Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Our coverage of post event coverage continues . . . .

"There are other vintage film festivals around the country but none is as elaborate, ambitious, or masterfully mounted as this one, a genuine cultural event in San Francisco."

So states Leonard Maltin about the recently concluded 2010 San Francisco Silent Film Festival. Read more - including comments on the many Festival films - on his always interesting blog, "Leonard Maltin's Movie Crazy," at And, if you haven't already done so, take a few minutes or more to explore the many categories on Maltin's site - reviews, photos, links, journal, etc.... "Leonard Maltin's Movie Crazy" is one of the most entertaining and incitefull film-related blogs going.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

New blog devoted to coming attraction glass slides

There's a new kid on the block - there's a new blog on the net. It's Start's Thursday, and its devoted to the art and history of coming attraction slides. The blog is authored by Rob Byrne, a Bay Area film preservationist and the Vice President of the Silent Film Festival board of directors.

Byrne's blog is only ten days old, but already he's posted a handful of fascinating entries on coming attraction slides, an early means of advertising movies. Glass slides were, in a way, the precursor to the movie trailer. They were shown in theaters, usually before a film. And interestingly enough, the two forms of promotion began about the same time and existed side by side for many years. [Like lobby cards, posters, and movie heralds, glass slides could be ordered by local theater managers from the studio and area film exchange.]

So far, posts have traced the history of glass slides, their fascinating "anatomy," variations between the same slides, their use in various countries, and more. It's surprising to learn, for example, that this seemingly old fashioned medium was in use in the United States as recently as 1952, and in Australia as recently as 1982. Each of the entries on Start's Thursday are illustrated - which makes this new blog required reading. Be sure and check it out.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Post event coverage

A handful of blogs and websites have posted their post-event accounts of the 2010 San Francisco Silent Film Festival. We mentioned a few in earlier posts. Many were impressed by having seen the restored Metropolis on the big screen and with live music by the Alloy Orchestra. Here are links to a few more.

Max Siegel and Liz Mak wrote an account of the festival for the Daily Californian, the student newspaper at the University of California, Berkeley. And, the Louise Brooks angle on the Festival was covered over on

Another long account could be found on the local Hell on Frisco Bay blog, which highlighted many memorable moments from this year's event. The Bayflicks blog graded each of the festival's offerings in a two part round up. It can be found here and here. Another local blogger, Jason Watches the Movies, gave a day-by-day account. As did sixmartinis and the seventh art.

Of special interest is Michael Guillen's The Evening Class blog. He transcribed Kevin Brownlow's introductory remarks to Frank Capra's The Strong Man, starring Harry Langdon. Guillen also transcribed the onstage interview and remarks between Eddie Muller and Argentine archivists Paula Félix-Didier and Fernando Martín Peña before the Festival screening of the restored Metropolis. The Evening Class also featured some thoughts about The Iron Horse, and a George O'Brien picture gallery.

Other blogs which also ran post-Festival accounts include Life with Movies and Maxxxxx and Projects and Preoccupations and The Ugly Bug Ball. If you have something to add, about the Festival, please don't hesitate to add something to the comments section.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Metropolis pictures now online

Run, don't walk, over to the San Francisco Film Museum website, where you'll find information and links to the Flickr photo streams of the many Metropolis portraits taken at the just concluded 2010 Silent Film Festival.

To celebrate the newly restored Metropolis, the crew from the San Francisco Film Museum was on hand at the opening night party and again at the next night's screening of Metropolis snapping portraits of Festival attendees. The San Francisco Film Museum invited festival goers to recreate the iconic film poster for Metropolis by being photographed in place of Maria.

Pictured above are Eddie Muller (the "Czar of Noir," who introduced the film, standing middle), Anita Monga (Silent Film Festival Director, at right) with Paula Félix-Didier (masked, as Maria) and Fernando Peña (at left), the two Argentinian archivists who found the missing segments of Metropolis. More pictures and the whole story at

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

More snapshots from the festival

We found a few more snapshots from the recently concluded 2010 San Francisco Silent Film Festival. So here goes.

Back in 2006 at the winter event, the Silent Film Festival screened Chicago, the celebrated 1927 silent film which starred Phyllis Haver, Victor Varconi, and Eugene Pallette. Like the musical Chicago that won Best Picture and five other Oscars in 2002, this original 1927 version descends from a 1926 hit Broadway play by Maurine Watkins. It’s a terrifically entertaining mix of humor and melodrama as well as a pungent critique of trash journalism. The film was a smash-hit in 2006, and was once again this year as a DVD. As a matter of fact, the just released Chicago DVD from Flicker Alley was the best-selling DVD at this year's Festival - and for good reason. This deluxe 2-disc collection includes two excellent bonus films: The Golden Twenties (1950), a compilation documentary feature and Oscar-winning Lauren Lazin’s The Flapper Story (1985), in which several self-declared children of the roaring twenties look back on their youthful lives.

At this year's event, the "gang from Chicago" showed up to sign copies of the just out DVD. Each was vitally involved with this new release. They are, from left to right, film preservationist David Shepard, Flicker Alley's own Jeff Masino, and Rodney Sauer of the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra. Sauer's group provided the musical score on the Chicago DVD - as well as playing for the 2010 presentation of Diary of a Lost Girl.

