DeMille’s Silent Ten Commandments at The Paramount This Sunday

Thanks to mine olde pal Mr. Whybark who had the foresight to make a reminder post to his own blog that reminded me that I told him over xmas that this Sunday (1/8) commences the latest of the superlative series of silent film screenings at Seattle’s own olde once-upon-a-time movie palace, The Paramount. I’d a been kicking myself if I’d forgotten, and I prolly woulda.

The theme this time is the silent works of Cecil B. DeMille, leading off with The Ten Commandments (1923). Take note! It’s all on Sunday afternoons this time ’round, at 4pm.

Mike also links to a fine review of the film by David Jeffers over at SIFFblog. Mr. Jeffers also offers an entertaining post about a 30 year feud between CB and the Gower Gulch boys — gen-yoo-ine cowpokes turned Hollywood stuntmen — that began during the shooting of the epic.

Even if you have a passing interest or morbid curiosity about silent films, you can hardly do better than to experience any given selection of the series The Paramount has been hosting a couple times a year for 5 years or so now. The Paramount was originally built to be a movie palace during the mid-’20s, the hayday (heyday?) of movie palaces, and man is it a gorgeous theater. The original Mighty Wurlitzer (or at least a lovingly restored version of it) is still in place and maintained by the Puget Sound Theatre Organ Society, occupying enormous bays on either side of the stage.

The films are accompanied by Dennis James on the aforementioned organ. Dennis is a living (and thankfully fairly young) living treasure of world cinema, having done more than probably any other person to preserve the art of silent film organ accompaniment. He’s also very good at it (the playing and the preservation both). Better still, he’s friendly, personably, and kind of a goofball — no stodgy silent film blowhard he, nossir. Mike and I have an especial warm spot for Dennis because he got his start back in the ’70s in Bloomington, IN, where Mike hails from and where I spent a fair amount of my spent youth. (It’s just spent, is all.) In those days, no one was doing the proper organ accompaniment deal, so to be able to attend Halloween screenings of The Phantom of the Opera with live organ was a treat we Hoosiers scarcely deserved but were most grateful for (especially judging by the mobs of people who would attend).

So yeah, seriously: see silent epics in a genuine, fully restored movie palace complete with live accompaniment on a GIANT Wurlitzer organ…? What the hell are you waiting for?!

Other films in this series include Carmen (1915) and The Cheat (1915), plus on Feb. 6 what’s being billed as a “bonus” film, The Scar of Shame (1926), the first film by the Colored Players Film Corporation of Philadelphia and a famous example of what were called “race films” back in the day. (That means real black people actually made the thing. Gosh!)

Coming up in August: adventure films! Get out yer swash and buckle it, G.

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