29 May 2005

the sounds of silents

silent films were never silent.

in the grand movie palaces full orchestras often playd scores written specifically for films. other theaters had an organ. & even small towns employd a pianist.

last nite Santa Fe's wondrous Lensic Theater hostd a screening of Paul Leni's "The Man Who Laughs" (1928) with live accompaniment by BING! this local orchestra -- composd of 8 skilld musicians -- playd their own contemporary but fitting score to a large cheering audience. it was a delight.

Leni's next-to-last feature still thrills. Conrad Veidt is superb in the title role. this German actor -- who died just weeks before I was born -- had a remarkable career which stretchd from the silent classic "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari" to '40s fave "Casablanca." if you don't know how to pronounce his surname just remember his p.r. team's campaign slogan: "Women fight -- for Conrad Veidt."

& Olga Baclanova -- best rememberd for her role in "Freaks" -- is amazing as the duchess who is erotically chargd by the ever-grinning leading man.

one funny note: there is a brave dog in the film. his name is Homo. I haven't read the Victor Hugo novel but I presume the film picks up that moniker from the source. but it's good to know that for a film of that period a Homo is a hero.

No comments: