Five to nine

Have a drink.

July 30, 2004

Cheers to icons, old standbys and forgotten classics.

I know where Hugh Hefner was tonight between 6:45 and 10:00 p.m. A reception and a movie at the academy building on Wilshire. Hef covered the cost of restoring "Tillie's punctured romance" (as well as every other silent picture showcased at the UCLA Festival of preservation), and sat there and watched it with us.

"Tillie's punctured romance" was based on the stage play "Tillie's Nightmare", which I think is a more appropriate title. The movie is about a homely country girl who is convinced by a vagabond gigolo to snag her farmer dad's savings and run away to the city. L.A. of course. The smooth-talking (err, smooth-miming?) Lothario was expertly played by a very young, extremely handsome Charles Chaplin. This was the first feature length (84 minutes) comedy ever produced. Throughout the movie, the slapstick was uninterrupted, and i do mean not even for a split second. But throughout, this comedy told a very sad story about people taking advantage of the each other; stealing; manipulating etc. I notice this about old movies that they tend to be heavy on the tragedy, and light-hearted about reacting to it. I wonder what that says about the audience. Were moviegoers in the past more ready to accept tragedy as amusement? Have we gotten soft? Maybe it's just that so much is lost without dialogue, movies couldn't afford a bit of subtlety either in acting or in storyline. But then again, it was a play first.

We were the first audience to see it in it's entirety and unembellished in about 70 years. There was a five piece band playing a ragtime composition written especially for the screening.

There sat Hef, 12 rows ahead giggling at the non-stop slapstick like the rest of us mere mortals. If the reception wine had been a stronger brew, I may have tried to, by example, encourage people to talk aloud about the movie during the movie. Think about it, if you walk into a theater in 1917, it would never occur to you to hush up and listen to dialogue, cause there was none. The band in the background is loud, and lively like in a pub. Smoking cigarettes was still allowed everywhere and concessions sold beer. Very different than the antisocial entertainment they have become.

If the reception brew had been stronger I may have tried to introduce myself to Mister Hefner. Think about it, I may never be so close to this living icon ever again. He wasn't surrounded by bunnies or mad-partying celebrities or twins like in all the small pictures in the Playboy pages. (The brightly colored pages right before the articles start. Don't play dumb.) Just a bunch of friendly looking people who liked moving pictures.



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