September 24, 2008
Silent-film maestro to present Cecile B. DeMille’s 1929 film, ‘The Godless Girl’
Silent-film organ accompanist Dennis James will return to Columbia to play the musical score for Cecile B. DeMille’s 1929 film, “The Godless Girl,” Nov. 15 at the University of South Carolina.
James’ presentation, which is free and open to the public, will be at 7:30 p.m. in the School of Music’s recital hall.
The screening is part of a national re-introduction of the film, which addresses religious debates relevant today. Originally shot as a silent film, some sound was added to “The Godless Girl” to help it compete in the emerging world of talking pictures.
Canadian filmmaker Guy Maddin calls “The Godless Girl” one of the strangest movies ever made by DeMille.
“Shot just a few years after the Scopes ‘monkey’ trial, the film opens on a sexually charged college campus pitting cute co-ed atheists against an angry mob of Christian believers,” said Maddin, an advocate for silent film. “Some collateral damage lands the two main religious adversaries, played with the electrifying lust we’ve come to demand of DeMille, in a bizarre reform school where girls and boys toil out their sentences segregated flimsily by a tantalizing, see-through fence.”
Though rarely seen before now, “The Godless Girl” was preserved by the George Eastman House and recently premiered at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival. The film also is part of a DVD project by Treasures of American Film Archives, which is funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Film Preservation Board.
The presentation on Nov.15 was originally set for last year but was postponed. This presentation is the fifth in an annual series of silent-film screenings with live accompaniment by James, who tours internationally as a composer and musician specializing in recreating historically accurate scores for silent film.
The series is hosted by the university’s Film Studies Program and School of Music. James’ past concerts featured the 1929 films, “Asphalt” and “People on Sunday” and Charlie Chaplin’s “Easy Street” (1917) and “The Kid” (1921).
For more information, call the university’s Film Studies Program at 803-777-2361.