Get Set For Silent Movie Mondays

March 23, 2023

Looking for a unique and nostalgic way to experience cinema? Look no further than Silent Movie Mondays, Vancouver Civic Theatres‘ new film series hosted at the historic Orpheum Theatre. Step back in time to the 1920s silent movie era, with screenings of popular productions accompanied by a live soundtrack played on the last theatre organ in Canada still performing in its original home: the Mighty Wurlitzer. We chatted with Suzanne Lloyd, granddaughter of silent film Safety Last’s lead actor, Harold Lloyd, to learn more. —Noa Nichol

We hear that the historic Orpheum Theatre will be hosting a new film series called Silent Movie Mondays; can you tell us all about it?

Silent Movie Mondays invites guests to travel back to the 1920s silent movie era at the historic Orpheum theatre in downtown Vancouver. The experience features screenings of popular silent productions accompanied by live music played on the mighty Wurlitzer organ—the last theatre organ in Canada still performing in its original home. Films that will be shown are Safety Last (May 1), The General (June 5) and Charlie Chaplin Shorts (July 10). I was invited to the opening night showing that my grandfather starred in: Safety Last. It’s the 100th anniversary of the film this May 1 so I am very excited to come to Vancouver and be a part of the inaugural event.

We hear there’s an incredibly special instrument that will accompany the films with a live soundtrack; what’s unique about this Wurlitzer?

The Wurlitzer is a very special instrument. This organ has the ability to sound like a whole orchestra; it was most popular in the early 1920s. Film composers like to use the Wurlitzer for the range of sound you can get out of it, along with the compositions you can create. In fact, the Wurlitzer is beginning to surface again in today’s film industry, in shows like True Blood, Carnival Row, and Hollywood by Ryan Murphy. Music is half the product of the show. Vancouver is very lucky to have such a great Wurlitzer in its midst.

What are some of the movies that will be shown? Do you have a favourite among them?

Films that will be shown are Safety Last (May 1), The General (June 5) and Charlie Chaplin Shorts (July 10). The films star the most recognized faces of the Silent area with my grandfather Harold Lloyd, Buster Keaton, and Charlie Chaplin—all widely considered among the most influential comedians of the silent film era. As for my favourite, I’m going to have to say Safety Lastnot only did my grandfather star in it, but my grandmother, too. They actually were engaged while filming, got married once wrapped, and went to the premier as a married couple. It’s a true love story that I hold dearly to my heart.

Generally, what has the role of silent films been in the evolution of film history?

The silent movie industry entertained people from all walks of life; it was also an important time of artistic innovation in motion pictures. Silent movies provided a strong foundation for talking pictures, and the flourishing film industry we know today. As a bonus, beautiful theatres were built for vaudeville and the silent movie area. The Orpheum was one of the original movie houses on the west coast. It’s a terrific experience to be able to celebrate the art form in a venue where silent films were watched during their heyday.

Who should attend these films, and why?

Well, the whole world’s just a bit of a mess right now, so I think everyone should go. My grandfather was very much a comedic man, who really made himself, and the movies he produced and starred in, relatablelike what you were seeing on screen could happen to you or your neighbour. Take a night off, bring your friends and family, and escape from life for a night. Go enjoy yourself!


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