Marquette Wire

Organ transplant

faiza.yunus@marquette.edu

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Saturday begins the season at around 1 p.m. with the first American feature length comedy, “Tillie’s Punctured Romance,” a 1914 classic starring Charlie Chaplin. The season will run through May, with one silent film showing per month.

According to Debbie Donaldson, publicist for “Silents Please,” the Saturday afternoon shows offer more than just the opportunity to sit back and enjoy a silent film; they actually offer a variety show with classic cartoons and Westerns, giving it a sort of vaudeville feel.

Although silent films may seem like a part of ancient history to movie-goers of “The Matrix” generation, Donaldson claims silent films are in fact appealing to young adults because of the connections between present day films and films of the past.

Donaldson cited scenes in the Dustin Hoffman classic “The Graduate” and the slapstick comedy of “The Three Stooges” as being based on concepts in silent films.

“People enjoy going back to see the origins of film and tracing the evolution,” Donaldson said. “Young folks use them to see difficult concepts without words.”

Paul Grant, program director for KTOS, also recognizes the contribution silent films have made to the evolution of movies. It was his love of silent films that sparked the idea to create “Silents Please,” and he says “everything (we) see was born 75 or 100 years ago.”

Grant is the one who selects which films will be screened, and he relies heavily on his movie collection of 2,300 to help him decide. Many of the films shown are from his personal collection.

Though this is KTOS’ second season of “Silents Please,” the organization actually began in 1979 as a part of an effort to save a classic Kimball organ from being demolished. The organ originally was featured in Milwaukee’s Warner Theatre in 1931, and was donated to Milwaukee Technical High School in 1970. Because of the high maintenance expenses, the school was prepared to throw out the instrument, but KTOS was formed to save the organ’s life. The non-profit organization bought the organ and, as a result, now owns the largest Kimball organ in the country.

A Kimball organ, Grant points out, is different from church organs and other theater organs in that it has additional features built into it and is especially known for its “lush sounding strings,” and “wonderful, sweet, beautiful tone.”

The organ is stored at the Oriental Theatre, which has an organ chamber. The organ’s installation at the Oriental began in 1982 and it was played for the first time for the public in 1991, according to Grant.

“Silents Please” is an attempt to raise funds to maintain the organ. Before the silent film event began, KTOS members were paying out of their own pockets to help “keep the spirit of the organ alive,” according to Donaldson.

Grant has high hopes for keeping the organ’s spirits alive this season. He expects that since last year’s audience steadily increased throughout the season, this year’s audience will fill the 552 seats on the Oriental’s main floor. Though funds are a big issue for maintaining the organ, he hopes audiences “enjoy a fun day at the movies, like it was in the ’20’s.”

Donaldson also hopes audiences enjoy themselves and “get an appreciation for the accomplishments of the past.”

Movies are generally shown on the second Saturday of every month with a possible exception in November. For information on the complete schedule e-mail KTOS@exexpc.com or call the KTOS office in Racine at (262) 634-8394. Tickets are $8.00 for adults and $5.50 for children 12 and under. Shows generally run from 1 to 4 p.m. Special season and group rates are available. The Oriental Theatre is located at 2230 N. Farwell Ave.

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