You Know You’re A Film Fanatic When–Judy Holliday!

Judy Holliday as Billie Dawn Posing in front of a Dictionary

 

You know you’re a film fanatic when you get emotional defending Judy Holliday‘s 1950 Oscar win for Born Yesterday to your husband–and he agrees with you the whole time!

Judy had formidable competition that year. She was up against Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard, Bette Davis and Anne Baxter for All About Eve, and Eleanor Parker for Caged. While the other actresses starred in dramas and noirs with camp elements, Judy was the only lead in a straight comedy. Two out of the four films, Sunset Boulevard and All About Eve, continue to inspire rabid devotion today. Anyone with general classic film knowledge knows those films.

Judy’s legacy has another hurdle. She’s not as well-known to people who aren’t classic film fans, and even some classic film fans aren’t too familiar with her. Also a stage actress, Judy left a limited amount of filmed work when she died young, and not all of it is in-print to view at home. In stills, she looks like yet another actress playing yet another voluptuous, dumb blonde.

On film, she could take a role that would be a caricature in lesser hands and make her a character. She never overintellectualized her roles. She made being and seeming look easy. Judy had that same ability as Clara Bow to quickly shift emotions and thoughts across her face. She could make you laugh and break your heart at the same time, and she did as Billie Dawn in Born Yesterday. Out of the four nominees, she’s the only one whose role I can’t imagine being played by another with the same impact. She owned her part. No one else would have given as an affecting or original performance as Billie.

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The Little Tramp at 100, Part 1

Little Tramp at 100 A

Last month, The San Francisco Silent Film Festival joined a worldwide celebration of Charlie Chaplin with The Little Tramp at 100. Three programs celebrated the one-hundredth anniversary of the Little Tramp persona’s first film appearance.

The first screening featured Charlie’s work from his third studio, Mutual Film Corporation. Someone at the fest wittily titled this program Our Mutual Friend. It featured three shorts accompanied by Jon Mirsalis on solo piano. The shorts were The Vagabond (1916), The Cure (1917), and Easy Street (1917).

The Vagabond Poster

The Vagabond features the Little Tramp’s characteristic blend of comedy and drama. He’s a wandering violinist trying to earn his living busking. He settles on a saloon as a prime place to play only to be displaced by a much louder band. If his violin is going to be drowned out, he decides to “join” the band, collecting their tips for himself! Eventually his trickery is discovered, and he’s forced to flee those he fleeced, which sets him upon the path where he finds Edna Purviance‘s Gypsy Drudge.

Image Source: Discovering Chaplin

Her story is Dickensian. She was born to a wealthy family, but abducted by gypsies and forced into slavery. A chance meeting with the Little Tramp changes her life. He mistakes her for a paying audience, but while she loves his music, she has no money to give him. He ends up rescuing her from her captors, and their newly shared life is hardscrabble, but happy until a chance encounter with an artist threatens their relationship.

The Vagabond Cleaning Scene

The Tramp starts to take care of the Drudge, as he makes her more presentable to the world in his eyes. He cleans her face removing any dirt of the past, and he vigorously scrubs out every facial orifice, earholes and nostrils included! For maximum comedic effect, Edna the actress makes herself look as silly and awkward as possible, as she grimaces exaggeratedly during the Drudge’s cleaning. In her next scene with the Tramp, he’s “fixes” her hair. Her new hairstyle may be less wild, but it’s no more fashionable. The intimate physicality of these scenes shows the trust built between the characters, and it mirrors Edna’s offscreen trust in Charlie’s comedic instincts.

The Vagabond Eric Campbell

Eric Campbell, a former stage actor, was part of Charlie’s film troupe at this time. The role isn’t the most developed villain he played in Charlie’s films, but he uses his bulk to make the Gypsy Chieftain menacing, while finding the funny in the brute. The imposing Chieftain’s movements are comically floundering as he’s outwitted by Charlie’s tiny violinist.

