San Francisco Silent Film Festival Official Press Accreditation

San Francisco Silent Film Festival Poster 2015

Saturday’s post was the start of my San Francisco Silent Film Festival coverage. I’m happy to announce Spellbound by Movies has received official press accreditation to the festival! In the coming days, look to this blog for an in-depth preview to the festival, an interview or two, and onsite write-ups. I’ll be live-tweeting the event here as well.

If you’re attending the event, please comment and let me know! If you cannot attend, I hope my posts will give you a sense of what the festival and this years’ films are like.

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For the Love of Film Blogathon: The Tin Man (1935)

The Tin Man Lobby Card

Photo sourced from Benny Drinnon’s movie blog.

I’ve been planning a post on The Tin Man for a while, and the For Love of Film: The Film Preservation Blogathon has provided the perfect push to write about this odd comedy short. Every year the blogathon has a theme, and this year’s theme is science fiction.

The Tin Man fits the theme like Frankenstein would. Both movies contain a mad scientist and a being he’s created in his laboratory, and both have elements from the horror genre. Instead of a castle, our film’s heroines find themselves in an dark, creepy house full of frights. There’s no weird sidekick to the scientist, but an escaped criminal fills the spot of added danger. What makes this short so memorable is the failure and abuse of technology is portrayed as the lesser horror than modern dating.

The Tin Man Title Card

It’s a nice touch that the credits tie into the robot man theme by looking like panels of tin with bolts. When the last panel slides away, we see that Thelma Todd and Patsy Kelly are driving through the fog. They’re dressed up for a party or a date, but they can’t find the house. It turns out Patsy wrote down its address in the dark, so she never noticed the fountain pen she used was out of ink. Patsy only has a blank piece of paper. A radio bulletin warning motorists and pedestrians about an escaped convict keeps them driving until they’re lured to stop at a house by its lights.

The Tin Man Girls Enter House

The duo don’t know it, but they’re about to enter a house designed to be a trap! When they ring the doorbell, the house’s doors open by themselves as the chimes ring. The women cautiously enter what looks like an uninhabited home. There are sheets of cloth over its furniture. When the camera cuts to a ceramic face on the wall, movie conventions make us guess someone will be staring through the eye holes. He is!

The Tin Man Mad Scientist Intro

We’ve found our mad scientist. Another cut shows his spying location. He’s in his lab, where he’s laughing in a crazed manner. Actor Clarence Wilson is clearly having fun playing his part. Do not expect subtly in performance or costuming. He’s an older, hunched over, balding, little man. His crown of remaining hair makes two points going upward like horns. He’s surrounded by generic mad scientist lab equipment.

We quickly find out why he’s so delighted to have Patsy and Thelma in his home: “At last! At last, the Gods have been good to me. Not only one, but two, two females have walked into my clutches. (Laughs maniacally.) I’ll make them and all their sex pay for ignoring, slighting, and insulting me! Revenge is sweet!” The rest of the film revolves around his acts of revenge and how they spiral out of control.

The Tin Man's Control Panel

He’s invented a surrogate to take his place in interacting with women. On the wall, we spy the first part of it. We see an image of a man. It looks like an idealized version of the scientist. It’s taller, stands straighter, and has limbs that are thicker and look stronger. Like its creator, the man on the wall has a mustache. Surrounding him are lights, wires, knobs, and levers. He is the robot’s control panel.

Before the scientist flips a lever to bring his creation to life, he has another evildoer monologue: “Ah, my robot! My machine man. As your first step you shall lay siege to this beautiful female’s heart. A caveman assault. What sweet revenge will be mine if you succeed in winning this fool’s love. I have seen women fall for worse, and now let them suffer!” The nebbish does not want to become a superman through his creation; he wants to become a super lothario.

The Tin Man Meets Patsy and Thelma

I don’t want to spoil too many of the gags that make up the robot seduction scenes, but I have to talk about how he looks and acts. The mad scientist’s idea of a desirable man is tall, suited with an ascot around his neck, with a full head of hair, big, straight teeth in more of a perpetual grimace than a smile, and a booming, deep voice. He’s flat-headed like Frankenstein’s monster and moves in a jerky way reminiscent of that creature.

