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  • Writer's pictureCarrie Specht

An Evening of Vintage Entertainment: Silent Film & Live Music of the 1920s

The Silent Film Exhibition Organization will debut "Music Box Cinema," with an evening of Silent Films complete with a live musical accompaniment and musical acts at the Woman's Club of Hollywood Saturday, June 22 at 7:30P.

The Retroformat Coalition (a new non-profit organization) and the historic Women's Club of Hollywood co-present the opening of the new Music Box Cinema series. The night of vintage entertainment features three classic Charlie Chaplin silent films provided by the USC Hugh M. Hefner Moving Image Archive. The live musical accompaniment will be performed by Musical Director, Cliff Retallick and special guest artist, Janet Klein. Be sure to arrive early in order to take part in the free tour of the historic Women's Club of Hollywood, starting at 6:45 PM. The night's program will include some of Charlie Chaplin's funniest and most touching comedies from 1916 - 1917. These years of the great comedian's career are considered to be a breakout period when he produced some of his greatest short works. The films include The Floorwalker, The Rink (which spotlights Chaplin's amazing prowess on roller skates), and a personal favorite of mine, The Immigrant. All three films feature his frequent costar, Edna Purviance and the man considered to be Chaplin's greatest villain, Eric Campbell.

The Floorwalker stars Chaplin, in his traditional Tramp persona, as a customer who becomes inadvertently entangled in the nefarious scheme of a store manager and the store's floorwalker to embezzle money. Mistaken identity and the "Little Tramps" ability to create chaos combine to bring hilarious comedy to a simple story of a department store heist gone wrong. A standout for its time, the film is delightfully enjoyable and offers an audience a peek at the early days of Chaplin's burgeoning career.

In The Rink Chaplin plays a clumsy waiter at a restaurant who goes from table to table while wearing roller skates. His prowess on wheels is an incredibly sight to see as he manages to avoid one near catastrophe after another. Charlie then uses his lunch break to go roller skating at an actual rink. Naturally, he causes mayhem and the scenario is stretched out to maximum comedic effect by the only man who could stretch a concept to its breaking point and then stretch it again without boring the audience.

In The Immigrant, Chaplin's Tramp character is coming to the United States. The short begins with our hero already in the midst of his voyage. As per usual, the "Little Tramp" falls in love with a beautiful young woman. But before the voyage is complete, he is accused of theft because he put some money in the young beauty's bag and is mistaken as a pick-pocket. Oddly, the story continues to a restaurant where the girl has found work. Regardless, the film is full of the physical antics for which Chaplin is well known.

Live musical director, Cliff Retallick is a Silent Movie accompanist, who frequently provides live piano and organ music at the screenings of rare, classic, old and new silent films in the Los Angeles area and beyond. The second musical guest of the night, Janet Klein who has been performing early 20th century music since 1996, playing in many old music halls and theaters in the US and around the world.

The Retroformat Coalition is a new, Los Angeles-based nonprofit with the sole mission of educating and inspiring enthusiasm for the art and history of the Silent Film, introducing new generations to the joy and power of early cinema.. The organization was founded by Executive Director Tom Barnes, programmer and host of the almost decade long series Retroformat: Rare Silent Gems on 8mm and 16mm Film at the American Cinematheque's Grauman's Egyptian Theatre. The notable Board of Directors includes writer/director Allison Anders, Academy Award winner Alexander Payne, and Dino Everett, curator of USC's Hugh M. Hefner Moving Image Archive. For more information about this lively night of cinema and music go to: Tickets cost $15 and are available on Eventbrite.

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