John -- Some many years ago, before home video tape was common and
affordable, I had a serious interest in silent movies. The real
connection was because, in my mind, they always had someone playing
"ragtime" piano while the film was shown. This must have been a long
while back because I knew nothing then about theatre organs, photo-
players and the like.
In that time period, a person could rent prints of old movie films from
the local library. You could also rent the projection equipment which,
as I recall, was always 16 mm. I wanted my own library of silent
comedy material and quickly found the cost of 16 mm film and the
equipment out of my reach at the time.
Someone suggested that I contact Blackhawk Films in Davenport, Iowa.
It turned out that all that I wanted was available in the 8 mm format
and also Super-8. The catalogue was extensive: not just silent films,
but also "talkies" with the sound on magnetic strip.
In addition to this, they offered very compleat sets of 35 mm slides
which had been copied from original hand painted glass magic lantern
slides, that were used in real nickelodeons. These slides were
advertisements, intermission, equipment failure and assorted messages
like "ladies please remove your hats!" (Properly, a nickelodeon was a
silent movie house, not a coin operated piano.)
I have not purchased anything in this line since the coming of video
tape so don't know if the company still exists. I still have my
library and projection equipment, and it still works, although rarely
if ever used now.
There are groups and clubs on the Internet for this sort of interest,
as well as magazine publications. While I have no direct contact, I do
remember Don Rand and the Clark Music Roll Company being quite involved
in the field.
With the pathetic offering on cable TV, I may just set up for a few
movies to-night, and exercise my Reproduco and watch my own re-runs.
Stratford - Canada