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The Wind (1928)

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The Wind (1928)

Classic Silent Film 'The Wind' (1928) With Organ Accompaniment

Doors open at 7.00pm for an 8.00pm film start. Film running time: 75 minutes. 

The Wind, regarded as a masterpiece of the late silent film era, will be accompanied by the evocative music of the restored organ, played by Donald MacKenzie, resident organist at the Odeon, Leicester Square.

Donald is returning to St John's Notting Hill after playing for sell-out shows Steamboat Bill Jr in May 2015, Wings in November 2014 and The Hunchback of Notre Dame in October 2013.

Organs have a wide range of sounds and voices, perfect for accompanying silent film. Donald is a master at bringing out the emotions, stories and effects of these films with his virtuosic playing: tense, lyrical, sensitive and resounding.  Come along for a captivating atmosphere - afilm show and concert all in one. 

Advanced booking is highly recommended, as all previous silent film screenings at St John's Notting Hill have sold out in advance. Don't miss this special event.

Sell-out show of Steambot Bill Jr in May 2015 - click on the image to see a larger version

Sell-out show of Steambot Bill Jr in May 2015 - click on the image to see a larger version

Age rating: recommended 15

There will be popcorn and a bar available on the night, with the church candlelit. Seating is unreserved. Good sight lines are available throughout the church. Despite being heated, the church may be a little cold in October, so please wear warm clothing.


Film reviews

The Wind has the highest IMDB rating for a silent film, at 8.4 out of 10:

Rotten Tomatoes rating: 100% Fresh:

The Wind is number 4 on The Guardian's top 10 silent films of all time:

The Wind is number 13 in the 100 best silent films of all time on


The Film

One of the indisputable achievements of the silent era, Victor Seastrom’s film is a melodrama of elemental force. As it begins, the heroine Letty (Lilian Gish) moves from her Virginia home to Sweet Water on the western prairies to live on the ranch of her cousin Beverly, his wife Cora and their three children. Letty quickly learns how inhospitable the environment in Sweet Water is, with an incessant, fearsome wind - Letty has an unrelenting battle with the sand that swirls and gusts everywhere. But equally inhospitable is both the unrefined way that people in Sweet Water live, and Cora, who believes Letty has come to steal Beverly away from her. As such, Cora orders Letty out of her house. With no money, Letty is forced to accept one of the two marriage proposals she receives, the lesser evil being that from Bev and Cora's ranching neighbour, Lige Hightower, a man who she does not love.

Trapped without money or means of flight at his isolated, rickety cabin, the wind - with its ceaseless howl, its hammering of sand against the window, and its encroachment through cracks in her floors and walls - slowly drives her out of her mind. Is the wind as brutal as it appears, or does it just seem that way to the slowly deteriorating Letty? She sees it as a bucking white ghost-stallion straight from Fuselian nightmare. Whatever the case, it all leads to a nightmarish showdown with an unwelcome visitor, a famous scene from the silent-era catalogue.

The film was shot in difficult conditions in the blistering hot temperatures of the Californian Mojave desert - often a trial for the cast and crew. Seven aircraft propellors were used to create the wind, lending this maddening titular onslaught more realism. It worked. The Wind has remarkable environmental intensity, and after a while you almost feel the skin peeling from your face under its vicious assault. The film invokes nature in a way that renders human concern trivial, and amplifies the threat of defeat.


Seastrom achieves uncanny perfection in his deployment of potent visual metaphors. The wind, which is the most obvious and oppressive of these, is incorporated into the director’s visual palette in a stroke of genius. Personified by the galloping steed, the wind incessantly rages in the background.  The chaotic motion of swirling dust marks almost every frame, serving as a potent reflection of the heroine’s fragile mental state. Gish, rather perfect here, looks appropriately out of place in this world. The way she always seems to be waging a battle with her hat in the earliest scenes segues perfectly into her subsequent interior battles.

