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!


A wonderful bill, especially 'The Son of the Sheik'! Happy happy you!

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