Review: Why Be Good?

This past weekend, I attended a screening of the silent film Why Be Good? (1929) starring the amazing Colleen Moore as part of the Chicago International Film Festival. As readers of my blog know, I’m a big fan of silent films and I try to see as many of them as I can on the big screen. This film was well worth checking out.

Before the movie started, there was a conversation between David Robinson, biographer of Chaplin, and Michael Kutza, CIFF Founder, talked about Colleen Moore and her films. Michale Kutza and David Robinson theorize that the only reason we don’t know her as well as Chaplin, Harold Lloyd, or Buster Keaton is because her films didn’t last. Most of her films were lost, despite her own efforts. She had preserved her films by obtaining copies of them, and handed them all over to the MOMA many years ago. However, she discovered years later that many of her films had mostly disappeared from MOMA. There are theories on what happened to them but no one knows for sure. What a tragedy! This incident points to the importance of initiatives like WITASWAN (Women in the Audience supporting women artists now) that try to support the work of women in art. Here is another sad instance of a woman’s work lost due to indifference and perceived unimportance!

In this conversation, Michael Kutza talked about the influence that Colleen Moore had on the Chicago International Film Festival. She lived in Chicago towards the end of her life. She sort of served as a mentor for him, giving him advice and using her network of stars to help build the festival. So it was really neat that for the 50 anniversary, they could screen a film of hers.

A copy of her last silent film Why Be Good? was found. This screening was the North American premiere of the film, since it first came out in the 1920s. What a fun film! Spoilers ahead. Colleen Moore plays the quintessential flapper who meets a Rockefeller and they fall for each other. It’s a fun look at the jazz and flapper scene in the 1920s. She is such a joy to watch.

It was interesting to see how gender roles and expectations played out in the film. The film centers on Colleen Moore’s character, a working girl who enjoys the nightlife. She meets a Rockefeller who falls for her but is wary of her outrageous nature. Also he’s her boss. So there is some drama over that but ultimately he’s not sure if she is a “good girl.” At one point, Colleen Moore’s character, Pert, tells her mother, “I’m a good girl but I can’t let anyone find out.” In this film, a good girl is a woman who doesn’t have sex before marriage. It turns out all right because Pert was a good girl so all can live happily ever after.

I know that the film was trying to address how the flapper age brought a redefinition of women’s roles. Suddenly, there were women going out, drinking, even smoking, and behaving more aggressively than before. There are films from this era about fallen flapper women trying to seduce good boys; these flappers come to bad ends. This film along with Dancing Daughters tried to show that flappers could be good people to. However, it’s within a limited view of female behavior. In Dancing Daughters, one of Joan Crawford’s friends had sex before marriage with another man and the movie suggests that she is going to be dealing with that mistake for the rest of her life with her jealous husband. Never mind that it happened before she met her husband. And then the main plot centers around the male lead’s wariness of Joan Crawford’s outward behavior. Both movies show that outward appearances shouldn’t be taken for granted. Here’s a good flapper and a good boy. Now, it seems so limiting.

 

Anyway, Why Be Good? is still worth watching. I hope they find more of her films. That’s all for now!

Part 3: Open House Chicago

The past two days, I’ve talked about the places I went to for the Open House Chicago. Now, I’m going to end with the last four places in Streeterville/Gold Coast.

After visiting the Elk National Memorial and the National Shrine of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, I stopped in Second Church of Christ, Scientist. The main church is on the second level. It doesn’t have a lot of decorations, especially after the Ukrainian and Russian churches from Saturday. But it did have a wonderful golden dome.

As a member of the Chicago Architecture Foundation, I had access to three sites that required reservation. I decided that I was most curious about the Consulate General of the Republic of Poland in Chicago. The house is situated on Lake Shore Drive and it is apparently one of seven remaining mansions in the area. I had to sign up beforehand for a designated time. So on Sunday, I made my way there. It was well worth the stop. We were given a little tour of the residence. I learned that this was the second year that the house was open for Open House. Also, the Consulate is the only one that opens itself to Open House because of the mansion.

It is a beautiful house that shows a lot of pride in the history and culture of Poland. My impression of the house was that it had large well light rooms. The rooms may not be full of furniture or art but what is displayed was very tastefully chosen. One room had a magnificent wooden fireplace, while another room had paintings by Polish painters on loan from the Polish Museum of America. Upstairs in front of the library, there was a copy of Poland’s Constitution. Throughout the house, there were amazing textiles hanging on the walls, which were really pretty. We got to peek into the office of the Consul General, which was cool.

