Bob Mitchell the organist at the Silent Movie Theater (Home of the Cinefamily), 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.
- Hadrian Belove