Met Pick

The Sound of Silents

Women in Silent Film at the Paramount

By Steve Wiecking June 15, 2009

I don’t like being made to feel like an old lady. Even if I was listening to Eydie Gormé Swings the Blues last night (hey, Eydie does a balls-out “Stormy Weather,” I’m not kidding).

But that’s not the point.

While I love and respect the elderly, I don’t like being made to feel like an old lady when I recommend that people take in Silent Movie Mondays at the Paramount Theatre, which continues its Women in Silent Film series tonight with sponsor Trader Joe’s providing the treats for a screening of the once world-renown Gish sisters (Lillian and Dorothy) in an adaptation of George Eliot’s Romola.

The patient response I still get from the uninitiated always comes with a look of pity that suggests when I’m not busy singing the praises of silents I must be at home re-watching all 250+ episodes of Murder, She Wrote. As if. (There were 264 episodes, to be exact).

Seattle is one of the few remaining cities in the United States—hell, in the world, people!—to show silent films the only way silent films should be shown: on a big screen with live musical accompaniment. Big screen in this case means the grand screen at the Paramount and live musical accompaniment means the magnificent, mammoth Mighty Wurlitzer Organ as played by Dennis James—a true buff who chatters on a bit introducing each feature but is so clearly enamored of his gig (and so indisputably skilled at it) that he’s sort of charming.

You can go in expecting campy laughs (and you may get a few) but still come out, at the very least, surprised at these echoes of our past—shimmering evidence of what some very creative people assumed the populace would pay to consume in, say, 1924. It’s a blissful, engaging experience you can get in only a handful of cities and it remains one of my favorite Seattle entertainments.

So go already. And stop worrying about my old bones. I’ve already heard all about it from Sally Field, believe me.

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