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San Diego Symphony Launches New Season Of Fox Theater Film Series

Organist Russ Peck to accompany Buster Keaton’s ‘Steamboat Bill, Jr.’

Photo credit: Kino Lorber

Buster Keaton's memorable stunt of having a house facade fall on him in "Steamboat Bill, Jr." inspired Honk Kong stuntman Jackie Chan to try the same thing.

San Diego Symphony kicks off a new season of its Fox Theater Film Series Thursday night with the Buster Keaton classic, "Steamboat Bill, Jr."

Silent movies are meant to be accompanied by music.

San Diego Symphony is keeping that tradition alive with its Fox Theater Film Series. Thursday night organist Russ Peck takes the stage to enhance Buster Keaton’s 1928 classic "Steamboat Bill, Jr."

Peck said of what he will be playing, "My score is my own creation as no original seems to exist. In these situations, I pull music from classical, popular, silent film cues, and my own transitional phrases. All music will be true to the era in that they will all have been composed by the time of the film's first release (except for my transitions). I will be improvising to these cues throughout the film, especially during the storm scene, to fit the action."

That scoring technique typifies what might have been done in the silent era since many films were not supplied with a score.

Peck added, "Keaton's character will be cued by the 1910 piece of sheet music called 'Steamboat Bill.' This cue will sound familiar to Mickey Mouse fans as it was used in Disney's first animated talking picture, 'Steamboat Willie.' As in all the principle character themes, you will hear this tune in major and minor keys, happy, sad, dramatic, comedic, etc. to fit the action."

Before the film starts, Peck will play some music popular in the 1920s to show off what the organ can do.

The film also contains an impressive stunt involving a house falling on Keaton that inspired Hong Kong action star Jackie Chan.

"Steamboat Bill, Jr." screens Thursday night only at 6:30 p.m. at Symphony Hall in downtown San Diego.

San Diego Symphony kicks off a new season of its Fox Theater Film Series Thursday night with the Buster Keaton classic, "Steamboat Bill, Jr."

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