by Alana J. Mauger
Montgomery County Community College will host its annual Betzwood Silent Film Festival on Saturday, May 11 at 8 p.m. Science Center Theater, 340 DeKalb Pike, Blue Bell. Tickets cost $10 general admission and $5 for children under age 10. The films are shown at their original projection speeds with organ accompaniment by Don Kinnier. For information and tickets, visit mc3.edu/livelyarts.
In its 24th year, the Betzwood Silent Film Festival pays homage to films produced at the Betzwood Motion Picture Studio – founded in 1912 by film pioneer Siegmund Lubin – in what is now West Norriton Township, Montgomery County.
This year’s festival will showcase the role of Native Americans in Lubin’s films. Emeritus Professor of History Joseph Eckhardt, who is the country’s premiere expert on Siegmund Lubin and his Betzwood Studio, will begin the screening with a lecture on this, and other, topics.
The festival will then include the screening of three silent western films, including “Red Eagle’s Love Affair,” “Sweeter Than Revenge,” and the Louis Bennison feature film “Sandy Burke of the U-Bar-U.”
Montgomery County Community College is home to the largest known archive of Betzwood artifacts in the world thanks to Eckhardt, is the author of the first Lubin biography, titled The King of the Movies: Film Pioneer Siegmund Lubin, which details Lubin’s transformation from an immigrant optician into the first successful movie mogul, credited with the first attempt at the “mass marketing” of movies.
Only 30 Lubin films and fragments have survived the ravages of time, and MCCC is fortunate to have copies of 25 of these in its Betzwood Film Archive. The archive has recently been digitized and is now accessible online to the general public at mc3betzwood.wordpress.com.
Eckhardt also donated a variety of Betzwood artifacts – including manuscripts, photo albums, tape recordings and studio props that he acquired through this extensive research – to the archive, which is housed in a climate controlled space in the College’s Brendlinger Library in Blue Bell.
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