H.P. Carver’s The Silent Enemy with Live Organ Accompaniment by Jay Warren – Tinted 35mm Print

The Auditorium at Northeastern Illinois University – Building E, 3701 W. Bryn Mawr Ave
General Admission: $5 • NEIU Students: $2


Wednesday, September 28 @ 7:30 PM
Directed by H.P. Carver • 1930
Live organ accompaniment by Jay Warren
One of the last silent films released by a major studio—it contains one spoken monologue, which was sufficient for Paramount to promote it as the “all talking feature picture which required one year to film”—The Silent Enemy straddles the line between ethnographic documentary and sentimental fiction in the tradition of Nanook of the North. Inspired by the success of Cooper and Schoedsack’s Grass and Chang, safariing scions Douglas Burden and William Chanler endeavored to recreate and record the pre-Columbian lifestyle of the Ojibwa tribe of the Canadian Far North. Enlisting a professional Hollywood crew led by director H.P. Carver and cinematographer Marcel Le Picard, they spun a loose narrative allegedly drawn from 17th-century Jesuit histories of the region. The filmmakers’ devotion to authenticity went only so far; their cast was assembled from the “photogenic” ranks of First Nations people, with Ojibwa heritage preferred but not necessary. Their star, Chief Buffalo Child Long Lance, who claimed mixed heritage, had already been thoroughly assimilated into modern life, working as a journalist and serving with distinction in World War I before being adopted as an honorary Blackfoot; Chief Yellow Rose, who delivers the opening monologue, was a Sioux whom the filmmakers met at the American Museum of Natural History. In spite of its limitations, this empathetic portrayal of hunger and strife on the plains (the titular Silent Enemy) remains powerful and pictorially distinguished. Long circulated in a mutilated version prepared for the educational market, the original version of The Silent Enemy, rescued by David Shepard during his tenure at the American Film Institute, remains a capstone of silent cinema. (KW)
84 min • Burden-Chanler Productions • Tinted 35mm from Film Preservation Associates
Film Stock: Eastman LPP (1992)
Short: TBA

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