The Tin Man's Mad Scientist Speaks

The robot doesn’t have any artificial intelligence. Our crazed scientist makes him move, act, and speak using those previously mentioned wires, knobs, and levers along with a microphone. The robot’s audio equipment takes whatever the scientist says in his high-pitched voice and transforms it into a much deeper, more traditionally masculine voice.

The Tin Man Drinks

We get to see how cracked the scientist’s idea of seduction is. While he makes the robot act friendlier and politer to Thelma, obviously the beautiful one referred to earlier, the man pays more attention to Patsy. He makes his robot target her and pull stupid pranks on her again and again. The scientist never learned the dating rules that if you’re interested in a woman, you pay attention to her and not her friends, and you don’t alienate that woman by being mean to her friends.

The Tin Man Picking on Patsy

It’s not delving too deeply into a slapstick short to say this man’s harassment of Patsy reveals his own self-loathing. He picks the less conventionally attractive, less trim, klutzier, and more socially awkward of the friends to humiliate. Perhaps she could have been someone who would have sympathized with his dating troubles. Superficially and personality-wise, Patsy is out of his league, and that may be what irritates him the most.

The Tin Man Patsy Confronts the Scientist

By the time Patsy finds the man behind the wall, she’s ready to tell off the self-proclaimed “Poppa” to the robot. She wants him to “listen to Momma” and get her revenge on him to “just see how you like it.” When the battle of the sexes heats up, that’s when things in the house get even crazier. Patsy’s attempt to control the robot releases him to act out on his own. You’ll want to see what he does.  Here’s a hint. The mad scientist will scream, “Run, run for you lives! My robot is out of control.”

Pasty and Thelma Try to Stop the Tin Man

If you’ve enjoyed this post, please consider donating to the blogathon’s charity of choice, The National Film Preservation Foundation! You can use the button below to help the foundation raise funds to restore, score, and stream silent film Cupid in Quarantine (1918). The movie is a quirky, romantic comedy “that tells the story of a young couple conspiring to stay together by staging a smallpox outbreak.” If you’d like to donate, but can’t, please help spread the word about the blogathon. Everyone is welcome to check out its host blogs–Ferdy on Films, This Island Rod, and Wonders in the Dark–where you can find links to other bloggers’ entries and get fundraising updates.

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Supporting the San Francisco Silent Film Festival

San Francisco Silent Film Festival Membership Card

As part of my preparation for the San Francisco Silent Film Festival, I renewed my membership to it. As a film fanatic with a particular passion for silents, I recognize that many of the specialty screenings I frequent only occur because of the efforts of non-profit groups. Attending their events and buying tickets or passes are two ways to help.  There’s nothing more emotionally rewarding for organizers than to get their audience into seats. Every sold-out screening I’ve attended has been proudly announced as such.

While paid attendance must help defray programming costs, there are expenses to running their organizations year-round. That’s why they fundraise and apply for cultural grants, and that’s I renewed my basic membership. Besides providing coverage to the festival, I wanted to give back to them financially even if it’s in a small way.

For my donation, I got this swell membership card featuring Louise Brooks, mention in their collectible festival book, advance access to purchase passes and tickets, discounted attendance, and reciprocal discounts at other cultural institutions. I, also, got the satisfaction of giving back to a place that has given so much to me.

If you love the San Francisco Silent Film Festival, too, consider becoming a member if you’re not. If you’re a reader who lives more distantly, I heartily encourage you to support your local groups and screenings!

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Using a Moment to Define a Character

Rebecca Window Meeting Jack Favell George Sanders Mrs. de Winter  Joan Fontaine

“You know that scene in Rebecca when Joan Fontaine is exploring the room where everything is monogrammed “Rebecca,” and George Sanders just appears in the window? It’s a ground-floor room, and he’s sitting in the window. He just slides his leg over the sash and walks into the room. You’re like, That guy could’ve come in through the front door, but I know so much about him because he came in the window. We all love moments like that.”

Matthew Weiner, writer, director and producer, in The Paris Review

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For the Love of Film Blogathon 2015

Kay Francis The Man Who Was Lost Publicity Shot

Yesterday I wanted some background noise TV, but when I turned it on an error message popped up on my screen, and that led me to contacting cable support, who worked me through a series of steps only to tell me that my receiver/DVR combo unit had died. I thought I had lost all my recordings. So many movies had been waiting to be watched! Most were recorded off of Turner Classic Movies, and many were pre-codes. Some starred Kay Francis, whose photo starts this post. I wish I could say I was as cool to the news as she looks above, but I wasn’t.