The Cure Poster

The Cure spoofs the mineral water craze of the late 1800s and early 1900s. Spas or resorts used to be built around wells and springs spouting what was lauded as medicinal waters. They were reputed to do everything from improving libido to curing insanity. Though Charlie’s character The Inebriate goes to such a health spa to dry out with the wet cure, he arrives packing more liquor than some bars. He causes chaos everywhere he goes, especially when fleeing his treatments.

The Cure Chaplin & Purviance

The film features the comedy trio of Charlie, Edna, and Eric Campbell. The drunkard may have drink on the mind, but he’s not so distracted that he can’t find time to romance Edna’s The Girl. He has to work hard to impress her. Campbell’s The Man with Gout complicates their romance. The Inebriate accidentally keeps getting into scuffles with The Man, and The Man continually pesters The Girl. He follows her about, tries to sit near her, and tries to touch her. He’s much too forward.

The Cure's Inebriate vs the Masseur

Charlie’s outfits in this film aren’t the Little Tramp ones we’re used to. His resort clothes and the fact he can afford a rest stay show he’s portraying a much posher character. Later there are scenes of him resisting rough massages while attired in bathing gear. Seeing him stripped down, I could see how young he was by his skinniness, yet he possessed a trim muscularity that enabled his slapstick acrobatics. When The Inebriate starts dancing away from the feared Masseur, the bathing suit emphasizes his graceful control of limbs and movements.

The Cure Revolving Door Trap

There are no sad or dark moments in this film. It’s pure slapstick and satire. When The Inebriate attempts to enter the resort though its revolving door, Charlie signals we’re in for silliness. He spins round and round, popping in and out of the building, and soon traps The Man with Gout and an attendant in the door. The Inebriate finally ends up inside the building, still spinning his way through the lobby, up the stairs, and to his room. Those familiar with slapstick conventions might guess the giggle water he smuggles in will end up in the well, a situation that promises a film that will leave viewers drunk with good humor.

Easy Street Poster

Easy Street starts off with a darker world view. Charlie is back in his familiar tramp costume at the film’s beginning. His character, The Derelict, is so badly off he almost robs a rescue mission. Edna portrays a mission worker. Her kindness to him and his attraction to her inspires him to reform. He seeks work and gets hired as a policeman assigned an awful called slum Easy Street.

Easy Street Brawl

Our first view of Easy Street shows Eric Campbell’s The Bully brawling with the borough’s other crooks in the street. The living is not easy there, but if you’ve got brawn or guile, it’s easy to get away with whatever you want. It’s an anything goes place. We see that when two men are revealed on the ground at the center of the crowd. They’re getting mugged by the brawlers, who are fighting each over the pickings from their victims’ pockets.

Easy Street Lamp Scene

One of Chaplin’s chief conceits is coming up with imaginative ways for the little Derelict to defeat bigger and oftener brawnier bad guys. For example, being struck in the head with a police baton doesn’t phase The Bully. His thick skull protects him. He demonstrates his superior strength by bending a streetlight. The Tramp seems outmatched, but he gets a bright idea on how to use that gas lamp against his foe. The moment is hilariously surreal.

Easy Street Chaplin & Charlotte Mineau

The film gets darker when we meet more of the slum’s denizens. A sweet couple has too many children to feed, so Edna brings aid with assistance from Charlie. Charlie lightens the scene by feeding the babes like they’re a flock of chickens. In another apartment, there’s domestic violence. The Bully fights with his woman, and she pays him back in kind. Later Edna is threatened with rape by a heroin addict.

Easy Street Resolved

Since this is a comedy, it’s no spoiler to reveal that in the end Charlie makes life on easy street a little easier. How he does it brings laughs and it brings reassurance that the little guy can prevail and order can be restored.

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Tune in Tonight or Set Your DVRs! Souls for Sale Re-Airs on TCM.

Image Courtesy of Silents Are Golden

Image Courtesy of Silents Are Golden

This month marks the eighth anniversary of the Turner Classic Movies broadcast premiere of Souls for Sale (1923), and the network obliges silent film buffs by re-airing the film tonight at 9 PM PT/Midnight ET. Viewers who have never seen Rupert Hughes‘s film before or those who love movies about making movies are in for a treat!

