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Friday, October 7, 2011

Silence is Golden (and Esoteric)

Alternate title for this post: "The Great Film Class That Almost Was."

As you may remember, last month I signed up to take a film class at my local community college. It was called "Silent to Talkies." To most of you, this may sound about as interesting as the complete history of laundry fuzz, but to me, it was tailor-made for my long-unquenched thirst for silent films. The closest I came to studying film in college was 1) Shakespeare and the Movies, and 2) Classic Films (mostly film noir from the 40s and 50s and a few edgier films by Hitchcock and some French directors whose names now escape me).

Despite my lack of formal education in Film, I have had a passionate interest in silent film legend Lon Chaney (1883-1930) since... I can't remember when, actually, but it's been pervasive. I've read at least a half dozen biographies on him and amassed a small collection of his films. (Like most silents, 75% of his are "lost films" meaning no prints exist. This tragedy is best understood by imaging what the world would be like if we had records of only 25% of Shakespeare's plays and poems. Think of that same loss, but in the film world rather than the literary one.)

Anyway, I had basically told everyone and their other brother Darryl that I was enrolled for this film class. I was not just excited about it. I was STOKED. I was PSYCHED. I was really, really looking forward to it!

So imagine my disappointment when I was informed late last week that MY silent film class had been... *dun dun Duunnnnnnnn* ...CANCELLED.

What? How could they do this? More importantly, how could they do this to me? It was wrong! It was an outrage! How dare they dangle this delicious slab of film delicacy before me, only to yank it away at the last moment before I'd had a single bite. Gone were my dreams of mingling with other Chaney fans and exchanging thoughts on the great "sound divide" crossover and the merits of silents vs. talkies. Gone were the Tuesday evenings spent exploring the cinematic heights of the 1920s and then bemoaning the current state of modern cinema. All this had almost been mine. It had been so close, and now, it was simply "cancelled"? But why? Why would they do such a thing?

Answer: low enrollment. Seriously.

I know, I know... it's hard to believe, but it's the truth. Yes, in the year 2011, in the midst of pocket-sized computers (what the kids are calling "smartphones") and the box office gold that is every-movie-ever-made-now!-in!-3D!, nobody cares about silent films anymore... Nobody, that is, except me.

But, all is not lost. To cheer me up on what would have been the first night of my much-anticipated film class, my professor (aka husband) welcomed me to the lecture hall (aka dining room) and presented me with two multiple choice tests: 1) a general knowledge quiz on silent film stars and directors, and 2) a quiz specifically on the life and films of Lon Chaney and his fellow-actor son, Lon Chaney Jr. (most famous for his 1941 horror classic, The Wolf Man).
I felt a lot better after kicking the prof's butt on the Chaney quiz (which I aced, naturally). 

More cheering up will occur this weekend as I soak up this gorgeous weather. We had a high today of 85 (really! in Chicago! in October!), and tomorrow will bring more of the same. Perfect weather for our planned outing to the apple orchard. MMmmmm, appley goodness awaits....

In conclusion: Bring on the Autumn! Booyah!

P.S. Lon Chaney is my hero. Fin.

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