As I gloated in a previous post, I was able to attend a rare screening of the silent 1928 Lon Chaney film Laugh, Clown, Laugh, on April 24th, 2015, at the glorious Patio Theater, in Chicago. It was presented with live accompaniment by organist Jay Warren, and introduced by the son of the film’s leading lady (Loretta Young), Christopher Lewis.
Now, I’ve heard that traveling with me can be a bit of an adventure, when it comes to doing fangirl things. I mean, it might have to do with that time I got stuck on a retaining wall, opposite Jeanette MacDonald’s house. Or when I fell into Ann Miller’s front yard. Or when I casually struck up a conversation with Billy Stritch, at a Liza concert, like we were old friends. Or… okay, I’ll stop there. Two good friends of mine, Lindsey and Josh, volunteered to make the 4 hour road trip with me, and I have a sneaking suspicion that it may have been more to see the Dilettante Show than it was to see the movie. Another old pal, Heather, met us there, and the games began.
Right off the bat, I got to confuse the guy at the ticket booth. I saw these really REALLY glorious looking tickets sitting there, and was really excited to have a cool stub for my scrapbook. Then, he hands me four blue admit one tickets, and I was kind of heartbroken on a level that only true geeks get to experience- the “I know this is pointless for a multitude of reasons, but I want THAT one, too” thing. So, totally on the casual, I go, “Can I buy one of those tickets?” He asks if I mean another seat. “No, just… the ticket.” I think he sensed my fangirl desperation and slid me one. “You can have it.” After closer examination, I think it might just be a coupon, but I’ll be damned if it’s not the most glorious coupon I’ve ever seen. A++ would have paid $10.
The inside of the theater is absolutely breathtaking. It was designed to make one feel like being outdoors, watching under the stars. Currently under renovation is the starry-sky lighted ceiling. What was already restored, however, was obviously done with great love and care.
All of this, and we still haven’t gotten to the movie? Shh, I’ll get there. I also have this online rep of being kind of the loud, opinionated, goofy fangirl. It may or may not be completely accurate. I spend a lot of time on facebook either being Ann Miller’s Hair (surprise reveal!) or yammering awkwardly at the Loretta Young page. Run with great love by her daughter-in-law, Linda, it’s pretty much my favorite page ever. Everyone is SO nice, and like no one except for me has even mentioned all the crap I talked about LoYo for years! BECAUSE I WAS A REAL DUMB PERSON FOR A REAL LONG TIME, KHEY? (I’ve already talked to God, and yes, Loretta gets to punch me in the face, when I get to Heaven.) If you don’t already like it, GET WITH THE TIMES, SON. Go. Now. Like. When news of this whole shebang was posted, I was all, “GIRL I WILL BE THERE FIVE-REAL.” Anyway, since I’m internet famous for being… me…??? (see Kathryn Grayson, Christine Ebersole, every single person who has ever casually mentioned Jeanette MacDonald), when I introduced myself to Chris Lewis, he was aware of my existence. So that was awesome. And now I’m realizing that this is coming out like I don’t think irl married people talk to each other. Whatever. Needless to say, he is a super awesome A++ guy. We talked for a few minutes before the movie, and a photographer took a super flattering picture of my backside. Excellent, so that’s on the internet.
For those of you who haven’t fallen asleep at the computer, I think I’m finally to the movie. So… I’m not a big silent movie watcher. I have the attention span of a blueberry, thus why BRIGHT! SHINY! MUSICALS! are really what got me into old movies, in the first place. I had never seen this movie, other than a few clips here and there, before April 24th. My friends had also never seen the movie. Alright, you know how when there’s black face in a movie, some channels edit it out, most people don’t mention it, etc…? Well, it seems that history has warped the exact premise of this ordeal. Lon Chaney does not adopt 15 year old Loretta. HE ADOPTS THE CHILD AT LIKE AGE 2, THEN FALLS IN LOVE WITH HER. Nowhere in time is that OK! Stop setting me up for awkward munks, world! I’ve got plenty of awkward as it is! And like… the whole scene where Nils Asther is lifting Loretta up onto a bed- NO. LIKE JUST NO. The whole time I’m sitting there, my mind is going 500 mph on overprotective fangirl adrenaline. DOES ANYONE KNOW HOW OLD THIS GIRL IS? Side note- did anyone feed her, today? She needs a sandwich. Just replace her smokes with a turkey club, it’ll be fine. BUT CUT OFF THE CRUST BECAUSE CHILDREN DON’T LIKE CRUST. Even more unsettling, the four of us were all pretty much in agreement- THAT IS SOMEONE’S MOTHER. More on that, in a bit.
Before the screening, I really didn’t understand the whole fear of clowns thing. After Lon Chaney’s face, just before the final fade, though, I get it. I totally get it.
The movie was great for what it is, Jay Warren’s composition is absolutely out of this world amazing, and Lon and Loretta were 100%.
As stated earlier, Chris Lewis is A++ outstanding fellow. He chatted with a bunch of us, after the movie. Before the crowd gathered, however, we did get to the topic of the awkwardness of seeing his mother, at 14, in some of those totally squicky situations. Thank the Lord, my friends and I all kind of breathed one of those “my reactions are justified” sighs. I, being a brilliant sort, blurt out, “I was sitting there the whole time, thinking, ‘That’s his MOM.'” Anyway, we all got a decent chuckle out of the weirdness, and other people started to gather. Bless other peoples’ hearts, man. Just bless them. Such innocence and loveliness. Because right after we have this conversation about awkward teenager sexy mom (what), it gets brought up again, but one guy was saying how magical it must be to see Loretta so alive and young and stuff. So of course my group proceeds to not so casually all turn around and wander off to talk to Jay Warren. If anything, we’re polite and don’t always accidentally laugh when we’re nervous about a topic.
Mr. Warren is a treasure. I’ve never been one who had a way with describing my feelings on music, and he was so lovely and understanding when I said things like, “I can’t believe all of those noises came out of the organ!” I’m very articulate. Honestly though, the score was phenomenal. I want Jay Warren to write the accompaniment for my life. He might need back up, though, because there’s a lot of sad trombone moments of me making a fool of myself.
Speaking of which,the Patio theater has a really great couch, and the worker bees did not seem to be as excited about it, as we were.
Because of an Unfortunate Facial Cleanser Incident, my face was basically day glo caked with makeup, so I had no initial plans of getting my picture taken, but by the time I left, my inner scrapbooker decided it was necessary.
As all fun and super awesome things must do, the evening was over and we bid a fond farewell to The Patio Theater. Goodnight, Patio.
While you can’t go back the amount of months it took me to finally complete this post, to experience this night, yourself, you CAN catch Laugh, Clown, Laugh on Warner Archive Instant! Extra bonus points if you now can’t make it through the film without thinking, “That’s someone’s MOM!”