Thursday, October 9, 2014

Rudolph Valentino 2015 edition calendar is now available

Support independent publishing: Buy this calendar on Lulu.
Shameless, I know, but it is that time of the year.  If you like Valentino or know someone who does, this is an ideal gift!

The 2015 edition of the Rudolph Valentino calendar celebrates Valentino's cinema career through some of the "lobby art" used to promote the films in theaters.
The calendar is coil bound, full color 8x11 and there is a full preview right here:

Never, never, never forget to google for a coupon code for lulu as you can usually get a discount!
End of shameless commericial!

Monday, October 6, 2014

Artistry of the Credit Roll #7

Warner Brothers

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Sherlock Holmes (1916) - Major Lost Film Being Restored and Will Premiere in San Francisco

Yesterday there was BIG news ricocheting all over the internets, the announcement that the 1916 long considered lost film Sherlock Holmes has been found at the Cinematheque Francais and is undergoing restoration with help from our friends at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival. 

I have linked to the SFSFF press release above, but must share this quote from SFSFF Board President (and restorer) Rob Byrne,  “It’s an amazing privilege to work with these reels that have been lost for generations. William Gillette’s Sherlock Holmes has ranked among the holy grails of lost film and my first glimpse of the footage confirms Gillette’s magnetism. Audiences are going to be blown away when they see the real Sherlock Holmes on screen for the first time.”

Mark your calendars!  The European premiere will take place at the Cinémathèque Française’s festival of film restoration, Toute la Mémoire du Monde, in January 2015. The American premiere will take place at the San Francisco Silent Film festival in May 2015.
The 20th Anniversary of the San Francisco Silent Film Festival starts with a BANG!

Color me extremely excited!  I am sure there will be more shared about this film, the restoration process in the future from many corners of the blogsphere.
Am I excited about this?  Elementary My Dear Watson, you bet you're sweet bippy I am!

Monday, September 22, 2014

San Francisco Silent Film Festival - Silent Autumn Recap

I had an enjoyable afternoon at the Castro Theater for the Silent Autumn event presented by The San Francisco Silent Film Festival.  Formerly known as the ‘Winter Event” we saw out the official ending of summer with a full program of terrific films.  Unfortunately, I was not able to stick around for the evening shows of The General and the newly restored (4K) The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. 

The day began with a trio of Laurel and Hardy silent shorts Should Married Me Go Home, Two Tars and Big Business.  Should Married Men Go Home features Oliver and Mrs. Hardy enjoying a peaceful afternoon at home.  Well, peaceful until Stan Laurel shows up.  In frustration, Mrs. Hardy kicks the pair out and off they head to the golf course.  They pair up with two girls for a foursome (because it’s only foursomes on Saturday) and mayhem (naturally) ensues and culminates in a mud fight on the links.  Insert obligatory deep hole in the water for Oliver Hardy, too.  Good fun, not clean, but fun!

Two Tars is one of my favorites in which the boys are on leave, rent a car and pick up two fun loving girls for an afternoon of fun.  They meet at a candy store with an uncooperative gumball machine, soon two completely destroyed gumball machines and a very angry candy store owner.  Fade out and fade in after a fun day, the four are wheeling back to the town and they get caught up in a traffic jam.  It begins by their backing in to Edgar Kennedy’s car and ends with more car wrecks than an auto salvage yard.

Big Business is famous and infamous as the short, as legend has it, they arrived on location and proceeded to destroy the wrong house to be used in the film.  Makes for a great story, not convinced it’s true.  The film, however, is still hilarious and a great thing to play right at Christmastime.  All three films were accompanied by the nimble fingered Donald Sosin.  The music was wonderful! 

Next on the program was The Son of the Sheik starring Rudolph Valentino and Vilma Banky.  Valentino’s final film can arguably said to be his best.  I’d argue that point, but, this film is very high on my list.  In fact, if no other Valentino film were extant, I’d say you would still be able to see exactly why he was such a big star based on this one film alone.  SFSFF boasted this was a brand new restoration and the premiere of a new score by The Alloy Orchestra. 

Ken Winokur, who worked on restoring the print and the new score assured me I would enjoy the score.  I have to say that I did.  This was far more melodic than the usual avant garde scores Alloy is known for.  They took a lot of care in using more traditionalist native themes and instruments and did scale down some of the percussion for the love scenes.  I did find some of the score a little overpowering but was cheering myself and providing a standing ovation (well deserved) as did the rest of the audience.    Alloy is traveling with this film, so if it shows up at a venue near you, I'd say you would enjoy it as much as I did!  Don't miss it!

