Kittanning's Only Annual Film Festival


Each year St. John's Lutheran Church provides a free evening of silent films with live musical accompaniment and refreshments.

218 N. Jefferson St., Kittanning, PA 16201

(724) - 548 - 2051

Friday, October 14, 2011

A Modern Musketeer

A Modern Musketeer

Our feature film for Friday, Feb. 17, 2012 (7:00 p.m.) will be A Modern Musketeer.  This 72 minute feature film is a hoot!  A combination of romantic fantasy comedy, period adventure, melodrama, and a touch of Cowboys and Indians, it flies by leaving you wanting more.  The movie features some great outdoor cinematography of the Grand Canyon and the Arizona desert, and the ever impressive Douglas Fairbanks, Sr., filling the screen with his signature acrobatic stunts and capers.  

In this pop-corn favorite from almost one hundred years ago, Douglas Fairbanks plays an eccentric young man from small town Kansas named Ned Thacker.  Ned tries to embody the chivalry of D'Artagnan and the other gentlemanly Musketeers of old. His instincts for living out the code of a more "civilized" age in the progressive 20th century means that difficulties as well as true heroism follow him wherever he goes.  Ned's anachronistic behavior can be traced to his Mother, who in the midst of a Kansas tornado insisted on reading The Three Musketeers as she gave birth!  As the movie unfolds Ned imagines himself into the 17th century (where he wrecks an entire tavern and clobbers and kills three dozen rotters just to restore a mysterious lady's handkerchief) and in the modern world he tries to serve justice in a gambling den with hilarious results.

Tiring of small town life he travels from Kansas toward the far west.  Enroute in his Model T, Ned encounters a young woman, Elsie Dodge, and her mother.  The Dodges have been taken in by a rich scoundrel and bigamist named Forrest Vandeteer who is pursuing young Elsie.  When their car is unable to make it through the desert Ned saves the day and gets them safely to the El Tovar Hotel at the edge of the Grand Canyon.  Ned and Elsie fall gently in love, but her Mother's financial needs and Vandeteer's arrogance and desire for Elsie cut young Ned out of the picture.  In the meantime a renegade Navajo Indian chief named Chin-de-dah decides that the young Elise would make an excellent, if temporary, wife.  Soon Elsie and Vandeteer are embroiled in a kidnapping, a desert chase with the bad guys, and Ned romping around trying to save the young lady from certain disaster.

While the presentation of Chin-de-dah is insensitive by modern standards, he is not held up as a model of Native Americans, but as an aberration.  The film also presents positive, if perhaps condescending footage of actual Zuni Indians performing traditional dances for tourists at the hotel, and Doug bounces a young Zuni boy on his knee with obvious affection. 

The film under the direction Allan Dwan has fast paced action, nice camera work, and fine acting from a strong cast.  The film doesn't feel like it was made in 1917 and makes understanding Fairbank's stardom easy.

The film has been lovingly restored and is nearly free of the distortion, grit, and damage typically found on films of this age resulting in a clear, stable, and throughly enjoyable viewing experience.  The painstaking restoration was carried out by the Danish Film Institute, Lobster Films, and Flicker Alley and is made available to St. John's Lutheran Church via the film's current owner, Mr. David Shepard.

The Cast:

Directed by Allan Dwan

Ned Thacker/
D'Artagnan:                Douglas Fairbanks, Sr.
Elsie Dodge:               Marjorie Daw
Mrs. Dodge:               Kathleen Kirkham
Forrest Vandeteer:      Eugene Ormonde
Mrs. Thancker:           Edythe Chapman
Chin-de-dah:              Frank Campeau
James Brown:            Tully Marshall

Screenplay by Allan Dwan and Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. based on the short story D'Artagnan of Kansas by F. R. Lyle, Jr.

The Film will be projected from a DVD and accompanied by the 14 piece 

Kittanning Ivy Leaf Orchestra 

under the direction of 
Mr. Stephen J. Lipnichan.

