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Davis Journal

Davis organization revives 100-year-old art form

Sep 01, 2023 08:40AM ● By Braden Nelsen
Two students play along with a 100-year-old film at a recent Silent Film Celebration. Courtesy Photo

Two students play along with a 100-year-old film at a recent Silent Film Celebration. Courtesy Photo

CENTERVILLE—Movies have certainly come a long way in the past 100 years. From the jerky, cobbled-together films of the turn of the century, to the “talkies” which rose to prominence in the late 1920s, to modern cinema, a lot has changed with new innovations. With that change, certain elements have been lost, but that’s something Heather Smith and her organization have dedicated themselves to preserving.

The Silent Film Celebration started out very small as a part of music lessons that Smith had been teaching in Centerville, “I wanted an opportunity for all students and abilities (to perform),” said Smith. In looking for this opportunity, she had heard of a colleague who had put on a performance based on classic silent movies.

In the days before synchronized sound was popular or easy in motion pictures, often, live music would accompany movies, and would be played either by a pianist, an organist, or a small combination of musicians on a small stage. These films would sometimes even be followed or preceded by a live vaudeville act, also accompanied by those same musicians.

Now, thanks to organizations like Smith’s, these films, and their live scores, are being revived, “It brings the history back,” said Smith, “it’s a lot more interactive (than modern films).” The Silent Film Celebration, which is now in its fifth year, has been doing a lot to keep the memory of these classic movies alive.

When asked to raise their hands if they’d ever seen a silent film, most audiences don’t, said Smith, “The majority of audiences have never even seen a silent film.” While many of these movies are available online, there really is no better way to see them than in person with live music as intended. And the Davis County audiences seem to agree.

The Silent Film Celebration started out in the Bountiful Davis Art Center, but soon outgrew the facilities there, and has since been hosted in the Megaplex Movie Theater in Centerville, which is where audiences can expect to see it this September. As opposed to many events which suffered during the pandemic, Smith said that their event actually benefited because of it.

Hollywood wasn’t making many new movies said Smith, and people still needed entertainment, which brought them out to see silent movies, “It meant so much to us when we did that,” said Smith. Observing CDC regulations, individuals and families still came and supported the event, and helped it not only survive but grow to where it is today. 

It has grown so much, in fact, that it’s no longer only students that underscore the films. Smith shared that in addition to music students, audiences will also be able to hear community favorite Blaine L. Gale, the organist of Edison Street Events, as well as the Bountiful Philharmonia. It’s bound to be an event that movie-goers won’t soon forget.

Seeing classics like Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, Laurel and Hardy along with many others will be an experience over 100 years in the making, and Smith recommends going to several, and “Mak(ing) a day of it. Come and experience an art form that is now very well known now.” 

The next Silent Film Celebration will be at the Megaplex Theatres at Legacy Crossing in Centerville, Sept. 15 through 16. Specific showtimes and tickets can be found at