Musical genius meets comic genius when the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra presents its 18th Annual Silent Film Gala on Saturday, June 2, at 8:00 p.m. in Los Angeles at UCLA's Royce Hall. Academy Award-winning actor Dustin Hoffman marks his seventh outing as Honorary Chairman of the glittering event and is expected to address the audience.
To open the evening, audiences will have a rare opportunity to see the little-known Chaplin comedy The Pilgrim, in which Chaplin plays an escaped convict who poses as a newly arrived minister in a small Texas town -- presenting a hilarious sermon on David and Goliath for the unsuspecting townsfolk. Chaplin's comedy did not receive the attention it deserved at the time, as state censors and even the Ku Klux Klan demanded the film's removal for satirizing organized religion!
The Pilgrim will be followed by Buster Keaton's brilliant film, Sherlock Jr. (1924), in which Keaton plays a cinema projectionist who dreams himself into the film he is showing, becoming an astonishing sleuth performing a breathtaking array of physical sight gags. Conductor-composer Timothy Brock has composed a brand-new score for the film, which will enjoy a world premiere live performance by the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra this evening.
Following the films, the Chamber Orchestra will host a VIP party under the stars on the Ahmanson Terrace outside Royce Hall, with a buffet supper catered by Peggy Dark's Kitchen for Exploring Foods.
Tickets for the Silent Film Gala are $35 for general admission, $75 for priority seating, and $300 for the film and the post-film supper. For sponsorship and ticket information, please contact the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra at 213-622-7001, ext. 275.
Academy Award-winning actor Dustin Hoffman serves as Honorary Chairman of the Gala for the seventh year in a row -- and has supported the event for more than a decade. Hoffman has often expressed his belief that modern audiences should have the opportunity to watch great silent films as they were supposed to be seen: in a darkened theater, surrounded by an enthusiastic audience, with musicians performing the film's score.
The Gala's supporters have included the biggest names in the entertainment industry -- Pierce Brosnan, Tom Cruise, Tom Hanks, Norman Jewison, Eddie Murphy, Paul Newman, Victoria Principal, Rob Reiner, Martin Scorsese and Barbra Streisand, among others -- as well as independent production and post-production companies, major studios and film-restoration laboratories.
A Rare Pairing of Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton
LACO's 18th Annual Silent Film Gala offers filmgoers the rare opportunity to see classic works by two of the greatest comic masters of the silent film era: Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton.
The Pilgrim is one of Chaplin's richest -- and most neglected -- films. Like The Adventurer (1917), his last film for the Mutual Film Corporation, The Pilgrim is about an escaped convict. Chaplin's comedies often reflected his life, and these films perhaps alluded to his escape from confining film contracts. In the film, ex-convict Chaplin is mistaken for, then poses as, the new minister of the small Texas town of Devil's Gulch.
The much-celebrated David and Goliath sermon Charlie performs remains one of his most marvelous sequences, along with the afternoon tea scene, in which a young brat ("Dinky Dean" Riesner) torments not only Charlie but the horrid boy's own mother (Mai Wells) and father (Sydney Chaplin, Charlie's elder half-brother). Ironically, Dean Riesner -- the gentlest of children until Chaplin taught him to enjoy hitting people for his role -- later became the screenwriter for several of Clint Eastwood's most violent films, including "Dirty Harry" (1971).
In contrast to Chaplin's little-known The Pilgrim, Sherlock Jr. is one of Buster Keaton's best known and most beloved works. The film follows the travails of a love struck theater projectionist as he attempts to clear his name after being wrongly accused of the theft of a pocket watch, and thereby win the hand of the girl he loves.
Though this is the narrative thrust of the scenario, much of the story is an extended dream sequence in which the projectionist dreams himself into the film that he is currently projecting. Imagining himself as the redoubtable detective, "Sherlock Jr.," this plot device gives Keaton license to perform some of the most fantastic stunts and gags of his career. Indeed, Keaton once remarked that the very reason he made the film was to utilize the dream sequence.
Orchestrating the Gala
Former Turner Entertainment Co. president Roger Mayer-the Chairman of the National Film Preservation Foundation and the 2005 recipient of the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award at the Academy Awards-serves as co-chair of the Silent Film Gala, along with longtime LACO board member Hanna Kennedy. Mayer has been integral to the success of every Silent Film Gala since 1994. "The Silent Film Gala brings together two of the cultural landmarks of Los Angeles: classic film and the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra," says Mayer. "This is a wonderful celebration of these two art forms. I'm also delighted that the Silent Film Gala contributes significantly to the interest in film restoration, so that masterpieces such as these can be seen by many future generations of film buffs."
The Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra was established in 1968, and under the guidance of former Executive Director Ruth Eliel, has become one of the most widely respected chamber orchestras in the country. Under the leadership of Music Director Jeffrey Kahane and current Executive Director Andrea Laguni, the Orchestra performs 15 concerts each September through May at UCLA's Royce Hall and the historic Alex Theatre in Glendale and chamber music concerts at Zipper Hall.