Pennsylvania composer to debut original score for classic silent films

Pennsylvania composer Kyle Simpson will debut original scores to two classic silent films (Georges Méliès’s A Trip to the Moon (1902) and The Kingdom of Fairies (1903)) Saturday at Carnegie Library and Music Hall, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Simpson, an assistant professor of music at Washington & Jefferson College who has performed professionally with the Glenn Miller Orchestra as well as Lew Soloff and Paquito D’Rivera, will play the scores live with his chamber orchestra and Pittsburgh’s Redline String Quartet. The Village Voice named A Trip to the Moon one of the hundred greatest films of the twentieth century.

The silent film that encouraged Jews to celebrate Christmas

 

 

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Moving Picture World reports that rabbis who attended the Manhattan premiere of the film in the days leading up to Christmas 1913 approved of its narrative, but not the title. (Image Courtesy: The Forward).

Phillips Smalley and Lois Weber’s The Jew’s Christmas (1913), a half-hourlong, three-reel picture written by Weber, is the first American film with a rabbi as a character, but represents its Jewish cast as intolerant of Christians and in need of assimilation, according to The Forward. Smalley himself plays Rabbi Isaac, but husband-and-wife filmmaking team Smalley and Weber were both Gentiles, and Carl Laemmle, the president of Universal Pictures at the time who greenlit the production, was Jewish. Weber would go on to become the first woman to direct a feature-length movie, The Merchant of Venice (1914), in the United States.

The “Titanic” survivor who made a movie about it a month later

A silent film star named Dorothy Gibson co-wrote and acted in Etienne Arnaud’s one-reeler, Saved from the Titanic (1912), twenty-nine days after surviving the sinking herself, according to The A.V. Club. Gibson’s character in the film wears the same clothes the actress wore the night of the disaster, and even though the picture was an international hit, the only known prints were lost in a fire two years into its release, in one of the worst cinematic tragedies of the era. Gibson had been part of movie history since “Hollywood” was located in Fort Lee, New Jersey – indeed, she was one of the first performers to reach stardom – and only one of her flicks still exists.