BTW: the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra's score for the 1929 Louise Brooks' film, Diary of a Lost Girl, was very good! Let's hope they release it on CD sometime! Brooks' many fans would snap it up in an instant.

Another signing of related interest, so to speak, was the "Kevin Brownlow and Friends" signing which took place following the 1928 Norma Talmadge film, The Woman Disputed. This signing featured the British film historian and two other authors for whom he wrote an introduction to their books. They are, from left to right pictured below, John Bengtson (author of Silent Echoes: Discovering Early Hollywood Through the Films of Buster Keaton and Silent Traces: Discovering Early Hollywood Through the Films of Charlie Chaplin and the forthcoming Silent Visions: Discovering Early Hollywood and New York Through the Films of Harold Lloyd), Kevin Brownlow himself, and David W. Menefee (author of Sarah Bernhardt in the Theatre of Films and Sound  Recordings).

We'll be posting more pics in the near future. But in the meantime, here is a link to the Nitrateville message boards with lots of individual accounts of the Festival. If you missed the festival, these individual messages may inspire you to attend next year! And here is a link to a long, post-Festival report by Jeremy Matthews on the Moving Pictures website. And here is a link to another post by Adam Hartzell from the local GreenCine.

With that said, we'll leave you with just a few more pictures. The first is of Gregory Paul Williams (on left, author of The Story of Hollywood: An Illustrated History) who came up from Los Angeles for the Festival, and David Kiehn (on right, author of Bronco Billy and the Essanay Film Company), who came from the wilds of Fremont, where he helps run the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum.

And the last couple of pictures are of the two mezzanine vendors. Each added a lot to the overall festival experience. At left is Rena Dein of Niles, and at right is the gang from Books Inc. (Market Street).

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Snapshots from the festival

By all accounts, the 2010 San Francisco Silent Film Festival was a smash!

Big crowds turned out for every film, great  movies were viewed with live music, and, as many commented - there was a buzz in the air, a reel feeling of being part of a film community. We hope everyone who made it to this just past event had a great time.

The one film everyone seemed to be talking about - and the big discovery for film buffs of all stripes was Rotaie (1929). One of the most important Italian movies of the late silent period, Rotaie is the story is of two young lovers, very poor and on the brink of suicide, who come into a bit of temporary good luck. Finding a lost wallet in a train station, the lovers hop a train to two thrilling weeks of high living. The film’s exquisite style was influenced by the expressionism of German master F.W. Murnau - and it genuinely moved the audience.

Festival goers who weren't talking about Rotaie were likely talking about Metropolis (1927), which was shown with a live score by the acclaimed Alloy Orchestra. (It was announced from the Festival stage that the Alloy score would be included as an alternative soundtrack on the upcoming KINO release of the restored film - ah, but to have seen and heard it live at the historic Castro!)

The two Argentinian archivists who found the long missing segments of Metropolis, Paula Félix-Didier and Fernando Peña of the Museo del Cine, were also on hand to talk about their discovery. Oh, the stories they told . . . .

Speaking of which, not only did Metropolis sell out the 1400 seat Castro, but so did the various specially commissioned posters for the Festival - including the one pictured here for Fritz Lang's futuristic masterpiece. [One clever fan was even spotted getting their Metropolis poster signed by the two Argentinian archivist!] If you missed out on getting a poster, check out the artist's website at

There were many special guests on hand at this year's event, including a few not "on the schedule." As San Francisco Chronicle columnist Leah Garchik noted today, pop singer Linda Rondstadt was in the crowd to hear Dennis James accompany the opening night film, The Iron Horse (1924), on the mighty Castro Wurlitzer. (Ronstadt and James collaborated on the extraordinary 2002 CD release, Cristal: Glass Music Through The Ages.)

Also in attendance on opening night was outgoing California State Supreme Court Chief Justice Ronald M. George. Though he had been called to Sacramento earlier in the day to confer with Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger about his possible replacement (the Chief Justice announced his retirement last week), George was eager to see The Iron Horse, which stars San Francisco born actor George O'Brien. Why? Because some years earlier, the future Chief Justice had been college roommates with George O'Brien's son, the late writer Darcy O'Brien. The Chief Justice had also met the famous actor back then, and has remained a friend of the family.

Also renewing old school ties were Robert Dix, the son of leading man Richard Dix, and William Wellman Jr., the son of Academy Award winning director William Wellman. Each were signing books at the same time. These two sons of film legends attended Hollywood High only a couple years apart and had known each other back then (Wellman Sr. had also made a film with Richard Dix). Dix (seen signing books in the foreground) and Wellman (chatting with a fan) are pictured right.

Speaking of family, prior to the screening of the terrific 1929 William Wyler film, The Shakedown, Leonard Maltin interviewed the three daughters of the Academy Award winning director on the Castro stage. Each recalled having grown up surrounded by Hollywood legends. When the three Wyler girls were younger, they recalled that their neighbor was Charlie Chaplin and his family - they remembered playing with Geraldine and riding their neighbor's dumb waiter, and that Charlie himself was often seated at the piano working on his music.

The San Francisco Silent Film Festival is a real/reel film lovers event. Acclaimed novelist Glen David Gold (Carter Beats the Devil and Sunnyside) was on hand, as was pop culture historian Gerald Jones (author of Men of Tomorrow: Geeks, Gangsters, and the Birth of the Comic Book).