Sharing the news on social media brought out not only support from friends, but also their own stories of movies and old time radio show recordings lost when technology failed them. To put things in perspective, we were sad to lose quick and easy access to digital copies of entertainment to watch or listen to at our leisure. Even if some of the films or programs aired rarely or were harder to find, their originals or other copies existed. The chance remained to get more copies. Amassing them all again would be time-consuming, not impossible.

LOC Late Stage Nitrate Film Decomposition

From the Library of Congress: Late stage nitrate film decomposition.

Now imagine that there are no surviving original prints or copies. No theatre audience ever would have the chance to view these movies. There would be no moments of shared laughter, tears, gasps, or the rare applause. No solo viewer could binge-watch an era, genre, screenwriter, performer, director, or gender. Entire film careers could be lost or their evaluations impacted by missing important works, and cultural history would be written around these gaps or rely solely on aging firsthand accounts.

Let’s take a step back and say the prints that exist are damaged and deteriorating. Feel a little relief? There’s little chance anyone will get to enjoy these movies unless action is taken. There are those people whose skills and connections allow them to find, restore, preserve works, and grant others access to them. Most of us can promote film preservation through spreading the word of its urgency and by fundraising or making donations. The good news is there’s an opportunity to do any or all of these things!

Cupid In Quarantine Still 2

The For the Love of Film Blogathon: The Film Preservation Blogathon returns tomorrow! Starting Wednesday, May 13 and running through Sunday, May 17, dedicated film bloggers will be writing about science fiction movies to raise awareness and funds for film preservation. I’ll be among the participating bloggers. This year the event is co-hosted by Ferdy on Films, This Island Rod, and Wonders in the Dark. The goal is to raise $10,000 to restore, score, and stream silent film Cupid in Quarantine (1918), “a one-reel Strand Comedy that tells the story of a young couple conspiring to stay together by staging a smallpox outbreak.” I know you want to see that! Bonus: If the fundraiser is successful anyone will get to watch this romantic comedy for free. So check out the host blogs for post links, share the word, and contribute if you can!

 

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Cinefest 35 Storifyed!

In advance of my write-up of Cinefest 35, I’ve curated an account of the Syracuse Cinephile Society‘s final film festival from my and other attendees’ social media postings. You can read our shared excitement as the festival unfolded and all the great tidbits we shared about the films and our experiences. It was over much too quickly!

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Happy Easter!

As an Easter treat, here’s the delightfully magical silent short Les oeufs de Pâques. The film was written and directed by Segundo de Chomón for Pathé Frères. A contemporary of Georges Méliès, de Chomón was often compared to the other director due to their work in trick films, but the Spanish director would go on to work in other genres and for other directors, like Abel Gance. If you’ve seen other French silents from this era, then you might recognize this one’s lead actress Julienne Mathieu. She was de Chomón’s wife, and she started in films before he. She encouraged him to seek film work, so we have both to thank for the creation of this bit of whimsy in more than one way!

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The Pre-Code Blogathon: Trouble in Paradise (1932)

Trouble in Paradise Poster

It’s hard not to get seduced into enjoying Trouble in Paradise. Ernst Lubitsch‘s 1932 pre-code delights on all levels. Leads Miriam Hopkins, Kay Francis, and Herbert Marshall look their best while giving career high performances. The dialogue they speak with ease is witty, naughty, and quotable. They move about in gorgeous art deco sets. The celebrated Lubitsch Touch makes everything tastefully titillating as word, image, and actor chemistry combine in a tale of triangular romance that leaves no doubt about consummation between its male and female pairings. The question of which lady will win the man solely seems predetermined along class lines, but digging deeper it’s the characters’ attitudes toward work which will divide them.

Trouble in Paradise Dinner Assignation

When Miriam’s “Countess” meets with Marshall’s “Baron,” they’re both working, but they don’t realize that right away. The Baron’s invited the Countess to an assignation in his hotel room. We’ve been shown clues that the Baron is not what he seems. The film starts with a robbery, which we become sure that the Baron committed. There’s a tension in watching what may be a scene of romance or a seduction designed for further larceny. The Baron told his waiter he wanted a clandestine meal that would turn his Juliet into Cleopatra. He will soon learn how calculating the Countess really is! A phone call we’re privy to both ends of dispels her carefully crafted cover.

