Saturday, May 14, 2011

Phil sees NEVADA at the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum-May 7, 2011

It's Saturday night, and you know what that means? Yup, it's silent movie night! So once again I traveled to Niles, home of the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum. Today was actor Gary Cooper's birthday, so to celebrate this special occasion, the museum showed one of Cooper's earliest silent films entitled NEVADA, as well as two shorts.

Original Movie Poster 1927
The first short screened was THE NARROW ROAD, directed by legendary filmmaker D.W. Griffith and starring America's Sweetheart Mary Pickford. In the film Mary awaits the arrival of her husband Jim (Elmer Booth), who was just released from prison and plans to stay on the straight and narrow. However, his former partner (Charles Hill Mailes) plans to launch his counterfeiting scheme and tries to lure Jim back to a life of crime. This was a fun and interesting film, which was released by the Biograph Company on August 1, 1912. Another interesting fact; look for comedian actor Max Davidson, who has a bit part in the film. Davidson would appear in several of Hal Roach films, including the Thanksgiving classic PASS THE GRAVY

The second short for the evening was MANY SCRAPPY RETURNS, and featured the fantastic and forgotten comedian Charley Chase. Chase and his wife are happily married, but his brother and his wife are a different story. Tired of them fighting constantly, Chase and his wife stage a mock fight to teach them a lesson. This of course leads to some hilarious hijinks, which leads to a very funny room chase scene that is priceless. The film was made by Hal Roach Studios and released on January 9, 1927.

After a brief intermission, the show continued, with the night's musical accompanist Jon Mirsalis explaining the fundamentals of how to score music for a silent film, which he demonstrated on his amazing Kurzweil electric organ. After wowing the audience with his fine examples, and explaining that only a handful of musical sheets for silent films still exist, the show resumed with NEVADA. Starring Cooper, William Powell and Thelma Todd (before all three became big movie stars), this quaint little B-movie western was surprisingly good. Cooper is Nevada, who is wanted for killing a man in Lineville, assumes a new life and a new identity in the charming little town. He gets a new job and falls in love with the daughter Hettie (Todd). Soon Nevada is accused of cow hustling, so he must prove his innocence by exposing the real culprit, Clan Dillion (Powell). This was a fun and entertaining lost silent film. Fans of Copper should really check this film out. 

Another fun-filled night of silent films at the 'ol Edison Theater. To learn more about the Niles Essanay Silent film Museum, how to become a member, and to view their movie schedule, visit their website at 

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

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