Souls for Sale was once thought a lost film. Copies began being found in archives or shared by collectors in the eighties and nineties. Most were in rough shape and not all were complete. A collaboration between Turner Classic Movies and MGM resulted in a restored version of the film. Marcus Sjöwall won The Young Film Composers Competition to provide its soundtrack.

Roger Ebert called it, “drama, melodrama, romance and satire all at once–wrapped up in a behind-the-scenes look at how a desperate young woman fell into the movie business by accident and became a star.” That young woman, Remember “Mem” Steddon, is played by Eleanor Boardman in her lead debut. She’s given plenty of material.

Mem flees her quickly wed and highly suspect husband Owen Scudder (Lew Cody) on their wedding night. She hops off their honeymoon train and ends up lost in a desert before being rescued by a Sheik on a camel (Frank Mayo). Mem’s not hallucinating! She’s stumbled upon a film set. Despite Mem not initially being interested in a film career due to the industry’s scandalous reputation, she ends up an actress and caught in a love polygon completed by Richard Dix and Mae Busch. If that’s not enough to tempt you to watch, would a climactic scene taking place under a big top during a lightning storm?

Besides delivering plenty of plot, the movie offers many cameos. Actors and actresses like Blanche Sweet, Patsy Ruth Miller, Zasu Pitts, Dale FullerRaymond Griffith, Anna Q. Nilsson, Jean Hersholt, and Chester Conklin appear. Directors Erich von StroheimCharlie ChaplinKing Vidor (later Eleanor’s spouse), Fred Niblo, and Marshall Neilan are caught in front of the camera. Stroheim fans get the gift of a scene shot on Greed‘s set. Even rarely filmed screenwriter and editor June Mathis appears.

Overall, a fun movie offering plenty of silent film Easter eggs!

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Happy New Year!

Wishing you a wonderful New Year’s Eve and New Year! May both be filled with everyone and everything you love–like movies! As a special holiday treat for you, here is a scene from one of my favorite screwball comedies, Bachelor Mother (1939).

Its plot seems inspired by Clara Bow‘s It (1927). A salesgirl named Polly Parrish (Ginger Rogers) falls for a department store heir, David Merlin (David Niven), and he for her. There’s even a baby he mistakes as hers. All those elements are in the Bow vehicle, but where the infant temporarily complicates her film’s plot, he’s the focus of Rogers’s. Polly finds an abandoned baby on a stoop, and everyone mistakes her as the mother. She can’t give the baby up. No one will let her! No one will believe the baby isn’t hers. Due to her being his employee, David makes her his project. He’s going to make sure she’s a good mother. His task isn’t hard because she soon loves the baby.

In the clip, he’s giving Polly a Cinderella night out. Decked out in finery from his store, she’s his stand-in New Year’s Eve date after getting the dust off from his girlfriend. Since this is a screwball comedy, he overcomplicates Polly’s presence by saying she’s Swedish and doesn’t speak English! Despite this impediment, she charms most of his friends. The scene starts with their departure and ends with a well-deserved zinger.

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Silent Film Can Become An Addiction

Blancanieves Dancing with Grandmother

“Silent cinema can become like an hypnotic experience. I think you can get entranced. It’s almost like a voodoo experience. At least it has happened to me, and I really believe that some of film viewers, they have to give a chance to silent cinema because they have to be brave, because I have a feeling that some people that they say, ‘Oh, no silent film!’ If they taste it, I think it can become an addiction.”

Pablo Berger, director of Blancanieves, on The Film Programme

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SF Silent Film Festival Press Accreditation

San Francisco Silent Film Festival Logo

Spellbound by Movies has received official press accreditation by the San Francisco Silent Film Festival! I am excited to be given this opportunity to bring you fuller coverage of its offerings. Check this blog starting next week for updates on the festival and reviews of its films. When I can, I will live-tweet in-between films here.

