Silver Screen, Summer Nights: UCSB Arts & Lecture’s free screening series highlights Chaplin, Keaton and Lloyd

"Girl Shy"
“Girl Shy”

In January, UCSB Arts&Lectures screened Harold Lloyd’s “Safety Last” at the Granada with pianist Michael Mortilla accompanying. “It was a non-stop laugh-fest the entire time,” A&L’s Roman Baratiak says. “All ages were there and it was super inspiring … People gasped.” Mr. Baratiak is referring to the infamous 20-minute sequence where Lloyd scales the outside of a building and at one point winds up hanging from a clock.

Mr. Baratiak took that inspiration and has made classic silent comedy the theme for this year’s Summer Film Series, which screens both at Campbell Hall and at the Courthouse’s Sunken Gardens. Last year’s Hitchcock series got the biggest crowds in the Summer Series and it was time to make things a bit more fun. So for the fifth annual event, A&L will be screening two films each, from Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd, with extra shorts thrown in for good measure.

"The Freshman"
“The Freshman”

“There’s so many to pick from,” says Mr. Baratiak on choosing the films. “But there’s ones you just have to pick. It was like with the Hitchcock. You have to show ‘Psycho,’ you can’t show ‘Lifeboat’ for example.”

Other films couldn’t be shown, because they’re already planned to screen later in the year. “City Lights” by Chaplin will be screening with a live symphony accompaniment in the fall, and the Granada with be showing Keaton’s Steamboat Bill with a ragtime orchestra next year.

At both the Sunken Gardens and Campbell Hall, Michael Mortilla will be playing live keyboards for four of the six films. The other two films are by Chaplin, and his estate requires the scores originally composed by the filmmaker to be played.

The Summer Film Series is also promoting a Silent Film Competition, where DIY filmmakers have a chance to submit their own 3-minute comedies, with the winners screening before “Modern Times”. Entrance dates are June 16-Aug. 11.

There will also be a costume contest on July 25 before the film, with prizes to be awarded. During the same evening Dave Driscoll and Neal Graffy will present a short presentation about the Flying A, Santa Barbara’s own silent film studio a century ago.

Personally, Mr. Baratiak likes Harold Lloyd the best, perhaps because he’s the less known of the three.

“I just like the character,” he says. “He’s a naive character who’s just thrown into these amazingly funny situations. And just the way he builds them throughout the film. They’re satisfying films … Today we couldn’t have what Lloyd, Keaton and Chaplin did. They were at risk, really at risk. Now it would be computer generated.”

"Sherlock Jr."
“Sherlock Jr.”

July 9 and 11
‘The Freshman’ (1925)

Lloyd plays the young collegiate who wants to win the heart of the girl he loves, finishing with a rightly famous football game sequence.

July 16 and 18
‘The Gold Rush’ (1925)

Charlie Chaplin’s slapstick masterpiece is all the more stunning for the humor it gets out of the bleakness of its surroundings: Alaskan winter, perpetual cold, and hunger, notably in a sequence when Chaplin eats a boiled shoe. But it also demonstrates Chaplin’s warmth and humanity.

July 23 and 25
‘Sherlock Jr.’ (1924) and ‘Cops’ (1922)

Buster Keaton breaks all the rules of filmmaking in this comedy, playing a lovelorn projectionist who falls asleep and imagines himself inside the movie he’s showing. The earlier short “Cops” features the entire LAPD chasing Keaton through downtown Los Angeles.

July 30 (only)
‘Girl Shy’ (1924)

Harold Lloyd’s own epic chase comedy, where a shy guy must save the girl he loves from getting married to a brute, even if he has to use every mode of transport available to get to her.

Aug. 6 and 8
‘The Navigator’ (1924) and ‘One Week’ (1922)

Buster Keaton and his fiancee — who has just rejected him — wind up on an abandoned ocean liner determined to go to Hawaii. Paired with the short “One Week” where newlyweds try to build a new house from a “starter kit.”

Aug. 13 and 15
‘Speedy’ (1928)

A baseball fanatic must help his sweetheart’s father’s lucrative streetcar business avoid an evil businessman’s plans to take it over. Features beautiful scenes of New York in the 1920s, from Coney Island to Yankee Stadium. This was Lloyd’s last silent film.

Aug. 20 and 22
‘Modern Times’ (1936)

Sound had long since taken over Hollywood, but Chaplin kept it classically silent with this satire on modern industrial life, including a famous scene where Chaplin falls into the gears of industry headfirst.

Chaplin, Keaton, Lloyd: Comedy Classics of the Silent Era
When: 7:30 p.m. Wed., 8:30 p.m. Fri., July 9 through August 22
Where: UCSB’s Campbell Hall (Wed.),Courthouse Sunken Gardens (Fri.)
Cost: Free
Information: 893-3535,

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