1005382310 SOHS 04396 Pinto Colvig Film Crew.jpg
Although not quite as famous as Hollywood, the Rogue Valley has long been a part of the motion picture industry. "Grace's Visit to the Rogue River Valley," produced in 1914 for display at the Panama-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco, was the first film made in Southern Oregon. "Last of the Wild Horses," a Western made in 1948 and "Girl of the Limberlost," a 1989 PBS television special, are just two of the films that have used the Valley's historic setting and local residents to provide a dramatic background. This photograph is thought to show members of the crew that worked on a Western film in the Prospect area during the 1920s that included Pinto Colvig, a Jacksonville lad who ran away to join the circus and eventually spent a large part of his career working in Hollywood for Walt Disney. Southern Oregon Historical Society photo, image No. 04396

As It Was: Musical accompanists conjured movie magic

Before the advent of “talkies” in 1927, silent films entertained audiences with dialogue created by gestures, mime or title cards. At the height of the silent movie era, films without sound were shipped to theaters.

Many techniques were devised to enhance the silent films. A pianist, theater organist or even small orchestra would play from sheet music or improvise their own sounds and music. Medford’s first movie theater, the Bijou, had pianist “Toots” Osenbrugge play live piano music to fill between reels.

The Rex Theater in Lakeview had piano player Ernest Bugsby accompany the movie, much as a conductor would lead an orchestra. Bugsby would thump on the piano to cause tension during a bank robbery or play more happy sounding songs if the plot was lighthearted.

Verna Forncrook remembered working as the record-changer at the Isis Theater in Medford. Forncrook worked at a dual record machine in the orchestra pit. While watching the silent film with the dialogue printed at the bottom of the screen, she would choose records to match the action of the story.

By the late 1930’s, widespread production of silent films ceased when the film industry moved into the sound era.

Sources: “Silent Film.” Wikipedia, Wikipedia, 20 Feb. 2017, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silent_film. Accessed 22 Feb. 2017; Forncrook, Verna. “The Isis Theater.” Southern Oregon History, Revised, edited by Tina Truwe, id.mind.net, 29 Feb. 2016, id.mind.net/~truwe/tina/isis.html. Accessed 21 Feb. 2017; Fish, Fletcher. “The Bijou.” Southern Oregon History, Revised, edited by Tina Truwe, Medford Mail Tribune id.mind.net, 11 Nov. 1962, id.mind.net/~truwe/tina/bijou.html. Accessed 21 Feb. 2017; “Marius Building, once a spectacle of cinema.” Lake County Examiner, 3 Mar. 2015, www.lakecountyexam.com/./marius-building./article_c88d23ee-760e-52f1-9782-e. Accessed 21 Feb. 2017. As It Was is a co-production of Jefferson Public Radio and the Southern Oregon Historical Society. As It Was stories are broadcast weekdays on Jefferson Public Radio and are available online at asitwas.org.

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