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San Francisco Silent Film Festival Preview

In one week, the San Francisco Silent Film Festival kicks off with a return of everyone’s favorite former showgirl, Louise Brooks. She stars in the recently restored Prix de Beauté. Thirteen other feature-length films follow as do two programs of shorts. Amazing Tales from the Archives returns to highlight film preservation. Since silent film crossed international boundaries easily, so do the festival’s featured movies and musicians. The major programs represent the creative production of nine countries, and as there are always shorts before each feature, the count may go up by the festival’s end.

All screenings occur in the Castro Theatre. Details from the program follow below!

Louise Brooks in Prix de Beauté

Thursday, July 18 at 7:00 PM
Prix de Beauté (France, 1930)
Musical Accompaniment by Stephen Horne
Director: Augusto Genina
Cast: Louise Brooks, Georges Charlia, H. Bandini, A. Nicolle, M. Ziboulsky, Yves Glad, Alex Bernard

“Prix de Beauté marks Louise Brooks’s last starring role in a feature. Less known than her work with G.W. Pabst (Pandora’s Box, Diary of a Lost Girl), Prix de Beauté was marred by its foray into early sound (Brooks’s voice was dubbed). Our presentation is the superior silent version recently restored by the Cineteca di Bologna. Brooks is stunning as Lucienne, the ‘everygirl’ typist who enters a beauty contest and is introduced to a shiny world of fame and modernity. But Prix’s script, a collaboration between René Clair and G.W. Pabst, doesn’t leave Lucienne in a fairy tale bubble but leads to a powerful, moving denouement. Cinematographers Rudolph Maté and Louis Née make beautiful use of Brooks’s glorious face. Approximately 108 minutes. 2012 Restoration courtesy of Cineteca Bologna, screening in DCP.”

San Francisco Silent Film Party 2012

Thursday, July 18 at 9:00 PM
Opening Night Party
Location: McRoskey Mattress Company

“Celebrate the start of SFSFF 2013 with drinks, hors d’oeuvres, dancing to the Frisky Frolics, and the first-ever SF Silent Film Festival Beauty Contest, all on the amazing top floor loft of the historic McRoskey Mattress Company!”

SF Silent Film Archive Photo

Friday, July 19 at 11:00 AM
Amazing Tales from the Archives (Free!)
Musical accompaniment by Stephen Horne

“Céline Ruivo, Director of Film Collections at the Cinémathèque française, will present on the Cinémathèque’s restoration of films from the Paris Exposition of 1900, Phono-Cinéma-Théâtre. Rob Byrne, film preservationist, will present on his restoration of Allan Dwan’s The Half-Breed starring Douglas Fairbanks (and premiering on July 20).”

The First Born

Friday, July 19 at 2:00 PM
The First Born (UK, 1928)
Musical accompaniment by Stephen Horne
Director: Miles Mander
Cast: Miles Mander, Madeleine Carroll, John Loder, Margot Armand, Ellat Atherton, Ivo Dawson Scenario Miles Mander, Alma Reville

“The directorial debut of actor, writer, and producer Miles Mander, The First Born was adapted from his own novel and play, set in a British upper-class milieu and touching on morality, politics, and the disintegration of a marriage. Sir Hugh Boycott (Mander) and his young bride Madeleine (Madeleine Carroll) have a passionate marriage that is rocked when she fails to produce an heir. Mander’s gem rises above standard melodrama with its deft observance of character, perhaps helped by its co-writer Alma Reville, a well-known advisor to her husband Alfred Hitchcock. The First Born was recently restored by the BFI National Archive. Approximately 88 minutes. 35mm restored print from the BFI National Archive.”

Tokyo Chorus 1

Friday, July 19 at 4:30 PM
Tokyo Chorus (Japan, 1931)
Musical accompaniment by Günter Buchwald
Director: Yasujiro Ozu
Cast: Tokihiko Okada, Emiko Yagumo, Hideo Sugawara, Hideko Takamine, Tatsuo Saito, Chouko Iida

“Yasujiro Ozu’s Tokyo Chorus is a delicately composed tale of parental love, middle-class dreams, and suburban and urban realities. A young insurance salesman finds his life turned upside-down when he defends a fired co-worker. His family’s response, particularly his young son who wants a bicycle, is the heart of this film which shows the emergence of Ozu’s mature style—and a wonderful blend of comedy and drama. Approximately 90 minutes. 35mm print from Janus Films.”

