Paul Merton opens Yorkshire Silent Film Festival in Leeds

Paul Merton and the audience watch Charlie Chaplin at the City Varieties.
Paul Merton and the audience watch Charlie Chaplin at the City Varieties.

The great films of early cinema history weren’t known for coming as trilogies – but a Leeds event which pays homage to the silent movie era did open to audiences for the third time last night.

Comedian Paul Merton hosted the start of the Yorkshire Silent Film Festival at the City Varieties, a venue known for its bygone charm, last night. The long-time fan of silent film clowns presented a night of slapstick featuring famous silver screen performers, accompanied by pianist Neil Brand.

Paul Merton at the City Varieties in Leeds.

Paul Merton at the City Varieties in Leeds.

Speaking ahead of the event, Mr Merton said: “I’m thrilled beyond words to be presenting my favourite silent comedians – Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd, and Laurel and Hardy – at the iconic City Varieties theatre in Leeds, in some of the funniest films ever made. With live music provided by the brilliant Neil Brand, the evening promises to be a comic cavalcade of fantastic fun and laughter.”

The festival is billed as the UK’s largest celebration of silent film and takes place in cinemas, theatres and community venues across the region. There will be 40 events and each one is to feature a performance by specialist film musicians. Events are taking place in Hebden Bridge, Holmfirth, Huddersfield, Leeds, Ossett, York and further afield until May 27.

Leeds itself is no stranger to cinema history. French inventor Louis Le Prince’s 1888 silent film of people and carriages on Leeds Bridge has been argued to pre-date moving images captured by the Lumiere brothers and Thomas Edison – who are usually credited with pioneering the form.

Hyde Park Picture House in Leeds is to host events as part of the festival.

The Leeds Silent Film All-Dayer takes place on Sunday, May 20 between 12pm-8pm.

It will feature Laurel and Hardy, the “heartbreaking” drama Ménilmontant, Danish screen diva Asta Nielsen as a female Hamlet, and Lon Chaney and Joan Crawford in Tod Browning’s grisly The Unknown. On May 17, Simon Faithfull presents his award-winning Buster Keaton homage film 0º00 Navigation, followed by a rare screening of Buster’s last film, the 1968 Canadian short, The Railrodder.

For more information, visit www.yorkshiresilentfilm.com