And so were film historians Mark Cotta Vaz (Living Dangerously: The Adventures of Merian C. Cooper, Creator of King Kong) and Matthew Kennedy (Joan Blondell: A Life between Takes and Edmund Goulding's Dark Victory: Hollywood's Genius Bad Boy). Vaz (left) and Kevin Brownlow (right) are seen chatting in this snapshot taken on the Castro mezzanine.

What follows are a few other snapshots taken on the Castro mezzanine. We hope to post more pictures from the 2010 event as soon as we get all of those many rolls of film developed! [We also hope to post an announcement about where to find the Metropolis pictures taken by the San Francisco Film Museum.]

At left, Silent Film Festival executive director Stacey Wisnia greets Texas-based film historian David Menefee, author of George O'Brien: A Man's Man in Hollywood, and Ira Resnick, author of Starstruck: Vintage Movie Posters from Classic Hollywood. Both Menefee (left) and Resnick (right) were on hand to sign books.

Below is a snapshot of pianist Donald Sosin, who accompanied a couple of films at the Festival; he is speaking with Diana Serra Cary, who was on hand to sign copies of her autobiography Whatever Happened to Baby Peggy? Many were thrilled to meet Cary, who in the 1920s was the child film star known as Baby Peggy.

And below is a snapshot of Pixar director Pete Docter (left), who along with Leonard Maltin (right) introduced "The Big Business of Short, Funny Films" - an uproariously hilarious program of comedic short films starring the likes of Buster Keaton, Fatty Arbuckle, Max Davidson, and Laurel & Hardy.

Following their presentation, each signed books for fans. One youngster and his Father even drove up from Orange County especially to meet the Academy Award winning Docter (UP, Monster Inc). The lucky youngster got some advice from the acclaimed director about being a cartoonist ("Draw every day") as well as an original cartoon drawing in his special autographed book.

The 2010 San Francisco Silent Film Festival was a four day event filled with films and fun. It was also a lot of work for the many volunteers who helped make sure things ran smoothly. Thank you to each and every one of them. The Festival, which has expanded to four days, is the work of four special people, Executive Director Stacey Wisnia, seen falling asleep below on the shoulder of Marketing & Development Director Jeremy O'Neal, who is sitting next to still awake Artistic Director Anita Monga, who is sitting next to ready to go-to-sleep Office Manager and go-to-girl Lucia Pier. They deserve a round of applause, and a good night's rest.

[Those in attendance at this year's event may have heard  the stage announcement that two films have already been scheduled for next year's big summer festival. They are the Allan Dwan-directed Mr. Fix-It (1918), with Douglas Fairbanks and Wanda Hawley, and the Fritz Lang-directed Frau im Mond (1929). Both have been recently restored. See you then, if not sooner.]

Friday, July 16, 2010

A couple of highlights of the 2010 festival

The 2010 San Francisco Silent Film Festival is only half over, and already there have been a number of special moments. 

One occurred tonight, when it was mentioned that one of the two Buenos Aires archivists who found Metropolis in a film vault in Argentina had not yet seen the restored version of the film which now is being shown and celebrated around the world. The comment drew gasps from the audience. Fernando Pena and Paula Felix-Didier came all the way from Argentina to speak at this San Francisco debut screening of the restored film with live musical accompaniment by the Alloy Orchestra. They were interviewed live on stage by film historian Eddie Muller, the "Czar of Noir."

Another magical moments took place earlier in the day at a get together for film preservationist, archivists, and film historians. That moment, pictured below, includes a quartet of the world renown, Kevin Brownlow, Diana Serra Cary (aka Baby Peggy), David Shepard, and Leonard Maltin. It doesn't get much better than this.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

More picture show updates

Excitement is building. Anticipation is high. The 15th annual San Francisco Silent Film Festival starts tonight.

Diana Serrra Cary's (aka Baby Peggy) book signing was mentioned in yesterday's column by Leah Garchik in the San Francisco Chronicle. Scroll down to read all about it. And, Elaine Mae Woo's DVD signing was mentioned on Monday on the Strictly Vintage Hollywood blog. And Donna Hill's book signing for Rudolph Valentino, The Silent Idol: His Life in Photographs was mentioned on Tuesday on (Donna Hill will be signing books with Emily Leider, the author of Dark Lover: The Life and Death of Rudolph Valentino. Leider contributed an introduction to Hill’s new book.) And yesterday, the MetroActive (from the South Bay/Silicon Valley) newspapers ran a long piece on the Festival. Now that's what we call blanket coverage!

Tonight's opening film is The Iron Horse (1924). It was directed by John Ford, and stars San Francisco-born leading man George O'Brien and Madge Bellamy. Ford scholar Joseph McBride will introduce (just added). And Dennis James will accompany on the Castro's mighty Wurlitzer. [David Kiehn's booklet essay on the film is excellent, by the way.] Tickets for both The Iron Horse and the opening night party are available only at the door.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Picture show updates

The 2010 San Francisco Silent Film Festival starts tomorrow! We're excited, and we hope you are too! A flurry of articles have appeared in the local media in the last few days, and tickets to every film and program are selling briskly. There are a few updates and changes to report - so here goes.