The Patsy (1928)directed by King Vidorshown: Marion Davies

Friday, July 19 at 7:00 PM
The Patsy (USA, 1928)
Musical accompaniment by Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra
Director: King Vidor
Cast: Marion Davies, Orville Caldwell, Marie Dressler, Dell Henderson, Lawrence Gray, Jane Winton

“Before William Randolph Hearst decided that comedic roles were beneath her, Marion Davies had already established herself as a madcap comedienne on the musical stage. Director King Vidor had enough Hollywood clout to defy Hearst and play to Davies’ true strengths and the result is demonstrated in her incandescent performance in The Patsy. J.B. Kaufman writes, “Energetic, irrepressible, bubbling over with good humor yet capable of quiet sensitivity, she proves herself once and for all a genuine star. In her most celebrated scene she demonstrates her talent for mimicry by offering devastatingly accurate impressions of Mae Murray, Lillian Gish, and Pola Negri. (Mae Murray and Lillian Gish were, like Davies, MGM stars at the time, and Pola Negri’s Three Sinners was released almost simultaneously with The Patsy.)” Approximately 84 minutes. 35mm print from the Library of Congress.”

Klovnen (A.W. Sandberg, DK, 1926)

Friday, July 19 at 9:30 PM
The Golden Clown/Klovnen (Denmark, 1926)
Musical Accompaniment by Matti Bye Ensemble
Director: A.W. Sandberg
Cast: Gösta Ekman, Maurice de Féraudy, Kate Fabian, Karina Bell, Robert Schmidt, Erik Bertner

“Gösta Ekman is the eponymous clown in this tale of rural ways confronting the glamour and danger of the big city. The small town Joe (Ekman) and his circus princess Daisy (Karina Bell) find success in Paris, but become embroiled in a love triangle with a Parisian bon vivant. This beautiful restoration by the Danish Film Institute highlights the exquisite cinematography of Chresten Jørgensen and Einar Olsen. Approximately 128 minutes. 35mm restored print courtesy of the Danish Film Institute.”

Gertie The Dinosaur

Saturday, July 20 at 10:00 AM
Winsor McCay: His Life and Art
Musical accompaniment by Stephen Horne

“John Canemaker acclaimed biography Winsor McCay: His Life and Art celebrates the early-twentieth-century genius who gave the world Little Nemo and Gertie the Dinosaur. This special presentation is illustrated with stunning images from Canemaker’s book, as well as screenings of four of McCay’s greatest films: Little Nemo (1911, 3 mins), the first adaptation of a comic strip to a film format; the indelibly disturbing How a Mosquito Operates (1912, 6 mins); Gertie the Dinosaur (1914, 18 mins), the charming and infinitely influential animation McCay designed as part of a Vaudeville act; and The Sinking of the Lusitania (1918, 12 mins), a somber animated counterpart to McCay’s editorial cartoons. Approximately 70 minutes.”

The Half-Breed

Saturday, July 20 at 12:00 PM
The Half-Breed (USA, 1916)
Musical accompaniment by Günter Buchwald
Director: Allan Dwan
Cast: Douglas Fairbanks, Alma Rubens, Sam De Grasse, Tom Wilson, Frank Brownlee, Jewel Carmen, George Beranger

“The great Allan Dwan directed this western drama set amongst the redwoods and filmed in part near Boulder Creek (with Victor Fleming behind the camera!). Based on a story by Bret Harte and adapted by Anita Loos, The Half-Breed stars Douglas Fairbanks as Lo Dorman, a half-Indian outcast from society who lives in the forest and makes his home in a hollow tree. The coquettish pastor’s daughter (Jewel Carmen) toys with his affections, but it is Teresa (Alma Reuben) on the run from the law, who shares Lo’s status as an outsider. This brand new restoration is the result of a partnership between Cinémathèque Française and the San Francisco Silent Film Festival. World Premiere! Approximately 70 minutes. 2013 Restoration 35mm print.”

