Friday, September 2, 2016

San Francisco Silent Film Festival - Recap of Days 2-4

The Castro Theater (photo by Tommy Lau)

Festival Recap Day 2
The Amazing Tales from the Archive program is always a pleasure for me.  It’s a free program, open to the public and is always informative and always has surprises.  This year was no exception.
The presentation started with Bryony Dixon of the BFI showing four short films “behind the scenes” on filmmaking and studio tours in the U.K.  We also got treated to seeing a visiting Jackie Coogan touring British Instructional Films (this company produced Shooting Stars, which I will talk about later on).  It was fun to watch Coogan assumed the position (standing, leg crossed over, hand on hip, direct stare into the camera) as soon as he knew he had to pose with a group.  Coogan was wearing his jaunty sailor’s cap from the S.S. Leviathan. 

Next up we had Emily Wensel of Universal Pictures telling us about the restoration of Paul Leni’s final film, The Last Warning. We also had another member of the team, but I failed to include her name in my notes, my bad!  I will talk about this film later on, it screened Saturday night.  It is remarkable to see some of the repair work that was done on the various sources.  It’s hard work, but, so much like magic.  Universal was not a pioneer in preserving their silent output, in fact they actively destroyed much of it. (Every studio was also guilty of this, either deliberate or accident, or merely neglect).  Things have changed these days, Universal announced at their centenary they would work toward preserving and restoring films, including a number of silent films.  One of which this year is Leni’s The Last Warning.  It was interesting to see samples of the restoration, from holes in the film frames, scratches, nitrate decomposition and everything in between.  Some elements of the film that screened as the “before” while damaged, the basic image looked good, sometimes a little washed out.  What I saw in the samples of restoration bothered me as they seemed to have really darkened the image on film, and in this process darkening and vignetting the frame, losing background and much detail.  Of course, I need to reserve judgement until I see the film.

Lastly, and the biggest surprise was the presentation by Georges Mourier on the new 6.5 hour restoration of Abel Gance’s Napoleon.  This is the one being done in conjunction with Frances Ford Coppola (and I expect will make the festival rounds and make it onto DVD/Blu-Ray in the US). 
I was part of the rapturous crowd who saw the Kevin Brownlow restoration on Napoleon vu par Abel Gance in 2012 at Oakland’s Paramount.  It remains the greatest single cinematic event I have ever witnessed.  Brownlow’s life work and his restoration is a monumental achievement.  I wondered, what more could be done?  Apparently, a whole lot more.
Mourier spoke at length about the various versions of Napoleon, including the two versions that screened in France in 1927; the “Opera” version which was the de facto premiere clocking in at about four and a half hours; and the “Apollo” version which was not open to the general public and clocked in a about nine hours.  There were multiple versions, even as we know, three by Kevin Brownlow over the years. 

What we did not know was that a lifelong friend of director Abel Gance had a cache of literally hundreds of cans of film.  Incredibly, he also had documentation, including shot for shot continuity of the “Apollo” version down to the metre of film on each reel for each individual sequence. 

Screen capture from A Woman of the World

Next up was one of the films I most anticipated, A Woman of the World with Pola Negri.  This 1925 film directed by Mal St. Clair was a delight from start to finish.  Having seen Negri in some of the Lubitsch films, Barbed Wire and more recently The Spanish Dancer, I now consider myself to be a real fan.  The film opens in Monte Carlo (really the southern California coastline) with the Countess Elenora Natatorini finding out her lover is unfaithful decides to leave the lush life and visit an American relation by marriage (Chester Conklin) in a small town, like any other small town.  She crosses swords with the local D.A. who is the moral majority of the town, You can guess how that goes.  Negri showed a great flair for the comedic touch.  She's very sly and seemed to enjoy ribbing her own on-screen persona.  The film was scored by Donald Sosin, who was just great.  The print from Paramount was really good.  ***** from me on this one.

Tokihiko Okada in That Night's Wife

I skipped Ozu's That Night's Wife having the DVD at home (Criterion's silent Ozu if you must know).  It's a great film, don't miss it if you get a chance.  I know, I know, but one does need time to eat during the tightly packed festival.

Dorothy Davenport (center) in Mothers of Men

A great deal of local interest was stirred up by the discovery of Mothers of Men which featured locations shot in Santa Cruz, CA, a lovely coastal town south of San Francisco.  Also of interest is the angle, given this is an election year, with a woman candidate for President, in the film woman's Governor and, ultimately must decide her husband's fate (he was wrongly accused of murder).  Will she uphold the death sentence or will she rescue her husband?  Played ably by The Mont-Alto Motion Picture Orchestra, the film moved along at a brisk pace.  Sadly, I felt the local interest connection being shot in Santa Cruz was  a bit overplayed and over-hyped, there was little footage of Santa Cruz in the surviving print.  Nonetheless, an important Women's suffrage film to survive and to be preserved, an interesting curiosity.

