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'General-ly' a Great Time

Just like the good old days, a standing-room-only crowd enjoys a silent film with live accompaniment

Posted: February 18, 2008 9:23 p.m.
Updated: April 21, 2008 5:01 a.m.

Bob Mitchell stands and acknowledges the applause of the enthusiastic crowd present at the SCV Senior Center on Sunday.

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On Sunday, there weren't enough seats to go around at the SCV Senior Center when the classic Buster Keaton silent film "The General" was shown. But that had more to do with the music than the movie, as Bob Mitchell, 95, the last living organist/pianist from the silent movie era, offered the accompaniment to an enthusiastic crowd of seniors and others.

The SCV Senior Center, Michael Lyn and E.J. Stevens presented the unique movie experience, which was free to the public.

Bob Mitchell, 95, was born in Los Angeles, started playing the piano at 4, the organ at 10 and played for silent movies from age 12 until the advent of sound in motion pictures. He founded the Mitchell Choirboys in 1934, who performed in 100 motion pictures - notably "Carefree," with Fred Astaire; "Angels with Dirty Faces," with Pat O'Brien; "Going My Way," with Bing Crosby; "The Bishop's Wife," with Cary Grant; and "All Night Long," with Barbara Streisand.

Mitchell was musical director for several churches: St. Ann, St. Brendan, St. Kevin and St. Peter in Los Angeles, and Good Shepherd in Beverly Hills. He was also organist at Sinai Temple, Los Angeles, and Temple Ahavat Shalom in Northridge.

He currently plays at Resurrection Church, Holy Trinity Church, and Founder's Church of Religious Science in Los Angeles. He also plays frequently at the Silent Movie Theatre in Hollywood, and various restaurants around town.

Bob holds the degrees of fellow of the American Guild of Organists; fellow of Trinity College, London; and bachelor of arts, California State College at Los Angeles.

For those who may have missed "The General," but still hope to experience Mitchell's music, he will accompany a second movie presentation, of Keaton's silent film "Seven Chances," on Friday Feb. 29 at 6 p.m. at the Bouquet Canyon Senior Apartments, 26705 Bouquet Canyon Rd.

For more information call (661) 259-9444.


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