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Once again, many thanks to Donna Dralle who worked hard to give us the opportunity to see this film.
Thank you so much Donna.


Title... "Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata"
Moonlight Sonata Moonlight Sonata

This silent short film was made circa 1920 for the (then) Bell and Howell Company, a manufacterer of optics, including lenses used in filmmaking and projectors.

There are two versions of the film: one black and white and the other tinted. The stills on this page are taken from the black and white version.

The story of the film is based on one of the fantasies about the origin of Beethoven's Piano Sonata Opus 27, No. 2, in C# Minor, commonly known as "The Moonlight".

The film depicts Beethoven and a friend walking on a moonlight night. They hear his music emanating from a humble cottage and pause to listen. Beethoven is touched by the playing. They overhear converstion by the occupants: a young woman (the pianist, who is blind) and her brother.

Moonlight Sonata

She declares her desire to see the Master, himself, perform in an upcoming concert. He (the brother) laments that they are too poor to go.

Upon hearing that (and let us not forget that Beethoven was going deaf!), Beethoven bursts through their door and announces that he will play for her now! He then discovers that she is blind and is so moved, he has the candles put out and procedes to improvise for her "in the moonlight". Hence, the famous sonata is born!

Very quaint and also very untrue! One must also wonder why a story in which the music is the story was the subject of a silent film?

Mark Zimmer, of Unheard Beethoven, has provided the following information (thanks, Mark!):

David Shepard, owner of the Blackhawk Films library and veteran restorer of many silent films added this information regarding this interesting little film:
"Bell & Howell was the distributor of this and many other films in the early days of 16 mm. The film, BEETHOVEN, was made by James A. FitzPatrick (best known for travelogues) and was part of his Famous Music Masters Series. I haven't refreshed my memory with research but I think it was made about 1928, at the dawn of sound. This silent film had a music sound track adapted from Beethoven, I believe by the reliable Nathaniel Shilkret."

Moonlight Sonata
© Donna DRALLE
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