Emil Jannings (prisoner 28) confesses his crimes in Variete.
Varieté, E.A Dupont's great 1925 film starring Emil Jannings and Lya de Putti.  Set in a run down circus, filled with lust and jealousy.  Some amazing camerawork in this film and played hell for leather by the Berklee Symphony Orchestra.

Hobart Bosworth and Jane Novak in Behind the Door.

Sadly, I need to catch up and actually see Behind the Door.  I skipped it, not due to lack of interest,but, for the need for sleep.  Alas, not a 20-something film geek anymore and the late night screenings are tougher for me to get to and then make it to the following morning screenings.  I know, it seems lame.  Happily, I do have a screener and will watch this.  I am also hoping this title might make it onto a legit DVD, I know it deserves to be.  The musical accompaniment was by Stephen Horne, and I am sure it went just fine.

Festival Recap Day 3:

The morning got off to a rollicking start with the Castro and SFSFF Premiere of the restoration of Laurel and Hardy's 1927 short film The Battle of the Century.  Long missing reel 2, preservationist and accompanist Jon Mirsalis found what may well be the sole surviving copy of reel 2 which now completes the film and what is arguably the greatest pie fight ever filmed.  No argument from me, it was amazing.  Also on this program was Buster Keaton's hilarious The Balloonatic. We were also "treated" to a repeat of Pathe-Freres incomprehensible and nightmare-inducing The Dancing Pig (1907).  Please, I beg of you, never show The Dancing Pig ever again, Once was more than enough, twice is two time too much.  Instead please do show the Vitagraph The Thieving Hand, from 1908, I believe.  It's imaginative, has a creep factor and is truly marvelous. Here it is, imagine it on the big screen!

In what is a continuing tradition for the 2016 festival, I skipped The Strongest (1929) directed by Axel Lindblom and Alf Sjoberg.  One, I was not about to watch the slaughter of seals and I also wanted lunch (and to keep it down).  This was played by the ever-present Matti Bye Ensemble.  I was told afterward that it was terrific and I missed an event.  C'est la vie!

A scene from Shooting Stars

Next up was Anthony Asquith's amazing 1928 film Shooting Stars.  This started like a spoof of behind the camera films, but sure did not end that way, it's a thriller.  This was, for me, the film of the weekend.  Stephen Horne played the hell out of this film.  There are so many layers, an impossibly young Brian Aherne (you cannot un-see his entrance in the film) and a truly remarkable performance by Annette Benson.  I do not want to give this film away, you simply must see it if you can.  If you have a multi-region dvd, please do order the BFI restoration.

Next we had three films I am very familiar with, so I made it an early night and a lovely dinner with some film pals.  Oscar Michaeux's Within Our Gates, and  a new restorations of Rene Clair's The Italian Straw Hat were left behind.

Vitagraph veteran Flora Finch in The Last Warning
I was dying to see the restored 1929 film by Paul Leni, The Last Warning, again, too late in the evening.  Darn it!  I will get another chance!

Festival Recap Day 4:

Les Tulipes (1907)

We started the final day with some wonderful treats, confections a Fantasia in Early Color.  Fifteen short films, all color tinted, the most amazing of which was the short Les Six Soeurs Danif.  I share this video, sadly not tinted as we saw, nonetheless utterly amazing.

It is always a pleasure for me to see an Ernest Lubitsch film.  I had seen the 1918 I Don't Want to be a Man several years ago and was utterly charmed by Ossi Oswalda (who was saddled with the moniker the Mary Pickford of Germany).  The film has lost none of it's charm or wit.  My favorite scoring of the weekend was this film by Maud Nelissen and Frank Bockius, idiomatic, jazzy and fun. Also on the program was the weird Hal Roach short, What's the World Coming to?  Set in the future, men and women have switched roles, the women are more masculine and in charge, the men more feminine, and cross dressers to boot!  It was pretty fun to watch, a natural with a regular Castro crowd, high camp.
Ossi Oswalda in I Don't Want to be a Man

I saw Nanook of the North when I was taking film history.  It has been many decades since I'd seen it. Having seen many more silent film true documentaries, this holds up less well as it is a a dramatic/documentary.  It does not hold up as well, but, it is the grandfather of all the National Geographic Specials I grew up with.

