Rare screening of Clarence Brown's 1925 silent film "Smouldering Fires"

Carl Laemmle - Smouldering Fires

On Saturday, August 20, the Library's Tennessee Archive of Moving Image and Sound returns to the Historic Tennessee Theatre to present two unique films as part of the East Tennessee History Fair. Free and open to the public, the day includes an open house and backstage tours of the majestic theatre.


  • 10:00 – 11:30: open house/backstage tours
  • 11:30 – 1:00: Clarence Brown’s "Smouldering Fires" 16mm film screening with live musical accompaniment by Freddie Brabson on the Mighty Wurlitzer Organ
  • 1:00 – 2:30: open house/backstage tours
  • 2:30 – 3:30: short PBS documentary on the Knoxville Sessions followed by TAMIS’s "Silent Stomp" film with live music accompaniment by Todd Steed

"Smouldering Fires" is a 1925 Universal Pictures silent film, directed by Knoxville’s Clarence Brown. This rarely screened drama was thought lost until a copy was discovered on an ostrich farm outside Johannesburg, South Africa. Ahead of its time in its depiction of an independent factory owner and her love for a younger man, it’s yet another film in Brown’s oeuvre that reinforces his reputation as a “woman’s director.” Following "Smouldering Fires" he went on to work with such stars as Joan Crawford, Katherine Hepburn and Elizabeth Taylor, and made seven films with Greta Garbo, who called Brown her favourite director. Introducing the film will be author Reed Massengill, whose forthcoming book on Brown will be published by University of Tennessee Press. Massengill’s personal 16mm film print of the film will be screened, a rare opportunity to see a silent film projected at the majestic Tennessee Theatre. Live music accompaniment to the film on the mighty Wurlitzer organ will be provided by Tennessee Theatre Associate House Organist Freddie Brabson, who delivered such a marvellous performance during last year’s screening of "Stark Love."

Local musician Todd Steed will be reprising his self-composed live score accompanying vintage film footage of Knoxville during the 1920s and 1930s. "Silent Stomp" was met with much acclaim at this year’s Knoxville Stomp festival, its archival home movies and photographs allowing viewers a glimpse at what Knoxville looked like at the time of the historic Brunswick-Vocalion recording sessions at the St. James hotel in 1929–1930. Look out for footage of downtown Knoxville, the old Market House, popular local musicians of the era and more. Preceding the half hour "Silent Stomp" film will be a seven-minute PBS-produced video on the "Come To Make Records" exhibit at the Museum of East Tennessee History, exploring the history of the 1929–1930 recording sessions.

Before and between the screenings, from 10–11:30 and 1:00–2:30, the Tennessee Theatre will be available for an open house and backstage tours.