The First Degree

FirstDegree_horizontal_Thin (003).jpg



Come celebrate the rediscovery of a film long thought lost from the silent era. This special screening will feature a live performance of a newly commissioned score by Chicago experimental indie rock group Quasar Wut-Wut. Frank Mayo stars as tortured, good-hearted Sam Purdy, a sheep farmer ruthlessly blackmailed by his jealous half-brother Will (Philo McCullough) over their mutual affection for Mary (Sylvia Breamer). Director Edward Sedgwick, who primarily made comedies (including Buster Keaton’s 1928 The Cameraman), ratchets the tension between the two brothers until it explodes in a dramatic courtroom encounter. Like most feature films made during the silent era, The First Degree was presumed lost forever — until an original 35mm nitrate film print from 1923 was discovered in the collections of Chicago Film Archives in 2020.