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Overture’s Duck Soup Cinema silent film series wraps up Saturday with race film “Ten Nights in a Bar Room”

Jelani Eddington provides live organ accompaniment for Duck Soup Cinema's “Ten Nights in a Bar Room." (Photo supplied.)

The Overture’s Duck Soup Cinema silent film series, known for providing authentic silent film experiences in the Capitol Theater, concludes the 2022-23 season with Ten Nights in a Bar Room” which is showing two times on Saturday, June 3. 

The story is a melodrama from 1926, about a Black man who is swindled out of his mill business and turns to drinking. After he loses his daughter from being hit in the head by glass during a bar fight, he turns over a new leaf and runs for mayor years later. 

There will be two showings of the film, at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. These events will include vaudeville entertainment, a showing of “Two Knights in Vaudeville” (1915), with an emcee and door prizes. 

The feature film “Ten Nights in a Bar Room” will be shown with live organ accompaniment. Jelani Eddington will accompany the film on the Grand Barton Organ. There will be a pre-show virtual workshop with Dr. James Spinks, from the Department of Afro-American Research, Arts, and Culture’s Archive, discussing early Afro-American cinema. 

Dr. Allyson Field from the University of Chicago will lead post-screening talkbacks with audience members. Field also serves as the director of the Film Studies Center and is excited for audiences to see these rare films. 

“I think it’s important to know that very few films of this period survive at all,” Field said. “’Two Knights of Vaudeville’ is the only surviving film made by its company. ‘Ten Nights in a Bar Room’ is one of two surviving films of Colored Players Film Corporation of Philadelphia. Most films, especially films for Black audiences, don’t survive. The films are so incredibly valuable.”

“Ten Nights in a Bar Room” is based on the popular poem by Timothy Shay Arthur. This version was rarely seen and performed by a Black cast that features compelling performances from Charles Gilpin and Myra Burwell. 

“Race films are films that were made with primarily Black casts for primarily Black audiences,” Field said. “I hope that audiences take away the diversity of films and the range of films that were made, but also the incredible talent of the performers that we’re so lucky to have anything that survives of them.

“Especially given how much these performers were stymied by systemic racism, and unable to have the careers they really deserved. These surviving films are so valuable.”

This version of the film was mastered from 35mm film elements preserved by the George Eastman House. Field also hopes audiences appreciate being able to view these films with others.  

“I’m looking forward to watching them with an audience,” Field said. “It’s something that’s really rare. Now, we’re so used to watching things on our screens. These are films that were made to be seen collectively.”

To learn more about the Duck Soup Cinema series and purchase tickets for Saturday’s shows, visit Overture’s website for more information.