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Showing of 1916 Vicksburg silent Civil War film will be shown with live music Nov. 17



Vintage ad for "The Crisis," a 1916 silent film about the Civil War.

A few people around here still remember the silent Civil War film, “The Crisis,” though few have actually seen it themselves.

Organizers have put together a live musical performance to accompany a free showing of the 65-minute 1916 film on Friday, November 17 at 7 p.m. at the Strand Theater in Vicksburg.

Based on the Civil War drama, “The Crisis,” written by American novelist Winston Churchill, the 1916 film was the second feature ever to be filmed in Mississippi. A large amount of the film was shot in Vicksburg, many at and around Cedar Grove Mansion. Churchill was a graduate of the Naval Academy who later would go on to become the editor of Cosmopolitain Magazine.

The film was produced by William N. Selig and directed by Colin Campbell, and adapted into a Broadway play in 1902.

Mississippi composer Damein Wash has composed a score to accompany the black and white silent picture, bringing the vintage of old filmmaking and Civil War stories into the contemporary and making use of musicians from around the state including Doug Thomas on the flute, clarinet and saxophone; Daniel Roebuck on the trumpet; Dr. Michael Worthy on the trombone; Amanda Johnston on the piano; and Ricky Burkhead, percussion.

“This program should appeal to anyone interested in silent film, Vicksburg, the Civil War, and/or live music,” said Daniel Boone, film programmer for the Strand Theatre. “And, it’s free.”

Here’s how the 2012 book “Col. William N. Selig: the Man Who Invented the Movies” by Andrew A. Erish describes the movie:

“More than just an attempt to capitalize on the unprecedented success of D. W. Griffith’s ‘The Birth of a Nation’ (1915), ‘The Crisis’ was a sympathetic portrait of abolitionism and President Lincoln’s efforts to reunify the country. The story, adapted by Selig staff writer Lanier Bartlett from a best-selling novel, concerns families from the North and South whose friendship is tested by the war.
Clearly, this was to be …an important historical spectacle, and genuine props and locations were used to authenticate the production. Five steel engravings that had hung in Lincoln’s White House office and the dispatch box that accompanied him throughout the war were loaned by the US government; a slave auction was re-created on the steps of the St. Louis Courthouse; one of the few extant Civil War warships was procured for the spectacular attack on Fort Jackson; and an enormous and stunningly photographed torch-lit rally was staged for the Lincoln-Douglas debate. Six hundred members of the Mississippi National Guard were employed to stage the Battle of Vicksburg, one of many day- and nighttime combat sequences in the film that rivaled Griffith’s. Eight gunboats were constructed atop barges and loaded with explosives for a spectacular Mississippi River battle. In one memorable shot, a shell exploded beneath a soldier on horseback standing atop a ridge, causing horse and rider to tumble down a steep embankment. It was spectacularly harrowing, as good as any movie stunt that’s ever been performed. According to promotional material prepared by the company, the stuntman on the horse was none other than Tom Mix.”

Organizers ask that those interested email to make a reservation to ensure seating. Contributions will be accepted.

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