Next up was what is the second real highlight for me, Fritz Lang's Destiny.  Lang's evocative tale of will love conquer death, three stories in one film.  Visually arresting, some great special effects and fantastic sets.  The film was played by the Stephen Horne Ensemble.  Their score was the perfect accent to the film.  Lil Dagover was just terrific, too.  Do not miss this film if you have a chance.

Next up was the restored Le Deux Timides.  I enjoyed this film when it played at the festival in 2008.  The restoration was fine and the film lost none of it's pep.  I did find some sequences a tad too long this time.  One joke. went on for too long.  That said, in the end it was a fun bonbon and I thought the restored print was lovely. Scored by Mont-Alto Motion Picture Orchestra.

Lastly we had Douglas Fairbanks close the show in When the Clouds Roll By accompanied by Frank Bockius and Gunter Buchwald. Doug, directed by his good friend Victor Fleming, is a young man who is tormented by his demented psychiatrist.  After a series of misadventures, he meets an artist, falls in love and goes west.  It is one of the last of Fairbanks modern dress comedies.  It's a pip! I love Doug.

That's it, the end.

Do not miss what promise to be excellent recaps by friends and fellow bloggers, Lara over at Backlots, BethAnn at Spellbound by Movies, Lea at Silent-ology and  Mary who writes over at Larry Harnisch’s The Daily Mirror.  Thomas Gladysz writes for Huffington Post and you can be sure he will have a thoughtful review up soon, too.  Some had been posting throughout the weekend of events.  How do they do it, I’m exhausted???!!

The San Francisco Silent Film Festival winter event A Day of Silents is December 3, 2016.  Buy your tickets now here.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Michael Morris - Author of Madame Valentino

Last week I learned of the untimely passing of Fr. Michael Morris, author of Madame Valentino - The Many Lives of Natacha Rambova.  His work on Rambova will stand the test of time, it is an excellent biography and a terrific piece of scholarly work. 

I had the pleasure of meeting with Fr. Morris several times, including some delightful time spent at his home, talking Valentino, Natacha, spirituality, Hollywood gossip and a million other subjects.  He was, smart, funny, a great raconteur and very generous with some of his rare photos of Natacha and Valentino that he shared with me for use in my own book, Rudolph Valentino the Silent Idol - His Life in Photographs.  I must find his recipe for the crème brulee he served at a brunch, it was wonderful. 

Michael also had a large (and impressive) collection of biblical themed movie posters.  I remember him telling me he was working on a manuscript, sadly I expect this work will be left unfinished and/or unpublished.  You can read a bit about this here

It was a pleasure trading emails with him over the years and seeing him for coffee if I was making my way across the bay.  He left us far too soon and too young.  Happily, he left us a really well written and researched book on a woman who up to that time was really an enigma.  Rest in Peace.

Fr. Michael Morris
You can read Michael's obituary from the SF Chronicle here and here.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

The Son of the Sheik Screening at Niles Essanay Film Museum

I am pleased to announce that I have been invited to introduce the September 10, 2016 screening of The Son of the Sheik at the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum.  Time is TBA as they're just putting the schedule together.  You can check for all their screenings at their website linked above.

I am excited to be invited, quite a coup!

Now, since Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum is a non-profit organization, I'm doing my small teeny bit by donating a couple of copies of my 2010 book Rudolph Valentino the Silent Idol which will be raffled off, all proceeds from raffle ticket sales to benefit the Museum.  I will recuse myself, but, I'm buying tickets, too!  I'm not sure when they will start selling raffle tickets, but, if you go make sure to ask about buying some for your chance to win!

If you've not seen the film, please do mark the date to come and see it.  The Museum has all sorts of cool silent film artifacts to be seen and you get to see the film(s) in a real Nickelodeon. 

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Olivia de Havilland - Beautiful and Tough as Nails!

In honor of Olivia de Havilland's 100th birthday on July 1st, I share with you the final ruling on the "de Havilland Law."   Actors today owe this great lady a debt of enormous gratitude and I hope they recognize it.  She did something even the pint-sized powerhouse Bette Davis could not do.  She won her freedom from enslavement and helped every single other actor from that day forward. 

I love her in any of her films, she has grace, beauty, charm and such talent.  In real life, she is a brilliant woman and I admire the steel rod of her spine, she fought and won.  Bon anniversaire Olivia!

