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Performance Notes for this free event19th Annual KSFF, February 27 & 28, 2054, White Concert Hall, Washburn University, Topeka, Kansas twinkling star animation
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This event is free and open to the public. The KSFF is underwritten by donations.
This program is subject to change:

Friday, Feb. 27, 2015

Begins: 7:00 p.m.

Overture by Jon Mirsalis
Welcome & Introductions by Denise Morrison, Film Historian

Double Feature:

Feature: Grandma's Boy (1922) with Harold Lloyd, Anna Townsend and Mildred Davis
Directed by Fred C. Newmeyer
Produced by Hal Roach
Grandma's Boy - 1922   Posters of the period announce this as Harold Lloyd's first five- part feature; as such it is worth taking a look at this sweet comedy Lloyd did while he was still with Hal Roach's studio. Harold plays a timid young man who lives with his feisty grandma (Anna Townsend). He's frightened of his own shadow, really, and it's beginning to affect his relationship with the girl of his dreams (Mildred Davis). So Grandma tells Harold a story about his grandfather in the Civil War.
   Lloyd told silent film historian Kevin Brownlow that this film was his favorite of all his films, Harold Lloyd and Anna Townsendperhaps because it had nothing to do with the thrill features that came after it. And it set a pattern for many Lloyd characterizations to come, from The Freshman to The Kid Brother, of a timid, cowardly young man who gets pushed around until something or someone forces him out of his shell and into bravery.
    Co-starring Mildred Davis, a young actress who had a brief career before marrying Lloyd in 1923 and retiring, and 77-year-old Anna Townsend as Grandma, who would have lived through the Civil War as a child to starring in a film—how far we have come! — 54 min
Music by Jon Mirsalis

--Brief Break

Feature: College (1927) with Buster Keaton
Directed by James W. Horne
Keaton in College - 1927   In the mid-1920s America was crazy about anything college: college slang, college football, college fashion, collegiate songs. Harold Lloyd had made his most successful movie, The Freshman, in 1925, and many of the studios followed suit with stories set in colleges. With Buster Keaton's career on a slight decline after The General (believe it or not), he needed a success, and a movie set in a college seemed like a sure bet. But what irony: the most athletic of all the silent clowns, Buster, would be playing a nerdy brainiac who knows nothing about sports, much to the disappointment of his girl. Now to win her away from the college jock (Goodwin), he must put his smarts to learning how to play the game—all of them.
College, starring Buster Keaton - 1927   Keaton was at the peak of his skills as a filmmaker and comedian in 1927, but amazingly critics and audiences were lukewarm to him. Although he had his fans he always came in third in the box office race with Chaplin and Lloyd. Although College doesn't come high on Keaton's "best films" list it's got some great comedy and a spectacular finish. 65 min.
Music by Marvin Faulwell and Bob Keckeisen

Saturday - Feb. 28, 2015

Morning - starts at 9 a.m.

Opening Titles by Marvin Faulwell
Welcome & Introductions by Denise Morrison, Film Historian

Special Documentary — 60 min

Short: The Battle of the Century (1928) with Stan Laurel & Oliver Hardy
Directed by Clyde Bruckman
The Battle of the Century, with Laurel and Hardy   This film boasts a hilarious climactic pie fight that for many years was all that remained of this two reel Laurel and Hardy comedy. But as luck would have it, in 1979, the first reel was discovered. So now, put together with stills that make up the remaining lost footage, we have probably the most complete version of this short film we'll ever get. Unfortunately the still-missing footage involves that great character actor Eugene Pallette, but you can't have everything.
    The story has fight manager Hardy taking out an insurance policy on his puny pugilist Laurel, then trying to arrange for an accident so that he can collect. Things do not go quite as he planned however—they never did for Oliver unfortunately.
    It has been reported that the film used over 4,000 real custard and cream-filled pies for the big fight at the end. And it shows!
Music by Marvin Faulwell 13 min.

