16th ANNUAL BRONCHO BILLY SILENT FILM FESTIVAL! Held at the Edison Theater, the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum is celebrating two historical events! First it's the theatre's 100th anniversary and it was also 100 years ago this year that the Essanay Film Manufacturing Company began making movies here in Niles! It's a double centennial celebration!!
The festivities began Friday night with a gala reception over at the Fremont Bank Building, located a couple blocks from the theater. There were foods and refreshments to enjoy, plus as an added bonus, live music courtesy of ukulele sweetheart and singer Janet Klien. Klein hails from Los Angeles where she has a band called Janet Klein and her Parlor Boys. Specializing in performing naughty and lovely tunes of the teens, 20's, and 30's, have released a staggering seven CDs! She's a very talented ukulele player as well as a having an angelic voice, look for her and her band performing in a town near you!
After the reception, everybody made it over to the Edison Theatre for a night of silent film celebration, and there was a lot to celebrate that night. Janet Klien once again performed a couple of songs. Board members Michael Bonham and Rene Keihn welcomed the sold-out crowd and introduced the films we were going to see, especially the brand new silent film that archivist/historian/author/ projectionist (and now director) David Keihn has been working on for the past year! Performing on the piano was the always fantastic Bruce Loeb!
BILLY McGRATH ON BROADWAY (1913): Once believed to be lost, a rare nitrate print of the film was discovered in a projector in the basement of a home in Grand Junction, Colorado! After Billy's sees a terrible play, he comes up with the idea of producing a play of his own. However, when the entire casts walks out on him, the stage crew helps Billy out by becoming his new cast. Like the old saying goes, the show must go on! The film was made at the Essanay Chicago studio.
BRONCHO BILLY AND THE BANDIT'S SECRET (2013): The brand new short film that museum has been working! Directed by David Keihn, with scenario by Keihn and Sprague Anderson, the film was made using the same cameras and techniques that were used during the silent film era! The film is a western, filled with train robbers, the local sheriff, and the man himself, Broncho Billy Anderson, back up on the big screen where he belongs! In their intro, both Keihn and Anderson mentioned that their new film was the workprint, meaning that this was a rough version of the film. It still needs a little more work, but what from I saw, it looked incredible! Many of the actors were in the audience, dressed in their costumes! I can't wait to see the final version of this soon to be silent classic!
After a brief intermission, the show continued with:
SHOW PEOPLE (1928): Directed by King Vidor, the film stars Marion Davies as Peggy Pepper, a Southern Belle who comes to Hollywood with her father to become a star in the movies. However, she has to start at the bottom, and in Hollywood, that means starring in slapstick comedies, a far cry of her dreams; becoming a dramatic actress of period films. She befriends comedian Billy Boone (William Haines) who shows her the ropes and helps her with realizing her dreams. Once she makes it to the top, will stardom go to her head? And what will happen to her loveable Billy?
Marion Davis had fantastic comedic timing and execution, and she loved making them. However, her lover William Randell Hearst thought comedies were beneath her and she should star in dramas and period pieces. King Vidor did a great job of capturing Davis' comedic performances. The film was released by MGM in 1928, just as the silent film world was in transition of becoming "talkies."
What a wonderful night! Spirits were high, the crowd was awesome, the films were funny, what could be better? More movies, maybe? Well guess what? The Broncho Billy Film Festival is going on all this weekend! So make plans to attend this event! To purchase tickets and passes, view the festival's film schedule, and to become a member, visit the museum's official website at http://nilesfilmmuseum.org.
Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!