De Haviland v. Warner Bros. Pictures (1944) 67 CA2d 225
[Civ. 14643 Second Dist, Div Three Dec., 8, 1944]
OLIVIA DE HAVILAND, Respondent, v. WARNER BROS. PICTURES, INC. (a Corporation), Appellant.
Gang, Kopp & Tyre for Respondent.
Freston & Files, Ralph E. Lewis and Charles A. Loring for Appellant.

Defendant has appealed from a judgment declaring at an end its contract for the services of plaintiff as a motion picture actress. The ground of the decision was that the contract had run for seven years, the maximum life allowed such contracts by former Civil Code, section 1980, now section 2855 of the Labor Code. It was executed April 14, 1936, for a term of fifty-two weeks and gave the employer the right to extend the term for any or all of six successive periods of fifty-two weeks each. These options were exercised from time to time by the employer so as to cover the entire contract period. The services commenced May 5, 1936, and, except as interrupted by certain periods of suspension, were continued to August 13, 1943. The present action was commenced August 23, 1943. The contract gave the producer, defendant, the right to suspend plaintiff for any period or periods when she should fail, refuse or neglect to perform her services to the full limit of her ability and as instructed by the producer and for any additional period or periods required to complete the portrayal of a role refused by plaintiff and assigned to another artist. Plaintiff was to receive no compensation while so suspended or thereafter until she offered to resume her work. It was provided that the producer had the right to extend the term of the contract at its option, for a time equal to the periods of suspension. There were several such suspensions after December 9, 1939, and one suspension of thirty days which plaintiff agreed to and which was occasioned by her illness. In each instance defendant exercised its right to extend the term of the agreement. The several periods of suspension totaled some twenty-five {Page 67 Cal.App.2d 229} weeks. The facts as to the suspensions are not in dispute; defendant's right to impose them is not questioned. Plaintiff's reason for refusing the several roles was that they were unsuited to her matured ability and that she could not faithfully and conscientiously portray them. Her good faith and motives are not in issue, but according to the contract the producer was the sole judge in such matters and she had to do as she was told. The sole question is whether the provisions for suspension, and for extension of the term of the agreement, were lawful and effective insofar as they purported to bind plaintiff beyond seven years from the date her services were commenced. If they were lawful, plaintiff still owes twenty-five weeks of service; otherwise the contract came to an end May 5, 1943.
As enacted in 1872, section 1980 of the Civil Code read as follows: "A contract to render personal service, other than a contract of apprenticeship, as provided in the chapter on master and servant, cannot be enforced against the employee beyond the term of two years from the commencement of service under it; but if the employee voluntarily continues his service under it beyond that time, the contract may be referred to as affording a presumptive measure of the compensation."
In 1931, section 1980 was amended to read as follows:
"A contract to render personal service, other than a contract of apprenticeship, as provided in the chapter on master and servant, and other than a contract entered into pursuant to the proviso hereinafter in this section contained cannot be enforced against the employee beyond the term of seven years from the commencement of service under it;
"Exceptional services. Provided, however, that any contract, otherwise valid, to perform or render service of a special, unique, unusual, extraordinary or intellectual character, which gives it peculiar value, the loss of which cannot be reasonably or adequately compensated in damages in an action at law, may nevertheless be enforced against the person contracting to render such service, for a term not beyond a period of seven years from the commencement of service under it.
"Presumptive measure of compensation. Notwithstanding the provisions hereinabove in this section contained, if the employee voluntarily continues his service under it beyond that time, the contract may be referred to as affording a presumptive measure of the compensation."
In 1937, the section was repealed and section 2855 of the {Page 67 Cal.App.2d 230} Labor Code was enacted, as follows: "A contract to render personal service, other than a contract of apprenticeship as provided in Chapter 4 of this division, may not be enforced against the employee beyond seven years from the commencement of service under it. Any contract, otherwise valid, to perform or render service of a special, unique, unusual, extraordinary, or intellectual character, which gives it peculiar value and the loss of which cannot be reasonably or adequately compensated in damages in an action at law, may nevertheless be enforced against the person contracting to render such service, for a term not to exceed seven years from the commencement of service under it. If the employee voluntarily continues his service under it beyond that time, the contract may be referred to as affording a presumptive measure of the compensation."
Section 2 of the Labor Code provides: "The provisions of this code in so far as they are substantially the same as existing provisions relating to the same subject matter shall be construed as restatements and continuations thereof and not as new enactments."
[1] It is clear that section 2855 of the Labor Code is a restatement and continuation of former Civil Code, section 1980, and not a new enactment.
