Sunday, May 30, 2010

Weekend update #11

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) The staff of the SFSFF have been hard at work on the schedule of films, programs, special guests and signings at this summer's silent film festival. This not-to-be-missed event is set to take place July 15-18th at the Castro Theater. And, as the final pieces to programming puzzle fall into the place, interesting patterns emerge. 

Take, for example, the author signings. Two local authors with self-published books will be debuting their new work at this year's event. They are Donna Hill, who will be signing her gorgeous new pictorial Rudolph Valentino, The Silent Idol: His Life in Photographs. We've see this forthcoming book and it is something special! (Also signing along with Donna  Hill is renown biographer and past Festival guest Emily Leider - author of Dark Lover: The Life and Death of Rudolph Valentino. Leider wrote the introduction to Donna Hill's book.) Also debuting at the Festival is a new edition The Diary of a Lost Girl, by Margarete Bohme. Thomas Gladysz has written an introduction, edited and published a special "Louise Brooks edition" of this 1905 book which was the basis for the G.W. Pabst directed film of the same name. The Diary of a Lost Girl has been out of print in the United States for more than 100 years.

2) A couple of DVDs will also be making their debut at this year's Festival. For the first time anywhere, the public will have a chance to purchase the restored Chicago (1927), which is forthcoming from Flicker Alley. Chicago played at the 2006 Winter event - and thrilled the audience. Also on sale at the Festival will be a limited edition DVD release of Elaine Mae Woo's documentary, Anna May Wong: Frosted Yellow Willows. It has played around the world - including Pordenone, to great acclaim.

3) The unlikely star of this year's San Francisco Silent Film Festival may well be Fritz Rasp. "Who" you may ask? Fritz Rasp (1891 – 1976) was a German film actor who appeared in more than 100 films between 1916 and 1976. His notable films include roles in Warning Shadows (1923), The Love of Jeanne Ney (1927), Spies (1928), Woman in the Moon (1929), and Threepenny Opera (1931). Most of those just mentioned films were directed by either Fritz Lang or G.W. Pabst.

Rasp also appears in TWO films being shown at this summer's Festival. Rasp plays Meinart, the creepy pharmacist who seduces Thymian (played by Louise Brooks), in the Pabst directed Diary of a Lost Girl (1929). Rasp also has a role as the "Thin Man" in the Lang directed Metropolis (1927). Many of the scenes in Metropolis in which Rasp appears are part of the footage long thought lost until their recovery in 2008.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Another snap

Oh what the heck, here's another snapshot of the SFSFF staff taken at last week's party unveiling the line-up of films for the 2010 summer event. From left to right are Artistic Director Anita Monga and Executive Director Stacey Wisnia making the big announcement.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Meet the staff

Here's a snapshot of the staff of the San Francisco Silent Film Festival. This picture was taken at last week's party unveiling the line-up of films for the 2010 summer event. From left to right are Office Manager Lucia Pier, Artistic Director Anita Monga, Executive Director Stacey Wisnia, and Marketing & Development Director Jeremy O'Neal.

See you at this year's San Francisco Silent Film Festival, July 15-18, 2010.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Weekend update #10

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) Along with a full schedule of films and special guests, a number of writers and film historians are also set to attend this year's Festival. They range from internationally known film historians and biographers to first time authors. On the schedule to meet the public and sign books are Sarah Baker (Lucky Stars: Janet Gaynor and Charles Farrell); Samuel Bernstein (Lulu: A Novel); Kevin Brownlow (The Parade's Gone By); Robert Dix (Out of Hollywood); Thomas Gladysz (The Diary of a Lost Girl); Donna Hill (Rudolph Valentino - The Silent Idol: His Life in Photographs); David Kiehn (Broncho Billy and the Essanay Film Company); Leonard Maltin (Leonard Maltin's 151 Best Movies You've Never Seen); David Menefee (George O'Brien: A Man's Man in Hollywood); Scott OBrien (Ann Harding - Cinema's Gallant Lady); Ira Resnick (Starstruck: Vintage Movie Posters from Classic Hollywood); Anthony Slide (Inside the Hollywood Fan Magazine: A History of Star Makers, Fabricators, and Gossip Mongers); Jeffrey Vance (Douglas Fairbanks); Gregory Paul Williams (The Story of Hollywood: An Illustrated History); and Lucy Autry Wilson (George Lucas's Blockbusting: A Decade-by-Decade Survey of Timeless Movies Including Untold Secrets of Their Financial and Cultural Success). One or two more may be added in the coming weeks. The date and approximate time of each of these signings will also be posted within the next week or so.

