Flashback to the Silent Movie Theatre, pretty much any night during the last decade or so. A rough-and-tumble Keaton flick. Buster trips, the organ splats. Buster's up, dusting himself off, the music soars. Buster gets the girl, the music swoons.
The man behind the music and in front of the organ, Mr. Bob Mitchell, passed away on the Fourth of July at the age of 96. Film fans around town will say, rightly, that Mr. Mitchell was one of a kind, a real gentleman with a knack for wringing suspense and drama out of the keys set before him.
We attended his 90th birthday party at the Palace Theatre, and while the film -- we think it was "Seven Chances" -- was grand, and seeing Janet Klein perform was grand, and the ornate setting was grand, and sitting right behind Ray Manzarek of The Doors was grand, the amiable star of the night was the grandest thing of all.
It isn't a surprise to learn that Mr. Mitchell actually provided music for silent movies during the silent movie era of the 1920s. So hearing him, whether at Silent Movie or one of the downtown theaters, was always a treat cinephiles never took for granted. And would Mr. Mitchell always take time to chat in his congenial fashion at intermission? He would.