A few years ago, I started to regularly watch The Lawrence Welk Show, at 6 p.m. on Saturdays on Channel 56. Something about it really appealed to me, and I was curious where this new enthusiasm came from.
Archive for the ‘Silent Movies’ Category
The Detroit Film Theatre has forged such a strong identity for itself that it’s easy to forget that it’s also one of many activities presented by the Detroit Institute of Arts. The DFT screens films in the DIA auditorium, which was part of the original 1927 construction of the building and which also hosts activities like the Mosaic Youth Theatre of Detroit.
Towards the end of the Redford Theatre’s showing of Sunset Boulevard (1950) on Feb. 7, 2009, the images and the atmosphere combined to give me a deeper feeling for the significance of both the theater and the movie. Sunset Boulevard is a strange tribute to the silent movie era, thanks in part to the performances of two people who helped make the history of that era (Gloria Swanson and Erich Von Stroheim).
The year 1928 was an amazing year for motion picture theater construction in the Detroit and Ann Arbor areas. Movie palaces that opened that year include the Fox Theater in downtown Detroit, the Michigan Theater in downtown Ann Arbor, and two other still-existing theaters that I visited on July 26, 2008—the Redford Theatre and the Royal Oak Music Theatre. (Motor City Marquees, Stuart Galbraith IV)
The recently published mystery novel Frames is partially set in an old movie theater in Los Angeles. Reading this entertaining book by Michigan author Loren D. Estleman was made a lot more fun by my experiences at the Detroit Film Theatre, Michigan Theater, and Redford Theatre.
Even before the entertainment began on the night when the Redford Theatre celebrated its 80th birthday (April 19, 2008), I could sense a deeper, richer feeling in the theater than I usually did. This feeling brought out more of the texture and details of this ancient wonder, like the intimate lighting under the pagoda eaves and the smooth varnish of the staircase railing.
The blank film lay on the table in the Grand Foyer of the Michigan Theater, waiting for visitors to the 46th annual Ann Arbor Film Festival to mark up frames to produce a series of images that would later be projected on the main theater screen. A few feet away, some toy animals and a moveable projector awaited other filmgoers’ attempts at stop-motion animation.
Notes from a movie palace weekend (March 14-16, 2008):
After enjoying the focused intimacy of the Redford Theatre (Friday, March 14, 2008) and the Detroit Film Theatre (March 15), the spaciousness of the Michigan Theater on March 16 hit me very strongly. Steven Ball’s organ playing drifted out into the Grand Foyer and the street energy of downtown Ann Arbor continued into the Michigan’s auditorium.
If I had to pick one film that tied together the interests of most visitors to the Detroit Film Theatre, Michigan Theater, and Redford Theatre, it would be Buster Keaton’s 1927 silent comedy The General. A close second would be The Phantom of the Opera (1925) with Lon Chaney.