Fantasies of Flight: Animation and Comedy Shorts

Pianist Frederick Hodges is a noted concert artist and a celebrated silent film accompanist, performing regularly at the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum and film festivals around the country, as well as on DVD issues of silent films for Image Entertainment, Flicker Alley, and Paramount Pictures.

The utter novelty of human flight during most of the silent period is hard for our post-jet-set age to fathom: this program aims to recapture an inkling of this lost sense of wonder. In the French comedy Airplane Gaze, a city is turned upside down by the appearance of an airplane in the skies above. Edwin S. Porter's classic The Dream of a Rarebit Fiend, like Mother-in-Law Would Fly, puts wings on an object that ought not fly-the bed. It is animation, though, that provided the most outlandish depiction of life in the air, as made plain by the peripatetic house of Winsor McCay's The Flying House and the repurposed word balloons of Walt Disney's Alice's Balloon Race. Our program ends with two classics: Méliès's speculative fantasy of an aerial race to the pole and the Mack Sennett-produced avant-la-lettre aviatrix comedy, Dizzy Heights and Daring Hearts. Patrick Ellis

Airplane Gaze Director unknown, France, 1910, 5 mins, Silent, B&W, 35mm, From British Film Institute, permission Dr. Hansruedi Kleiber, Joye Collection

The Dream of a Rarebit Fiend Edwin S. Porter, 1906, 8 mins, 16 fps, Silent, B&W, 35mm, From George Eastman House

Mother-in-Law Would Fly (Schwiegermutter muß fliegen) Director unknown, Germany, 1909, 5 mins, Silent with German intertitles and live English translation, B&W, 35mm, From British Film Institute, permission Dr. Hansruedi Kleiber, Joye Collection

Alice's Balloon Race Walt Disney, 1926, 8 mins, Silent, B&W, 35mm, From Walt Disney Studios

Dizzy Heights and Daring Hearts Walter Wright, 1916, 25 mins, Silent, B&W, 16mm, From Lobster Films

The Dream of a Rarebit Fiend: The Flying House Winsor McCay, 1921, 16 mins, 16 fps, Silent, B&W, 16mm, From Cinémathèque Québécoise

The Conquest of the Pole (A la conquête du pole)  Georges Méliès, France, 1912, 30 mins, Silent, Tinted, DigiBeta, From Lobster Films

Total running time: 97 mins

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