The Countess shows some signs of recognition first. “You know when I first saw you, I thought you were an American. Someone from another world. So entirely different. Oh. One gets so tired of one’s own class. Princes and counts and dukes and kings.” Her sharp eyes detected something about him from a distance that betrayed the role he was playing. He is from another world and another class. Her boredom of royalty and aristocracy sounds real. When she discovered he is like her, she was happy and “very proud.” What does she know? In which way are they alike? Her words sound equivocal.

Trouble in Paradise Garter Scene

Over dinner, she is the one to speak first. She admits visiting him for “a little adventure, but that “something’s changed” her, “and it isn’t the champagne.” What seems to be leading up to confession of love turns into an accusation! “Baron, you are a crook. You robbed the gentleman.” As she returns to eating her meal, he tells her he would have told her everything before she left his room. He, “with love” in his heart, says, “Countess, you are a thief.” He tells her she “tickled” him when lifting his wallet, but he did not mind since her embrace was “so sweet.” A game of one-upmanship becomes foreplay. Each shows what the other stole–his wallet, her pin, his watch, and her garter. The last item earns him gasps of respect and causes her to jump into his lap.

They introduce their real selves to each other. When she asks who he is, he starts by mentioning his most famous theft. He entered the The Bank of Constantinople, and he walked out with it. She’s delighted to learn he is The Gaston Monescu. While she, Lily, is not as well known as he, he gushes, “I loved you the moment I saw you. I’m mad about you.” His terms of endearment are all work-related. To him, she’s “my little shoplifter, my sweet little pickpocket, my darling.” He admires her and her craft. They are alike, and they are in love. A night together turns into almost a year of love and thievery.

Trouble in Paradise Purse Return

Their mistake is stealing from a peace conference. He is caught and relieved of their loot by the police, but he escapes. That leaves them looking for more jobs, like stealing a jewel-encrusted purse from Kay Francis’s Madame Mariette Colet at the opera. She’s a young widow quite loose with her inherited money, and she paid 125,000 francs for a purse evaluated by Gaston to be worth only 40,000 francs. She’s innocent enough to believe it lost, so she advertises a reward of 20,000 francs for its safe return. Since the purse is worth less on the black market, Gaston and Lily decide to return the purse and use the money to celebrate their anniversary.

While returning the purse, Gaston sees the possibility of a longer con. Madame is bored “to distraction” by work and detail. She relies on others to maintain her interests and lives a care-free life in pursuit of pleasure and amusement. When she hints she’s uncomfortable bringing up the reward money, Gaston lets her know he’s not to proud to accept it being part of the “nouveau poor.” She’s attracted to him and intrigued by his flirting, so she offers this jobless man the position of personal secretary. Mariette had to let her last one go for having too much fun. He accepts, and over the months he manipulates the situation to be in control of her figure, assets, and household.

Trouble  in Paradise Assistant and Mistress

He even installs Lily as his assistant. She’s uncomfortable with the gig because “this woman has more than jewelry.” Gaston assure Lily that Mariette’s only “sex appeal” is her safe full of money and jewels. In order not be be seen as competition by Mariette, Lily reduces her own sex appeal by wearing glasses and zipping up her tops. She’s Miriam Hopkins, so she’s gorgeous. Mariette decides to increase Lily’s salary by 50 francs so she’ll work harder to make Gaston freer from work, but only if Lily is gone by 5 PM each day. Mariette wants Gaston to herself in the evenings.

There’s the whole question of what kind of man Gaston is becoming. Is he falling in love with Madame and becoming redeemed? Is she in love with him or making him her latest amusement? She’s had string of buffoonish suitors she’s let hang around her for laughs. Will the thief be ruined by the widow? Lily is afraid the answer is yes, that Gaston with all of his skills and intelligence will fall into the lowest category of conman and manhood. “Darling, remember you are Gaston Monescu. You are a crook. I want you as a crook. I love you as a crook. I worship you as a crook. Steal! Swindle! Rob! Oh, but don’t become one of those useless, good for nothing gigolos.”

