This Saturday, Nov. 5th, SAA-SC had the privilege of being a part of the 30th anniversary of the Duck Soup Cinema Film Series at the Overture Center for the Arts, named after the famous 1933 Marx Bros. film Duck Soup
Several times a year, we reclaim the silent-film heritage of the Capitol Theater with our Duck Soup Cinema Series. Local vaudeville-style acts open for a silent film screening that has the crowd roaring by the end of the night. Each show features a skilled organist who mirrors the actors’ emotions on the magnificent Grand Barton Organ, just as it was done in 1928.-from Duck Soup Cinema’s page
The original Capitol Theater opened in 1928, the first silent film shown at the theater was the 1927 comedy Her Wild Oat starring Colleen Moore. To celebrate Duck Soup Cinema’s 30th anniversary, Her Wild Oat was shown and a new original score was written and performed on the famous Grand Barton Organ by the talented Jelani Eddington. The film, shot on nitrate, was thought to be lost for 80 years, but a copy was discovered at the Czech National Film Archive and subsequently restored by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Archive in 2006.
SAA-SC’s partnership with Duck Soup Cinema was the end result of a grant writing project assigned to Fall 2015’s LIS 450 class. Each group wrote a practice grant to fund programming in libraries, archival or cultural heritage institutions. One group chose to write a grant requesting funds for an on-campus screening of a silent film, from Wisconsin Center for Film and Theater Research’s collection, accompanied by a live performance from musicians at UW-Madison. After the Fall 2015 semester ended, group members Cat Hannula, Arik Kriha, Jenny Barth, Liz Deterding and Amanda Larson decided to make this “practice” grant a reality. A year of brainstorming, planning and proposals led to a partnership with the already well established silent film series Duck Soup. Cat, Arik, Jenny, Liz, and Amanda were able to bring two special additions to Duck Soup’s 30th anniversary celebration on behalf of the SAA-SC, the WCFTR and the UW Archives.
First, an educational exhibit on the history of film in its various formats and the challenge of saving deteriorating nitrate and acetate film. Second, a pre-show screening of a silent film held by the WCFTR, shot on UW-Madison’s campus by UW students and members of the Theta Delta Chi fraternity in 1920, titled Campus Smiles (watch here!) Liz Deterding gave an introduction to the film and advocated on behalf of the SAA-SC, the WCFTR and the UW Archives for the importance of preserving our film heritage so we can continue to share these incredible glimpses into the past.
The exhibition also included a large map of Madison along with then (1920) and now (2016) photographs of places in Madison that appear in Campus Smiles. The exhibit in the lobby and Campus Smiles was a big success at both the 2pm and 7pm screenings. Many audience members visited the table and talked to SAA-SC members about Campus Smiles and the artifacts provided by the UW Archives about those students and faculty members who appear in the film. Audience members were also very interested in the melting nitrate film on display under glass and had a chance to see real life examples of why preserving this particularly vulnerable film format is so important.
This incredible opportunity to advocate for the importance of film preservation, archival institutions and archival education, would not have been possible without the hard work and dedication of Cat, Arik, Jenny, Liz, Amanda, the WCFTR, UW Archives, the WHS and all those who volunteered and helped along the way. SAA-SC is lucky to have such motivated and talented members working together to bring events like this to life! SAA-SC hopes to continue to work with the Overture, Duck Soup and other Madison organizations in the years to come. Thanks to everyone at SLIS who came out to this event and to the faculty for their support. Thanks to all who took and sent pictures. See some of them below: