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2012 Silent Summer Film Festival Schedule Announced

By Chuck Sudo in Arts & Entertainment on Jul 5, 2012 9:45PM

Portage Theater c. 1940 via Chicago Theatre Preservation Alliance

One of the local film festivals we circle on our calendar in three different colors of Sharpie is the Silent Film Society of Chicago's Silent Summer Film Festival. For six Fridays from late July through August the Portage Theater reverts back to its glory days as a silent movie palace.

Last year's festival (which celebrated the early stars of film such as Louise Brooks, Gloria Swanson, Mary Pickford, Greta Garbo, Marion Davies and Janet Gaynor) was one of the stronger festival lineups in recent memory. This year's festival isn't as top to bottom strong as last year, but still has some gems worth viewing.

The festival begins July 20 with John Barrymore in Sherlock Holmes. Once though lost to the ravages of neglect, this rediscovered film follows Barrymore as Sherlock, matching wits with Gustav Von Seyffertitz's Moriarity in trying to solve the mystery of some embezzled athletic funds.

Fritz Lang's The Spiders, screening Aug. 8, lays the foundation for all adventure movies to come. Sportsman Kay Hoog (Carl de Vogt) has a tip on an Inca civilization that still exists and, more importantly, its bounty of gold. But when a criminal group called "The Spiders" steal Hoog's plans, the race to discover the Incas first is set in motion. The film is full of exotic scenes and harrowing action sequences.

Another adventure film in this year's lineup is The Gaucho, a showcase for the charm and physicality of Douglas Fairbanks. He plays the title character, tasked with saving an Argentinian town from the evil clutches of a man who has forcibly taken over the religious shrine that provides the town its prosperity. The Gaucho screens Aug. 10.

One silent femme fatale who wasn't honored in last year's lineup was Joan Crawford. Her career spanned decades and she chewed scenery every minute. In Our Dancing Daughters, which closes the festival Aug. 24. Crawford plays a flapper who falls hard for a man who's looking for a wife, but fears her loose morals don't fit what he's looking for. So he marries a prim and proper woman who turns out to be anything but, and begins to regret his decision.

Music is always a prominent component of the festival. Portage Theater organist Jay Warren will be behind the keys of the theater's pipe organ for Sherlock Holmes, The Spiders and Our Dancing Daughters, while the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra, which beautifully scored F.W. Murnau's Sunrise last year, will handle similar duties for The Gaucho.

The Silent Film Society of Chicago's Silent Summer" Film Festival runs 8 p.m. consecutive Fridays from July 20 through Aug. 24. Advance tickets are $10 each ($15 for The Gaucho) or $9 for seniors and students, Or $12 at the door. Festival passes are $51 ($45 for seniors and students) and can be purchased online here.