Pre-opening night (Tuesday August 30th) of the 79th Venice International Film Festival / In Sala Darsena on the Lido the silent film classic Stella Dallas (1925)

The silent film classic Stella Dallas
(1925), starring Belle Bennett, Ronald Colman, Lois Moran and Douglas Fairbanks Jr., directed by Henry King, is the film chosen for the Pre-opening night on Tuesday August 30th of the 79th Venice International Film Festival of La Biennale di Venezia, to be held in Sala Darsena (Palazzo del Cinema) on the Lido.

Stella Dallas will be shown in the world premiere screening of the new 4K digital version restored by The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York and the Film Foundation chaired by Martin Scorsese.

The screening of Stella Dallas will be accompanied by the film score composed for the occasion by English musician Stephen Horne, commissioned by MoMA and performed live by the Gaga Symphony Orchestra, which counts 13 elements in addition to the Conductor and orchestrator Ben Palmer and the pianist Daniel King Smith.

“Stella Dallas was one of the greatest box-office hits in Hollywood silent film – stated the Director of the Venice Film Festival Alberto Barbera – not coincidentally remade twice: the first time in 1937, directed by King Vidor with Barbara Stanwyck in the starring role; then in 1990, with Bette Midler directed by John Erman. But there is no doubt the first version is far superior to the ones that followed, thanks to the remarkable performance by Belle Bennet and the superb direction of Henry King, who makes the most of the expressive potential developed by the language of silent film at the height of its aesthetic evolution, before the advent of sound”.

“Stella Dallas was acquired for the collection of The Museum of Modern Art by Iris Barry, MoMA's first film curator, in the 1930s, a time when ‘women's pictures’ were not considered worthy of serious attention,” said Dave Kehr, Curator in MoMA’s Department of Film. “Now, nearly a century later, the film has rightfully assumed the status of a classic. Together with our partners at The Film Foundation, we are most grateful to the Venice International Film Festival for giving us the opportunity to present our new restoration of Stella Dallas the way it should be seen, on a big screen with a full orchestral accompaniment.”

“The first time I saw Stella Dallas was in 2007 – said Stephen Horne – when Kevin Brownlow asked me to accompany it on piano at a private event. I was not able to watch the film beforehand, so discovered it while playing. However, it soon became apparent that this was a truly great silent film. I accompanied it several times over subsequent years, the music evolving from improvisation to composition. In 2016 I prepared a duo arrangement for piano and harp, but the film’s emotional scope always felt ‘orchestral’ to me. So I am grateful to MoMA for commissioning this score, fifteen years after that original screening”.

Stephen Horne is internationally considered one of the leading silent film musicians. A pianist at London’s BFI Southbank for thirty years, he has played in over twenty countries across Europe, North America and Asia. As well as piano, he often incorporates other instruments into his performances, sometimes simultaneously. He has won several awards and for six years consecutively was named ‘best accompanist’ in the annual Silent London poll. In 2020 he released Silent Sirens, a collection of piano pieces based on his film scores, which was one of the most-streamed Classical albums of that year.

The Gaga Symphony Orchestra, an ensemble from the Veneto of professionals under the age of 35, is known for its original artistic repertory, which ranges from classical to pop and dance music. Since 2012, it has performed hundreds of shows in Italy and abroad, in the widest variety of venues, and collaborates regularly with famous international brands and artists from the Italian pop music scene. The Gaga Symphony Orchestra was selected upon recommendation of Lucia Ronchetti, Artistic Director of the Biennale Music Department.
Casta Diva