Saturday, April 21, 2012

Phil attends the ANNUAL EARTHQUAKE SHOW at the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum-April 14, 2012

Hello there folks and welcome back to my trip to the Edison Theatre, home of the world famous Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum! This past Saturday night was the museum's annual Earthquake Show! Every year near the eve of the April 18, 1906 earthquake, the museum shows films about the earthquake and every year the show sells out. And it sold out big time! The show consists of two shorts and the main feature. But first let me tel you about the shorts.

The first short was A TRIP DOWN MARKET STREET (1906). Made by the Miles brothers (Harry, Herbert, Joseph, and Earle C), the 13 minute film was made by mounting a camera at the front of a cable car as it went down Market Street towards the Ferry Building. This is a film that we're very proud of. Reason being that our historian and projectionist David Kiehn, who did an unprecedented amount of research, uncovered that the film was made on April 14, 1906, just four days BEFORE the earthquake! The reason the film survived was because the Miles brothers had placed the film on a train and sent it to their New York City office on April 17, 1906. When Kiehn discovered the origins of the film, it hit the press and Internet immediately. Soon Morley Safer from 60 Minutes came out to the museum and interviewed Kiehn and the rest of the board members. In 2010, the film was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress. To view the 60 Minutes segment, watch it on their official website at

The second short film was THE DESTRUCTION OF SAN FRANCISCO (1906). The film is an amalgam of footage shot by the Edison, Pathe, and Biograph film companies as well as some footage shot by the Miles brothers. It shows the devastation caused by the earthquake an by the subsequent fires that blanketed the city in a cloud of smoke.

After a brief intermission, the show continued with:

THE SHOCK (1923) starring the "Man of a Thousand Faces" Lon Chaney. I saw this film a couple of years ago at the museum, so I was looking forward to seeing it again. I mean c'mon it's Lon Chaney people! The man made some of the most important and cutting edge films ever! From crime films, to thrillers and the genre he's most famous for: horror, Chaney did it all. In the film Chaney portrays Wilse Dilling, a shady cripple who works for a crime syndicate based out in San Francisco's Chinatown district. His powerful crime boss Queen Ann (Christine Mayo) sends him out to the quaint little town of Fallbrook to lay low and await her instructions. There he meets and fall in love with Gertrude Hadley (Virginia Valli). When he is instructed to take down her father, who happens to be the town's banker, he becomes torn between his job and his love for Gertrude. Throw in the devastating SF earthquake and you have one interesting climax to the film. Overall a great and overlooked Lon Chaney film! The movie was released by Universal Pictures on June 10, 1923.

Another great earthquake show at the museum. Remember folks the museum is open for tours every weekend from 12pm-4pm and every Saturday night there's a silent film show starting at 7:30 (doors open at 7pm). So if you would like to learn more about the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum, on how to become a member, and to view their film schedule, visit their website at

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

1 comment:

  1. Sounds very fascinating. Wish I could have seen this too. Awesome review, hun : )