Short: A Movie Star (1916) with Mack Swain
Directed by Mack Sennett
A Movie Star, with Mack Swain   The irreverant comedy of Mack Sennett is on full display here in this two-reel comedy which makes fun of stardom and movie-going even in the early stages of the full blown idolotry we give stars today. Long time Sennett star Mack Swain stars as the movie star of the title; we see him head into the local movie house hoping to hear and see his film—and be seen by the audience, who will give him some love. But that's not exactly what he gets. We also see the film they are all watching, a western affair called "Big-Hearted Jack" that gives us insight into just what the audience is reacting to.
    Mack Sennett made fun of everything—taking satirical aim at the world around him. It is no surprise then that Sennett helped introduce self-referential humor to screen comedy: Mack Swainfilms that poke fun at themselves, other movies, movie-making, and the other aspects surrounding the cinema experience.
    Adding to the fun is the least likely western hero you're ever going to want to meet: Mack Swain. Swain is probably best remembered today as Chaplin's partner in The Gold Rush, but he was an experienced vaudevillian by the time he came to Sennett's Keystone Studio in 1913.
Music by Marvin Faulwell
— 20 min

Little Church Around the CornerFeature: The Little Church Around the Corner (1923) with Claire Windsor
   Kansas-born (and former Washburn student) Claire Windsor stars in this feature of a mining town and the people who inhabit it. It's a story about class conflict—the mine owners vs. the mine workers—and a story about redemption of the local minister, who grew up a poor miner's son but who was taken in by the owner and now has to decide Claire Windsorwhose side to be on. An explosion, an angry mob, and a miracle all bring his faith into focus.
    This melodrama reflects the Victorian Era in which the story was written. And the scenes inside the mine are the most realistic you'll see in a silent film—maybe sound film too! It's a treat to show off the talents of Claire Windsor, born in Marvin, Kansas. So few of her films survive!
Music by Jeff Rapsis 64 min.

--Lunch Break

Afternoon - starts at 1:00 p.m.

Opening Titles by Jeff Rapsis
Welcome & Introductions by Denise Morrison, Film Historian

Short: All Wet (1924) with Charley Chase
Directed by Leo McCarey
   The great Charley Chase returns and yes, he's all wet. A very simple premise—a situation Charlie Chasethat builds up to a whole lot more—that's what usually sustained a Chase film. Charley, as "Jimmy Jump," gets a telegram telling him to come to the train station to pick up something. But oh, he has such a hard time getting there!
    Charley Chase found his place at the Hal Roach Studio, where he originally went to be a director. But Roach thought he was best in front of the cameras, so he starred Chase in a series of short films with a character known as "Jimmy Jump." Chase never struck out for feature film stardom like some of his contemporaries, but that makes him no less brilliant at what he did. If you haven't discovered Charley Chase, then you're in for a treat.
Music by Jeff Rapsis 12 min.

Feature: The Birth of a Nation (1915) directed by D.W. Griffith
The Birth of a Nation - 1915  This is the 100th anniversary of The Birth of a Nation, a film that still has the power to provoke debate and strong emotions just as strongly as it did when it opened in 1915. That is a powerful gift—rightly or wrongly—to stir the emotions of a nation, as if director D. W. Griffith was taking the bandage off the painful memories of the war itself and laying it bare for everyone to take a look. Many directors have that gift, but few can use it to open such raw wounds as the Civil War.
    Griffith determined to make a film of Thomas Dixon's novel, The Clansman, in 1914. He gathered his loyal crew and stock company of actors and created what he felt was a pretty true depiction of history, mixed in with a story of two families—one Northern, one Southern—and how they survived the war and coped with Reconstruction—through triumph and tragedy. If Griffith thought he was recreating history The Birth of a Nation - 1915with which everyone would agree, imagine how shocked he was when the film sparked riots and was banned in over a dozen states—including Kansas.
    It was a shocking film back then with its depiction of the Ku Klux Klan as protectors of a defiled South during Reconstruction, but by today's standards, the second half of the film, in particular, can be a painful thing to watch. The fact that it's a technically advanced film for 1915 and that its director was at the top of his game only adds to the frustration—you are drawn to the story while being distracted by the emotional turmoil and "just wrongness" of the depictions. 193 min.