The score for the film is made of original period numbers and photoplay music compiled, arranged and edited by Eric W. Cook

The orchestra was made possible from a grant from the 
Armstrong County Community Foundation

Visit them at:

This film and several other full length and short 
early Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. films 
can be found as part of Flicker Alley's boxed set 
Douglas Fairbanks: A Modern Musketeer

Visit them at:

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Grant Award for Silent Film Orchestra!

The Armstrong County Community Foundation has provided St. John's Lutheran Church with a $1900.00 grant for 2012!  

This generous grant will allow us to provide a live theatre orchestra to accompany the main film showing for the 2012 - 6th Annual - St. John's Lutheran: Silent Movie Night.

Our feature film that evening will be A Modern Musketeer (1917) and will be accompanied by an eleven piece theatre orchestra under the direction of Mr. Stephen Lipnichan of Pittsburgh.

As organizers of the Silent Movie Night, Jeff Boarts and I would like to thank St. John's for their continuing support of the arts in the Kittanning, and the wider Armstrong County community, we are grateful that St. John's continues in the fine Lutheran tradition of seeing art and music as an extension of God's love and our response to it.  Soli Deo Gloria!

We would also like to thank the dedicated and very generous donors, staff, and trustees at the ACCF for considering our application, and granting us this wonderful financial gift.

More details about the film program, our orchestral approach to the film's musical accompaniment, the ACCF and the orchestra's personel will follow.

To visit the Armstrong County Community Foundation website, please click below:

Armstrong County Community Foundation

Saturday, September 3, 2011

A Modern Musketeer...

It's official, we will be showing 

A Modern Musketeer (1917), 
directed by Allan Dwan, 
and starring 

Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. 

February 17th, 2012 
at 7 p.m.

The film will be shown free to the public with live orchestral accompaniment.  Orchestra under the direction of Mr. Stephen Lipnichan of Pittsburgh.  Projection will be via DVD projector onto a 22 x 18 foot screen.  Open seating in the church nave; doors will be open to the public at 6:30 p.m.  Running time, approximately 70 minutes.

A short comedy film will proceed A Modern Musketeer, the short is tentatively set to be Buster Keaton's classic 2 reeler, One Week, running time approximately 22 minutes.  With live organ accompaniment by Eric W. Cook

There will be an intermission between our two films.

The program should conclude shortly before 9 p.m.

There will be no snow date.

Refreshments will be available, also free of charge.

Special thanks to Mr. David H. Shepard, owner of A Modern Musketeer, for licensing and screening permission.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Film Selections for 2012

Our tentative program for Feb. 17, 2012:

A short 2-reel comedy: One Week - Starring Buster Keaton


A Feature film: A Modern Musketeer - Starring Douglas Fairbanks, Sr.

Details to follow, program subject to change.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

How to fit the Music to the Film - Cue Sheets

The business of bringing silent films alive for audiences in the 1910's and 1920's required the able assistance of talented musicians.  From the organ bench or orchestra pit the scoring and accompaniment of the movie had the potential to magnify the qualities of any picture, perhaps even saving a mediocre or poor film.  The musicians were required to provide emotional, dramatic and artistic assist to each picture.  The selection of music they used was critical if the movie was going to be a success.  For those players and orchestra leaders, it must have been grueling (if creatively rewarding) work.  Their success and failure, based on period reports, indicate that the style and quality of movie music varied widely; it all depended on the training, background, abilities and tastes of the house talent.

The best and largest movie palaces had top end professional organists and full symphony orchestras.  Here a patron was ensured of music that would match or surpass any screen drama or comedy.  These legendary theaters, such as the Roxy in New York City rivaled their concert hall peers, sometimes surpassing them, in the quality of performance and diversity and difficulty of the repertoire on offer.  Conductors such as Eugene Ormandy, and composers like Villa-Lobos, began in the silent cinema.  However, no matter how large or small the ensemble, no matter it's technical ability, it still had to score a new film every week if not every day.  Large theaters had the staff and in-house libraries to handle the inundation.  

