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MY BEST GIRL (1927)*

A Fox Theatre Film Series Screening
Saturday, May 11, 8pm

Russ Peck, organ
Starring Mary Pickford and Buddy Rogers

Joe Merrill, son of a millionaire, poses as Joe Grant and takes a job in the stockroom of his father’s department store. There he meets and falls in love with stockroom girl Maggie Johnson (Silent Era superstar Mary Pickford.) Problems arise when his engagement to high society girl, Millicent Rogers, goes awry. Uncredited as a Flirty Salesgirl is Carole Lombard!

Our Fox Theatre Film Series screening of MY BEST GIRL made San Diego CityBeat's The Short List!



*San Diego Symphony does not appear.


Program Note for My Best Girl by Russ Peck


 Mary Pickford! Nobody was as big or more popular; she was beautiful, a sharp businesswoman and as you shall see tonight, a great actress. She shone as bright as her husband, Douglas Fairbanks. True Hollywood royalty, to be sure! 


Tired of the little girl roles she was typecast in, My Best Girl allowed her to finally be a woman and to act her age, as it were. As I have come to know the picture, I cannot help but be blown away by her versatility. She is funny, scary, beautiful, ugly and genuinely up to the task of this film. This movie represents a far more subtle style than many of the films we have recently featured at the Fox Theatre: not a lot of gags or chases, few fights and no swords or guns. It is a love story, pure and simple; my score, more than ever, needed to stay out of its way. 


Mary's character, Maggie, works well with a piece of music written for Ms. Pickford in 1914 called “Sweetheart of Mine” with the secondary title of “The Official Mary Pickford Song.” Written by Leo Friedman, I think it captures the essence of Maggie quite well. Maggie's sister Liz, however, is a self-centered diva who needs a completely different theme. In viewing DVDs, I discovered that one of the sound tracks included a habanera (a la Bizet’s Carmen) as the Liz theme, a perfect fit. I decided to write one for the occasion. Listen for the signature “dum, di-dum dum” rhythm. The store where Maggie works and its cash register are characters as well. I have composed a piece which I call “Commerce” to capture this wonderfully bustling environment. Our hero Joe, his parents, Maggie's parents and special locations throughout the film all have their own themes as well. I will share them with you before the performance.


One interesting musical cue I would like to mention comes during a close-up of a record starting on a wind-up phonograph. The title on the record reads, “Red Hot Mama.” I have found the original music, but it is under copyright (published in 1924). As of this writing, I am negotiating the use of this piece. In the event that I cannot get clearance, you will hear my own version of “Mama.” I will let you know the resolution of my copyright request before we start the movie. Either way, it should be Red Hot!


I hope you enjoy Mary Pickford as much as I have. She really was special.


Originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, organist Russ Peck began piano studies in San Diego in 1965.  After studying for about seven years, he heard and fell in love with the sound of the popular Hammond organ. Mr. Peck also began percussion studies in 1972, banging snare drum in the junior high band. In 1974 Russ and three high school colleagues formed a band specializing in the popular music of the 20s through the 50s, appropriately calling themselves "The Young Oldtimers."  The Elks clubs, weddings and a host of other venues kept these kids in pocket money throughout their high school years.  College beckoned, and with it came the end of the "Oldtimers."

Attending Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington, Mr. Peck studied classical pipe organ (under a scholarship) with Stanley R. Plummer and continued his percussion studies.  In the meantime, Russ encountered his first live theatre pipe organ (George Wright and Ray Bohr having sown the seeds on vinyl) at Organ Power Pizza. He immediately began renting practice time on their Wurlitzer at the exorbitant rate of $5 an hour!

Having found "his instrument," Russ joined the American Theatre Organ Society, San Diego Chapter in 1980 after earning his BA in Psychology at Whitman. Working with the Wurlitzer pipe organ in the California Theatre, Russ honed his craft, both at the console and in the pipe chambers, taking part in organ maintenance, presenting concerts and studying the art of silent film accompaniment with the late Boston area organist, Harry Jenkins.

Russ is firmly rooted in San Diego; His house is home to a 1927 Robert-Morton theatre pipe organ, a 1925 Unified Reproduco pipe organ, a Rodgers Trio Theatre Organ (with full midi capability), a 1942 Slingerland Rolling Bomber drum set, a piano, keyboards, several accordions, guitars, ukuleles and percussion instruments of all kinds.  Mr. Peck also helped install and maintain the 4/24 Wurlitzer in Trinity Presbyterian Church in Spring Valley. 

Russ Peck is principal percussionist and principal timpani with the Tifereth Israel Community Orchestra while doing "pickup" work with other musical organizations around town. Working by day as an audio and video engineer (recently with singer Patti Page), collecting and restoring old electronic equipment (especially Heathkit units), operating a ham radio station (KG6CLA) and numerous other pursuits keep Russ off the streets and out of (too much) trouble! Russ is called for quite a bit of substitute church organ work around town, both playing and servicing the instruments

Mr. Peck’s recent “Fox Theater Film Series” performances for the Symphony include The Phantom of the Opera, The General, Nosferatu, several Charlie Chaplin short films, Harold Lloyd’s Safety Last!, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and The Mark of Zorro.

MY BEST GIRL (1927) (FS)
May 11, 2013

Online sales for this performance have now been discontinued. Please call the Ticket Office at 619.235.0804.

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