Silent movies are the talk of the future

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."

"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."





Look for this special section in your
Baltimore Sun newspaper on Dec. 29, 2013.
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