Legong

Saturday, July 20 at 2:15 PM
Legong: Dance of the Virgins (Bali, 1935)
Musical accompaniment by Clubfoot Orchestra & Gamelan Sekar Jaya
Director: Henri de la Falaise
Cast: Poetoe Aloes Goesti, Bagus Mara Goesti, Saplak Njoman, Njong Njong Njoman

“One of the last features shot in two-strip Technicolor, Legong was filmed entirely on location in Bali in 1935 by the Marquis Henry de la Falaise (a WWI hero, the ex-husband of Gloria Swanson, and the current spouse of Constance Bennett). The film is a tragic tale of love denied—Poutou, a respected Legong dancer, falls in love with young musician, Nyoung. Her father is delighted with Poutou’s choice and wants to help her to conquer Nyoung’s heart. But Poutou’s half-sister Saplak pines for the musician. When Nyoung chooses Saplak, Poutou drowns herself. Legong’s real theme is much more than mere melodrama—it is the delineation of Balinese culture. De la Falaise captured religious rituals including frenetic dances and mystical parades, and everyday dealings at the local marketplace. Small details chronicling the life of the villagers make the film an absorbing and mesmerizing quasi-documentary in gorgeous Two-Color Technicolor! Approximately 65 minutes. 35mm restored print courtesy of the UCLA Film & Television Archive.”

Gribiche

Saturday, July 20 at 4:00 PM
Gribiche (France, 1926)
Musical accompaniment by Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra
Director: Jacques Feyder
Cast: Jean Forest, Françoise Rosay, Cécile Guyon, Rolla Norman, Charles Barrois, Andrée Canti, Armand Dufour, Serge Otto, Alice Tissot, Major Heitner, Georges Pionnier, Soufflot, Mme. Surgères

“Jacques Feyder’s first film for Films Albatros is the story of a young boy (Jean Forest) who lives with his widowed mother (Cécile Guyon) in a lower-middle-class Paris neighborhood when he is ‘discovered’ by a rich American widow, Mrs. Maranet (Françoise Rosay in her first important role), who decides to adopt the boy and give him a ‘proper education.’ This charming film was recently restored by the Cinémathèque Française with the collaboration of the Franco-American Cultural Fund—DGA, MPA, SACEM, WGA. Approximately 112 minutes. Restored 35mm print from the Cinémathèque Française.”

Parasha from House on Trubnaya Square

Saturday, July 20 at 6:30 PM
The House on Trubnaya Square (USSR, 1928)
Musical accompaniment by Stephen Horne
Director: Boris Barnet
Cast: Vera Maretskaya, Vladimir Fogel, Yelena Tyapkina, Sergei Komarov, Anel Duakevich, Ada Vojtsik

“Our vote for Best Soviet Silent Comedy ever, Trubnaya is a brilliant look at class distinctions in the newly urbanized Soviet Union. ‘Set in a Moscow housing project, where a young scrubwoman discovers a new sense of self after she sees a film about Joan of Arc, this silent 1928 comedy displays a superb technique, a grace with actors, and a talent for eccentric characterizations that suggest Leo McCarey more than Karl Marx.’-—Dave Kehr, Chicago Reader. Approximately 64 minutes. 35mm print courtesy of the Pacific Film Archive.”

Joyless Street Scene 2

Saturday, July 20 at 8:30 PM
The Joyless Street/Die freudlose Gasse (Germany, 1925)
Musical accompaniment by Matti Bye Ensemble
Director: G.W. Pabst
Cast: Asta Nielsen, Greta Garbo, Gräfin, Agnes Esterhazy, Werner Krauß, Henry Stuart, Einar Hanson, Grigori Chmara

“Not only one of the most important films of Weimar-era Germany, The Joyless Street is also one of the most spectacular censorship cases of the era. The story from the inflationary period in Vienna in the years immediately after World War I was considered too much of a provocation with its juxtaposition of haves and have nots—that and its frank sexuality. Pabst’s film was twice shortened by the German censors and other countries made cuts or outright banned the film. This painstaking restoration supervised by Stefan Drössler has reconstructed the film as close as possible to Pabst’s intention. It is a magnificent achievement. Approximately 150 minutes. Restored 35mm print from Filmmuseum München.”