[2] It is the contention of defendant that under section 1980, as amended in 1931, a contract for "exceptional services" could be enforced against an employee for seven years of actual service, even though the employee would thereby be required to render services over a period of more than seven calendar years. Defendant's argument, in substance, is as follows: if it had not been the intention to take contracts for exceptional services out of the seven years' limitation, there would have been no occasion for the 1931 amendment, since employers holding contracts for the exclusive services of artists (a term we use to denote all of those who contract to render "exceptional services") could enjoin the rendering of the services of their employees to others during the term of the contract (Lumley v. Gye, 2 El.&Bl. 216, 118 Eng.Rep. 749; Civ. Code, § 3423); section 1980 of the Civil Code had always made an exception of contracts of apprenticeship; the 1931 amendment, in addition to changing the term of seven years, created another exception expressed in the first paragraph by the words "other than a contract entered into pursuant to the proviso hereinafter in this section contained." {Page 67 Cal.App.2d 231} The effect of this language, it is claimed, was to take contracts for "exceptional services" out of the general limitation of seven years and to state a special rule for them as found in the proviso. Our attention is then directed to the wording of the proviso that contracts for exceptional services "may nevertheless be enforced against the person contracting to render such service for a term not beyond a period of seven years from the commencement of service under it." It is argued that the phrase "for a term not beyond a period of seven years" in the proviso, instead of the phrase "beyond the term of seven years" which was retained in the paragraph relating to contracts for services of a general nature, had a peculiar significance. The rule is cited that "when different language is used in the same connection in different parts of a statute it is presumed the legislature intended a different meaning and effect" (McCarthy v. Board of Fire Commrs. (1918), 37 Cal.App. 495 [174 P. 402]), and it is said in defendant's brief: "Under the rule above stated, such a distinctive choice of different words in two parts of the same statute must have indicated a different meaning and a different intent, and among other things, it indicates that 'term' was not used in the sense of mere lapse of time, since 'period' was also used, but referred to a 'term' established by the contract."
If we are to accept defendant's construction of the section as amended, we must add words to the phrase used in the proviso so that it would read "for a term not beyond a period of seven years of actual service from the commencement of service under it." In fact, the words "of actual service" could have been used appropriately after the word "term" and also after the words "seven years" if it had been the intention to do away with the limitation of seven calendar years from the commencement of service. It is true that the exception in the first clause of contracts for exceptional services, to which the proviso relates, suggests a possible intention to take such contracts out of the general rule, but the proviso itself is the enacting clause and the controlling one. It is the clause which determines whether the general limitation was intended to be removed as to contracts for exceptional services. Defendant's contention is that there could have been only one purpose in amending the section, namely, to allow the enforcement against employees of contracts for personal services to the extent of seven years of actual service, {Page 67 Cal.App.2d 232} regardless of the time over which such services might extend. With this we cannot agree. The difficulty with the argument, and which we think is insurmountable, is that the Legislature has not used the words "of service," and the failure to use those or equivalent words is far more significant as indicating the purpose of the enactment than the entire amendment as written. We cannot believe that the phrase "for a term not beyond a period of seven years" carries a hidden meaning. It cannot be questioned that the limitation of time to which section 1980 related from 1872 to 1931 was one to be measured in calendar years. It is conceded that contracts for general services are limited to seven calendar years. The substitution of years of service for calendar years would work a drastic change of state policy with relation to contracts for personal services. One would expect that such a revolutionary change, even as applied to a particular class of contracts, would be given expression in clear and unmistakable terms. It is difficult--in fact, too difficult--to believe that a purpose which could have been expressed so simply and clearly was intentionally buried under the camouflage of uncertainty and ambiguity. That the 1931 amendment of section 1980 was ineptly phrased may not be doubted. Confirmation of this fact is to be found in the changes of phraseology that were made when the section was carried into the Labor Code. The obvious redundancy in the phrase "for a term not beyond a period of seven years" was corrected and the innocuous phrase "other than a contract entered into pursuant to the proviso hereinafter in this section contained" was eliminated. [3] The words "cannot be enforced" in the first clause were changed to "may not be enforced." This latter change, we might say, was obviously in the interest of grammatical purity and was not intended to confer any discretionary power upon the courts in the matter of enforcing personal service contracts. The words "may not" as used are mandatory.
[4] Although as a rule legislative enactments are drawn under expert guidance and with much care, it is inevitable that ambiguity will be encountered occasionally. But the ambiguities found in the 1931 amendment amounted to no more than imperfections of phraseology and fell far short of working any change in the substantive law. The language of section 1980, Civil Code, was carefully revised in the drafting of the Labor Code section. The ambiguous language which {Page 67 Cal.App.2d 233} was suggestive of a possible meaning that contracts of artists might be enforced for seven years of actual service was eliminated. The result, we think, was to state in the Labor Code section the true meaning of amended section 1980 and to state it in more carefully chosen terms. Again the phraseology which was used clearly indicated that the limitation applied to calendar years; otherwise the phrase "term of service" or "years of service" would have been used. The later enactment, we think, may be regarded as an interpretation by the Legislature of the meaning of section 1980, that is to say, that the phrases which were eliminated from that section were merely redundant and had added nothing to its meaning.
