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???