The restored version of Metropolis, which shows on Friday, July 16th at 8:15 pm, is now at Rush Only status. As of now, there are three ways to ensure a seat at the film:

1. Purchase a Festival Pass (limited number remaining).

2. Make a Patron-level donation and receive Gold Passes (include early entrance, Opening Night Party, and VIP lounge).

3. Make a Grand Patron donation and receive Platinum Passes (include Gold Pass privileges, plus reserved seating.) Additional information on ticket availability can be found here and here.

This year, like the Festival itself, the program of author signings is also celebrating its 15th go around the block. And over the years, a good number distinguished film historians, biographers, and authors have participated. This year's roster, despite the fact a couple of authors had to drop out at the last minute, remains the biggest yet. 

Unfortunately, Sarah Baker, the author of Lucky Stars: Janet Gaynor and Charles Farrell (BearManor Media) had to cancel her book signing due to a last minute scheduling conflict, as did Jeffrey Vance, the author of Douglas Fairbanks (University of California Press). Both had hoped to make the Festival and were coming from out of town.

However, we were able to add two other guests, each of whom will be signing their books or DVDs. Film historian Joseph McBride, the author of Searching for John Ford: A Life and Frank Capra: The Catastrophe of Success among other titles, will be signing books PRIOR to Thursday night's opening film The Iron Horse. McBride will also introduce the 1924 film, which was directed by John Ford. McBride is also scheduled to sign books following the Saturday afternoon screening of the 1926 Frank Capra film, The Strong Man.

We've also added Jeffrey Masino, the head of Flicker Alley. Jeffrey has had a hand in the release of a growing number of silent film DVDs through his outstanding company. On Sunday morning, Jeffry will join world renown film preservationist and author David Shepard as they sign copies of their just released DVD of Chicago. As festival goers will remember, that 1927 film was the hit of the 2006 winter event. And their new DVD is loaded with great extras.

Also, in case you missed it, our previous blog revealed the line up of George Méliès' films which will be shown throughout the 2010 Festival.

Earlier in this blog, we mentioned some of the press which has started showing up regarding the Festival. Here is a quick run-down of only some of the many articles and blogs: the Berkeley Daily Planet ran a long article, "Silent Film Festival Celebrates Cinema’s First Golden Era," pointing out some of this year's many highlights.And so did its local online competition, Beyond Chron, which also ran article. Both the Bay Guardian and the SF Weekly also ran shorter pieces. The Bay Guardian piece, focusing on Norma Talmadge, was title "The Woman Remembered." The SF Weekly piece, titled "Robot Wars," took a different approach. Elsewhere, Wired News gave the Festival a mention, as did a recent piece in the Huffington Post on the German director G.W. Pabst. So too did the San Francisco Sentinel website. And that's just the tip of the iceberg.

More info about this year's event, including a complete program of films, can be found at the SFF website at  We hope to see you there!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

George Méliès

George Méliès (1861-1938) is one of the most important of the early European filmmakers. He was a pioneer, and is widely credited as the innovator of special effects which still enchant audiences. Chances are, if you ever took a film class, you saw Melies' delightful A Trip to the Moon (1902). It's one of the film's which will be shown this weekend.

Méliès films will be featured at the upcoming San Francisco Silent Film Festival, which is set to take place July 15th - 18th at the Castro Theater. Renowned film preservationists David Shepard and Serge Bromberg will curate a selection of short films by the French fantasist, which are set to play throughout the event. This mini "festival within a festival" is a great opportunity to see Méliès' magical motion pictures on the big screen.

Here's the line-up of Méliès shorts which will be shown at the 2010 event Festival.


A Crazy Composer (1905)
to play with A Spray of Plum Blossoms

Panorama from Top of a Moving Train (1898)
to play with Rotaie


The Inventor Crazybrains and his Wonderful Airship (1907)
to play with The Flying Ace 

An Impossible Balancing Feat (1898)
to play with The Strong Man

The Spider and the Butterfly (1909)
to play with Diary of a Lost Girl

The Infernal Cauldron (1903)
to play with Häxan


The Prolific Magical Egg (1902)
to play with The Shakedown

A Trip to the Moon (1902)to play with Man With a Movie Camera

The Eclipse, or the Courtship of the Sun and the Moon (1907)
to play with The Woman Disputed

The Kingdom of Fairies (1903)
to play with L’Heureuse mort 

Shepard and Bromberg, along with Eric Lange, are the archivists behind the recently released Flicker Alley DVD, George Méliès Encore. This new disc is a companion to Flicker Alley’s monumental thirteen-hour, five-DVD set, Georges Méliès, First Wizard of the Cinema. We expect that each of these titles will be for sale at the book and DVD tables on the mezzanine. Additionally, Shepard and Jeffrey Masino of Flicker Alley will be in attendance at this year's festival.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Amazing tales twice told

Is time running out for silent film? Let's hope not. This year, the Silent Film festival will present not one but two programs on film preservation. Each is FREE and open to the public. And each should prove compelling.

On Friday, July 16th at 11:30 am, the Festival will present "Amazing Tales from the Archives: Lost & Found Films." This 60 minute program on lost films from the silent era will include 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). The talented Donald Sosin will accompany the program on the piano.

Afterword, Diana Serra Cary, one of the last surviving silent film stars, will be signing copies of her autobiography, Whatever Happened to Baby Peggy?

