The Blue Bird
A FILM BY: Maurice Tourneur
WRITTEN BY: Maurice Maeterlinck (play), Charles Maigne (adapted for the screen by)
STARRING: Tula Belle, Robin Macdougall, Edwin E. Reed
Co-presented with Chicago Film Society | Featuring a Live Musical Score performed by Music Box House Organist Dennis Scott.
Nobel laureate Maurice Maeterlinck's 1908 play The Bluebird had already charmed audiences in Moscow, London, and New York by the time this magical adaptation reached the screen. The simple fairy tale of Mytyl and Tytyl, children who journey through enchanted lands in search of the Bluebird of Happiness, provided the ideal material for Maurice Tourneur, the French émigré who brought a wispy Pictorialist sensibility to the wilds of New Jersey. This delicate dream of a film excels in realizing the stranger aspects of Maeterlinck's play with wide-eyed, guileless gusto: the spirits and fairies, the living souls of everyday objects like bread and milk, the Cathedral of Happiness, and more.
35mm print courtesy of the George Eastman Museum
Production Year: 1918
Country of Origin: United States
Run Time: 80 mins
A FILM BY: F.W. Murnau
WRITTEN BY: Elliott Lester (play), Berthold Viertel (adaptation)
STARRING: Charles Farrell, Mary Duncan, David Torrence
Live accompaniment by Music Box organist Dennis Scott
Initially conceived as poetic paean to the production chain of bread, F.W. Murnau reconfigured his decidedly experimental concept into a endearingly simple love story between Minnesota country boy Lem (Charles Farrell), come to the big city to sell his family's wheat crop, and Chicago waitress Kate (Mary Duncan), yearning for an end to the loneliness of urban life. Lem weds Kate and brings her home to the farm, where Lem's family doesn't look kindly upon Kate's city girl ways. Filming his city scenes on extravagant studio sets and his farm scenes on location in the wilds of Oregon, Murnau imbues both with a rapturous sense of discovery, collapsing simple urban-rural dichotomies and inventing the career of Terrence Malick in the process.
Production Year: 1930
Country of Origin: United States
Run Time: 88 mins
The Lighthouse Keepers
A FILM BY: Jean Grémillon
WRITTEN BY: Pierre Antier (play), P. Cloquemin (play)
STARRING: Paul Fromet, Geymond Vital, Genica Athanasiou
Co-presented by Chicago Film Society | In French with English subtitles
Initially trained as a documentary filmmaker before dabbling in the avant-garde, Jean Grémillon transitioned to narrative features at the very end of the silent era. His second, THE LIGHTHOUSE KEEPERS, was shot in a studio, but retains the flavor of Grémillon’s native Brittany. A father tends a remote lighthouse with his son, who longs to be reunited with his fiancée. Unbeknownst to the father, the son was recently bitten by a rabid dog and finds himself slowly going insane and turning violent. Adapted by Jacques Feyder from a one-act play, THE LIGHTHOUSE KEEPERS is notable for its expressionistic distortions and masterful editing, continually finding new ways to represent abnormal psychological realms.
Print courtesy of National Film Archive of Japan
Production Year: 1929
Country of Origin: France
Run Time: 73 mins
A FILM BY: Dimitri Buchowetzki
WRITTEN BY: Dimitri Buchowetzki, Alexandre Dumas (story)
STARRING: Pola Negri, Johannes Riemann, Alfred Abel
Live accompaniment by Music Box organist Dennis Scott | Co-presented with Chicago Film Society
Fresh from the worldwide success of Ernst Lubitsch's Madame DuBarry, Polish actress Pola Negri signed a Hollywood contract with great fanfare. In March 1923, a month before the release of Negri's first American film, Goldwyn Studios dusted off a German Negri film from two years earlier, retitled it Mad Love, and cannily exploited the public's mounting Negri-mania. Described by the New York Tribune as "the greatest non-stop vamping record ever filmed," Sappho follows Negri as the titular temptress who drives one lover to the insane asylum (Alfred Abel), proceeds to seduce his brother (Johannes Riemann), beguiles an automobile magnate (Albert Steinrück), and more. A mad whirl of betrayal and revenge follows.
35mm print courtesy of UCLA Film and Television Archives
Production Year: 1921
Country of Origin: Germany
Run Time: 81 mins