R.I.P. Bob Mitchell, longtime L.A. Silent Movie Theater/Cinefamily organist

Bob Mitchell, RIP
Bob Mitchell (1912-2009)


from Cinefamily:

I have sad news. Our organist, Bob Mitchell, has passed on at the age of 96. I did not know Mr. Mitchell well, but I did have the pleasure of seeing him play many times over the past year and a half. Mr. Mitchell, who started playing at the Pasadena Playhouse at the age of only 12 years old, had actually played for silent films in the ’20s. It was a pleasure and a privilege to witness someone who wasn’t just a master at his craft, but was a human portal to another time. There will be wonderful silent musicians continuing the tradition of live, improvised accompaniment, but there was a certain unforgeable authenticity that comes from not simply recreating another time, but being of it. Bob’s entire musical background and earliest memories lent a texture to his performance that was quite unique; his musical quotations, his sense of humour, his reference points were all of the era. He knew and remembered the songs and themes that were contemporaneous with the films he accompanied, and would weave them into the scores at natural points. If you were watching William Hart’s silent western Tumbleweeds — sure enough, he would play the hit song “Tumbleweeds” as the credits rolled.

It is short notice, but tomorrow, before our screening of Greta Garbo’s Love, we will have a short memorial for Bob.

Click here to buy tickets for Love, and for a complete schedule of Cinefamily’s Silent Wednesdays program.

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

About Jay Babcock

I am the co-founder and editor of Arthur Magazine (2002-2008, 2012-13) and curator of the three Arthur music festival events (Arthurfest, ArthurBall, and Arthur Nights) (2005-6). Prior to that I was a district office staffer for Congressman Henry A. Waxman, a DJ at Silver Lake pirate radio station KBLT, a copy editor at Larry Flynt Publications, an editor at Mean magazine, and a freelance journalist contributing work to LAWeekly, Mojo, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Vibe, Rap Pages and many other print and online outlets. An extended piece I wrote on Fela Kuti was selected for the Da Capo Best Music Writing 2000 anthology. In 2006, I was one of five Angelenos listed in the Music section of Los Angeles Magazine's annual "Power" issue. In 2007-8, I produced a blog called "Nature Trumps," about the L.A. River. Today, I live a peaceful life in the rural wilderness of Joshua Tree, California, where I am a partner in JTHomesteader.com with Stephanie Smith.

One thought on “R.I.P. Bob Mitchell, longtime L.A. Silent Movie Theater/Cinefamily organist

  1. Wow. I feel I have practically grown up with Bob Mitchell.
    He was at Royce Hall playing for a showing of Chaplin shorts when I was a High School student attending my first silent film retrospective.
    He always seemed to pop up like a distant relative in unexpected places. I remember helping with the maintenence on the big pipe organ at the San Gabriel Mission Playhouse, taking out the massive and fragile pipes for cleaning, and when it was all put together, Mr. Mitchell showed up to test the timber, and played for a bout a half hour.
    The old House really seemed to come alive and grow perceptively younger with the music.

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