An original 1927 silent movie? In an original 1927 theater? With the original Wurlitzer organ? As a history buff that sounds too good to be true. But it IS true. The Mount Baker Theatre in Bellingham, WA is just such a place to see it.
How romantic it is to sit in a balcony with your sweetie, in a theater that does not feature the blarring of guns and explosives, (but rather old time rag tunes) and watch true romance fill the silver screen. Just being in this space feels lavish. The Mount Baker Theatre was built for vaudeville shows and silent films. True to the times, the ceiling and walls are ornately decorated in a Moorish style. Over the years, the theater has been meticulously cared for and restored.
As the lights dimmed, the organ rose from the pit on stage and Dennis James emerged, playing a snappy tune, while perfectly looking the part in white suit and straw hat. He served as both the organist and the narrator for the evening. Taking the microphone he asked the crowd if they had recognized the music? He then revealed it was a song popular in 1927, titled Take Your Girl to the Movies if you Can’t Make Love at Home.
“This is as close as one can get to time travel,” he said, “to watch this movie, in this theater, with this organ playing.”
I was watching the Mount Baker Theatre’s silent film series with My Best Girl starring Mary Pickford and Charles “Buddy” Rogers. Dennis explained that the leading man and lady actually fell in love while making this movie. Their eventual marriage lasted 42 years. Dennis showed home movies of the couple before the main feature, and he warmly related stories of meeting Buddy in the 1970s.
“Buddy told me he took one look at Mary on the set and knew she was his best girl. Seeing this film still makes my cry,” said Dennis.
For some reason I had a preconceived vision in my mind of silent films being zany comedies, but this was not the case. My Best Girl was captivating with superb acting, lighting and camera work. It was nominated for an academy award for cinematography. The story of a department store stock girl who innocently falls in love with the store owner’s son, was filled with emotion, guided by the crisp, clear organ music. It was a delight to see it in this beautiful theater environment. By the time the lights rose, I was ready to buy tickets to the next two shows!
The 2016-2017 silent movie series continues with the following films:
Sunday, Oct. 9, 2016 at 3 p.m. – Peter Pan
Peter Pan (1924) conjures a world of mermaids, fairies, pirate ships, and magical forests where childhood is forever and make-believe is real. For many years this delightful tale was one of the most sought-after lost films of the silent era. It underwent a complete restoration in 1995, and organist/historian Dennis James was commissioned to restore the original score.
Sunday, Jan. 8, 2017 at 3 p.m. – Hamlet
Film and theater scholars hail this performance of international film star Asta Nielsen as among the best Hamlets ever. This 1921 film, which recasts Hamlet as a woman, was a landmark in early cinema, and The New York Times says the picture, “holds a secure place in class with the best.” Nielsen’s performance is mysterious and magnetic. Don’t miss this unique cinematic treasure.
Sunday, May, 14, 2016 at 3 p.m. – Ben Hur
The universal themes of the fight against oppression and spiritual redemption are the source of Ben-Hur‘s continued appeal. Condemned to a lifetime of slavery by Roman officers, the son of a wealthy Jewish family embarks on an epic quest to reclaim his family and freedom, rising from lowly ship slave to champion charioteer. The film cost 20 times the average MGM release in 1925 and featured an infamous chariot race scene—the product of 200,000 feet of film from 42 cameras, this death-defying sequence is still a thrilling theatre experience today.
This is a great experience for all ages. Tickets to the shows can be purchased online or at the box office. Prices are $22.50 / $15.50 / and $10.50, with applicable fees. For more details call 360-735-6080.