Several exceptional moments, such as the one showing Letty’s wedding night, are startling in their intimacy. The entire scene here is beautifully done: Lige, suddenly shy with his new wife, offers her a sludgy cup of coffee, which she sniffs with disgust before dumping it into her washbasin while he’s not looking. He leans in to kiss her, and she primly recoils, until Lige gets just a little too aggressive, leaving Letty to run from him and scream, “Don’t make me hate you!”. This might sound melodramatic, but the actors are so good here that you can barely breathe watching them. Their every movement is fraught with meaning. It’s a tricky thing happening—Lige’s character is transitioning from comic relief into a true romantic lead. Watching Letty crush his spirit with her indifference is stunning because, for the first time, it’s not at all played for laughs. At the moment when Lige realizes that Letty really doesn’t love him, his face falls in a heartbreaking scene. Then somehow the moment when he leans over her washbasin and sees that she poured out the coffee is even worse. The camera lingers on every crinkle of despair in his face. Similarly, the scenes in which Letty is contrasted with the jealous wife of her childhood friend are almost painfully direct. Letty is dainty and unwilling to face her predicament, while her rival is literally shown in situations where she’s butchering an animal and steering a carriage. There's no mistaking where each of them stand. As the melodrama escalates past this point, Letty finds herself in increasingly impossible predicaments.

Character, environment, elements and emotion become one, wild and untamable, relentless and intractable. It remains a harsh, elemental and harrowing film 87 years after it was made. The Wind is one of the four or five movies that best demonstrate the richness and variety, and the purity and clarity of expression that silent cinema had achieved by the time it was fatally and forever subsumed, like a lost Atlantis, beneath a deluge of sound and speech. The Wind arrived just in time to see silent cinema made obsolete in a matter of months in 1927-28.

The above is taken from Amazon UKThe GuardianMovie Martyr, and Not Coming, all edited.

Lillian Gish ... Letty
Lars Hanson ... Lige
Montagu Love ... Roddy
Dorothy Cumming ... Cora
Edward Earle ... Beverly
William Orlamond ... Sourdough
Carmencita Johnson ... Cora's Child
Leon Janney ... Cora's Child (as Laon Ramon)
Billy Kent Schaefer ... Cora's Child
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Si Jenks ... Man at the Shindig (uncredited)
Cullen Johnson ... Little Boy (uncredited)
Seessel Anne Johnson ... Little Girl (uncredited)
Gus Leonard ... Old Man at Dance Hall (uncredited)
Cast taken from IMDB

Directed by        
Victor Sjöström
Produced by     
André Paulvé
Fred Orain
Written by         
Frances Marion (scenario)
Based on            
The Wind by Dorothy Scarborough
John Arnold
Edited by            
Conrad A. Nervig
Distributed by  
Release dates
November 23, 1928 (USA)
Above information taken from Wikipedia


Donald MacKenzie

In July 1992 Donald began his long association with the Odeon Leicester Square Compton organ, by playing it for a number of events including a preview of 'Beauty and the Beast' and 'Chaplin'. In November 1993 he was engaged to play the organ for 5 weeks before each performance of the film, 'Aladdin'. He was then appointed House Organist and has appeared regularly at film premières, special events and organ concerts. He has broadcast from the Odeon on BBC Radios 2, 3, 4 and the World Service. He has been featured on a number of television programmes and Donald has played for numerous Royal Film Performances, including four in the presence of Her Majesty the Queen. 

Donald accompanied his first film when he was 14 for a special evening screening at Paisley Town Hall. He has now more than twenty feature films 'under his fingers' including the major classics of the silent screen - The Phantom of the Opera, Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde, King of Kings, Carmen, The Black Pirate, Metropolis - as well as many different types of short silent films. His now renowned accompaniments have led to numerous bookings throughout the UK (including the Victoria Hall Hanley, Bournemouth Pavilion, in at Wolverhampton City Hall and the Lighthouse Media Centre, in London at the Odeon Leicester Square, Alexandra Palace and St Martin in the Fields, Somerton Arts Festival, in Tywyn at the Neu Pendre Hall), Ireland (in Belfast at St Annes Cathedral and Clonard Monastery), Germany (Weikersheim), USA (Boston University, Rivieria Theatre in Tonawanda), Holland (Scheidam Theatre) and most recently Poland. One of his most treasured memories was playing for the film 'Nosferatu' at the Usher Hall Edinburgh in October 2005 to a very enthusiastic full house. In December 2005 Donald appeared at the Odeon on an ITV programme, demonstrating the art of silent film accompaniment.  



Tickets are just £10. All profits go to putting on more organ events and film nights at St John's Notting Hill. Tickets available at the bottom of this web page:


Earlier Event: October 18
Luke The Evangelist
Later Event: October 25
The Last Sunday After Trinity