s the rundown of the schedule; all shows are at the Portage Theatre and start at 8:00:
July 24: Running Wild (1927) with W.C. Fields, directed by Gregory LaCava.. Live organ accompaniment: Dennis Scott. Shown with Buster Keaton’s “My Wife’s Relations” from 1922. Pre-show entertainment by the West End Jazz Band.
July 31: Underworld (1927) starring George Bancroft and Evelyn Brent, directed by Josef von Sternberg. Live organ accompaniment: Jay Warren. The film will be introduced by historian Ken Irwin, and Jay Warren hosts a sing-along before the show.
August 7: Girl Shy (1924) with Harold Lloyd, directed by Fred C Newmeyer and Sam Taylor. Live organ accompaniment by Jay Warren. Shown with the Harold Lloyd short “Back into the Woods” (1918).
August 14: Piccadilly (1929) with Anna May Wong and Gilda Gray. Live organ accompaniment by Michael Jacklin.
August 21: The Thief of Baghdad (1924) with Douglas Fairbanks, directed by Raoul Walsh. Live theatre organ accompaniment by Dennis Scott. Special event: “The Portage Harem Dancers on stage, courtesy DeMaira Dance Studio.”
August 28: Seventh Heaven (1927) with Janet Gaynor and Charles Farrell, directed by Frank Borzage. Live theatre organ accompaniment by Dennis Scott. Special event: closing night ceremonies, and pre-show music by the West End Jazz Band.