What we have said does not fully answer the question why section 1980 was amended, if it was not to make a special rule for the enforcement of contracts of artists. Defendant's argument is that if it did not serve that purpose it served no purpose at all. The amendment would seem to have been unnecessary, for it worked no change in the substantive or procedural rights of either the employer or the employee. It is not questioned by either party that before the amendment was adopted, employers who had contracted for the exclusive services of artists could enforce their contracts for the term limited by section 1980 by means of injunction restraining the rendering of services of their employees to others. Both plaintiff and defendant cite Lumley v. Gye, supra, in support of this proposition. Prior to 1919, section 3423 of the Civil Code provided that an injunction may not be granted to prevent the breach of a contract which would not be subject to specific performance. In 1919 the section was amended so as to except contracts for exceptional services such as the one in issue, which provide a rate of compensation of not less than $6,000 per annum. [5] But even though the amendment of section 1980 did not enlarge the rights of employers to enforce such contracts other than to extend the term to seven years, the amendment was nevertheless desirable because it constituted a statement of a well established rule of equity and there is a good purpose served by the codification of established rules of law or equity. Even after the 1919 amendment of section 3423, there was in the codes no specific, affirmative statement of the right of an employer to enforce any kind of contract for personal services, by injunction or {Page 67 Cal.App.2d 234} otherwise. The amendment of section 3423 inferentially gave the employer the right to an injunction in certain cases. The amendment of 1980 stated the right in affirmative terms. It had the effect at least of corelating the two sections and removing any doubt as to what was intended by the amendment of section 3423, which, by inference only, extended the right of injunction in certain cases to the contract rights of the employers of artists. It was undoubtedly to the advantage of all those who might be affected, to have the law put in statutory form. These were sufficient reasons, and we believe the real reasons, for the amendment of section 1980.
We have not overlooked the earnest arguments of counsel as to whether a producer of motion pictures should or should not have the right to the exclusive services of an artist for a period of seven years of service. It is to be presumed that the Legislature considered such matters in legislating upon the subject, but the arguments do not aid us in determining what the code sections mean. [6] While the purpose sought to be accomplished in the enactment of a statute may be considered as an aid to interpretation, the question whether the Legislature has acted at all in a given particular must find answer in the statute itself. [7] We think the expressions of the various enactments cannot be bent to a shape that will fit defendant's argument, and that the several extensions of plaintiff's contract due to her suspensions were ineffective to bind her beyond May 5, 1943, seven years after her services commenced.
[8a] A second contention is that if defendant had not the right under the code to demand seven years of service, plaintiff has waived the right to question the validity of the extensions, which carried beyond the seven-year period. By her breaches of the contract, it is claimed, she brought into operation the provisions for extension and is now estopped to avoid them. Defendant relies upon section 3513 of the Civil Code, reading as follows: "Anyone may waive the advantage of a law intended solely for his benefit. But a law established for a public reason cannot be contravened by a private agreement." Defendant insists that the limitations of said sections 1980 and 2855 were enacted solely for the benefit of employees and not for a public reason, and may be waived. Reliance is placed upon Stone v. Bancroft (1903), 139 Cal. 78 [70 P. 1017, 72 P. 717], as a supporting authority. But the case went no further than to hold that the statute, section 1980, as it {Page 67 Cal.App.2d 235} then read, was not available to the employer as a defense to an action for salary earned after the (then) two years statutory period, for the reason that the limitation applied to actions by the employer but not to those brought against him by the employee. It was in that connection that the court held the limitation to be for the benefit of the employee only. No question of waiver or of public policy was involved or mentioned.
The fact that a law may be enacted in order to confer benefits upon an employee group, far from shutting out the public interest, may be strong evidence of it. It is safe to say that the great majority of men and women who work are engaged in rendering personal services under employment contracts. Without their labors the activities of the entire country would stagnate. Their welfare is the direct concern of every community. Seven years of time is fixed as the maximum time for which they may contract for their services without the right to change employers or occupations. Thereafter they may make a change if they deem it necessary or advisable. There are innumerable reasons why a change of employment may be to their advantage. Considerations relating to age or health, to the rearing and schooling of children, new economic conditions and social surroundings may call for a change. As one grows more experienced and skillful there should be a reasonable opportunity to move upward and to employ his abilities to the best advantage and for the highest obtainable compensation. [9] Legislation which is enacted with the object of promoting the welfare of large classes of workers whose personal services constitute their means of livelihood and which is calculated to confer direct or indirect benefits upon the people as a whole must be presumed to have been enacted for a public reason and as an expression of public policy in the field to which the legislation relates. It was said in In re Miller (1912), 162 Cal. 687, 695 [124 P. 427]: "The courts must always assume that the legislature, in enacting laws, intended to act within its lawful powers and not to violate the restrictions placed upon it by the constitution." [10] The validity of legislation infringing upon the right of contract is to be judged from its tendency to promote the welfare of the general public rather than that of a small percentage of citizens. (In re Kazas (1937), 22 Cal.App.2d 161 [70 P.2d 962].) {Page 67 Cal.App.2d 236}