Polish Consul General's office

Polish Consul General’s office

Then I ran up to Warwick Allerton Hotel to see the Tip Top Tap room on one of the top floors of the hotel. Again, that priority card was handy. When I got there, they had actually closed the general public line since it was close to the end of the day. I got to bypass it and check it out. It’s a beautiful space with white and black carpeting and wall decorations. It has some neat views of Michigan Avenue. I got some good pics of the old neon sign that is still on the side of the building. It was a nice space; it’d be neat if they make it into a bar again. They had an old menu that had a list of cocktails, including Scarlett O’Hara. That drink was made from Southern Comfort, grenadine, and lime.

Tip Top Tap Sign

Tip Top Tap Sign

Next was the Tribune Tower lobby. Even though I’ve worked nearby for over two years, it never occurred to me to go into the lobby. It really looks a lot like a church in there, which was intentional. There are some beautiful wooden carvings that may depict Aesop’s Fables. Giant quotations line the walls (including two from Colonel McCormick himself) about the power and responsibility of journalism. There was also a map of the US over the guard’s desk that was partially made from old currency (something about giving structure to the paste). Very interesting. Well worth a peak if you can get in there during other times.

Map in the Tribune Lobby

Map in the Tribune Lobby

My final stop was the Lake Point Tower park. This was my other favorite site of Open House. Lake Point Tower is that building on the other side of Lake Shore Drive; it’s close to Navy Pier. There is a secret garden on the third floor! It’s designed by Alfred Caudwell who also designed the pond next to the Lincoln Park Zoo. The park was a real gem. There is a wonderful pond with a waterfall. All around me were trees festooned in golds, reds, and yellows. It was an oasis next to Lake Shore Drive. What a wonderful place!

Lake Tower Point pond

Lake Tower Point pond

So that’s all for now! To recap, my three favorite new sites were St. Volodymyr and Olha Ukrainian Catholic Church, Elks National Memorial, and the Lake Point Tower.

Until Open House 2015.

Part 2: Open House Chicago

On Day 2 of Open House Chicago, I went to three neighborhoods: the Loop, Lakeview, and River North/Streeterville. In past years of Open House, I had spent time going to sites far from the center of the city. The first year, we did a tour of Bronzeville and Hyde Park, which was really fun. Last year. we toured Uptown and briefly went to the Board of Trade (after participating in a historical reenactment there). So I was surprised to find out that there were long lines for some sites, specifically, the sites downtown.

This is when I learned the power of the priority pass. I joined as a member of the CHicago Architecture Foundation last fall after Open House since I wanted to take their walking tours. I’ve talked about the walking tours previously, which are great. Another perk to CAF membership is the priority pass at Open House. So for the downtown sites, I got to stand in a much shorter line. It was worth its weight in gold. Some of those lines looked like an hour or so wait for 20 minutes or so (depending on how knowledge the docents were) at each site. The system isn’t perfect (we got yelled at the Warwick hotel since the lines were confusing) but the card made a huge difference for me. There are other Open House perks; there are a few Member only sites and a few Member Only RSVP sites.
My first stop of the day was 190 S. LaSalle. I had read about this penthouse library so I had to check it out. I quickly bypassed the line and went up to the 40th floor. It was a beautiful space. It was two stories with windows on three sides. You could actually see Ceres on the Board of Trade! It had been used by Mayer Brown as a library but now it was a private club for building residents. A wonderful place.
190 S. LaSalle

190 S. LaSalle

Then I wandered over to the Board of Trade since I was curious about Board of Trade Board Room, a members only site. Part of the process was a trip down to the vault. I had been there last year but it was nice to tip my hat at the giant safe door and the room of metal boxes. The Board Room itself is more interesting in theory. It’s a wood covered room with a strangely shaped table. It was neither oval nor rectangular. It sort of tapered at the end. There were some beautiful art deco wall scones. There wasn’t a lot to see. But it was a room that certainly impacted our lives. The docent suggested that some of the derivatives dealing may have taken place in the room. The lobby of the Board of Trade is my favorite. It’s a wonderful example of art deco with black, white, and silver details. There is a balcony overlooking the lobby that has little owl details.
Board of Trade Lobby

