Autumn’s well and truly here in the UK, and as the dark nights creep into the daytime, it’s good to know there are lots of upcoming silent comedy screenings coming up as light relief, including some very rarely seen films.
The excellent Silent Film Calendar website is a great go-to for keeping updated on these, but here are a few that stand out:
SILENT LAUGHTER WEEKEND
I’ve plugged the London Silent Laughter Weekend a couple of times before, but it’s now less than two weeks away (October 22nd-23rd) so if you haven’t booked tickets yet, now is definitely the time to do so! Amongst the programme are Harold Lloyd’s classic ‘WHY WORRY’ as well as newly discovered Laurel & Hardy footage (a ‘new’version of THE SECOND HUNDRED YEARS, plus newly rediscovered solo films from Stan and Babe) and many classic forgotten comedies including Harry Langdon in ‘TRAMP, TRAMP, TRAMP’, Laura La Plante in ‘HOME JAMES’, Syd Chaplin in ‘THE BETTER OLE’, Dorothy Devore in ‘HOLD YOUR BREATH’ and Lupino Lane in ‘THE LAMBETH WALK’, plus some of his classic silent shorts. For the die-hards, there’s plenty of rarely seen stuff, and if you’re just tipping your toe in past Chaplin, Keaton or Laurel & hardy, this is a great place to start! With live accompaniment and introductions from historians including Kevin Brownlow and David Robinson, it’s a steal at just £16 for a day ticket or £28 for the whole weekend!
THE BATTLE OF THE CENTURY & MORE AT LEEDS FILM FESTIVAL
As if that wasn’t enough rare Laurel & Hardy for you, there’s another chance to see the newly rediscovered ‘BATTLE OF THE CENTURY’, featuring the complete, uncut version of Stan and Ollie’s epic pie fight, “as nature intended”! There’s still no sign of a DVD release for this version, so it’s worth catching if, like me, you had to miss the screenings last year. ‘BATTLE’ is showing as a double bill with Harold Lloyd’s ‘SPEEDY’ (my favourite Lloyd film)
Just before this screening is another double bill: the wonderful ‘EXIT SMILING’ (1926) and Keaton’s ‘MY WIFE’S RELATIONS’. ‘EXIT SMILING’ stars Beatrice Lillie in one of her regrettably few films. In this tale of a travelling theatre troupe, Lillie shows that she is equally adept at both wonderful visual comedy and touching moments of Chaplinesque pathos. That she didn’t make more films is a great loss. The version of ‘MY WIFE’S RELATIONS’ being shown is Lobster Films’ new restoration, featuring a completely different end scene!
Both shows are at the wonderful City Varieties Theatre in Leeds on Monday 7th November, ‘EXIT SMILING’ at 17.45, and ‘SPEEDY’ at 20.15. Combined tickets are available for just £13, or £10 concession. (Elsewhere as part of the festival, not a comedy but a wonderful film, is the new restoration of Abel Gance’s ‘NAPOLEON’)
CAMBRIDGE FILM FESTIVAL
Cambridge Film Festival offers some morew goodies: A double bill of Keaton’s magnificent ‘THE CAMERAMAN’ with ‘THE HIGH SIGN’ on 22nd October, and a rare chance to see a René Clair comedy, LES DEUX TIMIDES (TWO TIMID SOULS), on 24th October.
Good times indeed for silent comedy film fans, at least in the UK!