Lottery Man June 21, 2008 Showing Dec 26, 2010 20:12:40 GMT -5
Post by Terry Harbin on Dec 26, 2010 20:12:40 GMT -5
Ithaca Silent Film Event highlights city's filmmaking history
By Ryan Suarez •
Special to the Journal
• June 20, 2008
Special to the Journal
• June 20, 2008
If you were going to work for The Ithaca Journal in the early 20th century, you could plan on writing news stories—or you could try to convince your editors to run a lottery, with your hand in marriage as the prize, according to the plot of “The Lottery Man,” a 1916 Ithaca-made silent film.
The hero, played by Thurlow Bergen, finds himself in financial trouble after his mother loses her income to a bad investment. To pay the bills, Bergen's character gets a job as a reporter at The Ithaca Journal, where he devises the aforementioned scheme. This weekend, viewers will have the chance to see what happens.
At 8:15 p.m. on Saturday, June 21, The State Theatre in downtown Ithaca is slated to present the third annual Ithaca Silent Film Event during the 31st annual Ithaca Festival weekend. The event offers a free screening of “The Lottery Man,” plus two rare 1916 and 1920 silent “Krazy Kat” animated cartoons. Altogether, the show runs approximately an hour and a half long. Organizers plan to decorate The State Theatre with vintage posters in the lobby and box office. Over 1,250 spectators attended last year's event and this year representatives expect to fill all of its 1,605 seats. The event is free to the public.
Dr. Philip Carli, word-renowned silent film accompanist, is scheduled to perform live on The State Theatre's 1928 Steinway grand piano.
Music was crucially important to films from as early as 1895, according to Carli. The performer's challenge is to anticipate what will appear in the film — which he or she may have never seen — and to improvise appropriately, taking into account the film's storyline, pacing, camerawork and cultural context.
“It's very important to have a good audience,” Carli said. “I can always sense what the audience is doing in the house when I'm playing — how the audience is responding. There's electricity in the air. Any performer can notice that. If people come in wanting to enjoy the film, that makes the work much easier.”
Also, Ithaca-made Movies, a local organization dedicated to Ithaca silent films, plans on presenting “A History of Ithaca Moviemaking” at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. at the Tompkins County Public Library in the Borg Warner Community Meeting Room. Terry Harbin, president of Ithaca-made Movies, is scheduled to share clips including a series of scenes shot in Ithaca and a short documentary telling the story of Ithaca's moviemaking days from 1912 to 1920. The event is free and refreshments will be provided.
Filming in Ithaca
Ithaca played an important role in the history of silent films. At the height of the silent film era — between 1913 and 1931 — Theodore and Leopold Wharton established an important movie studio in Ithaca, where they directed “The Lottery Man” and other popular films. The Wharton brothers gained worldwide fame producing silent films in Ithaca featuring movie stars like Pearl White, Irene Castle, Lionel Barrymore and Warner Oland.
“I call it the lost, neglected and misplaced history of Ithaca,” said Aaron Pichel, Ithaca attorney, film historian and event organizer at The State Theatre. “The studio that was in Ithaca was an important part of film history.”
After outgrowing their old facility, the Wharton brothers relocated to what is now Stewart Park where they built a full-fledge movie studio, including indoor and outdoor stages, dressing rooms, camera and lighting equipment and a special effects studio. Headquartered in Ithaca, the Whartons advertised themselves as pioneers operating in “The Garden Spot of the East,” from studios located adjacent to “locations of natural grandeur.”
The Whartons cast 23-year-old Oliver Hardy for a supporting role as a woman in “The Lottery Man,” which was likely his first feature film appearance. Hardy later achieved success when he joined Stan Laurel to form the comedy duo, Laurel and Hardy. The Lottery Man, made during Hardy's second year in the movies, was shot in Ithaca in the fall of 1915. The opening scene of the film was shot at Schoellkopf Field, during the first football game ever held there. Ithaca also hosted other silent film companies, including the makers of “The Perils of Pauline,” a famous silent film serial shot in 1914. Other silent movie stars who worked in Ithaca included Theda Bara, Norma Talmadge and Francis X. Bushman.
“A silent film from that period gives us a very different experience from watching a modern film,” Pichel said. “When we see a film today, most of the costuming, hair and makeup is familiar to us, but when we see a silent film from the early 1900s it's separate from our everyday modern experience. We have to pay attention and I think, because of that, we get a greater reward.”
Most of the movies made by the Wharton brothers are considered lost, having either disintegrated over time or been burned in a fire outside of town. “We were lucky to find a print of ‘The Lottery Man' at the Library of Congress,” Pichel said, noting that the film has been digitally restored. According to him, the version of the film showing in The State Theatre is one of the best available since the film's release. A number of other Ithaca silent films still exist and are also undergoing restoration, but Pichel said “The Lottery Man” was chosen for the upcoming event at The State Theatre because it has not recently been seen in Ithaca.
Silent Film Events
Ithaca Silent Film Screening
* What: “The Lottery Man” (with live music), featuring Oliver Hardy, plus two “Krazy Kat” cartoons
* When: 8:15 p.m., Saturday, June 21
* Where: State Theatre, 107 West State St., Ithaca
* Admission: Free
Ithaca-Made Movies Presentation
* What: “A History of Ithaca Moviemaking”
* When: 1 p.m. and 3 p.m., Saturday, June 21
* Where: Tompkins County Public Library's Borg Warner room
* Admission: Free, refreshments provided