Damariscotta’s Lincoln Theater invites you to join in for a new 2019 series, Celebrating the Silents, which will bring three classic silent films to the big screen and be offered on Friday afternoons at 2 p.m. - for free in January. The silent film era of the mid 1890s up to the late 1920s, used no synchronized recorded sound or dialogue, but instead had “title cards” to indicate plot and dialogue.
First in the series, “The Lost Battalion” (1919), screening on Friday, Jan. 11, is based on the experiences of soldiers in the American 77th Infantry Division, about 550 of whom were isolated and surrounded by the Germans during the Battle of the Argonne in World War I. As much as possible, the reenactment of the events is made with the original soldiers who survived and took place in the battle. Actual maps and documents are used in the film, which was authorized by the U.S. Government, and footage by the U.S. Signal Corps is also incorporated. Five participants received the Congressional Medal of Honor while others received the Distinguished Service Cross. The fictional part of the story precedes and follows the battle scenes, showing the men in civilian life and in training, and the survivors coming home to their loved ones. The men suffer from thirst, hunger, and heavy losses, but refuse to surrender. As more men are killed and captured, carrier pigeons become the only method of communicating with headquarters. Coming under friendly fire, the men are saved by a pigeon named Cher Ami, who delivers a message to stop the barrage. After five days, and several unsuccessful rescue attempts, the remaining men were finally rescued.
Second in the series, screening Friday, Jan. 18, is considered the most successful and artistically advanced film of its time, DW Griffith's “The Birth of a Nation.” This 1915 film, telling the story of the Civil War and its aftermath, as seen through the eyes of two families, has also sparked protests, riots, and divisiveness since its first release due to its blatantly racist perspective. The Stonemans hail from the North, the Camerons from the South. When war breaks out, the Stonemans cast their lot with the Union, while the Camerons are loyal to Dixie. Showings of Birth of a Nation were picketed and boycotted from the start, and as recently as 1995, Turner Classic Movies cancelled a showing of a restored print in the wake of the racial tensions around the O.J. Simpson trial verdict.
In 2018, “The Birth of a Nation” was voted one of the top 10 most influential films of all time. “The worst thing about “Birth of a Nation” is how good it is,” according to Richard Brody of The New Yorker.
There will be a facilitated discussion after the screening for those who would like to stay and explore.
The series closes on a lighter note Friday, Jan. 25 with Charlie Chaplin’s classic comedy, “City Lights” (1931), in which a homeless tramp befriends a lovely blind flower seller and convinces her he is a millionaire while he secretly labors to pay for the restoration of her sight. One of Charlie Chaplin's masterpieces, this hilarious and heart-rending film was made and released as a silent with music track in the post-talkie era. As Chaplin’s first film made during the sound era, he faced extreme pressure to make the film as a “talkie,” but such was his popularity and power in Hollywood that he was able to complete and release the film as a silent with recorded music.
The Lincoln Theater is at 2 Theater Street. For more information, visit the theater online at www.lcct.org.