Silent Film Benefit promises to be trancendental journey to the past

Courtesy of the Catalina Island Muesum

Attendees of this year’s Catalina Island Museum Silent Film Benefit will be transported back to 1931 with the screening of Charlie Chaplin’s silent masterpiece “City Lights.” Though it was released three years after talking pictures made their debut, “City Lights” delighted audiences and was praised by critics.

Courtesy of the Catalina Island Muesum

Attendees of this year’s Catalina Island Museum Silent Film Benefit will be transported back to 1931 with the screening of Charlie Chaplin’s silent masterpiece “City Lights.” Though it was released three years after talking pictures made their debut, “City Lights” delighted audiences and was praised by critics.

The New York Times film critic Mordaunt Hall attended the premiere and proclaimed, “Chaplin hilarious in his ‘City Lights’! The Tramp’s antics in this non-dialogue film bring roars of laughter at the Cohan Theatre.”

In his review Hall wrote about the crowd’s reaction, “Many of the spectators either rocking in their seats with mirth, mumbling as their sides ached, “Oh, dear, oh, dear,” or they were stilled with sighs and furtive tears. And during a closing episode, when the Little Tramp sees through the window of a flower shop the girl who has recovered her sight through his persistence, one woman could not restrain a cry.”

About Chaplin and the film itself, Hall stated, “It is a film worked out with admirable artistry, and while Chaplin stoops to conquer, as he has invariably done, he achieves success.

Although the Little Tramp in this “City Lights” in some sequences is more respectable than usual, owing to circumstances in the story, he begins and ends with the same old clothes, looking, in fact, a trifle bedraggled in the last scene than in most others of his comedies.

He has the same antics, the same flip of the heel, the same little cane, mustache, derby hat and baggy trousers… The synchronized music score helps the movement of this comedy. It was composed by Chaplin and arranged by Arthur Johnston. There are times when the notes serve almost for words and so far as sound effects go, Chaplin won gales of laughter last night when the Tramp swallows a whistle and every time he breathes he whistles. This sound interlude was made the most of, for the whistle calls cabs and dogs and angers a host of people.”

“It was a joyous evening. Mr. Chaplin’s shadow has grown no less,” concluded Hall.

Variety complimented Chaplin saying, “The British comic is still the consummate pantomimist, unquestionably one of the greatest the stage or screen has ever known.”

In later years, famed movie critic Roger Ebert said of “City Lights”, “It contains the slapstick, the pathos, the pantomime, the effortless physical coordination, the melodrama, the bawdiness, the grace, and, of course, the Little Tramp – the character said, at one time, to be the most famous image on earth.”

The Catalina Island Museum Silent Film Benefit featuring Chaplin’s silent masterpiece “City Lights” will take place on Saturday, May 17 at 1 p.m. Grammy Award-winning conductor Richard Kaufman and a 39-piece symphony orchestra will perform Chaplin’s original score in the Avalon Casino Theatre.

Tickets for this year’s Silent Film Benefit are on sale now. Arrive in your best 1920s dress and receive a 50 percent discount on admission to the Silent Film Benefit! Prizes will be awarded to the best-dressed individual and couple. Tickets are $15 for members of the museum, $18 for general admission and $9 for those in period dress.

Purchasing tickets is easy. Please call 310-510-2414, visit the museum in person, go to the Silent Film event page on www.CatalinaMuseum.org, or mail your payment to Catalina Island Museum, PO Box 366, Avalon, CA 90704 (Attn: Silent Film).

The Catalina Island Museum is Avalon’s sole institution devoted to art, culture and history.  The museum, its digital theater and store are located on the ground floor of Avalon’s historic Casino and are open 7 days a week, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

For more information, Telephone 310-510-2414 or at its website: CatalinaMuseum.org.

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