Love Nest

Sunday, July 21 at 10:00 AM
Kings of (Silent) Comedy
Musical accompaniment by Günter Buchwald

“Preservationist and showman Serge Bromberg has selected some of his favorite silent era shorts to make gorgeous new transfers using the best materials possible. The films in our program feature titans of silent comedy—Charley Chase, Charles Chaplin, Buster Keaton, and of course, Felix the Cat. The Silent Film Festival starts Sunday morning right–with a program fit for the entire family. Titles include: Felix Goes West (USA, d. Otto Messmer, 1924), Mighty Like a Moose (USA, d. Leo McCarey, 1926), The Love Nest (USA, d. Buster Keaton, 1923), The Immigrant (USA, d. Charles Chaplin, 1917). Approximately 71 minutes. DCP presentation.”

Outlaw and His Wife

Sunday, July 21 at 1:00 PM
The Outlaw and His Wife/Berg-Ejvind och hans hustru (Sweden, 1918)
Musical accompaniment by Matti Bye Ensemble
Director: Victor Sjöström
Cast: Victor Sjöström, Edith Erastoff, John Ekman, Jenny Tschernichin-Larsson, Artur Rolén, Nils Aréhn

“Produced during a renaissance in the Swedish film industry, The Outlaw and His Wife confirmed the promise of director Victor Sjöström, whose previous film, Terje Vigen, had been a big success for Svenska Biograf. Like a western with a romanticized renegade hero, The Outlaw and His Wife is the ballad of an accused thief on the run (played by Sjöström) who finds work on the farm of a generous, self-sufficient widow, and their growing attraction turns to love. When a jealous rival alerts the authorities to the thief’s real identity, the couple take off together into the wilds of Iceland. Approximately 105 minutes. 2013 35mm restoration courtesy of the Swedish Film Institute.”

Last Edition.3

Sunday, July 21 at 3:30 PM
The Last Edition (USA)
Musical accompaniment by Stephen Horne

“In 2011, film preservationist and SFSFF Board President Rob Byrne learned that an original nitrate print—the only known surviving copy—of The Last Edition existed in the vaults of the Dutch national archive. One of the few surviving films created by Emory Johnson in the mid-1920s, The Last Edition stars veteran actor Ralph Lewis as a pressman at the San Francisco Chronicle. Shot in and around the Chronicle building, the action-packed drama features thrilling chases throughout San Francisco, newspaper production from press to print, and a (literally) ‘stop the presses’ climax that includes a dramatic fire and rescue. This brand new restoration is the result of a partnership between EYE Film Institute Netherlands and the San Francisco Silent Film Festival. World Premiere! Approximately 105 minutes. 2013 35mm restoration.”

The Weavers

Sunday, July 21 at 6:00 PM
The Weavers/Die Weber (Germany, 1927)
Musical accompaniment by Günter Buchwald
Director: Friedrich Zelnik
Cast: Paul Wegener, Valeska Stock, Georg Burhahrdt, Emil Lind, Wilhelm Dieterle, Hermann Picha, Herta von Walther, Camilla von Hollay, Theodor Loos, Dagny Servaes

“Based on the 1892 play by Gerhart Hauptman dramatizing a Silesian cotton weavers uprising of 1844, The Weavers was once known as the German Potemkin. Its makers downplayed its radical message, but The Weavers resonated with viewers in 1927 whose social reality reflected a chasm between rich and poor. George Grosz’s sardonic, beautifully drawn intertitle art has been restored to this riveting film. Approximately 97 minutes. 2012 restoration courtesy of F. W. Murnau Stiftung and Transit Film GmbH. Screening in DCP.”