 And on  Sunday, July 18th at 10:00 am, the Festival will present "Amazing Tales from the Archives: First the Bad News...then the Good!" Using film clips and slides, Mike Mashon (Library of Congress) will present the fascinating and devastating reality of American silent film survival rates. Annette Melville (National Film Preservation Foundation) will follow as she discusses a way to bring back some of this history via a major international repatriation project. This 60 minute program will be accompanied by Stephen Horne on the piano.

Following this program, four authors and archivists involving with preserving our film history will be signing copies of their books and DVDs. They are Bay Area film historian David Kiehn of the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum with Broncho Billy and the Essanay Film Company, Gregory Paul Williams, author of The Story of Hollywood: An Illustrated History, Elaine Mae Woo will be signing copies of her limited edition DVD documentary, Anna May Wong, Frosted Yellow Willows: Her Life, Times and Legend, and film preservationist David Shepard, together with Flicker Alley's Jeffrey Masino (just added!) signing copies of their just released DVD, Chicago.

This two FREE programs are a great way to learn more about what's going on in the world of silent film. And we guarantee you'll see things you've never seen before. Information on purchasing tickets to this year's event can be found at

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Weekend update #16

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) You must read "The Silence of Silents: The heroic wiki project to identify lost and orphaned films." This article by former San Francisco resident Paul Collins (he now lives in Portland) appears on Slate, and tells of a German-based wiki-style website which not only documents more than 4,000 lost silent films - but also hopes to help identify numerous existing films and fragments of which little or nothing is known. Once you're done reading the article, be sure and visit the Lost Films website and start looking around. Maybe YOU know something about one of unidentified films highlighted on this website?

2) The Silent Film festival is less than a week away, and articles, mentions, blogs and shout outs have popped up in the media and on the web. A piece on the Huffington Post website delineated 15 reasons to attend the Festival - one for each year for which the Festival has been putting on its annual event. Elsewhere, the festival was given a long and thoughtful write up on the Hell on Frisco Bay blog. And another local blog, Strictly Vintage Hollywood, also gave the Festival a nice shout out. Locally, the Noe Valley Voice, a San Francisco neighborhood newspaper, ran a piece on the Festival and some of this year's films in their most recent issue. And from what we've heard, the Festival also got a splendid mention on Michael Krasny's July 1st "Forum" program, heard on the radio on KQED. On "Forum," Sura Wood, a freelance arts journalist and film critic, called the Festival "the event of the year."

3) As has been reported, the Silent Film Festival is celebrating it's 15th anniversary this July. Before the July 17th screening of Diary of a Lost Girl, SFSFF founders Melissa Chittick and Stephen Salmons will be honored for their efforts in having started the annual event - which has over the years has grown from a single evening co-presentation to a four day film lover's extravaganza and the largest silent film festival in North America.

Tickets for the Festival are selling briskly, according to all reports. And a couple of shows may sell out in advance! If you haven't already done so, be sure and click on over the Silent Film Festival website and pick a movie or program or two to check out. Might we recommend one of this year's international films, such as the 1929 avant-garde Soviet production Man with a Movie Camera (with live musical accompaniment with the Alloy Orchestra), the rarely screened 1931 Chinese production, A Spray of Plum Blossoms (based on Shakespeare's Two Gentlemen of Verona), the semi-expressionistic 1929 Italian masterpiece Rotaie (pictured below, with live piano accomapniment by Stephen Horne - all the way from England), or the 1924 French comedy, L'heureuse mort (the closing night film). Foreign films seldom fail to impress a date!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Diary of a Lost Girl

The San Francisco Silent Film Festival screening of Diary of a Lost Girl is only a week away. And from all accounts, tickets for this very special event are selling very well.

As part of the celebration, custom-made Silent Film Festival silkscreen posters by artist David O’Daniel - including one for Diary of a Lost Girl - will be on sale on the Castro mezzanine. [ Browse a sampling of this artist's work, including one for Man with a Movie Camera and another for Metropolis, on the artist's website at ]

Diary of a Lost Girl, which stars silent film legend Louise Brooks, is the Festival's centerpiece film - that's because it's the "Founder's presentation film." Beforehand, SFSFF founders Melissa Chittick and Stephen Salmons will be honored for their efforts in having started this annual event which has over the years grown from a single evening co-presentation to a four day film lover's extravaganza and the largest silent film festival in North America. This year, the Festival is celebrating its 15th anniversary. Well done Melissa and Stephen!

Diary of a Lost Girl represents the second collaboration between one Germany's greatest pre-war directors, G. W. Pabst, and one the cinema's most enduring silent film stars, Louise Brooks. Together with Pandora’s Box, this second collaboration confirms Pabst’s artistry as one of the great directors of the silent period as well as Brooks' stature as an “actress of brilliance, a luminescent personality and a beauty unparalleled in screen history.” (Kevin Brownlow)

The SFSFF is not the only one celebrating Pabst and Brooks. On July 15th, Bard College in New York state is kicking off its own G.W. Pabst film festival. Over the course of a month, they will be screening many of the director's best films including the two he made with Brooks. AND, on July 17th (the same day the film shows in San Francisco), the Babylon Kino in Berlin (in collaboration with the Cinema Ritrovato in Bologna, Italy) will also be showing Diary of a Lost Girl as part of the “Berlin Babylon - Silent Film Festival” set to take place in the German city July 16 – 25. It seems as thought July 17th is international Diary of a Lost Girl day!