Trouble in Paradise Bed Shadow

Gaston realizes his identity will be discovered soon, and though he makes plans to flee with Lily, Mariette and Gaston get closer. He tries to be the gentleman that Lily feared he will become and make sure association with a secretary won’t ruin Mariette’s reputation, but she doesn’t care about ruining his reputation. She promises him a long time ahead of them–“weeks, months, years.” She doesn’t care about their class or position differences or gossip. Her suitors figure they’ve lost her to this boring, “dependable,” “insignificant” man, the type women marry. They’re confusing their types with his, and they’re soon shocked with the revelation of who Gaston is!

Mariette goes to Gaston when she hears who he is. She must discover the truth for herself. Unlike Lily, criminality holds no appeal to her. She would act if she discovered she was robbed. She’s becoming embittered because she thought he loved her, not her money. She doesn’t understand a man who started with nothing and worked his way up, even if he started off the wrong way at first. No matter their love and how “marvelous” life could have been together, there will always be the threat of the policeman at the door with a warrant. Gaston’s profession has precluded their chance at happiness, even if she forgives his deception. They understand each other and their situation at last.

Trouble in Paradise End

Gaston returns to Lily with a present taken by him but knowingly given by Mariette, an apology of sorts by both. Gaston and Lily resume their foreplay of mutual thievery from each other’s person, and she knows he has returned to her fully. She embraces him in delight. The crooks get a happier ending than the traditional heroine! They’ll live, love, and work side-by-side. Perhaps their eventual offspring will enter the family business.

Pre-Code Blogathon 2015 Banner

This post is part of The Pre-Code Blogathon hosted by Danny of Pre-Code.Com and Karen of Shadows and Satin. Please click the banner above to read more great entries about this fun time in motion pictures!

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Road Trip to Cinefest 35!

Cinefest 35 Ad

Spellbound By Movies is going on a road trip this month! I’ll be flying out to Syracuse for my first and last Cinefest. I’ve always wanted to attend this film festival. Some fellow film fanatic friends have raved about the rarities and camaraderie they’ve enjoyed at Cinefest year after year. I could not miss its last year.

Cinefest was a formerly annual film festival run by Syracuse Cinephile Society. The group traces its origins back to a 1967 screening organized by a Phil Serling and a Sam Goldsman. The film festival grew out of the organization’s Monday night screening series when members decided to start a film convention. The first was held about 1980. That makes this year’s Cinefest the 35th edition.

The festival is ending for more than one reason. Attendance has been diminishing. The event needs to generate a certain amount of revenue from a paying audience and table vendors in order to pay operating expenses, like shipping films to and from archives. The Society and the festival’s audience have been aging. Organizers haven’t found younger members to take over running the festival, while former attendees became more comfortable watching once hard to find features and shorts on Turner Classic Movies and DVDs. The loss of the event’s former venue must have been a hard hit. The movie theatre where Cinefest used to be held converted to digital projectors.

I suspect due to this being the last Cinefest, its organizers will be surprised by how many will be in attendance, especially in the under sixty set. Social media has allowed so many of us film buffs to connect and share what we’re passionate about. That includes news of regional film festivals like Cinefest, that used to be spread word-of-mouth. I’ve seen tweets and Facebook and blog posts lamenting the festival’s loss or exulting over this year’s schedule. Let’s see if some angels come forward belatedly to carry on the Cinefest tradition.

In the meantime, I’ve been pouring over the festival’s schedule. Jam-packed is an understatement. Attending will be the equivalent of binge-watching. The schedule is stuffed with back-to-back screenings of films from the teens to mostly the thirties. This is the kind of schedule that hardcore early film fanatics crave, except for its breakneck pace. I’m very relieved to see there will be time for decent meal breaks! Check out the schedule in its entirety below. A special thanks goes to Patrick J. Picking for helpfully adding these notes and links to the schedule.

