Silent film draws capacity crowd for new ‘fun fundraiser’


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‘Safety Last,’ featuring top grossing silent movie star Harold Lloyd, was the film picked for the inaugural ‘fun fundraiser’ Nov. 2 at Suntree United Methodist Church.

photo courtesy of the Harold Lloyd Trust

Talkies may be a thing of the past.

Suntree United Methodist Church organist Tom Taylor successfully brought back a silent film with his accompaniment at a Nov. 2 fundraiser. A capacity crowd of about 350 people attended the free event and ponied up donations for new robes for the choral members.

The flick was “Safety Last,” a 1923 movie starring the popular Harold Lloyd as an Average Joe who leaves Kansas to seek his fortune in order to get married and settle down. He sets upon an idea to promote a department store with a stunt that leaves him dangling from a skyscraper clock tower in what is now one of the most iconic scenes in movie history.

“Everybody had a great time and really enjoyed it. It was a dream come true for me to do this,” said Taylor, who with his wife Lori moved to the area nine years ago as a senior mechanical designer for Suntree-based BRPH Architects and Engineers, Inc., adding the job at SUMC shortly after.

Taylor, a member of the American Theatre Organ Society, got the bug for silent films in the 1960s as part of an art theater group that played the organ for silent films. He said the unique activity is now a proven hit for a new type of fun fundraiser and will repeat it in January.

Taylor’s event starts off with the audience as part of the show, following an on-screen bouncing ball, singing some of the popular Tin Pan Alley songs of the ’20s, followed by a short break with refreshments.

The audio for the movie that follows is an artistic creation as well. While the movies do come with an original score, Taylor refuses to even listen to it. Instead, he writes his own music, cutting in and out to evoke the emotion of the story on the screen he has viewed dozens of times.Host and organist Tom Taylor

The church is a perfect setting for the event, with its commercial kitchen for mass meal preparation a plus for potential dinner theater, and frequent use by groups as a community center due to its crowd capacity and amenities, Taylor said. There is, however, one drawback, he added.

“You have to choose your films carefully,” Taylor said. “While we may think of them as the good ole days, and in many ways a more conservative time, the silent films dealt with some surprisingly dark and graphic themes. Even if they cut away at the last minute, your imagination filled in the blanks.”

For more information on upcoming silent movie shows, call the church at 321-255-2585.