A man makes a life out of music.
With a flutter of his fingers he could change the mood of a film, all the while keeping the art form of playing for a silent film alive.
Robert Mitchell, 96, passed away July 4, and many would argue that his career, which spanned eight decades, not only kept the silent film era alive, but introduced a multitude of new fans to the music of the organ accompanying silent films.
“I saw him perform last year during a Buster Keaton tribute with my son and my dad and we were so inspired we went out and bought a collection of Buster Keaton classics,” said Carl Goldman, KHTS station co-owner. “Bob’s death signifies the end to a generation of talent that is becoming a lost art form, I feel privileged that my 14-year-old son was able to experience that.”
Mitchell began accompanying silent films in the 1924 at the age of 12, and continued though his death. He was also the choir leader of the Robert Mitchell Choir Boys troupe that appeared in more than 100 films including the 1944 Best Picture Oscar winner “Going My Way”.
In addition to his film career, he was also the first organist to usher in the Dodgers at Dodger Stadium in 1962.
Mitchell was a friend of the Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society and played the organ for their “Flickers” series since 2007.
He was scheduled to accompany Buster Keaton’s “The General” for the “Flickers at the Junction” series on Saturday. The Society will still showcase the film but instead accompany it with the original soundtrack or a guest organist. Prior to the film there will be a video tribute to Bob.
The film will be presented outdoors at Heritage Junction Historic Park in Newhall. The gates open at 7:30 p.m. and the film will start at dusk. The cost is $5 and includes a bag of popcorn. Guests are welcome to bring lawn chairs, blankets, and additional food.
For more information on the event and the Flickers at the Junction click here.
“From Silents to Sound: The Robert Mitchell Story” with host Philip Scorza is airing this week, both online and on local cable. The program is available in hi-res at:
On SCVTV – Time Warner Channel 20, AT&T U-verse 99, the program will air Thursday at 10:10 a.m. and 8 p.m.; on Friday at noon and 6:50 p.m. and Saturday at 7 a.m. and 8:25 p.m.