NOTICE: Viewer discretion advised: this film shows depictions of attempted rape, of a lynching, and scenes of racial stereotyping and violence •

First-half music by Jon Mirsalis

--Intermission Break in feature

The Birth of a Nation

Second-half music by Marvin Faulwell and Bob Keckeisen

   Following the film we discussed the implications of The Birth of a Nation—on the film industry, on history—and attempted to answer the question, "Why should we still be watching this movie?" Panel Discussion was with Jon Mirsalis, Kevin Willmott, film history professor at The University of Kansas and film director. Moderator was Denise Morrison 30 min.

--Dinner Break
5:15 p.m.: Supper Break — Program resuming at 7:30 p.m.

Special Dinner Event—
Our Seventh Annual
, 5:15-7:15 p.m.

Served buffet-style$30/person [non-refundable]
Bradbury Thompson Alumni Ctr., Washburn University, Topeka, KS

Those interested in attending can make reservations by mail:
KSFF Cinema-Dinner
P.O. Box 2032
Topeka, Kansas 66601-2032

"Silent Film Survival: How Bad Is It Really?"

Jon Mirsalis will pepper his talk with images from "lost" or nearly "lost" films. An exclusive for Cinema-Dinner attendees.

Tickets to this not-to-be-missed event are available for purchase by mail. The non-refundable price for the Cinema-Dinner is $30 per ticket, payable to Kansas Silent Film Festival. Mail your ticket request to: KSFF Cinema-Dinner P.O. Box 2032 Topeka, Kansas 66604-2032.

— Event is by reservation only. Contact us & reserve

Evening - starts at 7:30 p.m.

Overture and Opening Titles by Jeff Rapsis
Introductions by Denise Morrison, Film Historian

The Max Linder Collection with Max Linder
   This is a compilation of four very short comedies from the great Max Linder, France's silent film genius. His career runs roughly from 1905 to 1925 and, for the most part, he plays a dapper man-about-town who is constantly getting himself into trouble with the ladies and living life a little too large. His popularity grew, and he became one of the first international stars of cinema. Our films include A Skater's Debut (1905), Troubles of a Grasswidower (1912), Max and His Dog (1912) and Max Juggling for Love (1912).
    All originated in France and show Max at the peak of his career.
Music by Jeff Rapsis 25 min.

--Brief Break

Feature: The Sea Hawk (1924) with Milton Sills, Enid Bennett,
Lloyd Hughes, Wallace Beery
Directed by Frank Lloyd
   We're back on the high seas to finish out our festival with one of the most popular swashbucklers of the silent era (that didn't have Douglas Fairbanks in it!). Milton Sills stars as an English noble betrayed and shanghaied who gets his revenge by becoming a pirate king: "The Hawk of the Sea." Great cast and exceptional sets, with full scale ships, and exciting battle scenes make this one not to be missed.
    Although this film has been shown a few times on TCM we've got a great print with a hand-painted scene and beautiful color tints. If you're thinking this is just an older version of the Errol Flynn 1940 film, think again. Very little of the original Rafael Sabatini novel survives the Flynn version so our silent epic is the real deal. The cast includes the beautiful Enid Bennett and the great Wallace Beery, who steals every scene in which he appears.
Music by Jon Mirsalis 123 min.

