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Charlie Chaplin: Pre-talkie.
Charlie Chaplin: Pre-talkie.

Silents Are Golden

Film fans, rejoice! The Orpheum Theatre is kicking off its third season of Silent Sundays.

The series is a clever idea, well-executed. Old silent films are screened every few months on Sunday afternoons. Rudolph Valentino, Lon Chaney Jr., Clara Bow, Bessie Love, Errol Flynn, Jackie Coogan -- these and other great stars of the silent era are brought back to life for an hour or two. Even better, they are accompanied by the rumbling sounds of the mighty Wurlitzer theater organ, played by Ron Rhode. All of this takes place in the beautifully restored Orpheum, a 1920s movie palace. It's a unique moviegoing experience -- a bit like going back in time.

This year's series looks to be the best yet. It begins this week with "Those Funny Guys," a collection of comedy shorts from Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd, Harry Langdon and Charlie Chaplin, four of the early cinema's finest comic actors. The rest of the season includes all the classic themes: melodrama, Western action, romantic adventure and spunky orphans.

In October: A Fool Such As I, the movie that gave screen siren Theda Bara the nickname "The Vamp." Released in 1915 (just 86 years ago!), the film made Bara a star. It's a great example of the melodramatic potboilers that silent cinema did so well.


"Those Funny Guys"

Orpheum Theatre

Plays at 3 p.m. Sunday, September 16, 203 West Adams. Tickets are $9 and $12, $8 and $10.50 for seniors. Come early for ice cream, tours and organ music. Details: 602-262-7272.

The Great K&A Train Robbery, circa 1926, screens in December. This classic Tom Mix Western featured some of the greatest action photography the movies had ever seen. It is followed in February by The Eagle, with Rudolph Valentino and Vilma Banky. Valentino and Banky were two of the biggest stars of the '20s; this 1925 romantic swashbuckler was their first joint effort.

Finally, in March, we get Mary Pickford in Sparrows. This 1926 film cast the 34-year-old Pickford as a 16-year-old orphan. Such was her popularity as a juvenile lead that it didn't matter a bit!


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