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Years ago people were known for more than their last picture. Some were academy award winners, some weren’t but they all had something in common. They were remembered for who they were because they were somebodys.

In the teens and 20’s you didn’t always have to say an actors name for someone to know who you were talking about. If you said, ‘the tramp,’ everyone knew you were referring to Charlie Chaplin, just as Buster Keaton came to be known as, ‘the great Stoneface.’ Mary Pickford was, ‘America’s sweetheart,’ and Clara Bow will always remain, ‘the It Girl.’ John Barrymore was known as, ‘the great profile’ and Lon Chaney Sr. was, ‘the man of a thousand faces.

But it wasn’t just nicknames that reminded us of who they were, there were the trademarks. Laurel and Hardy had us rolling with their famous antics regarding their hats. Who would Groucho be without his glasses and cigar or Harpo without his horn? Would we feel the same way about Mae West if she didn’t sashay into the room and tell us to, “Come up and see me sometime.”

There was a mystic in those early years of Hollywood. It was a time when character actors ruled. Though today we might not recognize the names of Edward Brophy, Guy Kibbee, Thelma Ritter, Virginia O’Brian or Nat Pendleton, we will recognize their faces on the silver screen. They’re the ones who brought comedic relief during those staggeringly serious moments.

Where have these treasures disappeared too? Where are the Valentino’s of the world? Will we see another Ginger Rogers/Fred Astaire team again? What happened to Mel Blanc’s type of cartoons? Where is the real Hollywood and what do we have to do to get it back?

Nothing is the same as it once was. What once was, is now lost.

___ J. R. R. Tolkien

            What say you? Do you feel cheated? Do you feel had?

If you live in the Chicagoland Area, voice your opinion. Go to the Portage Theater on Milwaukee Ave. for the next 6 consecutive Friday nights. They will be hosting the Silent Film Society of Chicago’s Silent Summer Film Festival. I guarantee a night to remember. Be sure to arrive early and listen to the live jazz bands performing hits of a bygone era. I know you’ll enjoy it and that you’ll have the time of your life when that organ starts pumping to accompany the movie.

Silent Film Society of Chicago