Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Kansas Silent Film Festival (2014)

Hollywood. New York City. San Francisco. These are some of the locations you probably think of when it comes to classic film. But what if I told you Kansas should be in this list? While many folks consider places like Kansas as more of a "fly over state," or only associate any classic film via Dorothy and Toto, Kansas actually offers much more, with a rich history in early film. As the birthplace of early film greats like Buster Keaton, Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle, Louise Brooks, Claire Windsor and Zasu Pitts, Kansas is also home to the Kansas Silent Film Festival. Recently I attended the 18th installment of this annual fest.
On the final weekend of February, this year's festival kicked off to a warm reception in the midst of a bitterly cold Kansas climate. Taking place at the Washburn University in Topeka, the schedule began that Friday evening with a robust schedule welcomed by and overture by Jeff Rapsis and introductions by film historian, Denise Morrison. Here's the weekend's full schedule...
Friday, 2/28: (start at 7pm)

FELIX IN HOLLYWOOD (1923) -produced by Pat Sullivan/ live music by Rodney Sauer

ELLA CINDERS (1926) -starring Colleen Moore/ live music by Marvin Faulwell and Bob Keckeisen

DOUBLING FOR ROMEO (1921) -starring Will Rogers/ live music by Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra

Saturday, 3/1: (starting at 10am)
 *Focus on Early Animation...

Animation Compilation (circa 1900) including: THE ENCHANTED DRAWING, AESOP'S FABLE, HEY DIDDLE DIDDLE.../ live music by Marvin Faulwell

THE ADVENTURES OF DOLLIE (1908) -starring Gladys Egan/ live music by Marvin Faulwell

THE PATSY (1928) -starring Marion Davies/ live music by Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra

 *Focus on Hollywood on Hollywood...

MODELING (1921) -animated short by Max and Dave Fleischer featuring Koko the Clown/ live music by Marvin Faulwell

BUPPY BUMPS PUTS A BEANERY ON THE BUM (1918) -cartoon by Eral Hurd/ live music by Rodney Sauer

CRAZY TO ACT (1927) -starring Oliver Hardy/ live music by Jeff Rapsis

DEVIL HORSE (1926) -starring 'Rex the Wonder Horse'/ live music by Jeff Rapsis

PREHISTORIC POULTRY (1917) -animated short by Willis O'Brien/ live music by Bob Keckeisen

SOULS FOR SALE (1923) -starring Eleanor Boardman and Richard Dix/ live music by Marvin Faulwell

[6th annual CINEMA DINNER]

 *Focus on Charlie Chapman- A Salute to the Little Tramp's Centennial 

CHARLIE ON THE WINDMILL (1916) -animated short by Movca Film/ live music by Jeff Rapsis

THE MASQUERADER (1914) -short feature starring Charlie Chaplin

MODERN TIMES (1936) -starring Charlie Chaplin and Paulette Goddard/ with musical soundtrack
This was my 2nd year to attend this wondrous fest. Joined by my hubby Gary, our pal Trevor (aka Trevor @tpjost via twitter), and Meredith (aka @meredithriggs39 and her dad), we regaled in the festivities. We always look forward to seeing familiar faces including Kansas Silent Film President, Bill Shaffer, at this lovely fest. Unfortunately, the Kansas winter blizzard kept our dear Nebraska friends Nikki (aka @nikkilynn4 on twitter) and her husband Brian from joining us.
I fully enjoyed this robust line-up of silent treasures. I think it was a lovely treat to enjoy some very early silent animation pieces, in addition to the typical shorts and features. For example, it had been a very long time since I had seen 'Felix the cat' as I had only seen partial clips, not any full-length animation segments as I had that evening. I enjoy the way film historian Denise Morrison introduces each film choice with some background history and trivia that never fails to fascinate me.

The only negative aspect of this event was namely the weather. This resulted in us leaving early on Saturday evening, thereby missing the experience of the Charlie Chaplin salute of MODERN TIMES and the two accompanying shorts. With the sole exception of DEVIL HORSE (1926) due to its overt racism against Native Americans that was unfortunately a sign of the times, all the features in this festival's line-up were a complete joy.
The highlights of the weekend included seeing Clarence G. Badger's DOUBLING FOR ROMEO (1921), a delightful poke at 'making it in Hollywood' in a thoroughly humorous Will Rogers style, and Marion Davies' hilarious physical comedy antics in King Vidor's THE PATSY (1928)... both featured live music from the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra. But just like last year, the most treasured segment of this year's schedule was the Cinema Dinner. This time we were treated with silent film pianist Jeff Rapsis' presentation of a 'lost' Pickford film, THEIR FIRST MISUNDERSTANDING (1911) that was discovered in a New Hampshire barn! For more info on this incredible recent rescue: click here Each of the table settings came with a framed Pickford photo as a charming souvenir. I certainly didn't leave empty handed. In addition to my memories of this enchanted weekend spent with fellow silent film aficionados, I also picked up some classic film jewelry, and an 8mm film reel set of William Beaudine's Mary Pickford classic SPARROWS (1926)! 
I highly recommend attending this film festival for any film fan, but especially for you classic and silent film obsessives. With exception of the Cinema Dinner, the entire weekend is always free. Yet the future success and continued survival of the Kansas Silent Film Festival is reliant upon donations, so I encourage you to consider giving, as generously as you are able...    


  1. Looks like such fun. You're lucky to have this very special festival close to home. Too bad it isn't held it a warmer time of the year.

    1. Thanks, Jacqueline! I do feel very fortunate to have 2 amazing film fests- the Kansas Silent Film Festival and the Buster Keaton Celebration- so close by! And YES- we gotta get the timing better though... Brrr!

  2. I am so jealous! This sounds like a fabulous festival, despite the weather. Thanks for sharing your experiences with us. :)

    1. If you ever make your way via Kansas, I'd love to have you join us! Thanks for reading & commenting. :)

  3. This was wonderful! Thanks for sharing your experience. I was delighted especially to see the picture of you with Jeff Rapsis. He does a lot of wonderful performances in my area!