 

Thursday, March 19th

9:00 am – OUT ALL NIGHT – (1933) with Zazu Pitts, Slim Summerville, and Shirley Temple
10:15 am – BEST OF MOSTLY LOST III From the Library of Congress (1)
11:05 am – YELLOW FINGERS – (1926) – starring Olive Borden and Ralph Ince. This rarely seen silent film will be screened courtesy of The Museum Of Modern Art

LUNCH BREAK

1:15 pm – TOWER OF TREASURES, RKO TRAILERS Hosted by Ray Faiola
2:15 pm – LIFE IN THE RAW – (1933) UCLA Film And Television Archives will again be loaning Cinefest several rarely seen films made by Fox from the period between 1930 and 1933. Life In The Raw (1933) stars George O’Brien and Claire Trevor (3)
3:20 pm – THE LAST MAN ON EARTH – (1924) Fox film directed by John Blystone. Starring Earle Foxe. Print is courtesy of The Museum of Modern Art. (4)
4:30 pm – THE ROAD BACK – (1937) with John “Dusty” King, Richard Cromwell, Slim Summerville

DINNER BREAK

8:00 pm – IT PAYS TO BE IGNORANT (1948) with Tom Howard
8:10 pm – KING OF THE KONGO, CHAPTER 10 (1929) With Boris Karloff
8:35 pm – LUCKY BEGINNERS (1935) Hal Roach All Stars
9:00 pm – THE RETURN OF PETER GRIMM – (1926) The Museum Of Modern Art will provide a print of the rarely revived silent version of “The Return Of Peter Grimm” (1926) produced by Fox Films and starring Alec B. Francis and Janet Gaynor. (4)
10:10 pm – CAPTAIN FLY-BY-NIGHT (1922) with Johnnie Walker, Shannon Day
11:15 pm – THE THIRD ALARM (1922) w/Johnnie Walker, Ralph Lewis, Ella Hall

Friday, March 20th

9:00 am – SERVICE STRIPES (1930) Vitaphone short with Joe Penner
9:10 am – MEN ON CALL – (1930) – stars Edmund Lowe, Mae Clarke and Warren Hymer. (courtesy of UCLA Film and Television Archives)
10:20 am – ME AND THE BOYS
10:30 am – DICK BANN’S HAL ROACH SHOW #1 – Hosted by Dick Bann. Read the notes HERE!

LUNCH BREAK

1:00 pm – STORY OF COLOR IN THE MOVIES Hosted by Eric Grayson
2:30 pm – PAINTED WOMAN (1932) with Spencer Tracy, Peggy Shannon (3)
3:40 pm – VITAGRAPH VARIETIES From the Library of Congress (1)
4:45 pm – SECOND FLOOR MYSTERY (1930) with Grant Withers, Loretta Young (3)

DINNER BREAK

8:00 pm – BRIDE OF FINKLESTEIN (2015) Hosted by Michael Schlesinger
8:20 pm – A SONG IN THE DARK, More Dangerous Rhythms by Richard Barrios
9:35 pm – HEART TO HEART (1928) with Mary Astor, Lloyd Hughes (1)
10:40 pm – LUCRETIA LOMBARD (1923) with Irene Rich, Monte Blue
11:45 pm – RISKY BUSINESS (1939) – Remember “Okay America” the 1932 Universal film starring Lew Ayres that we screened at Cinefest back in 1991? Guess what? It was remade in 1939 with George Murphy, Dorthea Kent and everybody’s favorite, El Brendel. The rarely seen remake, Risky Business (1939, Universal) will be screened at Cinefest 35 next March

Saturday, March 21st

9:00 am – SMOKING GUNS (1934) – Smoking Guns (1934, Universal) was the last film made by Ken Maynard on his contract with Universal.
10:00 am – WELCOME DANGER! (1929) – the long unseen SILENT version of Harold Lloyd’s first talkie! With Harold Lloyd, Barbara Kent
12 Noon – THE DAWN OF TECHNICOLOR Early Technicolor Musicals

LUNCH BREAK

1:10 pm – FLORIDA STUDIO FILMS From the Library of Congress (1) Rob Stone and Steve Massa will present two programs of short comedies from the archives of The Library Of Congress at Cinefest 35. One show will spotlight the FLORIDA FUN FACTORIES and highlight the comedies shot down there in the teens. The program will include:

  • AN EXPENSIVE VISIT – (1915) – Lubin starring Babe Hardy
  • A BATH TUB ELOPEMENT – (1916) – Eagle Film starring Marcel Perez, with Louise Carver & Tom Murray
  • A Vim made Pokes and Jabbs short, and others

