Haskell presents the Florida Theatre’s 90th Anniversary Celebration: Steamboat Bill Jr.
On the night of April, 8, 1927 all was splendid in Downtown Jacksonville. The next morning, the Jacksonville Journal reported, “On the spot where once stood an unkempt police station that had housed in its sordid career many of the riff-raff of the world there has come into being a thing of beauty, a palace of dreams. This masterpiece of art is the Florida Theatre, which today became an integral part of advancing Jacksonville, following its dedication last night before an audience that packed the playhouse to capacity.”
When the Florida Theatre originally opened to the public, it was downtown Jacksonville’s fifteenth, and largest, theatre. Today, it is the last remaining historic theatre on the north bank of downtown, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and the city’s last remaining example of 1920s fantasy architecture.
For our 90th Anniversary celebration, we will honor the Florida Theatre’s beginnings as a grand movie palace, by the showing of the 1928 Buster Keaton film Steamboat Bill Jr.
The anniversary celebration will conclude with a champagne toast and cake.
The 90th Anniversary Celebration is presented by
Starring Buster Keaton, Steamboat Bill Jr. is set on the Mississippi River. The film was lavishly produced and contains memorable moments of high comedy, remarkable sequences of dramatic psychology and concludes with an extraordinary cyclone — hilarious and terrifying — illustrating Keaton’s breathtaking comedy skills. Variety described the film as “a pip of a comedy” and “one of Keaton’s best.” Over the years, Steamboat Bill Jr. has become regarded as a masterpiece of its era.
In true silent film fashion, Tony Steve, Professor of Percussion and Contemporary Music at Jacksonville University will conduct the score for this free screening of Buster Keaton’s silent film, Steamboat Bill Jr.
About Buster Keaton
Buster Keaton (1895-1966), along with Charles Chaplin and Harold Lloyd, is one of the great American silent-film comedians. Born in Piqua, Kansas, to medicine show performers on the road, Keaton was nicknamed Buster by Harry Houdini who admired the way Keaton at the age of six months had survived unharmed a fall down a flight of stairs at a boardinghouse. At the age of three, Keaton joined the family acrobatic comedy act and by the age of 21 had established himself as a distinguished vaudeville artist. In 1917, Keaton entered the movies in a series of comedy shorts starring and directed by Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle. In 1919, Joseph M. Schenck set up a new company to produce a series of comedy shorts starring Keaton.
Keaton’s first feature comedy film, The Saphead (1920), was a box-office success and established Keaton as a comedy star. Throughout the 1920’s, Keaton appeared in a series of brilliant feature-length comedies, now regarded as screen classics: Our Hospitality (1923), Sherlock Jr. (1924), Seven Chances (1925), The General (1926), College (1927), Steamboat Bill, Jr. (1928).
Steamboat Bill, Jr. was the last film in which Keaton had writing and directorial control.