Article from The Heritage, Wednesday, January 16, 1985
by Rick Jackson Special To The Heritage
On Friday night, The Kingston Theatre Organ Society presents its third annual silent movie night at the Church Of The Redeemer on Kirkpatrick St. Lee Erwin, house organist at New York's Carnegie Hall Cinema, returns to the Mighty Kimball where he will play his own music score for the silent film comedy, The General. As an added attraction there will be Two Tars, a Laurel and Hardy short.
Erwin, who was born in Huntsville, Alabama, studied piano as a young boy. As his interest in music grew, he took organ lessons. He graduated from the famous Cincinatti Conservatory of Music and stufied in Paris where he became associate organist at the American Cathedral.
Returning to the United States, he joined the staff of WLW Radio in Cincinnati and for 11 years was organist on the now-legendary Moon River late show.
Moving to New York City in the 1940s, he became composer, arranger and organist at CBS Radio/TV.
With the founding of The American Theatre Organ Society, he became popular on the organ circuit. It wasn't long before he began writing music scores for silent movies. One of his first was for the Gloria Swanson film, Queen Kelly (1928) which had not been seen for many years.
To date, he has composed hundreds of scores for the films of Buster Keaton, Charles Chaplin, Rudolph Valentino, and Douglas Fairbanks Sr.
In 1983 Mr.Erwin was invited by the KTOS to provide his music score for the 1925 silent horror film, The Phantom Of The Opera. Last year he came back to provide musical accompaniment for the 1920 silent, The Mark of Zorro.
This year he is here for The General starring Buster Keaton. First released on December 22, 1926, it is based on The Great Locomotive Chase by William Pittenger, a union soldier during the civil war. It is his personal account of a raid that happened on April 7, 1862. A band of 20 men led by Union spy James A. Andrews disguised as confederates who travelled by train from Shelbyville, Tennessee to Atlanta where they boarded a train north to Chattanooga to join General Mitchell. Along the way, they burned bridges and cut telegraph lines which were a vital part of the Confederate Communications.
Although the raid was not entirely successful, the story appealed to Keaton who wanted to turn it into a movie. In The General, he plays Johnny Gray, while Marion Mack plays his love interest, Annabelle Lee.
Also on the program is the Laurel and Hardy short, Two Tars (1928). It is one of the comedy team's finest films, next to Big Business (1929) and The Music Box (1932).
The General is being shown on a double bill with The Gold Rush starring Charlie Chaplin on Wednesday night, March 14, at The Screening Room in Kingston, Intario.
Copyright Rick Jackson, 1985, 2012