[11] The power to restrict the right of private contract is one which does not exist independently of the power to legislate for the purpose of preserving the public comfort, health, safety, morals and welfare. The power to provide for the comfort, health, safety and general welfare of any or all employees is granted to the Legislature by article XX, section 17 1/2 of the state Constitution. Enactments exercising the power have been upheld in many instances. (In re Twing (1922), 188 Cal. 261 [204 P. 1082]; In re Ballestra (1916), 173 Cal. 657 [161 P. 120]; Sears v. Superior Court (1933), 133 Cal.App. 704 [24 P.2d 842]; In re Samaha (1933), 130 Cal.App. 116 [19 P.2d 839]; People v. McEntyre (1938), 32 Cal.App.2d Supp. 752 [84 P.2d 560].) In In re Oswald (1926), 76 Cal.App. 347 [244 P. 940], the court said of an act making it a misdemeanor to refuse in certain circumstances to pay wages when due (p. 351): "We are persuaded that the public has an interest in the prevention of wrongs of this character, just as much as it is interested in the prevention of some other of those wrongs against property or wrongs against persons which are commonly regarded as being properly within the scope of operation of criminal law." [12] Penal statutes, within constitutional limitations, are conclusive evidence that the prohibited acts would be against the public interest. The several statutes which were involved in the cases last cited were enacted for the benefit of employees and also to regulate the employer-employee relationship in the interest of the public at large. The code sections we are considering are no less closely identified with public interest. Under the same principles, a law of Louisiana limiting the term of personal service contracts was upheld as a proper exercise of the police power and an expression of state policy in Shaughnessy v. d'Antoni (1938), 100 F.2d 422 (C.C.A. 5th). See, also, Hill v. Missouri-Pac. Ry. Co. (1933), 8 F.Supp. 80; Page v. New Orleans Public Service, Inc. (1936), 184 La. 617 [167 So. 99]; Caldwell v. Turner (1911), 129 La. 19 [55 So. 695]. [8b] The rights of employees as now declared by section 2855 of the Labor Code fall squarely within the prohibition of section 3513 of the Civil Code, that rights created in the public interest may not be contravened by private agreement.
Finally, it may be pointed out that the construction of the code sections contended for by defendant would render the law unworkable and would lead to an absurd result. If an employee may waive the statutory right in question by his {Page 67 Cal.App.2d 237} conduct, he may waive it by agreement, but if the power to waive it exists at all, the statute accomplishes nothing. An agreement to work for more than seven years would be an effective waiver of the right to quit at the end of seven. The right given by the statute can run in favor of those only who have contracted to work for more than seven years and as these would have waived the right by contracting it away, the statute could not operate at all. It could scarcely have been the intention of the Legislature to protect employees from the consequences of their improvident contracts and still leave them free to throw away the benefits conferred upon them. The limitation of the life of personal service contracts and the employee's rights thereunder could not be waived.
[13] One of the conclusions of law was the following: "Defendant may not enforce the Contract against plaintiff and defendant should be enjoined and restrained from enforcing the Contract or attempting to enforce the Contract against plaintiff or interfering with the rendition by plaintiff of services for persons, firms or corporations other than defendant." The judgment contained an injunctive provision in the same language. Defendant challenges this provision as unsupported by the pleadings, the proof or the findings. The objection is well founded. Both plaintiff and defendant sought a declaration of their respective rights under the contract. The proof was not addressed to any other issue. Plaintiff was the only witness and her testimony and the documentary evidence that was received related only to the services she had performed and to those she had declined to perform and which led to the suspensions. The facts were not in dispute. Plaintiff offered to prove, in claiming a right to an injunction, that defendant had sent out many letters to other producers stating its position with reference to the contract and its claim that plaintiff was still in its employ. The offer was rejected and the court in so ruling stated, "I think the objection should be sustained. You see it is not an action in which Miss De Havilland is seeking relief from any threatened boycott or threatened action on the part of Warner Brothers. That is not in this case." The findings covered the essential facts as to the making of the contract, the dispute as to its meaning, and found that plaintiff did not violate the contract or default thereunder after May 5, 1943. There was no finding of facts which would justify an injunction.
[14] The last finding was: "All of the allegations of the answer of defendant inconsistent with the foregoing findings {Page 67 Cal.App.2d 238} of fact are untrue." This was no finding at all upon the facts as to the several breaches of the contract and the extensions which were alleged in the answer. [15] No point is made by defendant of the failure to find specifically upon the issues raised by the answer and no harm could have resulted from such failure in view of the stipulation made which covered all of the material facts upon which defendant relies.
There is nothing in the record that would justify a belief or even a suspicion that defendant will not respect and abide by the final declaration of the court as to the rights of the parties in the premises. [16] An injunction is not proper to restrain the commission of acts in the future unless there is good reason to believe they will be committed if there is no restraint. Where no similar acts have been committed in the past and none are threatened to be committed in the future, and where it appears reasonable to believe they will not be committed, there is no occasion for an injunction and no right to one. [17] The fact that defendant has openly insisted that plaintiff is still bound to it by contract does not justify the belief that it will do so contrary to a final decree that the contract has ended. (See Sunset Scavenger Corp. v. Oddou (1936), 11 Cal.App.2d 92 [53 P.2d 188].)
The judgment is modified by striking out all of paragraph 5 after the words, "Defendant may not enforce the contract against plaintiff," and as modified is affirmed, respondent to recover costs.
Desmond, P. J., and Wood (Parker), J., concurred.