The print was nicely tinted for day/night/interior scenes.  I found some of it a little soft and some scenes looked washed out to me.  Could have been some focusing problems, as well.  Regardless of these tiny caveats, how can you complain to see Valentino and Vilma Banky on the big screen?  You can’t, so I sure won’t! 
I would also like to thank Ken for his confidence in me to suggest to the SFSFF that yours truly introduce the Valentino film to a captive audience.  I hope I lived up to his confidence.  Thanks as well, to Anita Monga for the nice introduction of me!  It was a real pleasure and an honor to be part of the program.
Next was a gift programmed by Bryony Dixon from the BFI, An Evening at the Cinema in 1914.  We were treated to newsreels, shorts and odd little bits of film.  I think my favorite was Daisy Doodad’s Dial (face).  Florence Turner was hilarious as Daisy and makes me want to see out a few more of her comedies.  The Dogs for the Antarctic made me sad to see all those poor pups about to head out with Shackelton.  Donald Sosin again shined in the Vitaphone song film The Rollicking Rajah.  The soundtrack has long been lost, he more than made up for it with his idiomatic playing and jaunty rendition of the vocals.  My British pals will have to enlighten me on the charms of Lt. Pimple comedies.  Cheap or not, I found a lot of the humor lacking, until we got to the part with the messenger fish.

I had to regrettably bug-out after the 1914 program.  So I missed The General and Caligari.   I will get the 4k Caligari on DVD, but, it will not be the same as having been there. 

I am already looking forward to the 20th anniversary festival program for May 2015.  I have great hopes for tons of good stuff!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Silent Autumn with the San Francisco Silent Film Festival - 9/20/2014

The San Francisco Silent Film Festival is presenting their formerly known as Winter Event this month.  It has been christened Silent Autumn. This is a one day event on Saturday September 20th and it is filled with great stuff!  Buy your tickets here!  $60 for the festival pass, a bargain to see such a great and interesting lineup!

So, what are they screening?
First up will be Another Fine Mess: Silent Laurel and Hardy Shorts.  I am already laughing!  I adore Stan and Ollie! Included in the program are these three films Should Married Men Go Home?, Two Tars (1928) and Big Business (1929).  Big Business is one of my all-time favorites, in fact, I saw it eons ago at The Castro and have been laughing about it ever since.  Musical Accompaniment will feature the capable Donald Sosin at the piano.

Next up will be The Son of the Sheik with Rudolph Valentino and Vilma Banky.  Directed by George Fitzmaurice the San Francisco Silent Film Festival will be screening a recent restoration of the film by Ken Winokur and Jane Gillooly.  Alloy Orchestra will also be debuting their new score for the film.  It’s Valentino, it’s a romantic/action film, it’s terrific!

Next up will be a Night at the Cinema in 1914.  Marking the centenary of the start of World War I, this glorious miscellany of comedies, adventure films, travelogues and newsreels recreates a typical night out at the cinema in 1914. This wonderful selection was curated by the British Film Institute.

Looping the Loop at Hendon (March 1914)
Pioneering British aviators Gustav Hamel and Bentfield Hucks perform stunts at the legendary Hendon airfield. Although not hard news, this was a topical story.

Palace Pandemonium (May 1914)
The leading campaigner for votes for women, Emmeline Pankhurst, goes to petition the King in person at Buckingham Palace. The campaign for votes for women was very high-profile and often featured in the news. The suffragettes would stage appearances at events for maximum impact.

Austrian Tragedy (July 1914)
Following the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo, this newsreel shows footage of the Austro-Hungarian royal family, including the wedding of Archduke Karl who succeeded Franz Ferdinand as heir to the imperial throne.

Dogs for the Antarctic (August 1914)
Following the death of Captain Scott, Sir Ernest Shackleton plans another expedition to Antarctica, taking plenty of dogs. This is typical of the ‘magazine’ style film shorts of the time.

Daisy Doodad’s Dial
American Vitagraph studio star Florence Turner ran her own film company at the Hepworth studios on the Thames. In this comedy ‘dial’ means ‘face’. The ebullient Daisy Doodad practises for a face-pulling competition and ends up getting herself arrested.

Egypt and Her Defenders
This travelogue of the famous sights of Egypt shows Lord Kitchener as British Consul General before he was made Secretary of State for War. In this film with colour tinting, he is seen reviewing the troops.

Lieutenant Pimple and the Stolen Submarine
Fred Evans was the most popular British comedian of the age, turning out hundreds of ‘Pimple’ films which made a virtue of their low budgets. Here Pimple foils the plans of dastardly foreign spies. If Monty Python had made comedies in 1914 they would look like this.

Scouts’ Valuable Aid (August 1914)
As the nation gears up for war even the young are mobilised to help the war effort … Here a pair of Sea Scouts are on the look-out on the cliff tops for an invading fleet.

