Silent Swashbuckling Pirates Come to MPAC

5 Jun

“The Black Pirate,” a silent movie made in 1926 starring heartthrob Douglas Fairbanks Sr., is considered to be the first major studio release utilizing color film. It’s coming to McKinney Performing Arts Center Courtroom Theater June 14 and will feature accompaniment on the Mighty Wurlitzer Silent Movie Organ housed there.

By Mike Tarzis, Guest Blogger

Apart from the occasional period piece or specialty feature, almost every movie shot in this country since the mid 1950’s has been presented in full screen Technicolor. Outside of a handful of avid film historians, most people don’t realize the color film process actually dates back the early 1900’s.  Of course, by today’s optical and digital standards it was primitive, and very cost prohibitive for its day, but several early silent classics were shot in color, and a few have even survived to this day.

Given the cost and labor involved, Hollywood wasn’t willing to take the financial risk unless they wanted to showcase a major star in a big budget production.  Such was the case for the 1926 classic The Black Pirate which featured perhaps the biggest heartthrob of his day, Douglas Fairbanks Sr.  Although the revolutionary “Two Strip” color process had been used in shorter experimental films, the Pirate is considered to be the first major studio release utilizing color film. The swashbuckling classic set the stage for a new genre of film that would cement the careers or not only Fairbanks and his son, but later Erroll Flynn and even current superstar Johnny Depp in the Disney Pirates of the Caribbean franchise.

To perform his original musical score on the thundering McKinney Performing Arts Center Wurlitzer Theater Pipe Organ is a young superstar in his own right. Twenty-seven year old Mark Herman (pictured) started performing concerts and silent movies as a young teenager. Before his 21st birthday he was awarded the American Theater Organ Society’s prestigious young artist of the year award. In 2012 he received the organization’s top honor as the Organist of the Year. Herman maintains a vigorous international travel schedule, performing concerts and silent classic worldwide. The June 14 event will mark his second appearance in McKinney, which houses one of the only two remaining Wurlitzer giants in Texas. He admits “The Black Pirate” is his favorite silent classic.

The program will be presented June 14th at 7:30 p.m.  The North Texas Chapter’s February presentation of Wings was nearly a sellout, so early reservations are recommended. Adult tickets for the event are $12 in advance, or $14 at the door. Kids tickets are priced at $5 in advance, or $7 at the door. Seniors over 65 are admitted free, but tickets are required. Reservations can be made by calling the McKinney Performing Arts Center box office at 214- 544-4630.

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