In Hollywood, any success brings a lot of imitators. So we can imagine this scene taking place right now at one of the big movie studios:
The studio head summons his top flunky into his office. "Flunky," the studio head says, "suspend all our current projects. We're taking this studio in a different direction."
"Wow, chief," says the flunky. "What's that?"
"It's new, it's different, it's revolutionary. Silent movies."
"Sure, didn't you see what happened at the Oscars? A black-and-white, silent movie won the Best Picture award. If that's what people will go for these days, we're going to give it to them. You know, I always suspected these talkies were a passing fad."
"How do we go about that?"
"First, you can sell off most of our sound recording equipment, we won't be needing it. Some Foley artists will have to be laid off, but it can't be helped. The movies will all have musical scores, though, people expect that. Boy, that John Williams will be getting a lot of work. Oh, and dump our color film stock. Black and white is the wave of the future."
"But, boss," the flunky says, "what can we release in the meantime?"
"Old silent movies," says the studio chief. "There's a bunch of them sitting around gathering dust, and today's audiences have never seen them. I've been screening a bunch of them and they're darn good. If people liked'The Artist,'they'll like these. Our studio motto will be, 'The 2010s are the new 1920s'."
"What old movies are you thinking of?"
"Our first re-release is obvious: 'Wings,' the very first Academy Award-winner. Terrific war picture. Follow that up with a comedy, maybe Charlie Chaplin's 'The Gold Rush.' Then a steamy romance, "Flesh and the Devil,' with Greta Garbo and John Gilbert. You want horror? We'll distribute the original 'Phantom of the Opera,' with Lon Chaney Senior."
"But what will we do for a summer blockbuster?"
"The original 'Ben-Hur.'From 1925, with Ramon Novarro andFrancis X. Bushman. It had one colossal chariot race."
"One thing, boss," says the flunky. "People go to see movies with the big stars they like. How is Francis X. Whosis going to open a picture for us?"
"Wait until people get a load of these silent stars. Buster Keaton, the Great Stone Face. Clara Bow, the 'It' Girl. Tom Mix ropin' and ridin'. Douglas Fairbanks Senior leaping and swashbuckling. Rudolph Valentino flaring his nostrils. And, of course, the most beloved star of the 1920s."
"Who was that?"
"Rin Tin Tin, of course. Dog stories never get old. And that's just the beginning."
"What else is there?"
"We need to reproduce that whole 1920s ambience, the era of the great old movie palaces. Enough of these multiplexes carved up into little cubicles. I want to see movie-house grandeur! I want Moorish architecture, stars twinkling in the ceiling, gilded fountains in the lobby, cherubs dangling off the walls, ushers in livery. And, of course, a mighty Wurlitzer organ. In every town! That's movieland magic, baby."
"We'll see if the theater chains will bite. But we'll still be making some new movies, won't we?"
"Sure, but a lot of them should be set in the past. And taking place in Paris."
"Apparently that's another trend, judging from the awards for'Hugo'and'Midnight in Paris.'Everybody loves Paris in the old days. Make sure we add some accordion players to the studio orchestra."
"So we'll be doing a lot of location shooting in Paris, then."
"Nah. We'll just CGI some images of the Eiffel Tower in the background, and people won't know the difference."
"I wonder, boss, will today's movie stars go for being in silent movies? Won't it bother them that their fans won't hear their voices?"
The studio head grins. "Sure they'll go for it, once they realize that they won't have to bother memorizing dialogue any more. I predict that once Brad and Meryl and Johnny and Leo and Sandra and the rest find they're relieved of that chore, they'll all join in a chorus of 'All right, Mr. DeMille, I'm ready for my close-up.' Hey we could even make a movie about that! It's be 'Singin' in the Rain' in reverse."
"That's brilliant, chief."
"But I've been doing all the talking here. Tell me, do you have any suggestions to add?"
The top flunky thinks a moment. "Actually, yes," he says. "If we could make it happen, there's one thing that would be even better than movie actors who don't talk."
"Movie audiences that don't talk."
Reach Tony at firstname.lastname@example.org.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun