Silent Films with Live Original Musical Scores!
Tom & Laurie Reese have developed live original musical scores, using acoustic flutes and cello, written especially for each film. The music follows the dynamics of each film, and incorporates jazz improvisation along with structured compositional ideas. Performed live, viewing the film along with the audience, each performance is unique within the bounds of the movie's highlights.
* Some of these film scores have been recorded, and are available with our scores in our store, or on Amazon.
ON TV! These silent film classics featuring a recorded original score by Tom & Laurie Reese, can be seen on LCTV, Cable Channel 66 (Lancaster, PA & surrounding areas). See TV Guide for showtimes! January & February 2013 showing "Why Worry? at 3:30 pm daily (check the Guide). Stay tuned for next month's listing!
In the News: A thousand faces & a thousand sounds (Entertainment Lancaster, Jan 27th, 2012), R&R with R&R (Jan 12th, 2012), Reading Eagle (Jan 5th, 2012) ... read ALL newspaper articles (as of August 2012) about this project in a pdf file here.
Please see Calendar for current live schedule.
Watch our promotional Video about bringing a Concert with a Classic Silent Film to your Theater or Performance Space now!
Silent film scores include:
A CHRISTMAS CAROL (1907)
Running Time: 11 minutes
An early film version by Thomas Edison of Charles Dicken's popular Christmas story. Scrooge gets shown the error of his miserly ways by the ghosts of Christmas Past, Christmas Present & Christmas Future.
Running Time: 20 minutes
The unending search for love again poses problems for Buster Keaton. A runaway balloon ride lands him in danger, yet fulfills his quest for love.
BIRTH OF A NATION (1915) directed by DW Griffith
Running Time: 134 minutes (edited)
The Birth of a Nation is a controversial silent film directed by D.W. Griffith, based on the play The Clansman and the book The Leopard's Spots, both by Thomas Dixon. It was released in 1915 and has been credited with securing the future of feature length films (any film over an hour in length) as well as solidifying the codes of film language. The film premiered on February 8, 1915 in Los Angeles, California under the title The Clansman, but three months later was retitled with the present title at its world premiere in New York.
Two brothers, Phil and Ted Stoneman, visit their friends in Piedmont, South Carolina: the family Cameron. This friendship is affected by the Civil War, as the Stonemans and the Camerons must join up opposite armies. The consequences of the War in their lives are shown in connection to major historical events, like the development of the Civil War itself, Lincoln's assassination, and the birth of the Ku Klux Klan.
The controversy of the film revolves around its premise of a post-Civil War America, (also referred to as the Reconstruction) where the Ku Klux Klan successfully redeems the South from "carpetbaggers" and "mulattos," perceived in the film as evil. Even at the time of the film's release, people vigorously protested the film. However, the success of the film made Griffith a wealthy man. Griffith was surprised by the harsh criticism and his next major project, Intolerance tried to address the issues raised. The film has been strongly linked to the creation of the second version of the Ku Klux Klan, which, after having been practically non-existent since 1871, was revived in the year of this movie's release.
The Birth of a Nation was at one time the highest grossing film of all time, taking in more than $10 million at the box office. It remained the highest grossing film until 1925 when the film The Big Parade surpassed it as the highest grossing silent film of all time.
THE BLACKSMITH (1920) Buster Keaton
Running time: 20 Minutes
Buster is an assistant blacksmith with a knack for destroying whatever he attempts to fix, and is, as usual, unlucky in love. This hilarious short film includes inventive sight gags.
THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI (1919) directed by Robert Wiene
Running Time: 52 minutes
The most brilliant example of that dark and twisted film movement known as German expressionism, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is a plunge into the mind of insanity that severs all ties with the rational world. Werner Krauss (Dr. Caligari) stars as a deranged hypnotist who spreads death through the countryside from a ramshackle traveling carnival. Before the naive eyes of the townspeople, he unveils the contents of his coffin-like cabinet: Cesare (Conrad Veidt), a spidery sleepwalker who obeys his every command. But at night, once the crowds have dispersed, Caligari lifts the lid on darker intentions, unleashing the dreadful Cesare to act upon his master’s murderous whims and carnal desires.