Yet, even in small towns, like Kittanning, there were also a variety of solutions to the problem.  Professional musicians and semi-professional amateurs played the pictures daily and nightly.  In Kittanning the Columbia Theater featured a theater organ, while the Lyceum boasted about its orchestra (a small group of 5 to 9 players).  I am unsure of the full range of accompaniment at the other movie houses in town, but in nearby Ford City, The Roxy featured piano and violin, and occasionally one other player; either a drummer, clarinetist, or trumpeter.  But how did they know what to play for several different movies a week, for hundreds of films over the course of only a few years?

One solution to providing effective music for the endless stream of dramatic situations was the cue sheet.

Cue sheets were a shorthand guide to the film which listed appropriate musical numbers for each part or "cue" of the film.  These musical selections printed on the cue sheet were only suggestions that the players might follow closely or completely ignore.  Most directors or accompanists had, at most, one chance to see the film before they played the picture live on opening night; which was generally considered the dress rehearsal.  So to aid them in making the movie successful - which was in the interest of everyone: musicians, theater owners, film companies, music publishers - cue sheets were sent out to help guide the local talent make effective choices.  The pianist, organist, or orchestra leader would look over the cue sheet, watch the film once (if possible), and organize music accordingly to play during the film's public run, adjusting afterward or on the fly, as needed.  Some musicians never saw a cue sheet, some used them, ignoring them as much or as little as they pleased.  Some musicians resented cue sheets as just another chance for film companies and music publishers to work together to push their ware.  Some theatrical chains had in-house musical staff that would prepare music and send them out to the theaters in the chain, but this was an expensive and time consuming process; and a few top end motion pictures had new or compiled musical scores written especially for them, films like the 1925 Ben Hur: A Tale of the Christ.

Below is the complete cue sheet for the 1926 Action Pictures western melodrama, Ace of Action.  The film was directed by William Bertram and starred Wally Wales, Alma Redford, and Charles Colby, and had a screenplay by Betty Burbridge.  The music has been suggested by James C. Bradford who edited hundreds of cue-sheets during the silent film era.

As you can see, the cue sheet sketches out each bit of the film, either by referring to an on-screen event (action), or to one of the title cards that carried the dialogue and other text (title), each section or cue also indicated the type and change of music.  The music needed is illustrated with a musical quotation, and is listed by title with the composer's name in parenthesis, the approximate running time for the piece of music, and finally the copyright information for that work.

Today cue sheets are a valuable guide to the past for two reasons: 1. many of these films are lost, Ace of Action being one of them.  In fact many scholars estimate that 80 to 90% of all silent films are lost forever, so cue sheets, along with press releases, advertisements, and reviews are about the only way we can ever know the contents of these movies, and 2. For those who wish to keep silent movies with live musical accompaniment alive, they provide a written record of what a particular film score might have sounded like, although as always, they were only one set of many, many possibilities.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Silent Movie Night 2012

Plans are underway for next year's evening of silent films.

Mark your calendars now for:

Friday, February 17, 2012.
Time to be announced. 

After reviewing our survey of what format you would enjoy most, and which films you were most interested in viewing - we plan on offering a short comedy and a feature film, as always with live musical accompaniment.  As always, the evening will feature an intermission, and the programming will be suitable for the entire family.

The total program to run approximately 100 minutes.

We have reviewed several films that reflected your interests, as expressed in the survey, and we are in the process of contacting the owner of those films for permission to run them in 2012.

As soon as we have arranged for permission and licensing, the films titles will be announced.

So please stay tuned!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

A Great Year - THANK YOU!

The 5th Annual Silent Movie Night, March 5th, 2011 - was a great success! 

Our thanks to all those who made the evening possible and all those who turned out in spite of heavy rains for our second best crowd every, app. 103.

The survey results are being tabulated, it was great to have so much feedback to help us with future planning.

Thanks to St. John's Lutheran Church, the Rev. Carl Johnson, St. John's Church Council and the Christian Education Committee.  To Rob Milligan, Emily Boarts, and Jeff Boarts, Eric Cook, Paul's Auto Parts, and our film licensing providers: Image Entertainment, Mr. David Shepard, and Kino Films.

Information about next year's program will be available as soon as details are confirmed.

We will also post various items related to silent film, music, St. John's and Kittanning.

Thanks for stopping by and inspecting our site and please join us in Kittanning!