German Occupation of Historic Louvain (September 1914)
When Germany invades neutral Belgium, the destruction of the historic town of Louvain and its ancient university library provokes worldwide outrage. This newsreel was presumably filmed by a cameraman from a neutral country.

General French’s Contemptible Little Army
General French, commander of the British army in France, gets the better of the Germans in this lightning sketch by pioneering animator Lancelot Speed. Animation was popular and commonly distributed as part of the newsreels. Cartoons allowed Speed to be splendidly irreverent.

Christmas at the Front (December 1914)
Troops celebrate Christmas at the Front. We’re not told where for reasons of national security. But it’s good to see the boys being well fed before they return to the trenches.

The Perils of Pauline
American imports were always popular and serials were the latest sensation in 1914. In this excerpt, Pearl White stars as Pauline, a feisty heroine pursued by villains eager to get their hands on her fortune and features both an accidental hot air balloon trip and a spectacularly daring rescue from a burning building.

The Rollicking Rajah
Years before the arrival of the ‘talkies’, this Vivaphone song film (which wonderfully shows the ladies fashions and dance moves of the day) would have been accompanied by a synchronised sound disc, which is now lost. The song is sung here is from the surviving sheet music. Originally done as a Vivaphone, the British sound on disc system pioneered by Cecil Hepworth.

A Film Johnnie
In 1914, Hollywood is born and British comedian Charles Chaplin is its greatest star. He explodes onto the world's screens in summer of that year. This is one of his very first films and is, appropriately, set in a cinema.

This is followed by what is arguably Buster Keaton’s greatest feature, The General.  Accompanied by Alloy Orchestra.  As Roger Ebert described, “The General is an epic of silent comedy, one of the most expensive films of its time, including an accurate historical recreation of a Civil War episode, hundreds of extras, dangerous stunt sequences, and an actual locomotive falling from a burning bridge into a gorge far below. It was inspired by a real event; the screenplay was based on the book The Great Locomotive Chase, written by William Pittenger, the engineer who was involved.”

Finally, we have the 4k restoration of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, Robert Wiene’s great expressionist masterpiece.  The film is legendary and does not need an explanation from me why you should see it.  I’m really excited to see this new restoration.  Graphically magnificent and a mind bending film.  Starring the incredible Conrad Veidt.  It’s a must see and is sure to be a sold out evening!

I’ll be there, got my ticket already!  See you in a few weekends!
In other news, in an effort to keep a theater organ playing for silents and nightly concerts at The castro, an indigogo campaign has started to raise funds.  I've made a donation and hope you can find it in your heart to do the same!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Goodbye Lauren Bacall


 She was soft, she was sassy and she was one tough dame.  Today we say farewell to Lauren Bacall who had a magnificent career, a legendary marriage and one who was a good friend to many.  She shot to stardom with To Have and Have Not as a nineteen year old.  She married her leading man, Humphrey Bogart.  On screen she was marvelous, she could quip a sassy line with the best of them.  She slinked around like a panther on the prowl, it's no wonder men followed her.  She was a beauty. 

One of my favorite performances is in How to Marry a Millionaire as one of a fine trio of gold digging models out to snag rich husbands.  Bacall had the reputation for being tough, demanding and hard to work with on stage.  This candid with Betty Grable and Marilyn Monroe says alot to me about how she was as a colleague. 
I also love her in Dark Passage.  She's vulnerable and kind and quiet strong.  That she comes off so well against the high wired, tightly bound Agnes Moorehead as Madge Rapf is quite a feat.  (I ADORE Moorehead in this film). 

She had style and such elan.  Her films with husband Humphrey Bogart are marvelous, they played off one another beautifully on screen, and off.  She was good for Bogart, settled him down and provided him with a home and children.  She could do comedy, drama, and kinda sing.

When she was touring in Woman of the Year in San Francisco, she and her entourage came swanning in to Tower Records in North Beach late one night.  We closed a midnight, and still the Woman of the Year browsed around with her yes men in tow.  Our closing manager finally had enough as the time past midnight dragged on.  He got in the PA and shouted "Allright Miss Woman of Year, if you're not going to buy anything, it's past closing time. Time to go!"  Bacall and her entourage swanned out and drove off toward Nob Hill in their limo.  I presume for drinks someplace swanky with Herb Caen.

She was an icon of her age, but, she was also entirely modern and in the present. She had a great run and left a couple of books and a lot of terrific films to remember her by. So long Betty and thanks.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

stepping out of the past to say goodbye

Rest in peace Mr. Robin Williams. 
Thank you for the joys, the tears and all the great work you've left behind. 
I hope the afterlife looks something like this. 
We'll miss you because the world needs laughter and also brilliant minds and very large hearts.
Thank you for sharing your laugh, your brilliant mind and large heart with all of us.