The Big Parade (1925)

Silent Guns: Kennington Bioscope remembers WWI

Anniversaries are a wonderful reason to show some archive film, and some anniversaries are better than others. The Kennington Bioscope, which has had a spectacularly busy year, has added yet another special event to the calendar. Silent Guns is a celebration of First World War cinema, to commemorate 100 years since the conflict ended, curated by the KB team and Kevin Brownlow himself.

The screenings will take place on Saturday 17 November 20187, from 10am to 10.30pm at where else but the wonderful Cinema Museum in south London. Most of the film prints will be 35mm or 16mm and of course all the silent films will be accompanied by live music.

The gala film, so to speak, is King Vidor’s The Big Parade, a rare chance to see this Hollywood classic starring John Gilbert on the big screen and on film too. But there are some very intriguing titles further down the programme, including some little-seen British films, including Maurice Elvey’s Comradeship (1919) and and George Pearson’s Reveille (1924) – and a German one too. There are shorts (From Pearl White to Chaplin), extracts from films that don’t survive intact, and even a couple of sound artefacts too.

Here’s a little teaser from the Bioscope team:

Maurice Elvey’s Comradeship (1919) was his first film for Stoll and also the British studio’s first feature-length production, made towards the end of the war. It featured the stage actress Lily Elsie – in one of her rare film appearances – as a Red Cross matron. The British film Q Ships (1928) and Germany’s When Fleet Meets Fleet (1926) each deal with their respective countries’ navies in a manner that avoids war-mongering.

King Vidor’s powerful and moving American hit The Big Parade (1925), starring John Gilbert and Renée Adorée, was among the first to explore the psychological trauma of war.

Shorts will include a rare Chaplin cartoon from the war years and two reels (out of three) of Nurse and Martyr (UK 1915), an Edgar Wallace story about the British heroine, nurse Edith Cavell; the only surviving reel of the British feature The Invasion of Britain (1918) made by Herbert Brenon; extracts from the Pearl White serial Pearl of the Army (1916-17), to follow on from the tribute to her at our recent weekend; Who Done It?, a rare 1917 comedy with wartime aspects starring Gale Henry; examples of how star comedians handled the topic in the 1920s

There are also two items with sound, one an abridged revival (with music and narration) of  Lilac Time, a wartime aviation drama starring Colleen Moore and Gary Cooper and produced in 1928; the other, from the same year, the very first sound newsreel item of Remembrance Day at the Cenotaph.

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