In making Caligari, director Robert Wiene and designers Warm, Reimann and Röhrig crafted a nightmare realm in which light, shadow and substance are abstracted, a world in which a demented doctor and a carnival sleepwalker perpetuate a series of murders in a small community. They combined techniques of painting, theatre and film to conjure a nightmare world of splintered reality, boldly creating a visual representation of insanity, taking the art of cinema a lengthy stride into unexplored stylistic and psychological terrain, hinting at the terrifying power the medium might possess.
The edition that will be presented is the original black & white version, not the color-tinted version.
Running Time: 63 minutes
1927 movie production "COLLEGE" starring BUSTER KEATON, and ANNE CORNWALL. Buster Keaton stars in one of his most memorable roles as Ronald, who gives a high school valedictory address that praises books and condemns sports. His girlfriend Mary thinks that's terrible of him, and refuses to speak to him until he changes his mind. Afraid he might lose her, Ronald goes to college and tries to become a star athlete...with expectedly and unexpectedly disastrous results.
Dr Jekyll & Mr. Hyde (1920) starring John Barrymore
Running Time: 84 minutes
One of John Barrymore's best works. A gruesome tale by Robert Louis Stephenson. Dr. Henry Jekyll, a scientist & physician, is criticized for not experiencing the more sensuous side of life. He finally comes up with a formula that will allow him to separate the two sides of himself, one that is his "normal" persona, and one that can explore the "darker" nature of humanity. He names his dark side Mr. Hyde, and creates a whole safety zone for him. It isn't long before Mr. Hyde starts to dominate his life.
Running Time: 75 minutes
Union solders have stolen The General, a Confederate train manned by Johnnie Gray (Keaton), who was unable to enlist in the Confederate army because he is needed as an engineer. The Union plans to use the train to supply its soldiers in a sneak attack against the Confederates. But now it's up to Gray and his love, Annabelle Lee, to reclaim The General, recross enemy lines, and warn the Confederates.
Although "The General" was widely panned by critics in 1927 for being "too serious", Buster Keaton called the film "my personal best" later in life. Today the silent classic, based on a true Civil War tale, is one of Keaton's most popular films ever.
THE GOLD RUSH (1925) Charlie Chaplin
Running Time: 96 minutes
This is the original silent version, released in 1925. The Gold Rush was re-released in 1942 by Charlie Chaplin narrating and with music composed by Mr. Chaplin himself. It tells the story of The Little Fellow who sets off, like many others, to find his fortune in gold. He meets up with Big Jim McKay and Black Larsen. A wind & snow storm shuts them in Black's cabin, where food becomes scarce. The Little Fellow accidentally shoots a bear, thus saving the day by providing many, many meals! He finally makes it back to town. A very famous scene includes "dancing muffins" as he dreams of his love coming for dinner. Big Jim shows up in town, makes The Little Fellow lead him back to the cabin. They find his stashed loot, becoming millionaires, and he is even reunited with his love!
The Great Train Robbery (1903)
Running Time: 11 minutes
An American Western film written, produced, & directed by Edwin S. Porter (a former Edison studios cameraman). It depicts the first murders on film. Robbers take over a train at gunpoint, robbing all the passengers & killing when necessary. In a final shootout, all the bandits are killed. An additional scene is included in the film: a close up of the leader of the bandits, firing point blank towards the camera. While usually placed at the end, Porter stated that the scene could also be played at the beginning.
THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME (1923) starring Lon Chaney
Running Time: 100 minutes
Set in fifteenth century Paris, Quasimodo (Chancy) is the Hunchback of Notre Dame, ridiculed by the town folk for his deformity. The brother of the archdeacon plots with the gypsy king to create a peasant revolt. Quasimodo is befriended by and entranced with Esmeralda, a gypsy princess. He is accused of trying to capture & abduct Esmeralda, and is punished for it. She shows him kindness, giving him water after he is tortured as punishment. Esmeralda falls in love with Phoebus de Chateaupers, who rescued her during the attempted abduction. When she is sentenced to hang, falsely accused of attacking Phoebus, Quasimodo rescues her, giving her sanctuary in the church where he lives.
THE LIGHT OF FAITH (1922) starring Lon Chaney
Running Time: 32 minutes
Elaine, a young girl, shows up at a boarding house, seemingly poor and tortured by illness. The local thief (portrayed by Lon Chaney), also rooming at the boarding house, befriends her, and hears about a "magic" chalice. This chalice is reported to have been used by Jesus Christ at the Last Supper, which was subsequently lost for many years. The chalice has healing powers to all who touch it. Wanting to heal his friend, this thief then steals "The Holy Grail" for her. He steals it from her boyfriend, who turns out to be the cause of, and the cure for, her illness which the doctor determined to be "of the heart." The boyfriend then presses charges against him in court until he sees that his love, Elaine, has truly been healed and has forgiven him. This film is adapted from a full-length film called The Light in the Dark.
THE LOST WORLD (1925)
Running Time: 68 minutes
The Lost World is a 1925 silent film adaptation of Arthur Conan Doyle's book of the same name. It stars Wallace Beery as Professor Challenger. This version was directed by Harry O. Hoyt and featured pioneering stop motion special effects by Willis O'Brien (an invaluable warm up for his work on the original King Kong directed by Merian C. Cooper). The film has been deemed "culturally significant" by the Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry.
The journal of explorer Maple White is recovered from a plateau in South America featuring sketches of dinosaurs, which is enough proof for the eccentric Professor Challenger that dinosaurs still walk the earth. With that, John Roxton (sportsman), news reporter Edward Malone (whom wishes to go on the expedition to impress his fiance'), Challenger and Paula White (as well as an Indian servant, Zambo) leave for the plateau. They get onto the plateau by cutting down a tree and using it as a bridge, but it is knocked over by a brontosaurus, leaving them trapped. The explorers are shocked when they discover that a large rock has been sent their way by an ape-man perched on top of a ledge. As the crew look up to see their attacker, Challenger spies a Pteranodon (mistakenly referred to as a pterodactyl in the film) overhead and proves that the statement in Maple White's diary is true. The explorers witness various life-and-death struggles between the prehistoric beasts of the platue. During which, an Allosaurus makes its way to the camp site and attacks the exploration party. It is finally driven off by Ed Malone who throws a burning torch into the beast's mouth. Convinced that the camp isn't safe, Ed Malone climbs a tree to search for a new location, but is attacked by the ape-man. John Roxton succeeds in shooting the ape man, but the creature is merely wounded and escapes before John can finish him off. The explorers then make preparations to live on the plateau potentially indefinitely. A catapult is constructed and a in search for Maple White, his remains are found confirming his death. It is at this time that Ed confesses his love for Paula and the two are unofficially wed. Shortly afterwards, as the paleontologists are observing a Brontosaurus, it is attacked by an allosaur and falls of the edge of the platue, becoming trapped in a mud bank. Soon afterwards, a volcano erupts, causing a mass stampede among the giant beasts of the prehistoric world. In the end, the crew is saved when Paula White's pet monkey Chico climbs a rope up the plateau and the crew climb down. As Ed makes his descent, he is again attacked by the ape-man who pulls the rope later. The ape-man is again shot, and this time killed, by Sir. John Roxton. The Brontosaurus that was pushed off the plateau had landed softly in the mud at the bottom of the plateau, and Challenger manages to bring it back to London, as he wants to put it on display. However, it escapes and causes havoc until it reaches the London Bridge, where it's massive weight causes it to break through, into the English channel where it swims away. Challenger is morose as the creature leaves, whereas Edward Malone discovers that the love he left in London has married in his absence, allowing him and Paula to be together.
