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February 18, 2009 > Sound of Silents

Sound of Silents

By Mona Shah

Friday evening kicks off a boisterous bonanza of belly laughs and a gaggle of giggles as Niles welcomes the annual Mid-Winter Comedy Film Festival. In its fourth year, the festival is comprised of three days of comic shorts from the silent and early sound era. Promising lots of laughs it begins Friday, February 20 and continues through Sunday, February 22.

Hosted by noted film collector/historian Richard M Roberts, it will showcase the great kings of silent comedy such as Buster Keaton, and Laurel and Hardy, as well as a look at other comedy greats - less well-remembered but also terrific, like Charley Chase, Harry Langdon, Raymond Griffith, Lloyd Hamilton, Lupino Lane, and Larry Semon.

Friday evening activities begin with a "talkie" comedy program that will give audiences a rare opportunity to hear the voices as well as see comedians like Roscoe Arbuckle and Raymond Griffith, both of whom made very few talkies. Also on screen will be Buster Keaton, appearing with his entire family, including, Father Joe and Mother Myra Keaton, who raised Buster in the vaudeville circuit. Clan Keaton plays hillbilly moonshiners in the 1935 short comedy "Palooka from Paducah." Harry Langdon will appear as a mad attorney in "Counsel on De Fence" (1934), as well as Laurel and Hardy in "Come Clean."

Saturday afternoon features madcap Mack Sennett rarities and Charlie Chaplin's brother Syd Chaplin's appearance in the 1925 feature "The Man on the Box," which includes his famous female impersonation. In the evening, more great Hal Roach silent comedies including Our Gang in "The Champeen" (1923), Charley Chase discovering he has "Too Many Mammas" (1924), and Laurel and Hardy playing cavemen as they watch the "Flying Elephants" (1928).

A couple of fine accompanists will supply the music for the silent comedies: renown silent film composer and arranger Dr Phillip C. Carli from Rochester, New York, and Dr. Frederick Hodges, brilliant ragtime pianist and film accompanist who lives locally.

Interested? Now is the time to get your tickets to the festival. Seating is very limited and tickets go quickly. At $7 to $10 per segment, it's a steal. A complete program schedule can be found at www.nilesfilmmuseum.org. A festival pass for the entire weekend is $50 and includes a free copy of the events program book.


The Niles Mid-Winter Comedy Festival
Friday to Sunday, February 20-22
Niles Edison Theatre
37417, Niles Blvd., Fremont
(510) 494-1411

Tickets are available in person at the Museum store during regular hours: Saturdays, Noon to 4 p.m. or at the 7:30 p.m. Saturday evening shows. Sundays 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Tickets are also available by US Mail and PayPal by following directions at www.nilesfilmmuseum.org.

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