By Charly SHELTON
The Lumière Brothers debuted a collection of 10 short films on Dec. 28, 1895 in Paris. This is widely regarded as the birth of cinema in its truest form. Despite the invention of the medium years prior, it was never put to use in such a way as did the Lumière Brothers. Their films set the world on fire and, within two years, production companies had opened shop around the world and the first movie studio was built for the burgeoning industry. These films had no recorded audio tracks until late 1927, when Warner Bros. released “The Jazz Singer,” the first film to utilize a synchronized audio track of dialogue and music. The industry changed and, with rare exception, the silent era of films was largely put aside by audiences from then on. Some films, like many of the comedies of Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin and the occasional dramatic piece by Lon Chaney (“Phantom of the Opera,” “He Who Gets Slapped”), were preserved as cinematic treasures. But the majority of the film-going public is unaware today of the many hundreds of silent films that were produced in that era. America in the 1920s was producing its highest-ever output of films – roughly 800 films annually on average – yet most of those titles won’t ring bells for anyone but film scholars and enthusiasts.
Silent film projectionist and historian Joe Rinaudo restores old copies of silent films and plays them for interested groups to share the art form and help these films to not be forgotten and lost to history. The Historical Society of the Crescenta Valley and the LA County Parks Dept. invite “Professor Rinaudo” to Two Strike Park each year for Silent Movie Night when Rinaudo selects some of his favorite silent shorts and, with his 100-year-old, hand-cranked projector, screens them for any residents who may wish to come by and live some history.
“The event is free, and family-friendly, a great way to introduce kids to a piece of movie history,” said Mike Lawler of the Historical Society of the Crescenta Valley.
The shorts this year are some of Rinaudo’s favorite comedies – Buster Keaton in “The Scarecrow,” Laurel & Hardy in “You’re Darn Tootin’,” Charley Chase in “Fluttering Hearts,” Al St. John in “The Iron Mule” and Larry Semon in “School Days.” These are all silent shorts and will be accompanied by pianist Cliff Retallick.
But even more than the screening, this type of cinema has historical connections to the surrounding area.
“Montrose had a silent movie theater in the ’20s,” Lawler said. “The Montrose Theater was built in 1924 with a stage for vaudeville acts and an organ up front. Later it was converted to ‘talkies’ and was a favorite local theater until it burned down in 1987. This is a way to relive the early days of the Montrose Theater.”
The Silent Movie Night will be held next Saturday, July 27, at 8 p.m. on the lawn at Two Strike Park, 5107 Rosemont Ave. in La Crescenta. Admission is free, and popcorn will be available. Guests are asked to bring lawn chairs or blankets for comfort. For more information, visit CVHistory.org.