THE LOVE NEST (1923) Buster Keaton
Running time: 20 Minutes
In a parody of Jack London's novel the Sea Wolf, Buster is trapped on a ship with a tyrannical captain. The ship & it's crew is not what it seems to be, however, and Buster Keaton sails the seas to discover the truth.
The Mark of Zorro (1920)
Running Time: 98 minutes
The son of a wealthy landowner makes his "mark" as he tries to stop corruption and mistreatment of the natives. He carves a "Z" into the faces of those he conquers, while saving the natives and undertrodden. He falls in love with the beautiful Lolita Pulido, whose family is facing poverty and ruin at the hands of the corrupt Governor Alvaredo.
METROPOLIS (1927) directed by Fritz Lang
Running Time: Varies from 115 minutes to 150 minutes
There can be no understanding between the hands and the brain unless the heart acts as mediator... This futuristic fantasy is about a subterranean factory that is ruled by titans, betrayed by robots, and saved by love. Set in the year 2000, the story takes place in a highly industrialized city that is ruled by a heartless capitalist who, by the film's end, is reconciled with labor through the power of love. The biggest production of the silent era, using nearly 37,000 actors, Metropolis is a melange of love story, melodrama and social commentary. The film was widely criticized upon its release for its sociopolitical content. As a work of visual art, Metropolis has had a tremendous impact on cinema. Its art nouveau sets, futuristic creations, geometric patterns formed by the movements of huge masses of actors, and use of model buildings to create the appearance of an enormous city were revolutionary. Said to have been inspired by the New York City skyline, the sets are among the most imaginative and impressive ever created for a film. Shortly after making the film, director Lang fled his homeland when Hitler's propaganda minister asked him to head the German film industry. Lang spent the next 20 years making films in Hollywood before returning to Germany.
Running Time: 20 minutes
Buster Keaton tells the story of two young people who live next door to each other in apartments, and fall in love, despite their feuding families.
NOMADS OF THE NORTH (1920) Lon Chaney
A Canadian Mountie, while in the process of doing his job, encounters an unusual situation. Should he let his professionalism win, or let his love escape with the fugitive he is bringing to justice? Adapted from the novel by James Oliver Curwood. Chaney plays a French-Canadian trapper named Raoul Challoner whose fiancee Nanette (Betty Blythe) is also the object of desire of the scurrilous son of the manager of the company settlement and an honorable Mountie (Lewis Stone). The film’s high point is its climax, a forest fire.
NOSFERATU (1922) F.W. Murnau
Running Time: 84 minutes
The earliest surviving screen adaptation of Bram Stoker's Dracula novel has had a long and dangerous life of its own. Almost destroyed by Stoker's widow because of copyright infringement, this film has outlasted many others of the silent era. Count Dracula move to Bremen brings the plague, traceable to his dealings with the realtor Jonathan Harker. The Count becomes obsessed with Harker's wife, Nina, who is the only one with the power to end the evil.
OLIVER TWIST (1922) starring Lon Chaney & Jackie Coogan
Running Time: 71 minutes
Oliver Twist is a 1922 silent film adaptation of Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist featuring Lon Chaney as Fagin, and Jackie Coogan as Oliver. Directed by Frank Lloyd. Oliver's mother, a penniless outcast, dies while giving birth. As a young boy Oliver is brought up in a workhouse, later apprenticed to an uncaring undertaker, and eventually is taken in by a gang of thieves who befriend him for their own purposes. Oliver finally discovers secrets from his family history.
THE PALEFACE (1922) Buster Keaton
Running time: 20 Minutes
Cheated out of their land, a tribe of Indians vow to burn at the stake the first white man they see. It is our friend, Buster Keaton. Somehow, he survives, becomes their chief, and all ends well.
THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (1925) starring Lon Chaney, directed by Rupert Julian
Running Time: 78 minutes
Undeniably Chaney's most famous role. Lon Chaney, an American actor, was known as "the man of a thousand faces," due to his ground-breaking artistry with make-up. The film has inspired five remakes (in 1943, 1962, 1983, 1989, and 1990), numerous rip-offs, and the blockbuster Andrew Lloyd Weber musical. It is listed by most historians as one of the 10 greatest films of all time.
When the film debuted in 1925 The New York Times wrote: "THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA is an ultra fantastic melodrama, an ambitious production in which there is much to marvel at in the scenic effects...Lon Chaney impersonates the Phantom. It is a role suited to his liking, and one which he handles with a certain skill, a little exaggerated at times, but none the less compelling...The most dramatic touch is where Christine in the cellar abode is listening to the masked Phantom as he plays the organ. Then she steals up behind him and...suddenly snatches the mask from the Phantom's face...In the theatre last night a woman behind us stifled a scream when this happened." - New York Times, 1925
The masked and facially disfigured 'Phantom' haunts the Paris Opera House, causing murder and mayhem in an attempt to force the management to make the woman he loves (Christine, played by Mary Philbin) a star. It is most famous for Lon Chaney's intentionally horrific, self-applied makeup which was kept a studio secret until the film's premier.
Plot: The film takes place in 1890s Paris, France. It is a mystery with romantic and horror overtones. The film opens with the debut of the new season at the Paris Opera House, with Comte Philip de Chagny and his brother, the Vicomte Raoul (Norman Kerry) in attendance. Raoul attends only in the hope of hearing his sweetheart Christine Daee (Mary Philbin) sing. Christine, under the tuition of an unknown and mysterious coach, has made a sudden rise from the chorus to understudy of the prima donna. Raoul wishes for Christine to resign and marry him, but she refuses their relationship to get into the way of her career.
In Christine's dressing room, an angelic voice calls to her from beyond the wall. He announces to her that she will sing and that all of Paris will worship her, but that she must forget all worldly things and think only of her master. The following night, Carlotta is taken ill and Christine sings. Christine reaches her triumph during the finale of the performance, and receives a standing ovation from the audience. Christine is entranced by a mysterious voice through a secret door behind the mirror in her dressing room, descending, in a dream-like sequence, semi-conscious on horseback by a winding staircase into the lower depths of the Opera. She is then taken by gondola over a subterranean lake by the masked Phantom into his lair.
Here, in one of the most famous moments in silent film, she makes the mistake of unmasking the Phantom (Chaney) as he plays on the organ, thus revealing his hideous deformity... Raoul and inspector Ledoux are then lured into the Phantom's underground death-trap as he kidnaps Christine.
RIDERS OF THE PURPLE SAGE (1925) starring Tom Mix
Running Time: 64 minutes
First filmed by Fox in 1918 with William Farnum, Zane Grey's Riders of the Purple Sage became a typically lavish Tom Mix extravaganza, filmed on locations at picturesque Lone Pine, California. Mix plays Jim Lassiter, the bold Texas Ranger whose sister, Millie Erne, and her little daughter are abducted by a discredited lawyer, Lew Walters. Dedicating his life to the recovery of his relatives, Lassiter takes a job at the ranch belonging to Jane Withersteen. From a captured outlaw, the former lawman learns that his prey has become a judge under the assumed name of Dyer. An enraged Lassiter marches into Judge Dyer´s courtroom and shoots his long time enemy dead. A posse is formed and Lassiter and Withersteen are forced to flee. They find a hideout at a secret plateau reachable only through steps carved in the rock by long-ago cliff dwellers. To rid themselves of their pursuers once and for all, Lassiter blocks the entrance with a huge boulder, realizing full well that he and Jane will be trapped forever.