Board of Trade Lobby

Then it was time to trek up to Lakeview for National Shrine of Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini and the Elks National Memorial. I had seen photos of the Elks National Memorial last year and was determined to see it. I believe the Elks National Memorial is open at other times to the public so you can check it out more than once a year. Both buildings are on Lakeview street.
The National Shrine is tucked behind a high-rise. Apparently, the developer had wanted to knock it down but that clearly didn’t happen. I think they built around this wonderful church. It’s not as ornate compared to the Ukrainian/Russian churches I saw on Saturday but it’s a beautiful church with lots of marble. It has a wonderful frescoed ceiling and delicately carved marble (I think) stations of the cross. There are a few rooms about the life of Mother Cabrini. She traveled the world but she also walked the streets of Chicago. It’s wonderful that Chicago has a saint. I hadn’t known that before I heard about this church.
The Elks National Memorial was well worth it. It was one of my all-time favorite sites. You enter into a huge room with a vaulted ceiling. There are giant statues representing various virtues like “Justice” and “Brotherliness.” There are vibrant frescoes all over the room that reference various wars. The building is a memorial to 1000+ Elks members who died in WWII. Straight back, there is a baroque inspired room. It’s got intricate gold leaf covered molding, more frescoes, and incredibly ornate furniture. It was something out of Versailles. However, the people depicted in the frescoes looked a bit off, a little pasty and oddly proportioned for my taste. Also, there was a neat sculpture show throughout the space. Go visit it.
Elks National Memorial Main Rotunda

Elks National Memorial Main Rotunda

Baroque room in Elks National Memorial

Baroque room in Elks National Memorial

That’s all for now. I’ll talk about the final four spots tomorrow.

 

Part 1: Open House Chicago 2014

This past weekend was one of my new favorite annual events: Open House Chicago. It’s one weekend a year where 150+ establishments open up their doors to the public for free. It’s a special event  through the Chicago Architecture Foundation. This was my third year. I went to fourteen locations over the course of two days. It was a lot of fun.

We spent Saturday going to places in our own neighborhood, the Ukrainian Village, and a few sites in or near Goose Island. We started off with St. Volodymyr  Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral. It was formerly a Lutheran Gothic Church turned into an Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral. It’s less ornate than St. Nicholas or St. Volodymyr Catholic Church but it was still lovely. It had wonderful golden iconostasis with colorful icons along the sanctuary. The stained glass windows probably date to time of the Lutheran Church. There was one window that seemed to have a Masonic symbol of the pyramid eye. Very cool.
St. Vol
Next, we stopped by St. Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral. This is one of my favorite churches in Chicago. It’s an impressive structure with thirteen domes, one to represent Jesus and twelve for his disciples. I’ve written a series of three articles here. Inside, it is a massive space that can hold 1000 people with beautiful golden dome and walls. The icons and stained glass are a celebration of color. It’s a real treasure and central to the life of Ukrainian Village. When we lived closer to the cathedral, we happened upon wonderful processions for religious and secular purposes.
St. Nicholas
Then we headed to the Holy Trinity Russian Orthodox Cathedral. The building was actually designed by Louis Sullivan. While it certainly shares a lot with both Ukrainian churches, it had its own distinct feel. It was a smaller space by far with less natural light but it makes it more intimate. We even got to peak into the area behind the iconostasis to see where the priest gets ready for services.
Holy Trinity
Then we took a detour out of Ukrainian Village to head to Goose Island. Our first stop was the Chicago Scenic Design. It’s a company that designs stages for theaters, corporate events, and much more. We got a tour of its manufacturing space and saw its many stations for wood and metal cutting, painting, electrical wiring, and more. If you live in Chicago, you’ve seen something they’ve designed. I know they’ve definitely added the Coke bottles to bus stops around town this summer but I think they said that they assemble the bus stops as well. We saw a giant milk bone that they had made for a trade show. Very interesting.
Then we went to Groupon Headquarters. This was a bit disappointing. This was the first site I had been to where there was a wait, even with a priority pass. I’ll talk about priority passes later. Once we got inside, we had a full tour showing the open floor plan (no cubicles). I was really excited to see the Enchanted Forest but I was disappointed that it had a lot more plastic boulders than fake trees. Boo. There was a swing set area but the seats were chained down so you could only really rock on them. So alas. It was interesting to see the Headquarters with its giant spaceship cat.
Groupon Swings
 Our last stop for the day was St. Volodymyr and Olha Ukrainian Catholic Church. This was one of the sites that I was most excited to check out. I had passed by the church 100s of times but had never had the opportunity to go in. It was well worth the wait. While not as large as St. Nicholas, it’s a beautiful colorful and golden space. The iconostasis was carved from wood with a vineyard theme. Absolutely stunning space.
St. Volodymyr Catholic Church
That’s all for now. Next I’ll talk about day 2 of the Architectural Adventures!

Review: Midnight Circus

On Friday night, we went to see Midnight Circus in Welles Park. It’s a circus that performs in parks throughout Chicago during the early fall. The circus started in 2007 to show people some awesome circus while raising money for the Park System. It’s a kid friendly circus in a tent. They encourage families to bring blankets, etc. so the kids can sit on the ground right next to the ring. This circus seems based around a circus family. The father is the ringmaster. His wife is his righthand and their two kids are clowns/circus performers.  It’s wonderfully good fun with amazing circus.