2:15 pm – THE NEW KLONDIKE (1926) – Based on a short story by Ring Lardner and partially filmed in Florida, “The New Klondike” (1926, Paramount) was directed by Lewis Milestone and stars Thomas Meighan as a minor league ballplayer who gets mixed up with crooked land speculators in Florida. Our friends at Library of Congress will be providing the title to Cinefest 35 for screening next March. Note: the film is missing a bit of footage but those who have seen it, say that it will not effect your enjoyment of this rare title (1)
3:25 pm – SEA SORE (1933) with Arthur Tracy, Baby Rose Marie
3:45 pm – MY LIPS BETRAY (1933) – starring Lillian Harvey and John Boles.
4:50 pm – TESS OF THE STORM COUNTRY – (1914) with Mary Pickford, Harold Lockwood. New restoration.

DINNER BREAK

8:00 pm – WE! WE! MARIE! (1930) with Slim Summerville, Eddie Gribbon
8:20 pm – GERRY ORLANDO COMMENTS
8:30 pm – TEA MAKING TIPS (1941)
8:45 pm – COLLEEN MOORE HOME MOVIES (1)
8:50 pm – SYNTHETIC SIN – (1929) The recently restored Colleen Moore film. Cinefest is grateful to so many people and archives who have made this screening possible and they will all be mentioned and thanked in the program book but we would like to mention here special thanks to Ned Price, Ron Hutchinson and Joe Yranski. This screening will be a highlight of the Syracuse Cinephile Society. If you have not seen the film at one of the recent screenings around the world, you will want to be at Cinefest for this special screening!
10:05 pm – THE DANGER GAME – (1918) Film Historian Richard Koszarski will introduce a new restoration of the long unseen Goldwyn romantic comedy filmed in Ft. Lee N.J. from 1918 “The Danger Game”. The film was directed by Harry Pollard and stars Madge Kennedy and Tom Moore.
11:10 pm – BABIES, THEY’RE WONDERFUL (1947) with Patsy Kelly
11:20 pm – THREE KISSES (1955) Paramount Topper
11:35 pm – THE BACK PAGE (1933) with Peggy Shannon, Russell Hopkin

Sunday, March 22nd

9:00 am – THE BIG BROADCAST – (1932) with Bing Crosby, Burns & Allen, Stu Erwin, Sharon Lynn
10:35 am – THE AUCTION (2015) Hosted by Leonard Maltin and George Read
12:00 pm – HISTORY & DEVELOPMENT OF THE 35MM PROJECTOR
12:30 pm – ONCE A SINNER – (1931) – starring Dorothy McKaill is on the schedule courtesy of UCLA Film And Television Archives
1:40 pm – CALGARY STAMPEDE (1925) with Hoot Gibson, Virginia Brown
2:35 pm – DICK BANN’S HAL ROACH SHOW #2 – Hosted by Dick Bann. Read the notes HERE!
3:40 pm – CODE OF THE SEA (1924) with Rod LaRocque, Jacqueline Logan
4:40 pm – THE SEA LION – (1921) “The Sea Lion” might not be as rare as it was when it was the first silent feature ever screened at the first Cinefest in 1981. It was loaned to Cinefest by legendary film collector and historian Gordon Berkow who always made available any film in his collection to Cinefest. To honor the memory of Gordon, we will be presenting several films from his collection at Cinefest 35. We thought it was apt to screen the exact same print of “The Sea Lion” thirty five years later at Cinefest 35.

(1) Print Courtesy of the Library of Congress
(2) Print Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures
(3) Print Courtesy of UCLA Film Archives
(4) Print Courtesy of the Museum of Modern Art
(5) Print Courtesy of the Mary Pickford Foundation and Paramount Pictures

(Films and starting times may be subject to change.)

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The Silent Film Fanatic TCM Film Festival Preview!

TCMCFF 2015 Steamboat Bill Jr Poster

Classic film circles are abuzz about March’s Turner Classic Movies Film Festival. This year’s theme is History According to Hollywood, and many movie buffs are guessing what film favorites fitting that theme will screen. While the festival is only about a month away, its full schedule has not been announced yet. I’ve gone over what titles have been released to create a silent film fanatic preview.

