Salutations From The Projectionist

It is with no small amount of hesitation that I type this on Carl’s “computer”, what we in the Golden Age of cinema thought was a fanciful concoction from the talented minds of George Pal, Robert Wise, Fred M. Wilcox, and Joseph M. Newman has come to pass.

I want to thank the Retroist for agreeing to let my history lessons appear in print. Many theaters and their “cousins” the Drive-In, veritable palaces of cinematic import in history have fallen to the wayside, lost to the average citizen who might pass a now decrepit and mouldering movie house on a daily basis, not for one moment to ponder the majesty it once exuded from days gone by.

Case in point, the Ramova Theatre in Chicago, IL that had her birth in 1929 on Halstead Street at 35th Street. The architect of the Ramova, Meyer O. Nathan, designed the interior of the theatre to resemble that of Spanish-courtyards and possessed a deep blue ceiling with stars that would glitter before the feature began. The sidewalls contained archways that revealed “scenes” of the Spanish countryside.

For more photos of the Ramova visit Matt Lambros Photography

The Ramova’s crowing glory came in the year 1940, when Charlie Chaplin held the Chicago premiere for “The Great Dictator”. The Ramova earned this honor when the Loop movie palaces management refused to host the event as they were put off by the subject matter of Chaplin’s film.

In 1950 the offerings for the first run features of Hollywood dried up and the Ramova made do with second-run films, finally showing Spanish-language films upon the shuttering of its doors in the middle of the 1980’s. Though with Carl’s aid I have learned that all is not lost for the Ramova, perhaps there still lies future glories for her, on the Facebooking site you may find a group dedicated to the saving of her, Ramova Theatre.

I look forward to bringing you more information in the coming weeks as well as a special project that Carl and I have been working on. If you ever find yourself in Haddonfield I hope you will perhaps wait until dark and come by the old Starlight Starbright Drive-In, or as the kids today refer to it, the Haunted Drive-In, and introduce yourself.

(Photos courtesy of the Ramova Theatre Facebook Page and Cinema Treasures. – Carl)

Charlie Chaplin’s Time Traveler

This got buried in my bookmarks last fall, but I meant to post it, because it is fun. This short film is about a piece of footage George Clark found behind the scenes in Charlie Chaplins film ‘The Circus’. Attending the premiere at Manns Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, CA – the scene shows a large woman dressed in black with a hat hiding most of her face, with what can only be described as a mobile phone device – talking as she walks alone.

So what do you think is going on here?

Slapsticon 2010

slapsticon 2010

I really do enjoy silent films and early talkies, but my exposure to them has sort of dwindled over the last few years. That is why I am seriously considering taking a roadtrip for at least a day of these early film classics at Slapsticon 2010. What is Slapsticon all about? They say it best:

Before Mike Myers, Woody Allen, Tracey Ullman, Mel Brooks, Madeline Kahn, and Adam Sandler, there were many early film pioneers who broke new ground in the art of motion picture comedy.

Some of the more familiar names include Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, Harold Lloyd, Mabel Normand, Charley Chase, Harry Langdon, Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle, Thelma Todd, along with Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy.

However, a significant number of lesser-known artists made important contributions to the development of film comedy. These artists include the likes of Larry Semon, Jimmie Adams, Lupino Lane, Gale Henry, Lloyd Hamilton, Max Linder, Billy West, Bobby Vernon, Alice Howell, Snub Pollard, Billy Bevan, Ford Sterling, Fay Tincher, Andy Clyde, Monty Banks, Clyde Cook, and Raymond Griffith, among many, many others.

It is to the well-known — and especially the lesser-known comedians, producers, directors, writers, and studios — that SLAPSTICON is dedicated.

This annual, four-day film festival — scheduled in July of every year — features screenings of rarely seen comedies from the silent and early sound eras. It is an opportunity to view films that are some of the earliest creative efforts in the development of motion picture comedy.

Just as important, SLAPSTICON is an opportunity to meet other people like you who share an interest in the appreciation and preservation of early film comedy. In attendance at SLAPSTICON are some of the nation’s most dedicated motion picture researchers and collectors, most of whom are walking encyclopedias of early film comedy.

Sounds pretty good huh? These are all day film extravaganzas, that I find hard to resist and if I can confirm my schedule I think I might book for at least one day. I am thinking Saturday since they will be showing the new discovered Chaplin film “A Thief Catcher (1914)” that night. If you are in the Washington DC area on July 15th-18th and have an appreciation for the subject, why not check it out for yourself.