Our Cast:

About Special Guest Jon Mirsalis:

Jon MirsalisJon Mirsalis is a two-time President of the Society for Cinephiles and has provided piano or digital piano accompaniment for silent films for over 20 years. Mirsalis is the Kansas Silent Film Festival's "go to" guy when it comes to discovering if a classic silent film still exists in any form or not. He usually has this knowledge off the top of his head. He is especially interested in the films of Lon Chaney Sr. For the 19th annual KSFF event, Jon will be playing piano or digital piano scores for the feature films, Grandma's Boy, The Birth of A Nation (Part 1) and The Sea Hawk. All feature film prints will be coming from Jon's own collection. He will also be our guest speaker at the KSFF Cinema Dinner where he will speak about "Silent Film Survival: How Bad Is It Really?" and pepper his talk with images from "lost" or nearly "lost" films.

About Special Guest Keven Willmott:

Kevin WillmottKevin Willmott is an Associate Professor in the Film Studies Department of Kansas University. He is also one of the most prolific independent writers and filmmakers working today. His writings and films focus on the concept of our "Living History"—how the history of the past can shape our lives, outlooks and opinions of other peoples and cultures today.
Willmott grew up in Junction City, KS, and attended Marymount College receiving his BA in Drama. After graduation, he returned home, working as a peace and civil rights activist, fighting for rights of the poor, creating two Catholic Worker shelters for the homeless and fighting for integration. He attended graduate studies at New York University, Tisch School of the Arts, receiving several writing awards and his M.F.A. in Dramatic Writing. Kevin will be part of our The Birth of a Nation panel discussion.

About Denise Morrison:

Denise MorrisonDenise Morrison is a film historian from Kansas City, Missouri, with a special focus on silent film. She is Director of Collections & Curatorial Services with Union Station in Kansas City, Missouri, and has been involved with the Kansas Silent Film Festival since the beginning. She was quite active with the Granada Theatre in Kansas City, Kansas, when they were showing a full schedule of silent movies. Denise will give an overview of the silent film era and also provide introductions to each film.

About Marvin Faulwell:

Dr. Marvin FaulwellDr. Marvin Faulwell is a retired dentist from Kansas City who is a very accomplished theatre organist. He has played for all of the previous five Silent Film Festivals and our "sister project," Silents in the Cathedral, held every Halloween at Grace Cathedral in Topeka. He has a large theatre organ in his home and also restores the instruments. He has appeared in concert and accompanied silent film programs in Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas, and Minnesota and also accompanied many silent films shown at the Granada Theatre in Kansas City, Kansas.

About Jeff Rapsis:

Jeff RapsisJeff Rapsis is a New Hampshire-based composer and musician who regularly accompanies silent film programs. His recent work includes a new piano score for the The Bells (1926) starring Lionel Barrymore, to be released by Reel Classic DVDs, and a new synthesizer score for the 1916 version of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, premiered last year at the Boston Sci-Fi Marathon. Upcoming live engagements include the Cinefest vintage film festival, held each March in Syracuse, N.Y. Jeff is associate publisher and co-owner of HippoPress, New Hampshire's largest weekly newspaper, and teaches communications at the University of New Hampshire. His first novel will be published in 2013 by Sophia Omni Press of New York. For more information on Jeff's silent film work, visit www.jeffrapsis.com.

About Bob Keckeisen:

Bob KeckeisenBob Keckeisen has been principal percussionist for the Topeka Symphony Orchestra since 1989. Bob has been delighting audiences recently at the Kansas Silent Film Festival by adding remarkable percussive music and sound effects to several films. Bob grew up in Wichita and studied percussion under J.C. Combs at Wichita State University. He obtained both his undergraduate and graduate degrees in history from WSU and moved to Topeka in 1982.
Bob has retired as director of the Kansas Museum of History in Topeka, is assistant director of the Topeka Symphony Orchestra and frequently volunteers for KTWU Channel 11.

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Kansas Silent Film Festival, Inc. is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization. This event is funded by generous donations, and welcomes your support. Your tax deductible gift will be gratefully acknowledged.
        Kansas Silent Film Festival, Inc.
        P.O. Box 2032
        Topeka, Kansas 66601-2032
E-mail contact - bill.shaffer@washburn.edu Or zzshaf2@gmail.com

All donations are appreciated.