Here are some brief bits of news - offered on a regular basis - from and about the San Francisco Silent Film Festival and the world of silent film:
1) One of the films being screened at this year's Silent Film Festival is A Spray of Plum Blossoms (Yi jian mei). Its a Chinese silent film made in 1931. It is also one of a number of Asian silent films shown at the Festival over the years - others have come from India, Japan, and China, as well. A Spray of Plum Blossoms was directed by one of the most prolific Chinese directors of the silent era, Bu Wancang. (He was an admirer of D.W. Griffith and Douglas Fairbanks.) He based this film on Shakespeare’s Two Gentlemen of Verona; the action is set in China circa 1930 and cast in it are China’s favorite on-screen couple, Ruan Ling-yu and Jin Yan. Like any Shakespeare comedy, A Spray of Plum Blossoms is replete with star-crossed lovers, mistaken identity, and a satisfying happy ending.
A Spray of Plum Blossoms will be shown Friday, July 16 at 2 pm. It will be followed by a booksigning with Richard J. Meyer, who will be signing his highly recommended book/DVD combo's Ruan Ling-yu: The Goddess of Shanghai and Jin Yan: The Rudolph Valentino of Shanghai. Also signing following the screening will be Elaine Mae Woo with her documentary, Anna May Wong: Frosted Yellow Willows - available for the first time ever on DVD. In the past, the Festival screened The Peach Girl, also with Ruan Ling-yu and Jin Yan, and it was a hit. Don't miss A Spray of Plum Blossoms.
2) For those who love silent film, the parade may well have passed us by. Few connected to the era are still living. And thus, it's hard to get an intimate perspective on the individuals (the actors and directors) who helped shape the movies. Happily, the children of three key personalities of the silent era will be on hand at this year's Festival to share their perspectives. Following the Sunday screening of the 1929 William Wyler film, The Shakedown, Leonard Maltin will interview the children of the Academy Award winning director on stage. It should prove fascinating.
And earlier in the festival, on Saturday following the screening of The Flying Ace (1926), the children of two more silent era personalities will be meeting the public and signing their books. They are William Wellman Jr, the son of the Academy Award winning dirctor, who will be signing copies of his book, The Man and His Wings: William A. Wellman and the Making of the First Best Picture - and Robert Dix, the son of 1920s and 1930s leading man Richard Dix, who will be signing copies of his autobiography Out of Hollywood.
3) Diana Serra Cary is one of the last surviving silent film stars. In the 1920's, she was known as "Baby Peggy" and could be counted as one of the two biggest child film stars in all of film. (The other was Jackie Coogan). Her picture appeared in newspapers and on the covers of magazines published around the world. She was, in her day, as famous and as popular as Shirley Temple would become in the following decades. These days, the 91-year old Cary lives a quite life and is working on a new book - her fifth. She has also been the recipient of some media attention of late. On July 1st, Kenneth Turan wrote about her for the Los Angeles Times - he made the July 7th screening in LA of her 1924 film, Captain January, his "Pick of the Week." Cary's career as an author was also profiled in the Huffington Post on the same day.
Her remarkable career has also been celebrated in recent years at Pordenone, as the short video below shows. Diana Serra Cary will be signing copies of her books at the Castro Theater on Friday, July 16th following the "Amazing Tales from the Archives" program. Don't miss this opportunity to meet a "real film star."