Silent film classic highlights final East York Historical Society meeting of year

The group celebrated the night with guest speaker Rob Prince and a screening of Charlie Chaplin's The Kid

Charlie Chaplin was the star of the East York Historical Society’s last meeting of 2017.

On the unusually warm November night, the gathering was larger than normal, with members showing full support.

The meeting on Nov. 28 commemorated art. The speaker, Dr. Rob Prince, who has a Ph.D. in history from the University of Toronto, spoke about silent films. The Kid, the 1921 classic by Charlie Chaplin, was screened.

“This was, in fact, Chaplin’s first feature film,” Prince said. “It was also the first major studio film that attempted to combine comedy with drama, so this is something of a landmark film.”

The Kid is about a man on his morning promenade who discovers a baby boy abandoned near a garbage can. After unsuccessfully trying to find the baby’s mother, he decides to raise the child by himself. Over the last half of the film, the baby has grown into a young boy, and the two become joined at the hip.

The screening left some members of the society emotional, especially Donna Glazier, who had to be comforted by her husband, Bruce Horner.

“It was a really good movie, eh?’ Horner said. “Amazing how good it was without any dialogue.”

Prince also discussed the East York connection: Mary Pickford, business partner of Chaplin, had a bungalow on Glenwood Crescent in East York that was built in the 1940s. The bungalow was eventually raffled off to raise money for the war effort. Though she owned it, Pickford never lived there, and chose to live in Pickfair, her estate in Beverly Hills.

“After the war, Mary Pickford, fighting alcoholism, became a recluse,” Prince said. “But the bungalow she never lived in, here in East York, is still standing, though I understand that her signature on the door has been painted over.”

The East York Historical Society’s next meeting will be in January.