Saturday, November 13, 2010

Classic Movie Events: Vern N' Clubfoot

Vernon Dent (1895-1963), from Good Morning, Eve!

Only momentarily satiated with trailers from misunderstood movies, today this blog plugs classic movie events in the San Francisco Bay Area.

While too late to mention last night's screening of From Here To Eternity at the fabulous Paramount Theatre, I would be remiss to not say anything about this weekend's classic film events : Vern and the return of Clubfoot Orchestra.

Vern refers to the hard-working and prolific character actor Vernon Dent, who gets a long overdue spotlight in
tonight's 7:30p.m. show at the Edison Theatre in the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum.

Author Bill Cassara will be on hand to sign copies of his new biography of the talented and underrated Mr. Dent. As Bill's Edgar Kennedy bio was an entertaining read, I look forward to his latest tome.

While Vernon Dent is best known as the "sultan of scorn" and ill-fated authority figure from more Three Stooges comedies than a sober mathematician can count (and it seems like Dent and fellow Columbia 2-reeler mainstay Bud Jamison pretty much appeared in every 1920's and 1930's comedy short ever made), his career dated back to the silent era. At
Mack Sennett's Fun Factory and other studios, he filled in wherever, however, whenever anyone needed a foil. a heavy, a comedian, straight man, or character role, in a way that recalls the very different but equally versatile Phil Hartman in more recent memory. His two decade screen partnership and offscreen friendship with Harry Langdon, the most startlingly original and fearless of 1920's movie stars, arguably deserves a book in itself.

Clubfoot refers to the
Clubfoot Orchestra, who have been providing original, non-traditional accompaniment for silent movies for more than two decades. I attended the ensemble's 1993 Memorial Day Weekend marathon at the Castro Theatre and was so impressed by the unorthodox blend of 1920's images with genre-busting modern sounds (drawing upon klezmer, classical, swing, reggae, rock, Frank Zappa, blues, ultra-lounge, bebop, show tunes, you name it) that I subsequently hired Clubfoot stalwart Beth Custer to team up with multi-instrumentalist Ralph Carney for several extravaganzas of silent animation and surrealist mayhem.

Clubfoot Orchestra returns to the Castro to perform with Buster Keaton's Sherlock Jr and hallucinatory German Expressionist classics Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari and Nosferatu tomorrow,
November 14.

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