2) As in the past, also attending the Festival are musicians and film-makers, some of whom this year will be signing their respective CDs and DVDs. For example, after the "Variations on a Theme: Musicians on the Craft of Composing and Performing for Silent Film" panel on Saturday the 17th, we hope to have some of the musicians participating in that event sign their CDs. And at least of couple of DVDs will be making their debut at this year's festival. For example, Flicker Alley has just announced that it will be releasing Chicago (which was the hit of the 2006 Winter Event). We've been promised that it will be available at the festival. Also debut on DVD at the Festival is Elaine Mae Woo's acclaimed documentary, Anna May Wong: Frosted Yellow Willows. Woo will be on hand to sign copies of this soon to be released limited edition DVD.

3) The West Coast - from Seattle and Portland in the north through the Bay Area to Los  Angeles and Pasadena to the south - seems to be a haven for silent film presentation. Yesterday, the Los Angeles Times ran an article about today's showing of the 1928 Buster Keaton film, The Cameraman. Timothy Brock will be conducting the world premiere of his new score at the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra's Silent Film Gala at Royce Hall on the UCLA campus. And as well, ran an article this past week about a May 28th screening of Pandora's Box at the Boston Court Performing Arts Complex in Pasadena. At that event, bassist Tom Peters will perform his original score to the film.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

2010 Schedule announced

The complete list of films for this summer's San Francisco Silent Film Festival has been announced.The 4 day event, set for July 15-18th, will take place at the historic Castro Theater. Here's the schedule in outline. Additional information, including times, film descriptions, images, and ticket availability, can be found on the SFSFF website.

Thursday, July 15th

The Iron Horse (USA, 1924, 150 mins, 35mm)
Directed By: John Ford 
Cast: George O'Brien, Madge Bellamy
Accompanied By: Dennis James

Friday, July 16th

Amazing Tales from the Archives 1 (60 mins)
Lost Films from the Silent Era: Presentations by Joe Lindner of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and Paula Félix-Didier and Fernando Peña of Museo del Cine, Buenos Aires (the archivists responsible for finding the lost Metropolis footage).
Accompanied By: Donald Sosin

A Spray of Plum Blossoms (China, 1931, 100 mins, 35mm)
Directed By: Bu Wancang
Cast: Ruan-Lingyu, Jin Yan
Accompanied By: Donald Sosin
Presented with both Mandarin and English intertitles.

Rotaie (Italy, 1929, 74 mins, 35mm)
Directed By: Mario Camerini
Cast: Käthe von Nagy, Maurizio D'Ancora
Accompanied By: Stephen Horne
Presented with Italian intertitles accompanied by a live English translation.

Metropolis (Germany, 1927, 148 mins, Digital)
Directed By: Fritz Lang
Cast: Rudolf Klein-Rogge, Brigitte Helm
Accompanied By: Alloy Orchestra
Special Guests: Paula Félix-Didier and Fernando Peña of the Museo del Cine, the pair who found the lost footage!

Saturday, July 17th

The Big Business of Short, Funny Films (62 min)
Director Pete Docter presents a selection of hilarious short films — some of the funniest moments in cinema — all in 35mm! Program includes The Cook (USA, 1918, 22 min),
Pass the Gravy (USA, 1928, 22 min), and Big Business (USA, 1929, 18 min)   

Variations on a Theme: Musicians on the Craft of Composing and Performing for Silent Film (70 mins)
Chloe Veltman, Bay Area culture correspondent for The New York Times and producer and host of public radio’s VoiceBox, will moderate a discussion with the musicians participating in the 2010 Festival.