Diary of a Lost Girl is based on a controversial and bestselling book of the same name first published in Germany in 1905. Though little known today, the book was a literary sensation at the beginning of the 20th century and is considered one of the bestselling books of its time.

The Diary of a Lost Girl was originally published as the genuine diary of a young women named Thymain forced by circumstance into a life of prostitution. However, it was a fake, and was actually the work of Margarete Böhme (1867-1937), a prolific German novelist. This contested work inspired not only two silent films (1918 and 1929), but also a sequel, a play, a parody, and a score of imitators. By the end of the Twenties, when Pabst came to make his film, the book had sold more than 1,200,000 copies. It was finally driven out of print at the beginning of the Nazi era by groups which had attempted to suppress it.

The groups which had tried to ban it at the beginning of the 1930's were likely the ones which had also found offense in the Pabst film. According to German censorship records, various groups including those representing the evangelical church,  a national organization of Protestant girl’s boarding schools, a German morality association, and even the governor in Lower Silesia all voiced their objections to aspects of the film. Diary of a Lost Girl opened in Vienna on September 27 and made its German debut in Berlin on October 15, 1929. By December 5, the film had been banned by the German state censor and was temporarily withdrawn from circulation.

Rudolph Leonhardt, the film’s screenwriter, wrote that   “. . . entire filmed sequences were cut without mercy. . . . In one version, if I remember rightly, they cut 450 meters, and either in this or another version, they made another 54 further cuts. . . . The film comes to an end shortly after the middle of our script, inconclusively and incomprehensively. I once saw it myself at a cinema in Paris and stayed in my seat at the end because I thought the film had broken.”

The 35mm print version which will be screened on July 17th has been mastered from a restoration of the film made by the Cineteca di Bologna with approximately seven minutes of previously censored footage.

Following Diary of a Lost Girl, three authors with a connection to Louise Brooks will be signing books on the Castro mezzanine. Stonewall Book Award winning author and Emmy nominated Hollywood screenwriter Samuel Bernstein will be signing copies of his recently published Lulu: A Novel (Walford Press). The subject of his “non-fiction” novel is the star of Diary of a Lost Girl and the period in her life when she went to work with Pabst in Germany. It’s an enjoyable read, and the latest in a shelf worth of works of fiction which have taken the silent film star as their muse.

Bernstein is the author of two earlier books, Uncommon Heroes: A Celebration of Heroes and Role Models for Gay and Lesbian Americans and Mr. Confidential: The Man, the Magazine & the Movieland Massacre. The latter is a chronicle of the 1950s celebrity gossip magazine Confidential.


Also signing books is Thomas Gladysz, Director of the Louise Brooks Society. Gladysz just published the "Louise Brooks edition" of Bohme's novel, The Diary of a Lost Girl (PandorasBox Press). This new illustrated edition of the original English language translation brings this important book back into print in the United States after more than 100 years. It includes an introduction by Gladysz detailing the book's remarkable history and relationship to the 1929 silent film. It also includes more than three dozen vintage illustrations. About it, biographer and film historian Lon Davis has said, "Thomas Gladysz is the leading authority on all matters pertaining to the legendary Louise Brooks. We owe him a debt of gratitude for bringing the groundbreaking novel, The Diary of a Lost Girl - the basis of Miss Brooks's classic 1929 film - back from obscurity. It remains a fascinating work."

The third author with a Louise Brooks connection who will also be signing books is Ira Resnick. A former San Francisco resident, Resnick is a longtime collector of movie posters and the founder of the Motion Picture Arts Gallery in New York City (the first gallery devoted exclusively to the art of the movies). He will be signing copies of his new book, Starstruck: Vintage Movie Posters from Classic Hollywood (Abbeville). It features hundreds of images including a number of posters and lobby cards from various Brooks’ films. Resnick had known the actress, and his new book includes a small "love letter" to the actress as his own collecting muse. It also includes an image of a one-of-a-kind poster for Diary of a Lost Girl for which the author once paid the near record setting sum of $60,000. It's a gorgeous coffee table book, and one of the must-have books on sale on the Castro mezzanine.

[For those who can't make it to the Diary of a Lost Girl event, Resnick will also be signing books on Thursday, July 15th after the opening night film, The Iron Horse.]

The San Francisco Silent Film Festival will screen Diary of a Lost Girl on July 17th at 6:30 pm. And what's more, the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra will accompany the film with an original score. Don't miss it!

Friday, July 9, 2010

A book & DVD signing not to be missed

Be sure not to miss the book & DVD signing which follows the Amazing Tales from the Archives program on Sunday morning. Since that program is free and open to the public, you won't have any excuse to not check out the book and DVD's for sale on the mezzanine.

At approximately 11:15 am, Elaine Mae Woo will be signing copies of her limited edition DVD documentary, Anna May Wong, Frosted Yellow Willows: Her Life, Times and Legend. Also signing is world renown film preservationist David Shepard, together with Flicker Alley's Jeffrey Masino (just added!) - they will be signing copies of their just released DVD of Chicago. As regular festival goers will remember, that 1927 film was the hit of the 2006 winter event. Both of these DVD's are making their debut at the Festival.

Also signing is Bay Area film historian David Kiehn of the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum, whose Broncho Billy and the Essanay Film Company is essential reading for anyone interested in early film history and local film history.

Joining them is Gregory Paul Williams, the author of The Story of Hollywood: An Illustrated History. This must have pictorial follows the film capitol from its dusty semi-rural origins to its glorious rise to world-wide stardom. It tells the story of Hollywood, from then till now. Williams' book is illustrated with over 800 vintage and seldom seen images from the author’s private collection.

Williams is coming from Los Angeles for this special signing. Born and raised near the Hollywood sign, Williams’s interest in Hollywood’s history began when he wrote The Story of Hollywoodland, a book about the neighborhood where he grew up.

His connection to Hollywood, however, goes beyond an interest in its history. A puppeteer and a puppet designer in the entertainment industry for 25 years, his credits include Men in Black and Men in Black II, Mighty Joe Young, Pee-wee’s Playhouse, and The Showbiz Show, with David Spade. He also wrote a series of children’s book with Jim Henson based on the Muppet characters.

His award winning The Story of Hollywood: An Illustrated History is filled with fascinating images. Of this book, Leonard Maltin has said, "This rich historical account gets my highest recommendation."

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Music in the air

The Festival is only a week away . . . and everything seems to be falling into place.

The drums have arrived! All the percussion the Alloy Orchestra needs to perform their amazing scores for Metropolis and Man with a Movie Camera were just delivered to the Festival's San Francisco offices. And, we've heard that Matti Bye and his ensemble in Sweden, and Stephen Horne in England, are busy packing their bags in preparation for their trip across the pond. The Matti Bye Ensemble, winners of the Golden Beetle (Sweden's Oscar) are making their West Coast Premiere!

And, the Taylor family is setting the pistons for the master of the Mighty Wurlitzer, Dennis James. Few can rock the house like James. And, let's not forget the splendid Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra and the fantastic Donald Sosin. Each have been busy rehearsing for the various films which they will accompany. The complete line-up of events by musician can be found at

This summer’s event celebrates the un-silent part of the Silent Film Festival: the music that creates the complete and singular cinematic experience that you know and love – masterpieces from the silent era accompanied by world-class musicians. All of the festival musicians are fine-tuning their scores and preparing their contributions to our extraordinary new program "Variations on a Theme: Musicians on the Craft of Composing and Performing for Silent Film,"moderated by Chloe Veltman, New York Times contributor and host of KALW’s VoiceBox. This is a program that you simply cannot miss!

The 2010 Festival is soon upon us! And music is a big component of this year's event. The music is also one of the 15 best reasons to attend this year's 15th anniversary event.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Silent era screenwriter Frederica Sagor turns 110

Yesterday, Frederica Sagor Maas turned 110 years old. The southern California resident is one of the last surviving personalities from the silent film era. She is also considered a “supercentarian,” and the second oldest person in California.

During the silent film era, she was known as Frederica Sagor and was a well regarded Hollywood screenwriter whose credits include a handful of Norma Shearer and Clara Bow movies. Her biggest success came with The Plastic Age (1925), a smash hit for Bow. The 1927 Louise Brooks' film, Rolled Stockings, was another popular film; it's a college story filmed largely in Berkeley. Sagor continued to write for the movies through the late 1930's.

In 1999, at the age of 99, she was a special guest at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival. Then, she spoke to the crowd and signed copies of her then just released book, The Shocking Miss Pilgrim: A Writer in Early Hollywood. Kevin Brownlow wrote in the book's forward, "This story is as fascinating as any tale of Academy Awards and million-dollar grosses, and it is all the more significant because of its rarity."

The 110 year-old one-time screenwriter is the subject of an article on She is pictured below in a striking portrait taken in 1925. Reportedly, B.P. Shulberg wanted to turn her into another Theda Bara. She had other ideas. . . . she wanted to be a writer.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Flying Ace

During the silent film era, the Norman Film Manufacturing Company (based in Jacksonville, Florida) was one of the three leading producers of race films in America, along with the Lincoln Motion Picture Company (Omaha, Nebraska) and the Micheaux Film Corporation (Sioux City, Iowa and Chicago, Illinois).

The Norman company was founded in 1912 by Richard E. Norman and his brother Kenneth. They were two white producers from Florida who made and distributed several all black cast films. Between 1920 and 1928, the Norman Company made six feature films about black heroes and heroines.

On Saturday, July 17th, the San Francisco Silent Film Festival will show the sole surviving production of the Norman Company, The Flying Ace (1926). It's the story of a crime-fighting ace pilot, a veteran of World War I who returns home a war hero and regains his former job as a railroad company detective. His first case involves the recovery of a stolen satchel filled with $25,000 of company payroll. He must also locate a missing employee, and capture a gang of railroad thieves.

The Flying Ace stars Lawrence Criner (as Capt. Billy Stokes), Kathryn Boyd (as Ruth Sawtelle, the love interest), and Steve Reynolds (as 'Peg' Reynolds, the one legged veteran who assists Capt. Stokes). Despite it being the product of a low budget indie studio, this film delivers. There is a lot to like about it, and a lot to look at. And, it has verve! Also, Steve Reynolds, as a criminal chasing, bicycle-riding, one-legged undercover assistant detective, is simply amazing.

