The Sounds of Silents Film Series Returns to TMA Sept. 14th

Daily Dose  |  09/11/2017 10:00 am

The Toledo Museum of Art’s popular Film & Live Music series The Sounds of Silents returns to the Peristyle Theater this fall with a screening of director Lois Weber’s The Dumb Girl of Portici on Thursday, Sept. 14. Long overdue for recognition as one of Weber’s finest creations and a landmark in women’s cinema, The Dumb Girl of Portici was the first blockbuster ever directed by a woman — and arguably the only epic shot by a woman in the 20th century.

This is the third consecutive year for the film series, according to Scott Boberg, TMA manager of programs and audience engagement. “The 2017-2018 season has a number of things to watch for, especially the diversity of filmmakers and actors.”

Five classics from cinema’s silent film era will be screened with a live musical score played on the Museum’s historic Skinner organ by special musical guests. All movies begin at 7 p.m.

Film screenings are free for Museum members and $5 for each screening for non-members. Tickets for silent film series are available for purchase in advance at, or in the Peristyle box office or Herrick Lobby the days of the events.

The Sounds of Silents film schedule is as follows:

The Dumb Girl of Portici (1916, 112 minutes)
Sept. 14: 7 p.m., Peristyle
In the early 20th century, no woman had greater worldwide fame than ballet dancer and choreographer Anna Pavlova. In The Dumb Girl of Portici, she plays Fenella, a wordless fisher-girl living during the Spanish occupation of Naples in the mid-17th century who is seduced and abandoned by a Spanish nobleman. Pavlova, in her only feature-length starring role, is directed by Lois Weber who was the outstanding woman filmmaker, writer and producer of the silent era. Detroit organist John Lauter will accompany the film on TMA’s historic Skinner organ.

The Phantom of the Opera (1925, 78 minutes)
Oct. 19: 7 p.m., Peristyle
A forerunner of the American horror film, and one of the most lavish productions of the silent cinema, The Phantom of the Opera has inspired countless remakes and imitations. But none of its successors can rival the mesmerizing blend of romance and mystery that haunts every frame of the Lon Chaney original. This edition presents the 1929 theatrical version, highlighted by the Technicolor Bal Masque sequence (in which the Phantom interrupts the revelry wearing the scarlet robes of the Red Death), as well as meticulously hand-colored sequences. This program features Stephen Warner playing TMA’s historic Skinner organ.

Flying Ace (1926, 65 minutes)
Feb. 8: 7 p.m., Peristyle
Aviators are rivals on the ground and in the air in Flying Ace, a Hollywood-style adventure film featuring an African American cast and based on real people who fought in World War I. Laurence Criner plays Captain Billy Stokes, a fighter ace who returns to the United States after the war, and Kathryn Boyd plays Ruth Sawtelle, his admirer and a pilot herself, who is based on real-life aviator Bessie Coleman.  This program features a jazz score performed by acclaimed Detroit bass player Marion Hayden with Alvin Wattles playing both piano and TMA’s historic Skinner organ.

Steamboat Bill Jr. (1928, 71 minutes)
April 5: 7 p.m., Peristyle
In one of the great silent film comedies, Buster Keaton stars as William Canfield, Jr., a college student who returns to his home town to reunite with his father, a crusty riverboat captain who is engaged in a bitter rivalry with another riverboat captain. Keaton’s athleticism and gift for inventive visual humor are in top form, and the cyclone that devastates a town is perhaps the most ambitious, awe-inspiring and hilarious slapstick sequence ever filmed. Detroit organist Lance Luce will accompany the film on TMA’s historic Skinner organ.

Robin Hood (1922, 127 minutes)
May 24: 7 p.m., Peristyle
In one of his iconic swashbuckling film roles of the silent film era, Douglas Fairbanks plays Robin Hood, a nobleman turned disguised vigilante who protects the oppressed English people from the tyrannical Prince John.  The score will be performed by organist Clark Wilson who performs a silent horror film each October in the Walt Disney Concert Hall for the Los Angeles Philharmonic.