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Author Topic: The Sounds of Silence: Tale of a First Public Screening
Akshay Nanjangud
Jedi Master Film Handler

Posts: 637
From: Dallas, TX
Registered: Nov 2011


 - posted January 25, 2012 11:07 PM      Profile for Akshay Nanjangud   Email Akshay Nanjangud   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
The Sounds of Silence

That evening I was to screen Alfred Hitchcock’s “Foreign Correspondent” on Super 8mm film. The Davis Enterprise had published our press release and the International House had been advertising it. But, I now had problems with my projector. The night before, as my “Star Wars” reel reached its finish the projector’s lamp went out. After some fiddling around, I realized the bulb was good but its fitting had a loose contact. Now every projectionist carries spares in the event of failures. These spares vary from projector to projector. Extra bulbs are mandatory, some projectors require a spare set of drive belts, perhaps a spare exciter lamp if the film uses optical sound, and so on. No one had ever advised me on stocking an extra bulb fitting.

I spent the entire day of the screening trying to fix this problem. Of course, I couldn’t. If blame games are to be played, there are some usual suspects. I bought the projector three months ago, so the seller has to be excused from any nefarious plotting. Since I’m the only one operating the projector, I am a suspect. However, the detective in charge of the investigation is always innocent. Finally, my wife is often watching films with me but suspecting her could have repercussions. So, I blame – the softest target - Murphy’s Laws and must move on.

Fortunately, I have a spare projector. Unfortunately, it is silent. Would people be up for a silent film?

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“Are you up for a silent movie, honey?” asked a man to his companion. She said, “I was really looking forward to watching Hitchcock.” Hmmm.......

When we projectionists speak of films, we often ask each other if the silent era will ever return. Roger Ebert suspects “The Artist” will win the Oscar for Best Picture this year. It was successful at the Golden Globes last week. On a smaller stage, I saw tonight as an opportunity for a couple of silent films to sneak in through the back door.

“What silent films do you have?” a lady enquired. Here was a chance to employ my foot-in the-(back)-door technique. “We could watch Douglas Fairbanks in the original Zorro, Rudolph Valentino in Son of the Sheik, the old Lost World, or Griffith’s Judith of Bethulia”, I said.

“I’d love to watch Valentino”, she said. Two others said they’d like to watch something by Griffith. The back door was ajar and the silent films ran right in. I would open with an abridgement of “Son of the Sheikh”, followed by “Judith of Bethulia”.

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I threaded up the first reel on my Keystone K-100 with some apprehension. Now, I have not heard much about this projector; projectionists I know don’t speak much about it. However, I like it. You see, unlike some of the more popular film projectors, this one requires film to be threaded manually. So, if the audience is to enjoy a movie, the projectionist must thread the film expertly. On my Keystone, a tightly looped film results in a jittery image. So, manually threading films is an art that takes some practice.

Rudolph Valentino and Wilma Banky wowed the small audience of seven. Maybe the threading was good? At the end of the first reel, there was a humorous inquiry into the working of the second reel. At the end of Reel 2, the seven ladies in the audience were generous in their applause. Perhaps the ladies appreciated - not the film, not the projectionist’s work – but Rudolph Valentino. In the 1920s, he enjoyed great popularity among the fairer sex. It is believed that the release of “Son of the Sheik” was arranged to coincide with his funeral, and that this association made the film a commercial success.

While the first screening was of an artist’s last, the second was of a first. The movie “Judith of Bethulia” is directed by silent era great D.W. Griffith, and is the Biograph Company’s first full-feature. Griffith is known for “Birth of a Nation” and “Intolerance”, but even this lesser known film is a spectacle. The audience members seemed to be awed by the scale of the production. One lady spoke of the difficulty in constructing the huge wall from whose battlements the Assyrian soldiers fought off King Nebuchadnezzar’s soldiers.

As the projectionist, one question remained. “Did you like the pictures? Enjoy the silence?” Pat came a reply, “Well, the film is a hundred years old!” Yes, they had felt like I did when I first saw the same films. Like me, they had heard the sounds of silence.

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Grant Fitzgerald
Expert Film Handler

Posts: 161
From: Owatonna, MN
Registered: Oct 2011


 - posted January 25, 2012 11:35 PM      Profile for Grant Fitzgerald   Author's Homepage   Email Grant Fitzgerald   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I love all types of films every genre! As a film student I am now taking a film class and we watch to shorts, The Great Train Robbery[/B (which I just got off eBay on Super 8mm) and [B]Trip To The Moon. After it I was talking to some of my friends and my roommate about the silent and they felt tat even no more then 15 min. it felt long. I just don't get that with silent films, they are so goood!

I also just got Battleship Potemkin and saw it for the first time. I was blown away! Anyways I don't understand the turn off of both silent and B&W.

And next Monday in my film history class my professor is letting me bring my projector to class to show a Buster Keaton and/or Charlie Chaplin film.

[ January 26, 2012, 08:37 AM: Message edited by: Grant Fitzgerald ]

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Akshay Nanjangud
Jedi Master Film Handler

Posts: 637
From: Dallas, TX
Registered: Nov 2011


 - posted January 26, 2012 12:26 AM      Profile for Akshay Nanjangud   Email Akshay Nanjangud   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Let us know how your class receives the films, Grant.

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Bruce Wright
Expert Film Handler

Posts: 140
From: Denham Springs, La.
Registered: Oct 2011


 - posted January 26, 2012 11:29 AM      Profile for Bruce Wright   Author's Homepage   Email Bruce Wright   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Hi Grant- I'm a Chaplin fan--just keep the sound turned dowm!!?
Please keep us informed. Good filming.

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Bruce Wright

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Gerald Santana
Phenomenal Film Handler

Posts: 1058
From: Cottage Grove OR
Registered: Dec 2010


 - posted January 26, 2012 12:09 PM      Profile for Gerald Santana   Author's Homepage   Email Gerald Santana   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Nice article Akshay, great to hear about your experience...

Grant, let us know who your screening at school goes!

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http://lostandoutofprintfilms.blogspot.com/

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