Silent Movies

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A couple of days ago, we told you about the Peekin Theatre, Creston’s first movie theatre. When it opened in 1919, it featured silent movies – the first “talkie” wasn’t shown in Creston until 1931.

In those days, the technology didn’t exist to synchronise sound and film. But sound was still an integral part of movies – there was music, provided by a piano or even by an entire orchestra; sometimes a narrator would read the title screens of the movie; there might even be someone providing live sound effects at appropriate times.

Sheet music used by Jan Hall of Erickson when she played for the silent movies
at the Grand Theatre, successor to the Peekin, in the 1920s

The Peekin had an orchestra to accompany the motion pictures, which also provided the music for the dances which often followed the films. The Grand Theatre, which the Rodgers’ family built in 1920 as a successor for the Peekin, may have had an orchestra on some occasions, but more often than not the music was provided by a single person on the piano.

The first motion picture shown at the Peekin, on 27 September 1919, was “A Fight for Millions,” starring William Duncan and Edith Johnson. The newspaper story about it certainly makes it sound exciting!

Your task today, should you choose to accept it: watch a silent movie! I could not find a link to “A Fight for Millions,” but I did find this website which lists 101 silent movies, all in the public domain and available for free – and I didn’t have to sign up or download anything to check out a couple. There are even a few featuring the ultimate silent movie star, Charlie Chaplin!

And, if you’re feeling really creative, make your own silent movie! Post it to Facebook or YouTube or wherever your favourite sharing site is, and send us a link – we’ll feature the best in a future story!