Cast: Tom Mix, Beatrice Burnham, Arthur Morrison, Seesel Ann Johnson
Director: Lynn Reynolds and Wilfred Lucas
SADIE THOMPSON (1928)
Running Time: 91 minutes
Sadie Thompson wants to start a new life to escape a bad situation in San Francisco. She arrives in Pago-Pago, and meets the man of her dreams. It seems everything is going to work out in her favor! Then, she also meets an extreme missionary, Davidson, who wants to "convert" her & threatens to send her back to San Francisco if she does not repent. By fighting him, she may lose her chance at new love and a new life.
Running Time: 73 minutes
When a "Country Boy" (Lloyd) goes to the big city to seek success, he finds more than he bargained for. He tries to show his fiance how successful he is, meanwhile working as a clerk in a department store. His luck turns when he talks the manager into a publi...city stunt for the store. He has a friend who scales tall buildings, much like a "human fly" (Strother). This friend agrees to climb the face of the store building as a publicity stunt. Trouble ensues when his friend gets in trouble with the police -- who show up at the publicity stunt. Ultimately, our hero must make the climb himself. At each new floor ledge he encounters new difficulties, climaxing in the famous 'clock scene.'
SEVEN CHANCES (1925) Buster Keaton
Running Time: 56 minutes
Financial broker Jimmie Shannon is nearly bankrupt when an attorney presents his grandfather's will leaving him seven million dollars. In order to inherit the money Jimmie must marry before 7 pm on his 27th birthday -- today! Trouble ensues when his long-time girlfriend balks at the sudden proposal. In an effort to help, his best friend prints up thousands of flyers stating the problem, and of course, gets thousands of responses!
Buster Keaton, T. Roy Barnes, Snitz Edwards, Ruth Dwyer. Frances Raymond, Erwin Connelly, Jules Cowles Jean Arthur, Receptionist at Country Club (uncredited). Produced & directed by Buster Keaton.
SHADOWS (1922) starring Lon Chaney
Running Time: approx 60 minutes
Lon Chaney stars as Yen Sin, a Chinese laundryman struggling for acceptance in a narrow-minded, coastal fishing community. When he stumbles upon a plot to blackmail the town's minister, Yen Sin realizes that he can no longer hide in the shadows -- he must take a risk and confront the villain who threatens the village's well-being.
After a woman remarries, her thought-to-be-dead husband returns and blackmails her and her new husband. Yen Sin helps to expose the plot so that they may continue to live happily ever after.
THE SHOCK (1923) starring Lon Chaney
Running Time: 96 minutes
In a variation on the phony cripple performed numerous times in his career, Chaney stars in The Shock as Wilse Dilling -- "dope-peddler, safe-cracker, gun-man" -- a legitimately handicapped hoodlum of old San Francisco who drags himself from the darkness of Chinatown into the redemptive sunlight of the country, where he finds the inspiration to turn away from his life of crime. But when the father of the woman he loves is blackmailed, Dilling must venture back into the "whirlpool of vice and intrigue" of his criminal past, where the thriller reaches its spectacular, earth-shaking climax.
STEAMBOAT BILL, JR (1928) Buster Keaton
Running Time: 70 minutes
William "Steamboat Bill" Canfield is a steamboat owner. Fearing he is losing a fierce battle with businessman John James King & his shiny, new boat, he desperately awaits the arrival of his college educated son. A big, burly man, Bill Canfield Sr is very disappointed when he finally realizes his son is a spindly, small sort. The worst blow comes when he realizes that Jr is in love with his business rival's daughter, Kitty. A cyclone hits, and somehow Jr saves the day by seemingly aligning forces with the storm.
WHY WORRY? (1923) Harold Lloyd
Running Time: 63 minutes
Harold Van Pelham (Lloyd) sets off for the tropics to cure his ailments. A rich businessman, he thinks the warm weather will cure him, although what his "ailments" are made of noone really knows. Instead, he finds himself in the midst of a revolution, and through lucky circumstances and fated encounters, he manages to escape from jail & return home.