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Cleveland Cinematheque Marks Annual National Silent Movie Day with an Ohio Native

still from "The Wind"
Lillian Gish was born in Springfield and eventually became one of the biggest stars of the silent era.

One of the greatest films of the silent era will be featured Wednesday night at the Cleveland Cinematheque to mark the inaugural “National Silent Movie Day.” And the film has an Ohio connection.

The 1928 film "The Wind" stars Lillian Gish, one of the most famous actresses of the silent era, who was born in Springfield. Cinematheque Director John Ewing says “The Wind” is an excellent introduction to silent film, which he calls cinema in its purest form.

“It’s not just dialogue driven as so many movies are. You really have to focus on the visuals," Ewing said. "When a great director puts together an amazing sequence—and you'll see some really glorious sequences in ‘The Wind’—he’s doing something that you really can't put into words. You couldn't write it. You couldn't translate it into a novel. You couldn't do it in the theater. It's cinema. The closest equivalent, to me, is just like listening to music. So, it's like visual music if you will.”

Ewing adds that “The Wind” will be projected from a 35mm film print featuring a music track created shortly after the silent era. Silent Movie Day was established earlier this year by a group of nationally renowned film preservationists.

"My whole feeling about silent films is that it's kind of a blank slate. I don't feel that the musical accompaniment needs to [always] be appropriate to the era," Ewing said.

“You know, with 80 percent of silent films already lost, they're always advocating for funding to keep preserving other silent films that are still around. And also, just getting theaters to show them.”

Director Victor Seastrom (also spelled Sjöström) may be best-known to modern audiences for his role in Ingmar Bergman’s 1957 classic "Wild Strawberries."

In a recent blog post, Martin Scorsese even lauded "The Wind."

Kabir Bhatia is a senior reporter for Ideastream Public Media's arts & culture team.