Silent Cinema at the Music Box

Sun, Oct 10th, 2021
Sat, Nov 6th, 2021

Presented by Chicago Film Society 

Rare and classic silent films, the way they were meant to be seen! Featuring live musical accompaniment on the famous Music Box organ by Dennis Scott, Music Box House Organist. 


General Admission Tickets – $12 / Music Box Members – $9

Movies & Showtimes for
Silent Cinema at the Music Box

Thu, Sep 9th



A FILM BY: Erich von Stroheim
WRITTEN BY: June Mathis (screenplay), Erich von Stroheim (screenplay), Frank Norris (novel)
STARRING: Zasu Pitts, Gibson Gowland, Jean Hersholt

Live Musical Accompaniment by House Organist Dennis Scott | Presented by Chicago Film Society 

Erich von Stroheim was perhaps the least likely star of the silent era, an Austrian émigré who profitably channeled America’s voracious wartime hostility towards the Germans into a peculiar anti-matinee idol status, turning rank villainy and unbridled sexual license into calling cards. When he turned to directing, he intertwined melodrama and perversity, profligacy and purple prose. Greed, Stroheim’s ill-fated adaptation of Frank Norris’s Naturalist novel McTeague, began production under the Goldwyn Pictures banner, but wound up released by the newly amalgamated Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. A freethinker whose contract had been acquired by Hollywood’s most rigidly top-down studio, Stroheim described the resulting film as “the skeleton of my dead child.” Yet even this front-office-mandated version of Greed remains a forthrightly ghoulish film, a vision of marital hell so vivid that it could keep even the most besotted couple from approaching the altar. Stroheim’s depiction of the unholy union of amateur dentist Mac (Gibson Gowland) and spendthrift Trina (Zasu Pitts) becomes such a harrowing and emotionally direct experience that one of the film’s most famous intertitles—“Let’s go over and sit on the sewer”—reads as almost romantic in context! Topped by spectacular sun-dried cinematography and propelled by a sense of preordained tragedy, Greed is like nothing else in the movies. Once reflexively cited as one of the medium’s masterpieces, Greed has been ill-served by the canon of late capitalism. It still circulates for home viewing in transfers prepared during the VHS era, but luckily remains available in 35mm for discerning sewer cinephiles. 35mm Print Courtesy of Warner Bros

Preceded by: "A Corner in Wheat" (D.W. Griffith, 1909) - 14 min - 16mm

Technical Information

Production Year: 1924
Country of Origin: United States
Language: English
Run Time: 112 mins
Format: 35mm

The Shakedown

A FILM BY: William Wyler
WRITTEN BY: Charles Logue (story), Clarence Marks (adaptation), Albert DeMond (dialogue)
STARRING: James Murray, Barbara Kent, George Kotsonaros

Live Musical Accompaniment by House Organist Dennis Scott | Presented by Chicago Film Society 

In the 1920s Universal Pictures promoted its expensive films as “Jewels” and termed its very expensive ones “Super Jewels,” but everything else from the studio that wasn’t so designated may as well have fallen off a truck. If only every Universal release aspired to the panache and pluck of The Shakedown, a low-budget picture from a generic script that nevertheless delivers an emotional knockout. It’s also a terrifically dynamic showcase for William Wyler, who had hitherto been churning out made-to-order Westerns for the studio.  James Murray stars as a young man who’s fallen in with a band of grifters who ramble from town to town, milking the locals by taking bets on rigged boxing matches. If hash house cashier Barbara Kent and railyard urchin Jack Hanlon aren’t reason enough to settle down, they nevertheless provide sufficient inspiration for Murray to turn the tables on his comrades. Murray and Kent starred, respectively, in The Crowd and Lonesome the previous year, and The Shakedown stands beside those films as an unassuming account of working-class life. Originally released in silent and “half-talkie” editions, both versions of The Shakedown were presumed lost until the former miraculously turned up at Cinefest, the film collector convention in Syracuse, New York, in the late 1990s. This 35mm copy is an optical blow-up from that sole surviving Universal Show-at-Home 16mm print. 35mm Print Courtesy of Universal

Preceded by: TBD

Technical Information

Run Time: 65 mins

Traffic in Souls

A FILM BY: George Loane Tucker
STARRING: Jane Gail, Ethel Grandin, William H. Turner

Live accompaniment by Music Box house organist Dennis Scott | Programmed and co-presented by the Chicago Film Society

The earliest feature films to grace American screens were adaptations of stage productions or spectacles imported from Europe. It’s no wonder that Traffic in Souls, an all-American, effortlessly cinematic blend of thrills, melodrama, and social critique, would stand out like a flare in a tinder box. Promoted as a “full-blooded sermon” that allegedly dramatized the results of a highly-publicized 1910 grand jury investigation into sex trafficking chaired by John D. Rockefeller, Jr., the film follows two sisters who work as shopgirls in a New York candy store: Mary (Jane Gail), who is dating a police officer (Matt Moore), and Lorna (Ethel Grandin), who will soon be abducted and deposited at a brothel clandestinely operated by one of the city’s most vocal social reformers. (The Pizzagate of its day?) The film’s political sensibility fits squarely within the social concerns of the Progressive Era, but the technology that moves the story forward and exposes the crime ring — dictagraphs, telegraphic pens, secret communication channels — pushes it into the realm of pulp espionage, a runty American cousin of the hyperbolic crime cinema of Louis Feuillade and Fritz Lang, cut to a frenetic tempo that rivals D. W. Griffith. An enormous hit that sold 30,000 tickets on Broadway in its first week of release, inspired a legion of imitators, and became the first feature film to be novelized, Traffic in Souls may be past its centenary, but it’s never stopped to catch its breath. 35mm Print courtesy of the Library of Congress

Preceded by: “Love, Speed and Thrills” (Walter Wright, 1915) – 13 min – 16mm

Technical Information

Production Year: 1913
Country of Origin: United States
Language: English
Run Time: 75 mins
Format: 35mm

Music Box Theatre

3733 N Southport Ave Chicago, IL 60613 773 871 6604