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"Legends of Laughter" Coming to the Library
By Mary Dalton Yesterday at 3:37 p.m.
In the old stage trunk that movie history keeps in the attic, you’ll find a porkpie hat, a straw boater, and a black derby. They are only props, but once upon a time, they conjured up a universe of laughter.
This spring, relive the magic as the Park Ridge Public Library presents an all-new classic film series, Legends of Laughter, which showcases the creative work of Charlie Chaplin, Harold Lloyd, and Buster Keaton. A total of 14 films will be shown free of charge at the Library on Thursday nights at 7:00, starting March 10 and running through June 2.
On Sunday, April 10 at 6:30 p.m., audiences will also have a chance to experience a 35 mm print of the Harold Lloyd classic "Speedy" as it was meant to be seen – at the Pickwick Theatre, with live organ accompaniment. An $8.00 admission will be charged for this special event, which is co-sponsored by the Silent Film Society of Chicago.
Film Historian and Program Host Matthew C. Hoffman, who presented the 2009 Film Noir Series and last year’s Pre-Code Hollywood Series, wanted to do something “fun” this time around, but he’s quick to point out that there is nothing lightweight about the men whose work he’s celebrating.
“Chaplin, Lloyd and Keaton all had a profound influence on American culture,” Hoffman says. “Chaplin’s Little Tramp is so famous that even people who have never seen a silent film instantly recognize him.”
The actor’s appealing combination of pathos and humor can readily be seen in "The Gold Rush," a 1925 classic that opens the film series. Hoffman notes that Chaplin wrote and directed all of his films, and was a perfectionist intent on getting every detail right. That high level of craft advanced screen comedy beyond the broad slapstick that had characterized it up to that point.
Equally ground-breaking was the work of Harold Lloyd. In an age of digital effects, Lloyd’s climbing sequence in the 1923 comedy "Safety Last!," which culminates in his character hanging from the face of a building’s massive clock, remains a dazzling set piece. The film also presents a classic Lloyd scenario: a middle class hero, struggling to make good in the big city.
Buster Keaton, known as the Great Stone Face, was famous for his complicated and often dangerous stunts, which he performed himself. His Civil War comedy, "The General," is considered a masterpiece of filmmaking, not least due to a great scene of Keaton riding on a stolen steam locomotive. According to some accounts of the filming, Keaton gave the order to keep the camera rolling until he yelled “Cut!” or was killed – whichever came first.
“Audiences today can relate to these characters,’ Hoffman says. “They speak to the best side of human nature, rising above the heartless mechanical forces of the world.”
That quality, he says, is missing from modern comedy, which is often mean-spirited. Through his new series, Hoffman hopes audiences will experience classic comedy the way it was meant to be enjoyed: as a social experience.
“Physical comedy thrives on the audience reaction,” says Hoffman. “That’s why these movies are most fun to watch with a crowd of people – their laughter becomes part of the soundtrack.”
The series schedule is as follows:
March 10, 2011: THE GOLD RUSH (1925) 96 min. Charlie Chaplin
March 17: SAFETY LAST (1923) 73 min. Harold Lloyd
March 24: SHERLOCK, JR. (1924) 45 min. Buster Keaton
THE NAVIGATOR (1924) 69 min. Buster Keaton
March 31: THE CIRCUS (1928) 72 min. Charlie Chaplin
April 7: THE FRESHMAN (1925) 76 min. Harold Lloyd
April 10: SPEEDY (1928) 86 min. Harold Lloyd
Pickwick Theatre, Park Ridge 6:30 p.m.
A 35mm print will be screened with live organ accompaniment courtesy
of the Silent Film Society of Chicago. Admission will be $8.00.
April 14: STEAMBOAT BILL, JR. (1928) 70 min. Buster Keaton
April 21: CITY LIGHTS (1931) 86 min. Charlie Chaplin
April 28: THE KID BROTHER (1927) 82 min. Harold Lloyd
May 12: THE CAMERAMAN (1929) 69 min. Buster Keaton
May 19: MODERN TIMES (1936) 87 min. Charlie Chaplin
May 26: MOVIE CRAZY (1932) 84 min. Harold Lloyd
June 2: THE GENERAL (1927) 74 min. Buster Keaton
All showings will be accompanied by short subjects and an introduction by Hoffman. For more information on the film series, check out the official series blog at http://legendsoflaughter.wordpress.com/ and the promotional video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KctgxwXwfIM
Find out about the latest releases and exhibition of classic films.
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