Silent Movie Magic Found Under the Stars

Projectionist Joe Rinaudo brought his refurbished 1909 hand-cranked projector to Two Strike Park for an evening of silent movies.

By Nicole MOORE

On Saturday, July 28, members of the Crescenta Valley community, munching on popcorn and sitting on blankets and folded chairs, were treated to an evening of silent movies set against a starlit backdrop. The free event, sponsored by the Historical Society of the Crescenta Valley with the support of Friends of Rockhaven, took place at Two Strike Park.

For the past five years, projectionist Joseph Rinaudo has brought joy to the community with the screening of a series of 35mm silent films illuminated by a refurbished 1909 hand-cranked projector. Rinaudo purchased the projector, originally found in a Connecticut chicken coop, on eBay.

People from around the area – and from as far away as Monrovia and even Rhode Island – set up chairs and blankets at Two Strike Park ready for the movies to begin.

Like itinerant projectionists of the past, Rinaudo travels to small towns, providing entertainment through silent film. Like many communities in the early 1900s that did not have theaters to watch the films of the era, Saturday’s outdoor venue of the silent movie night added authenticity to the event.

“We have become disconnected from our family and friends through the increase of technology. We are bringing the community together through these films,” said Rinaudo. “Young people can experience what their great-grandparents saw.”

The family friendly films chosen included a 1921 Max Fleischer Koko the Clown cartoon entitled “Modeling.” The Max Fleischer production company, best known for the characters Betty Boop and Popeye, were revolutionary for bridging together live action with animation. Other films shown were a 1929 Buster Keaton film “Neighbors,” famous for a death-defying stunt involving Keaton stacked up on the shoulders of two tumbling clowns, and a 1929 Laurel and Hardy short entitled “Angora Love” with the two characters finding trouble after feeding a goat. Billy Bevan’s 1925 “The Iron Nag” and the 1925 Charley Chase’s “What Price Goofy,” a domestic situational comedy, were also shown.

BELOW: The Historical Society of the Crescenta Valley, with support from Friends of Rockhaven, offered concessions and encouraged donations.

The films’ “voices” were found through the live music of pianist Cliff Retallick.

Audience members found great joy in the event.

“I won’t miss this for the world. It’s done right,” said Jim Constantian, a Monrovia resident.

Scott Lloyd, visiting from Rhode Island, shared similar sentiments.

“These films are important to show because they are terrifically funny, fascinating, and immortal,” said Lloyd.

Fresh popcorn, baked goods and drinks were provided. Proceeds made from optional donations went to the Historical Society of the Crescenta Valley.