Saturday, June 04, 2011

Silent Movies Shot In Orange County

Today I'm posting a series of photos from the special Saturday open house we held today at the exhibit, "On Location: Orange County in Silent Film," at the Old Orange County Courthouse. This afternoon we screened Buster Keaton's "College," with live accompaniment on the organ by William Campbell. It was a packed house! Today's Register featured a very nice article about the exhibit and this event.

The exhibit, as I mentioned earlier, is about the many movies shot in Orange County during the silent film era. The staff of the Orange County Archives put the exhibit together, with funding and technical help from OC Parks. I know I'm biased, but I think the mix of original props and movie equipment, photos, movie posters, replica costumes and other artifacts is fairly impressive for our first build-it-from-scratch exhibit. And it tells an interesting story that few people know. The exhibit is free to the public and can be viewed on the third floor of the Old Courthouse, 211 W. Santa Ana Blvd., Santa Ana, from 9am to 5pm, Monday through Friday, until Aug. 5th.

I should have posted this earlier. Sometimes I'm so busy prepping for events that I don't realize I haven't blogged about something. But if you missed out on today's event, all is not lost. Not only can you still see the exhibit, but you can also be part of yet another Silent Movies Shot In O.C. screening this Thursday.

The very first movie shot in Orange County, D.W. Griffith's "Two Brothers" will be shown in its entirety -- along with clips of other silent films shot locally -- at this month's meeting of the Orange County Historical Society. The show will begin at 7:30 p.m., Thurs., June 9th, at Trinity Episcopal Church, 2400 N. Canal St., Orange.

"Two Brothers" is a tale set in California's Rancho era, and shows many identifiable scenes of San Juan Capistrano as it appeared in 1910. Long considered lost, a copy of the film was recently found by the Smithsonian. It is essentially a Western, set in the "days of the Dons." Still-unknown talents Mary Pickford, Hoot Gibson and Mack Sennett are featured in bit parts.

This OCHS program is free and open to the public. Popcorn and refreshments will be available in the "lobby," and copies of Jim Sleeper's book, "Great Movies Shot in Orange County" will be available for sale.

But let's go back to the exhibit at the Old Courthouse,... The exhibit (and thus, these accompanying events) couldn't have happened without Jim Sleeper's aforementioned book. Although the artifacts were provided by a variety of generous sources, Jim's thorough research gave us the framework and background to make the exhibit more than just a roomful of interesting stuff.

In the photo above, County Archivist Susan Berumen introduces theater organist, Bill Campbell, of the Orange County Theatre Organ Society. He did an amazing job for us! (See a film clip of his performance here.)

This last photo shows the audience watching "College" in Courtroom 2 of the Old Courthouse. Seeing a big crowd of people laughing loudly at Buster Keaton's inspired hijinks, it's hard to imagine that this is the same room where the nationally infamous Overell murder trial was held in 1947.

Anyway,... Whether you make it to the exhibit in Santa Ana or to the program in Orange, (or hopefully both), please stop by and say hello.

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