The Flying Ace (USA, 1926, 65 mins, 35mm)
Directed By: Richard E. Norman
Cast: Lawrence Criner, Kathryn Boyd
Accompanied By: Donald Sosin
Special Guest: Rita Reagan from Norman Studios Silent Film Museum

The Strong Man (USA, 1926, 75 mins, 35mm)
Directed By: Frank Capra
Cast: Harry Langdon, Priscilla Bonner
Accompanied By: Stephen Horne

Diary of a Lost Girl (Germany, 1929, 116 mins, 35mm)
Directed By: Georg Wilhelm Pabst
Cast: Louise Brooks, Kurt Gerron
Accompanied By: Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra

Häxan: Witchcraft Through the Ages (Sweden , Denmark, 1922, 90 mins, 35mm)
Directed By: Benjamin Christensen
Cast: Maren Pedersen, Clara Pontoppidan, Elith Pio, Oscar Stribolt
Accompanied By: Matti Bye Ensemble

Sunday, July 18th 

Amazing Tales from the Archives 2 (60 mins)
Presentations by Annette Melville (National Film Preservation Board) and Mike Mashon (Library of Congress, Moving Image Section)
Accompanied By: Stephen Horne

The Shakedown (USA, 1929, 70 mins, 35mm)
Directed By: William Wyler
Cast: James Murray, Barbara Kent, Jack Hanlon
Accompanied By: Donald Sosin
Leonard Maltin will interview the children of director William Wyler onstage

Man with a Movie Camera (USSR, 1929, 70 mins, 35mm)
Directed By: Dziga Vertov
Accompanied By: Alloy Orchestra

The Woman Disputed (USA, 1928, 110 mins, 35mm)
Directed By: Henry King, Sam Taylor
Cast: Norma Talmadge, Gilbert Roland
Accompanied By: Stephen Horne
Introduction by Kevin Brownlow

L'Heureuse mort (France, 1924, 83 mins, 35mm)
Directed By: Serge Nadejdine
Cast: Nicolas Rimsky, Lucie Larue
Accompanied By: Matti Bye Ensemble
Presented with French intertitles accompanied by a live English translation.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Excitement builds

Excitement is beginning to build over this year's San Francisco Silent Film Festival. The Festival takes place July 15-18th at the Castro Theater in San Francisco. And as can be seen in the picture below, crowds are already starting to gather in anticipation of the announcement of the complete line-up of Festival films. 

Some of the films and some of the special guests and musicians set to attend have already been announced. The announcement of the complete line-up of films is set for TOMORROW. Stay tuned. (In the meantime, Festival passes are on sale now at a special price.)

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Ghosts of Hollywood

This remarkable 10 minute short, made in the 1930s, is a tour of a then disappearing Hollywood. It shows the remains of several old silent movie studios. A number of stars are named - and shown are their old dressing rooms, studio facades, sets, and buildings. The memory of Rudolph Valentino is prominent at the end of the film. It was made by the Argus Studios.

Monday, May 17, 2010

"Metropolis" - legacy of a classic

The newly restored Metropolis, which promises to be one of the highlights of this summer's San Francisco Silent Film Festival, continues to draw considerable media attention. The latest article, by Andrew O'Hehir, is on the web at It looks at how Fritz Lang's re-released masterpiece - especially the look of it - influenced pop culture - from Star Wars and Blade Runner to Madonna. The author also includes Guy Maddin's film The Heart of the World in the list. O'Hehir's article can be found here. It includes a slideshow.

Otherwise, here are links to a few other recent articles in the Los Angeles Times (by Kenneth Turan) and Cleveland Plain Dealer.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Rosa Rio, Organist From Silent Film Days, Dies at 107

Rosa Rio, one of the country’s premier theater organists, has died at the age of 107. Her career started in the silent era. According to the New York Times obituary in today's paper, "Miss Rio was undoubtedly among the very last to have played the silent-picture houses, accompanying the likes of Chaplin, Keaton and Pickford on the Mighty Wurlitzer amid velvet draperies, gilded rococo walls and vaulted ceilings awash in stars. She was also one of the few women to have made her way in a field dominated by men."