Safety Last Clock Scene

Sunday, July 21 at 8:30 PM
Safety Last! (USA, 1923)
Musical accompaniment by Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra
Directors: Sam Taylor, Fred Newmeyer
Cast: Harold Lloyd, Mildred Davis, Bill Strother, Noah Young, Westcott B. Clarke

“A bespectacled man hanging off the hands of a collapsing clock on the side of a skyscraper high above teeming city streets is one of the most indelible images of cinema. The thrilling climax of Safety Last! is made all the more exciting because Harold Lloyd, one of the masters of silent-era comedy, didn’t need CGI to make it happen. But why he is up there in the first place? A girl of course! Safety Last! takes a familiar story of a boy meets girl and turns it into high-art comedy. Layered with expert gags, the 1923 film inspired Pulitzer Prize-winning author James Agee to write of the climb: ‘Each new floor is like a stanza in a poem.’ Approximately 70 minutes. 2013 restoration courtesy of Janus Films, screening in DCP.”

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We Want Ice Cream!

This weekend I celebrated a milestone birthday, and my confectionery of choice was ice cream. That got me thinking of the technicolor conclusion of Kid Millions (1934). If you’ve never seen the film, watching the above clip won’t spoil you. It’s pure fantasy that’s mostly unrelated to the film’s complicated comedy plot.

In this film, Eddie Cantor‘s character Eddie Wilson, Jr. has a dream of a better life for him, his sweetheart, and children. Once he escapes his life of poverty and toil aboard a barge, he wants to open up an ice cream factory that will give away its sweet product for free to children. The bulk of the film is him trying to claim a previously unknown inheritance to make all his dreams come true.

The ending sequence remains amazing today, so it must have made a tremendous impact on its original depression-era audience. Beautiful women in silky pajama-like outfits dance, sing, and make ice cream on huge sets with giant props. It’s as if Busby Berkeley had never become a choreographer, but had been a factory foreman instead. The film’s actual choreographer Seymour Felix must have had a blast coming up with routines.

In a time when many were without a lot, here was a scene filled with giant shakes, fruit, chocolate, bottles of milk, and plates of ice cream with no end of abundance in sight. Anyone of any age watching the screen children break down the door to rush into the factory would understand that urge. They’d trample Eddie for a taste of happiness.

Poor Eddie has a hard time today, too. For someone once so famous and celebrated, he’s not very well-known. He was a multi-media star (stage, radio, records, films, TV, and books), and he was awarded an honorary Oscar. Yes, his jokes seemed old when he told them, but as a performer I find him engaging and entertaining, so I laugh.

If an average person has a hint of who he was, he’s either Banjo Eyes or more likely that blackface performer. The latter is probably why his movies are not often revived. In his films there’s inevitably a scene of him performing in blackface. This performance form is no longer favorably viewed today, but back when Eddie started it was much more common, particularly in vaudeville and in film for a short while.

It’s a shame that often overshadows his performances, his humanitarian work, and his support of performers of color, like Sammy Davis, Jr. Just look at his version of utopia in Kid Millions. Sitting together in the same room eating their Neapolitan ice cream is an integrated cast of children. There’s even a pan of the room in which a row of African-American children are momentarily spotlighted. This was unusual at the time and had to be by design. Cantor’s heavenly ice cream social was for all children.

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Happy Fourth of July!

Joan Crawford on Rocket

Have a happy Fourth of July! Don’t be like Joan and get too close to fireworks.

After the holiday, expect posts on recent Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum events, Charlie Chaplin Days and the 16th Annual Broncho Billy Silent Film Festival, the upcoming San Francisco Silent Film Festival, and the PFA’s Raoul Walsh film series.

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The Power of Silence

Shutter Island Finger of Silence

“One of the things that Scorsese said right from the beginning was that I want silence, silence, as much silence as possible. Of course the instinct of the sound editors is always to put tons of sounds in–things echoing, footsteps echoing, dripping water, and all of those things. When I first went in to do the preliminary mix I said to them you have to be aware that he doesn’t want that. He wants silence, silence, as much as possible. Silence is much more powerful, which we learned on Raging Bull. Taking the sound away at times, at critical times, is much more powerful than pumping all kinds of sound in.”

Thelma Schoonmaker discussing Shutter Island on the Film Programme

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