The Grim Game Harry Houdini Fight Still

Harry Houdini in The Grim Game from the Kevin Connolly Collection

Rumored as lost, the Harry Houdini vehicle The Grim Game (1919) is another silent film with a strange-but-true rescue story. A retired juggler named Larry Weeks bought a complete print of the film back in 1947 from the Harry Houdini estate. He had shown it a few times, and he had been unwilling to sell it to any inquirers. In 2014 film scholar and preservationist Rick Schmidlin got a tip that Weeks owned the movie and successfully negotiated for TCM its purchase. Schmidlin oversaw the restoration, and it will make its world premiere at the festival.

The Grim Game is notable for being one of Houdini’s few feature films. Houdini stars as Harvey Hanford, who gets framed for murder. As if the stakes of clearing his name were not high enough, he must rescue his kidnapped fiancée, too. Like a number of Douglas Fairbanks‘s a films were designed to demonstrate his athleticism, Houdini’s movie offers him plenty of opportunities to showcase his skills as an illusionist, escape artist, and stuntman. There’s a dramatic airplane sequence that draws on his reputation as an aviator. The film sounds like a fun popcorn entertainment offering us a glimpse of a major 20th century performer at a career high.

Rick Schmidlin will be a special guest at the screening, and composer Brane Živković will conduct his score for the film live.

Lois Weber's Suspense Split Screen Still

One program gives the rare chance to watch films hand-cranked through a projector just like audiences of yesteryear. It’s The Return of the Dream Machine: Hand-Cranked Films from 1902-1913. Showing movies in this manner relies on the projectionist’s ability to match his hand-cranking rhythm to the action depicted onscreen. If he cranks too fast, a sad scene can become a comedy, and if he cranks too slowly, a comedic scene plays at a dirge tempo. Hand-cranking is a test of hand-eye coordination and endurance.

For this screening, shorts in 35mm prints will be presented. Titles include a color-tinted version of Georges MélièsA Trip to the Moon (1902), the Edison Company’s narrative leap forward The Great Train Robbery (1903), D.W. Griffith’s A Corner in Wheat (1909), and Lois Weber’s split-screen thriller Suspense (1913).

Managing Director of Preservation and Foundation Programs for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Randy Haberkamp will be a special guest at the screening.

Steamboat Bill Jr.

Buster Keaton‘s Steamboat Bill Jr. has two world premiere aspects. The comedy underwent a restoration that’s never been screened publicly before, and composer Carl Davis will conduct his brand-new score live. I see both of these as added bonuses of a film that would have pulled crowds even without them. Silent comedy is often a gateway to silent film for the non-fan, so this is a great film to introduce or sway a classic movie fan to silents, and Buster remains a strong name brand to current silent film fanatics.

In Steamboat Bill Jr., Buster plays William Canfield Jr., the newly returned from college son of  a paddle-steamer captain. He’s not the big strapping lad his father hoped would help him crush his competitor. Worse, Bill falls in love with the competitor’s daughter. This Romeo and Juliet tale contains one of Buster best known stunts that’s among his most dangerous. Look for an in-joke about his iconic pork pie hat. Between the stunts and laughs, if you’re not on Team Buster when you start this film, you’ll likely be at its end.

Charlie Chaplin's Limelight Mirror Still

Technically Limelight (1952) is a talkie, but it will interest silent film fanatics because Charlie Chaplin produced, wrote, directed, composed its music, and stars in the movie.  It has a Buster Keaton cameo as well. Limelight is historic because it’s the only feature film both performed in. During the silent era, they appeared in a First National promotional short, Seeing Stars (1922). They played themselves at a celebrity banquet.

Chaplin intended Limelight to be his last picture. Even if it is not an autobiography, it was a highly personal film. He set it in 1914, the year of his film debut, and a time of change since that was right before World War I. He used to perform in music halls early in his career, so the London music hall settings of Limelight were familiar to him. Some suspect his alcoholic, downwardly mobile clown was based on his father, but Chaplin claimed actor Frank Tierney inspired the role. Whatever the truth, the character was a theatrical archetype. Everything about the film shows a man looking back at the past.

The movie is more bittersweet and hopeful than it may sound. It mixes drama and comedy, as does the best of Chaplin’s work. His character Calvero rescues a ballet dancer played by Claire Bloom from a suicide attempt. His old man nurses the girl back to health, and each finds a friend and confidante. They encourage each other to attempt a comeback. They take to the stage again, and they embrace life again.

Actor, producer, and author, Norman Lloyd, who appears in Limelight, will be a special guest at the screening.

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