There is also a Wikipedia entry on Rosa Rio.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Getting Autographs in 1933

This amusing short film from 1933 includes footage of one-time silent film (then "talkie") stars Richard Dix, Fay Wray, Charlie Chaplin and others giving autographs at a movie premiere in Los Angeles. It's a staged film, but it still makes you wonder, where are those autographs now?

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Last living Ziegfeld Follies Girl dies at 106

Doris Eaton Travis, one of the last living Ziegfeld Follies Girls, has died. She was 106 years old.

In her long career, Travis appeared in both silent and talking pictures, performed for presidents and princesses, bantered with Babe Ruth, offended Henry Ford, outlived her six siblings (who were also performers), wrote a newspaper column, hosted a television show, and earned a degree in history at age 88.

Her film roles include small parts in Taking the Count (1928) and Street Girl (1929). The former was written by Rube Goldberg! The latter starred Bettty Compson.

Travis continued to work late in life, with annual appearances on Broadway, a small role in a Jim Carrey movie, and a recently published memoir, The Days We Danced: The Story of My Theatrical Family From Florenz Ziegfeld to Arthur Murray and Beyond. That book was published in 2003. In 2006, a visual biography about Travis was also published. It was called Century Girl: 100 Years in the Life of Doris Eaton Travis Last Living Star of the Ziegfeld Follies.

More about Doris Eaton Travis and her life and career can be found at Wikipedia, and also at this AP obituary. Here is a short video made a few years ago.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Weekend update #9

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) The New York Times ran a fascinating article on May 4th all about Metropolis, the lost footage recently restored to Fritz Lang's film, and the story behind its discovery. The article mentions Fernando Peña and Paula Félix-Didier, the Argentine film archivists who made the discovery. They will be at this summer's San Francisco Silent Film Festival, where they will introduce the restored version of Metropolis. The NYT article can be found here.

2) As the New York Times also reported, these now celebrated Argentine archivists continue to go through the Museo del Cine collection. And silent films, long thought lost, are turning up! Just last month, a print was found of a long-missing 1928 Soviet-era film, Yevgeny Chervyakov’s My Son. In addition, the Museo del Cine discovered what are being called the only surviving copies of three American films - a 1916 William S. Hart western, The Aryan, a 1928 drama with Myrna Loy and Anna May Wong called The Crimson City, and a 1921 melodrama, The Gilded Lily, starring the actress with the bee-stung lips, Mae Murray. Peña, the Argentine film archivist, is quoted as saying, "I’m glad I persisted. We still haven’t been through everything, so new discoveries could keep appearing." Perhaps, one day, London After Midnight, with Lon Chaney . . . ?

3) Speaking of Metropolis and German film history, there is a new book out which every serious student and devotee will want to check out. It's The Concise CineGraph, edited by Hans-Michael Bock and Tim Bergfelder. This 574 page book, which bills itself as an encyclopedia of German cinema and includes a foreword by Kevin Brownlow, is published by Berghahn Books. "First published in 1984 but continuously updated ever since, CineGraph is the most authoritative and comprehensive encyclopedia on German-speaking cinema in the German language. This condensed and substantially revised English-language edition makes this important resource available to students and researchers for the first time outside its German context. It offers a representative historical overview through bio-filmographical entries on the main protagonists, from the beginnings to the present day. Included are directors and actors, writers and cameramen, composers and production designers, film theorists and critics, producers and distributors, inventors and manufacturers"

Indeed, The Concise Cinegraph is a densely packed, information filled, encyclopedia of names associated with the German cinema. Everyone is here - from Fritz Lang, F.W. Murnau, G.W. Pabst, and Leni Riefenstahl to Asta Nielsen, Kurt Siodmak, Seymour Nebenzahl, and Emil Janning - as well as hundreds of others. There is also an appendix of "historical and thematic contexts" on topics such as "Pioneers and Early Film: Wilhelmine Cinema", Weimar film, the Nazi cinema, rubble films, etc.... AND, the book - which can be purchased on-line and in select independent bookstores, has a rather attractive cover!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

H.A.V. Bulleid & Famous Library Films

Famous Library Films is the title of a book of essays on silent film written more than 60 years ago. The book examines 22 classic movies, and even features a preface by Director Fritz Lang. But until recently, it was lost to history and had gone unpublished.

