Silent Movie Night


Buster Keaton

I’m too young to remember silent movies. (Hey, who sniggered?)

Well, I’ve seen them on TV and so on, of course. But they’re not the films I went to see as a kid. Unlike Mr Fiction Ed. He’s just a few years older but Saturday mornings at the cinema were a staple of his childhood. We think the difference between us captures that moment when TV came into people’s homes.

Anyway, when I saw an ad for Silent Movie Night at the Caird Hall, our traditional concert hall in Dundee town centre, I was intrigued. Buster Keaton and Laurel & Hardy. Fab. But the big attraction was the Caird Hall organ. A magnificent many-piped affair, it would be played in accompaniment. Not only that, but by Richard Hills, an acclaimed virtuoso of the cinema organ.

Two Tickets, Please

I snapped up two tickets, and along we went.

The supporting feature was Big Business with Laurel & Hardy selling Christmas trees. What a laugh! We all giggled and chortled and gasped along with the action, and the music was perfect, fun and ridiculous.

We had a nice interval to queue for ice cream, and then it was the main feature, Buster Keaton in Steamboat Bill Jr.

Again the musical accompaniment was perfect, creative and suiting every passing mood.

However, what struck me most amidst Keaton’s brilliance, was the story itself.

Familiar Themes

Keaton plays Bill Jr, prissy college boy son of a riverboat captain dad who’s plainly disappointed in him. Bill Jr, though, overcomes all sorts of challenges to prove his worth and save the day. Sound familiar?

Along the way, Bill Jr falls in love with Kitty, daughter of rival riverboat owner. So of course their love is forbidden. Again Bill Jr saves the day – and Kitty’s father’s life. So, as the credits roll it’s happy ever after for them. Again – sound familiar?

This film dates from 1928. Never seen it before. Yet I knew the story because both classic story themes are still in use today. I think there’s a nice moral there.

For more about story themes, check out our Writing Tools and Alan’s blogpost.

Shirley Blair

Fiction Ed Shirley’s been with the “Friend” since 2007 and calls it her dream job because she gets to read fiction all day every day. Hobbies? Well, that would be reading! She also enjoys writing fiction when she has time, long walks, travel, and watching Scandi thrillers on TV.

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