October has been Silent Movie Month in Ithaca since 2012. This year, The Finger Lakes Film Trail, Wharton Studio Museum and Historic Ithaca, are together presenting a series of events called “Lit. Women of Silent Film.”
“Lit. Women of Silent Film” examines the critical creative roles three Ithaca women authors played in the early film industry through discussions, guided walking tours, a screening of Tess of the Storm Country (1922) starring Mary Pickford, and two self-guided headphone walking plays produced by the Cherry Arts and Wharton Studio Museum (WSM).
Diana Riesman, Executive Director and Co-Founder of the Wharton Studio Museum in Ithaca, said, “We’re thrilled to continue our exploration of Ithaca’s contribution to the early movie industry during October’s Silent Movie Month. This year we’ve planned the “Lit. Women of Silent Film” weekend around the work of three Ithaca women authors whose writing got translated to the silver screen.”
“It’s a natural fit for Historic Ithaca to be a partner in presenting the “Lit. Women of Silent Film” weekend,” says Historic Ithaca’s Executive Director Susan Holland. “The downtown theater tours we give, and our co-production with Wharton Studio Museum of the “Biggest Little Movie City” exhibit this past spring at the Tompkins Center for History and Culture, give people a chance to connect with historic preservation in a fun and meaningful way.”
On Friday, October 14 there will be a free launch party for the series of events at the Odyssey Bookstore (115 West Green Street, Lower Level) from 6 to 7:30 pm
On Saturday, October 15, a guided tour ($12) will start at “The Biggest Little Movie City” panel at Harold Square on the Ithaca Commons at 10:30 am Attendees will be able to explore some of these sites—a few still extant and others captured only by photographs and memories—on a guided downtown tour with historic preservationists to recapture the heyday of Ithaca’s movie-palace era.
Later that afternoon there will be free presentations titled “From Novel to Screen: Ithaca’s Literary Women of Silent Film” at Marcham Hall (836 Hanshaw Road) from 2 to 3:30 pm Film scholar Barbara Tepa Lupack, playwright Aoise Stratford, and local historian Patricia Longoria will discuss the extraordinary lives of three Ithaca women writers—Grace Miller White, Maude Radford Warren, and Ruth Sawyer—whose books were adapted into silent films at a time when the political and social roles of women were undergoing dramatic changes.
Capping off a full day’s worth of events, Mary Pickford’s Tess of the Storm (1922) will be screened at Cinemapolis (120 East Green Street) at 7 pm (Tickets $8-11).Pickford starred in two versions of the popular Tess of the Storm Country, adapted from the novel by Ithaca author Grace Miller White. Pickford’s 1922 version, which, although not filmed in Ithaca, dramatizes the lives of people who lived in the city’s “Rhine” neighborhood centered on the Inlet and inspired by Grace Miller White’s childhood growing up on a cottage on the west shore of Cayuga Lake.
As part of the event there are also self-guided Walk This Play tours ($5 suggested donation per download) centered around Ithaca’s West End and Stewart Park. You can download the tours athttps://www.thecherry.org/walk-this-play/ and follow the path of Ithaca’s movie-making era. Produced by The Cherry Arts and Wharton Studio Museum, “Storm Country” (2016) and “The Missing Chapter” (2018) headphone walking plays allow you to listen to the audio on your own schedule. “Storm Country” is an experiential, dramatic retelling of the life and work of Grace Miller White. “The Missing Chapter,” adapted from the Wharton Studio’s popular 1916 serial Beatrice Fairfax, leads listeners on an adventure through Stewart Park, where Wharton, Inc. Studio was located.