My favorite act was a duo tight wire act. I know I’ve mentioned this before but I am very biased towards wire walkers. I have taken lessons for years and thoroughly enjoy it.  Ariele Ebacher and Abby Suskin performed the best duo tight wire act I’ve ever seen. The act was full of grace and power. The two of them danced across the wire like it was merely the ground. The footwork was so incredible. At one point, they danced across the wire while one wore high heels and the other wore point shoes. The footwear did not slow them down at all. It was figuratively and literally leaps and bounds better than the other duo wire acts I’ve seen this year.
Another favorite act was a duo trapeze act. I have misplaced my program so I don’t know their names. I always get excited when I see tricks that I didn’t know was possible before. I’ve seen duo trapeze acts where one person may throw the other but it’s usually a one time occurrence. In this act, one woman tossed the other into the air and then caught her so many times that it almost felt like a swinging trapeze act. Very cool.
In addition to these amazing aerial acts, there were fun ground acts. There is a wonderful puppy who jumps through hoops, which is always fun. There is a juggler, Book Kennison, who can twist himself in knots while juggling. It’s really impressive. I also really liked a young woman who performed on hula hoops. She added modern dance element to it that worked really well. And then immediately afterwards, one of the clowns came on in a similar outfit and did a parody of her act. It was really hilarious. And there was some awesome handbalancing on stacked chairs by the amazing Matt Roben.
Sadly, the last performance is tonight and it sold out. But they’ll be back next year. So check them out!
That’s all!

 

Chicago International Film Festival

Right now, the Chicago International Film Festival is going on. It’s an annual event that is now in its 50th year. Films from all over the world, mostly new but some old, are playing downtown for about two weeks. I absolutely adore it. I try to go to a couple of movies because the movies can be amazing and may not make it to other theaters. It’s where I saw Nina Paley’s Sita Sings the Blues, the animated story of Sita from the Hindu classic The Ramayana. See it here: http://sitasingstheblues.com/

Last year, I discovered that there are some silent films in the festival, which was really exciting. So this year, I’m going to the two silent films and one film from Latin America. Yesterday, I went to the “Centenary of the Tramp.” It’s been 100 years since Charlie Chaplin debuted on the big screen. It was a bit of a history lesson combined with three shorts. David Robinson led the session; he wrote one of the definitive books on Chaplin. Mr. Robinson also runs a major silent film festival in Italy each year. Someday I plan on going.

It was a great history lesson into the life of Charlie Chaplin. The first short was “Kid’s Auto Races.” Back in the day, movie studios would film public events, like parades, races, etc. and do improvisational comedy in front of it. This short was about a man who discovers they are filming the boxcar race and won’t leave the camera alone. It’s not a terribly great film; it’s rather dull but it’s the first instance of Charlie Chaplin (I think) in his legendary outfit on the big screen. Mr. Robinson made the argument that the Tramp himself did not really emerge for a year or so. He showed us the beginning of Mable’s Mistake (or something like that). In this scene, Chaplin plays a drunkard in a hotel who is propositioning ladies. However, Mr. Robinson pointed out, he’s wealthy enough that he can give a tip to the clerk so the hotel doesn’t throw him out. He can’t be playing the Tramp there. Many of the characters that he plays in his first movie contract varied widely. Only later with another studio did he develop the Tramp, the lovable everyman.

One really exciting thing that I learned was that Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton acted together in a comedic movie called LimeLight. It’s from 1952 so it’s a different era. It’s supposed to be fun. Mr. Robinson talked about the supposed rivalry between the two but they both were keen to work with each other. Allegedly, Chaplin was told that Keaton was down on his luck and immediately called for him to be in the movie. Of course, Keaton was doing well in TV. I have to see this film now. It sounds like my cup of tea.

 

The final and longest short that we saw was The Immigrants. Spoilers ahead. It’s a film about Charlie Chaplin, as the Tramp, who comes over on a ship to America. On board, he gets up into mischief but also meets a young lady and her mother. It’s an uneven film; it ends a bit abruptly. But it has some nice scenes. At one point, they are in a café with a rude and brutish head waiter. A fellow customer is short on his bill so the entire restaurant staff beat him up. It’s hilarious in the way that only physical violence in comedies can be. There is also a wonderful scene with the waiter involving Charlie Chaplin’s hat. The whole bit is based on the practice that men should take their hats off indoors. Would that there be more humor surrounding hats!

However, I take issue with the ending. The lady and Chaplin wander outside in the pouring rain when they find a marriage license office. Now, the two are clearly falling for each other. Chaplin suggests that they get a license. She demurs. After a few minutes of conversing, he picks up her kicking and pulls her into the office. While they clearly like each other, I felt that it was disturbing. Clearly, she doesn’t want to get married yet. This was played as a gag a long time ago but it rings false now.

That’s all for now!