Monday, June 6, 2016

San Francisco Silent Film Festival Recap Day 1

The highlight of the year for me is the annual visit to the San Francisco Silent Film Festival.  2016 was no exception, many, many highlights!

Recap Day 1, Thursday, June 2, 2016
The San Francisco Silent Film Festival started off with a bang by screening Paramount’s 1928 Beggars of Life (1928) featuring festival favorite and silent icon Louise Brooks.  The film is a cracker-jack potboiler directed by William Wellman one year after his breakthrough with the epic and massively popular Wings (1927).  The film played to a nearly sellout crowd and the musical accompaniment was handled by The Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra.  They played the same score when they accompanied in 2007 at The Castro.  They played well, as you might expect!  The crowd responded to the music and the film, rapturously.

This film is my favorite of any of the films which starred or featured Louise Brooks.  It was the first film I ever saw, way back when The Avenue Theater on San Bruno Avenue was screening silent films every Friday/Saturday night (this dates me as a person of a certain age).  The film has lost none of its punch after all this time.  Stellar performances by Brooks, Richard Arlen (who did not get along with his leading lady, and vice versa) and Wallace Beery. 

Wellman directing Wallace Beery on location in Jacumba

Brooks is wonderful as “the girl” who murders her abuser of a father and then dons menswear (mandrag if you will) to escape with Richard Arlen for a life on the rails and other dangers.  Beery all but steals the film, as was normal for any film in which Beery is onscreen for more than 2 minutes.

Jim Tully (right) giving some advice to Richard Arlen "cooking on the road."
The film is loosely based on Jim Tully’s novel of the same name.  Loosely based because there is not much that went from novel to screen except the trains.  Brooks did not much care for the author.  See this informative page at The Louise Brooks Society.  If you are a fan of Louise and have not joined The Louise Brooks Society already, you really should. 

Beggars of Life is available on DVD at Grapevine Video, but, I would suggest you wait.  The Eastman Museum print that was screened is restored and I have a sneaking feeling the restoration might make it onto a major label DVD.

This film got the festival off to a good start.  Much more to come in Part II, come back tomorrow.

Screen capture of Arlen and Brooks in a lyrical moment

Do not miss what promise to be excellent recaps by friends and fellow bloggers, Lara over at Backlots, BethAnn at Spellbound by Movies, Lea at Silent-ology and Mary who writes over at Larry Harnisch’s The Daily Mirror.  Thomas Gladysz writes for Huffington Post and you can be sure he will have a thoughtful review up soon, too.  Some have been posting throughout the weekend of events.  How do they do it, I’m exhausted???