Get SF Weekly Newsletters
Pin It

Second Time Around 

Wednesday, Aug 20 1997
Comments
Silents at the Stanford
One of the nicer attributes of Palo Alto's Stanford Theater is its insistence on reviving the lost art form of silent cinema. On the far side of the sound barrier films had to make a direct appeal to the emotions, be they robust, sentimental, pathetic, or broadly humorous. No more affecting films were ever made than silents, and no funnier ones either. The Stanford has been playing silent films every Wednesday this summer, with virtuoso organ accompaniment by Dennis James. This Wednesday (Aug. 20) the Stanford screens Erich von Stroheim's The Merry Widow, fresh from its triumphal screening in the Silent Film Festival at the Castro last month. This was the legendary director's most commercially successful film, a blending of MGM schmaltz and Stroheim's own peculiar brand of Viennese bitters. A fair amount of downright corny melodrama weighs down the film's first half, flattering American Puritanism with an insistently virginal heroine (Mae Murray, an acquired taste) in the company of men -- two rapacious, shaved, and leering officers in a Ruritanian army. The less twisted one (John Gilbert) reforms for love, and the film miraculously becomes genuinely adult in its emotions in its second half, with some very believable bitterness in its later scenes. One leaves the theater wrung out from the pity of it all -- just as one leaves the theater wrung out with laughter from the best silent comedies. Next Wednesday's offering (Aug. 27) is Harold Lloyd's last silent, the spry Speedy of 1928. No one contrived comic sequences better than Lloyd, the key word being "contrived," since his gags were created for Lloyd's character (an archetypal nice young man) rather than growing organically from some inner place, as with Chaplin and Keaton. Speedy, which has something to do with trolley cars, is still a continuous yell of delight.

-- Gregg Rickman

The Merry Widow screens at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 20; Speedy screens at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 27. Both shows are at the Stanford, 221 University (at Emerson), Palo Alto. Tickets are $6; call 324-3700.

About The Author

Gregg Rickman

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Slideshows

  • 24th Annual Autumn Moon Festival
    Crowds gathered September 6-7 for the 24th Annual Autumn Moon Festival in Chinatown. Visitors enjoyed arts, crafts, cultural exhibits, food and a dog fashion show. Photographs by Dhoryan Rizo.
  • Felton: Touring the Redwoods
    Blue skies meet redwood canopies in the mountain town of Felton, located just north of Santa Cruz on Highway 9. Once a bustling logging community, the town is now a mix of mellow locals and serene wilderness. Visitors can enjoy the redwoods in nearby Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park and splash in swimming holes in the San Lorenzo River. For a bite to eat stop by Rocky’s Cafe for fruit-laden pancakes, barbeque at the Cowboy Bar & Grill and poolside burgers at the Trout Farm Inn. Other stops worth checking out include Roaring Camp Railroads, the Mount Hermon zip line tour, and the educational Bigfoot Discovery Museum. For beer or cocktails a log cabin bar has you covered.

Popular Stories

  1. Most Popular Stories
  2. Stories You Missed