Now, the manuscript - like Lang's Metropolis (of which the author writes about) has been restored, and it has been published as a book on the internet.

The credit for bringing this pioneering appreciation of the silent cinema to light goes to Kevin Brownlow, a longtime friend of the book's author, H.A.V. Bulleid. "I was in touch with him as a correspondent but finally met him when a collector friend took me to meet him. From then on, we met regularly, and he always took me to an ancient pub near his Sussex home and he always insisted on paying!" recalled Brownlow in a recent email.

Credit also goes to film historian and biographer Lon Davis, whom Brownlow contacted to help to find a home for the book. Together, Brownlow and Davis edited the manuscript, and with the assistance of Tim Lussier, who formatted the work for the web, it was posted to Lussier's website,, on a monthly basis.

The book's final chapter, fittingly on Stan Laurel's Old Soldier's Never Die (1924), was posted just a few days ago on May 1st.

Bulleid (pictured above), who died a year ago today at age 96, had the chance to see some of the early chapters posted to the web. He was "thrilled," according to Brownlow. It was a dream deferred. The story of how this book came to be published is told at The book itself can be read online at

Monday, May 3, 2010

Festival passes now on sale

Passes for the upcoming San Francisco Silent Film Festival have now gone on sale. Hurry, run, don't walk to this webpage to find out more and to purchase your pass!

A festival pass admits you to all sixteen programs including the Opening Night Film! And, a festival pass is the least expensive way to see each and every film at this year's 15th anniversary, four day, bigger and better than ever before festival. 

And what's more, if you purchase a pass now you can save BIG. Get an additional $10 off if you purchase your festival pass by May 26th (Norma Talmadge's birthday). Really, Norma would want you to buy an entire pass because that's the smart thing to do.

Some of the films already announced for this year's Festival are Häxan (1922), The Iron Horse (1924), The Flying Ace (1926), Rotaie (1929), and the restored Metropolis (1925), as well as a selection of short films by George Méliès. And there is more to come. Plus, each and every film will be accompanied by live music. And don't forget all the special guests, book signings, and presentations. If you love silent film, you won't want to miss this special event! Hurry, run, don't walk to this webpage to find out more and to purchase your pass!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Weekend update #8

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) The San Francisco Chronicle ran a fascinating piece on their website on April 30th about something we had written about on this blog a few weeks back. The paper ran a piece on A Trip Down Market Street and local film historian David Kiehn's efforts to uncover its secret history. Be sure and check out the San Francisco Chronicle article here.

2) The San Francisco Silent Film Festival has announced another of the programs for this Summer's annual event. In it's last email newsletter, the SFSFF wrote "We are absolutely thrilled to tell you that we are bringing Matti Bye, a rising international musical star, to perform with the Matti Bye Ensemble. They will play their haunting original score for Benjamin Christensen’s incomparable Häxan, a witches’ brew of the scary, gross, and darkly humorous. Bye has been a composer and silent film accompanist at the Swedish Film Institute since 1989, and won the 2008 Guldbagge Award (the Swedish Oscar) for his score of Jan Troell’s Everlasting Moments, Sweden’s 2009 submission to the Academy Awards. We have the great pleasure of hosting Bye’s first West Coast appearance and cannot wait to share the talents of this luminary with you!"

3) Speaking of the San Francisco Chronicle and the San Francisco Silent Film Festival, the paper also just recently ran an article about the festival and the fact that it is celebrating its 15th anniversary this July. The article can be found here.