It's 1926: Valentino looks into the camera and the world wobbles on its axis; by June he is dead from a stomach haemorrhage and half the population is in mourning. Movies have their first great legend, and film is confirmed as the most powerful art form of the twentieth century.
Reel forward 80 years and Rudi's last and most
popular film, Son of the Sheik, is opening the fourth Scarborough
Silent Film Festival. Four nights later the festival closes with
arguably the finest silent film ever made, Buster Keaton's The General.
In between there are classic films starring Harold Lloyd and Ramon
Navarro, and a rare showing of Berlin, the first great film documentary.
the sudden interest in films from the silent era? The reason, according
to film buff Tony Davison, is that more films and better quality prints
are becoming available all the time.
Tony has been
showing films in and around Scarborough for 50 years and his enthusiasm
is undimmed. "Until recently, if you wanted to see a classic film like
Chaplin's The Goldrush you had to send away for 12 reels of 8mm film.
Videotape started to change that, but DVDs have given fantastic
quality, along with availability."
Films seen only by dedicated
enthusiasts have been dug out, cleaned off and digitally re-mastered.
When a 1927 film called Sunrise was re-issued by the British Film
Institute two years ago, it caused a sensation, with reviewers hailing
it as one of the greatest films ever made. It was shown in the 2004
Scarborough Silent Film Festival. Last year the festival showed the
re-issued version of Carl Dreyer's 1927 Passion of Joan of Arc; another
unforgettable experience. This year there's also the chance to see
well-known films like The General, Ben-Hur and Safety Last on the big
Because, as Tony Davison says, "Seeing a film should
be an event; the cinema itself is part of the experience. Watching a
film at home gives about a tenth of the impact of going to the movies."
Stephen Wood from the festival's host venue SJT agrees: "As everyone in
Scarborough knows, the SJT was built inside the shell of the old Odeon
cinema. We were careful to recreate the atmosphere of the original
building and the McCarthy cinema is a perfect setting for classic
Highlight of the festival will be Saturday's showing of
The General with Terry Ladlow giving live keyboard accompaniment. This
once-only event is likely to sell out, so book early - and don't forget
Wednesday 18 October (Scarborough Library)
Son of the Sheik (1926)
Thursday 19 October (Stephen Joseph Theatre)
Safety Last (1923) with Harold Lloyd
Friday 20 October (Stephen Joseph Theatre)
Ben-Hur (1925) starring Ramon Navarro.
Saturday 21 October (Stephen Joseph Theatre)
The General (1926) starring Buster Keaton.
Keyboard accompaniment by Terry Ladlow.
Berlin: Symphony of a Great City (1927)
Tickets for 18 October £4 on the door at the library.
Tickets for 19 to 21 October £5/£4. To book call 01723 370541.
More details on www.filmscarborough.com