The “madcap” 1920s will return in style on Saturday, April 27, when Buster Keaton silent films will be screened at Barnum Hall auditorium at Santa Monica High School, accompanied by theater organist and composer Robert Israel playing the newly restored Barnum Hall Wurlitzer.
The concert, which benefits the Samohi band, features two classic Keaton films.
In the first, Sherlock, Jr. (1924, 45 minutes), Keaton portrays a wronged movie theater projectionist who dreams of becoming a great detective and clearing his name.
In Sherlock, Jr., Keaton enters a movie screen where ever-shifting reality becomes the stage for the actor’s physical stunts and deadpan humor. Sherlock Jr. is listed among the Top 100 Comedies by the American Film Institute and became a National Film Registry award-winner in 1991.
The second feature, The Cook (1918, 22 minutes) stars Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle as chef and Keaton as a waiter at the posh Bull Pup Café. The film also features Luke the Dog, who joins his master, Arbuckle, in pursuing a would-be robber.
Believed lost for 80 years, The Cook was rediscovered in 1998 in cans of film belonging to the Norwegian Film Institute. The film was restored by the National Library of Norway. It was Keaton’s last film before serving in World War I, released after his unit had embarked for France.
Rounding out the evening’s entertainment is the animated short, Sense and Nonsense (1926), one of the few surviving silent films featuring George Herriman’s comic strip creation Krazy Kat.
Theater organ player and composer Israel provides an original score for each film, which he will perform live.
Israel has scored dozens of silent films for Turner Classic Movies and release on DVD. He maintains a library of thousands of original theater scores, many rescued from downtown Los Angeles theaters.
The Barnum Hall Wurlitzer is a full-featured instrument with dual organ chambers flanking the stage. Organ enthusiast Gordon Belt donated the current Wurlitzer in 2004. It was redesigned and installed by the Crome Organ Company and debuted in 2010.
During the event, writer and Keaton expert Patricia Eliot Tobias will share behind-the-scenes stories from the making of the films.
Sherlock, Jr. and The Cook will show with live organ accompaniment beginning at 7 p.m. Barnum Hall is on the campus of Santa Monica High School, 600 Olympic Blvd., Santa Monica. Parking is available at the Santa Monica Civic Center, 333 Civic Center Drive.
Admission is $10, or $5 for students and seniors. Advance tickets may be purchased online at