Silent Film Classic Peter Pan with Live Organ Accompaniment
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The last date listed for Silent Film Classic Peter Pan with Live Organ Accompaniment was Sunday June 18, 2006 / 2:00pm.
Nearly forgotten is the original 1924 live-action version of Peter Pan, a lavish silent fantasy that captures the fairy tale magic of flying children, wicked pirates, and a wondrous storybook land where kids never grow up. Paramount Pictures’ release of director Herbert Brenon’s 1924 production was the first version of J. M. Barrie’s play and the one officially sanctioned by the author, who personally chose 17-year-old Betty Bronson for the role over luminaries as Gloria Swanson and Mary Pickford. Bronson literally soars in the title role, beautifully capturing cinema’s first gendernaut’s alternating strains of pluck and melancholy at the prospect of growing up.
Tomboyish Betty Bronson, with an innocent smile and a mischievous spontaneity, is the eternally adolescent boy while towering Ernest Torrence (the burly comic actor best known as Buster Keaton’s gruff father in Steamboat Bill Jr.) plays a gleefully flamboyant Captain Hook. This faithful adaptation flies from the Darling nursery to the thick tangle of the Lost Boys’ forest, where elaborate, cartoonishly exaggerated animal costumes wander the trails and a floating ball of fairy light reveals herself as a lovely, petite girl in a gossamer gown and glowing hair. Long thought lost, a beautiful 35mm print was recovered years ago.
There’s much to love here: a mermaid colony; fabulous sets; fine photography by James Wong Howe; and a wonderfully fey performance by George Ali in a dog suit as Nana, the Darling children’s inhumanly nimble dog-nursemaid and Anna May Wong costars as Princess Tiger Lily. The film was a huge success at the time and then disappeared, resurfacing many decades later. In 2000, the United States Library of Congress deemed it “culturally significant” and selected it for preservation in the National Film Registry.