Silent Cinema at the Music Box

Sun, Dec 5th, 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

Sat, Nov 6th
Traffic in Souls


Pavement Butterfly

A FILM BY: Richard Eichberg
WRITTEN BY: Hans Kyser (story), Adolf Lantz
STARRING: Anna May Wong, Alexander Granach, Nien Soen Ling
Live accompaniment by Music Box house organist Dennis Scott | Programmed and co-presented by the Chicago Film Society
Anna May Wong landed a starring role in the pioneering Technicolor production The Toll of the Sea (1922) at the age of seventeen, but found limited opportunities in Hollywood afterwards. Often cast in thinly-conceived supporting roles, Wong was both held back by Orientalist stereotypes and prevented from making a unique contribution by Hollywood’s dubious pan-ethnic casting practices. “There seems little for me in Hollywood,” Wong lamented, “because, rather than real Chinese [actors], producers prefer Hungarians, Mexicans, American Indians for Chinese roles.” So, it was hardly surprising when she jumped at the opportunity to work in Europe, signing a five-picture deal with German director Richard Eichberg, a commercially-minded filmmaker who had shepherded Lillian Harvey to stardom. Backed by British International Pictures and their German subsidiary Suedfilm but set on the French Riviera, Pavement Butterfly is an exemplar of the eclectic internationalism of the late silent era. Wong stars as a circus acrobat whose partner is murdered, setting off a roundelay of melodramatic incidents, including gambling, blackmail, and the faint promise of love. Released in the US under the title City Butterfly, this delicate and atmospheric film was scarcely noticed as the talkies’ market share marched on. Wong soon returned to Hollywood, co-starring in Shanghai Express and anchoring a series of low-budget thrillers at Paramount, but her British films continue to loom large as the apex of her screen stardom. Piccadilly was restored and rediscovered two decades ago, but the rest remain nearly impossible to see. We are proud to be presenting this extremely rare screening in an imported archival print.
35mm from BFI National Film Archive | Special Thanks to Kiva Reardon, Hyesung ii, and Sara Smith (Academy Museum) and Edo Choi (Museum of the Moving Image)
Preceded by: Koko the Clown in "Vaudeville" (Dave Fleischer, 1924) - 8 min - 16mm

Technical Information

Production Year: 1929
Country of Origin: Germany
Run Time: 90 mins
Format: 35mm

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