Thursday, November 1, 2007

The Phantom of the Sheldon

I'm not a big fan of Halloween. Perhaps it's because, during my days as a substitute teacher, I was often called to substitute either on Halloween itself, when the children were jittery and inattentive in anticipation of trick-or-treating, or on November 1, when the children were jittery and inattentive because of all the candy they had eaten the night before. I have particularly vivid memories of substituting for a fourth grade class at Bridgewater Elementary on Halloween and supervising the decorating of Halloween cookies—an activity for which the teacher had wisely called in sick.

Last night, Clara and I left Will and Peter in charge of doling out candy and took off for Red Wing with another couple to see the annual Halloween showing of the 1925 silent film The Phantom of the Opera at the Sheldon Theater. The Sheldon was built in 1904 with funds left to the city in the will of Red Wing merchant Theodore B. Sheldon. With the advent of silent films, the Renaissance-style theater became a popular movie house, and in 1988 was restored to its original gilded splendor, as can be seen in the photograph at left. The Sheldon was designed by Minneapolis architect Lowell Lamoreaux, who also designed the Red Wing City Hall and the YMCA Central Building in downtown Minneapolis.

Lon Chaney as the Phantom of the Opera.

The Phantom of the Opera
was one of the most successful silent films of the 1920s. It starred Lon Chaney as Erik the Phantom and beautiful young Mary Philbin as Christine. There were some beautiful black-and-white images in the film—especially the play of shadows and light in the first half—but the plot seemed more like a vehicle to show off an impressive set (full of vaults, staircases, and trap doors) and Lon Chaney's groundbreaking make-up work (which he designed himself). Chaney's Phantom is a horror movie icon, although his psychotic posturing is less frightening than that of his distant relative, Dick Cheney. The authentic mood of the evening was greatly enhanced by organist Tom Erickson, who provided a 90-minute film score on the Sheldon's Kilgen theater organ. The showing of The Phantom of the Opera is an annual Halloween event at the Sheldon, and I recommend it as an alternative to handing out candy to trick-or-treaters and helping to create schools full of jittery children.

1 comment:

Bleeet said...

All these years and I, of all people, missed the Lon / Dick Ch(a)(e)ney connection.

Thank you for bringing it to light for me.

I walk no longer in shadow.

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