Rita Reagan, from Norman Studios Silent Film Museum in Florida, will introduce the film. It's a rare screening, and shouldn't be missed.

Monday, July 5, 2010

The Big Business of Short, Funny Films

You won't want to miss "The Big Business of Short, Funny Films," a special Saturday morning (July 17) program and this year's "Director's Pick" at the upcoming Silent Film Festival. In it, Academy Award winning Pixar Director Pete Docter (Up, Monster's Inc, etc...) will presents a selection of hilarious short films - some of the funniest moments in cinema - and all in glorious 35mm! The program will also include an onstage interview with Docter and Leonard Maltin. One the menu are

The Cook
Directed By: Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle
USA, 1918, 22 min
Fatty Arbuckle and Buster Keaton are physical comedians whose styles and physiognomies could not have been more different, and they complement each other brilliantly! Set in a restaurant where Fatty’s the cook and Buster’s the waiter, the inspired duo seem to be having the time of their lives — and the feeling’s contagious! Also in the cast are Al St. John and Alice Lake.

Pass the Gravy
Directed By: Fred Guiol, Leo McCarey
USA, 1928, 22 min

A sheer delight, Pass the Gravy trades on the comic device of feuding neighbors and turns up the heat. Neighbors Shultz (Bert Sprotte) and Max Davidson call for detente when their children fall in love. But when Shultz’s prize rooster ends up on Davidson’s dinner table for the couple’s engagement party… Pass the Gravy was inducted into the National Film Registry in 1998. Also in the cast are Martha Sleeper and Spec O'Donnell.

Big Business
Directed By: Leo McCarey, James W. Horne
USA, 1929, 18 min

The tagline to this Laurel & Hardy treasure is “The story of man who turned the other cheek and got punched in the nose.” That rather understates the hilarious mayhem of this sidesplitting short that was also inducted into the National Film Registry ( in 1992).

This program is made possible through special support provided by The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences. Celebrated musician Dennis James will accompany each film.

Following the program, Docter and Maltin will be signing books and DVDs on the Castro mezzanine. Pete Docter will be signing copies of The Art of Up (Chronicle Books) and DVDs of his films. Leonard Maltin will be signing copies of the recently released books including Leonard Maltin's Classic Movie Guide: From the Silent Era Through 1965 (Plume) and Leonard Maltin's 151 Best Movies You've Never Seen (HarperStudio).

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Weekend update #15

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."

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Norma Talmadge - The Disputed Woman

These days, not many silent film buffs can claim to have seen a Norma Talmadge film. Fewer still can claim to have seen a Norma Talmadge film on the big screen.

Despite the fact that she was one of the biggest stars of the silent era, few of her films have been commercially released. That is, until now. Recently, the good folks at KINO put out a DVD called the Norma Talmadge Collection, and it contains two fine films - Kiki (1926) and Within the Law (1923). Kiki was directed by Clarence Brown and co-stars Ronald Colman. Within the Law was directed by Frank Lloyd and co-stars Lew Cody.

In a couple of weeks, the Silent Film Festival will screen another Talmadge film, The Woman Disputed (1928). It may prove to be the revelation of the Festival. This splendid romance stars Norma Talmadge as a goodhearted streetwalker who is coveted by Austrian and Russian rivals. Gilbert Roland is also in the cast of this Henry King-directed work. You won't want to miss this excellent film - it is full of surprises and verve. Plus, it also features the always interesting Gustav von Seyffertitz.

Film historian Kevin Brownlow will introduce this little seen work. Earlier, he wrote, “I have just seen The Woman Disputed and it’s a remarkable piece of filmmaking. The plot takes Maupaussant’s "Boule de Suif" to extremes, but it succeeds so well as a brilliant piece of film craft that it MUST be brought back to life.”

For more on the actress, be sure and visit Greta de Groat's excellent and extensive "Norma Talmadge website." There is a page devoted to The Woman Disputed which gives some additional background on the film. There, you can even listen to an excerpt of a recording by The Gennett Concert Orchestra of a song, "Woman Disputed, I love you".

Friday, July 2, 2010

A satire on sponsored films

Earlier this week, Twin Peaks Tunnel (1917), a "sponsored film" meant to promote the development of San Francisco's western districts, made news when the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum was awarded a grant to assist in its preservation. Rob Byrne, Vice President of the Silent Film Festival Board of Directors and a newly minted film preservationist, will help oversee the project.

Sponsored films, which are akin to industrial and educational films, were made for a commercial or civic entity and meant to promote something. Rick Prelinger at the Prelinger Archives has written about sponsored films in the past. He has collected thousands of examples and posted them on the Internet Archive, where they can be viewed online.

We've also written about sponsored films in the past, notably those made in Northern California communities like Livermore and Santa Cruz. During the silent film era, many such films were made in local communities. Recently, we came across an illustration which pokes fun at the craze for locally made and locally screened films - for seeing oneself on the big screen. The caption reads "The new movie theatre at Yapp's Crossing takes a local feature reel."

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Just two weeks left !

There's just two weeks left till the opening night of the San Francisco Silent Film Festival. If you haven't bought individual tickets or a Festival pass, don't delay. Information on tickets for this special event can be found here. And information on purchasing a festival pass can be found here. It's gonna be a blast. 

Don't be disappointed, like the two fellows below, and miss one of this year's many swell films, like L'heureuse mort (1924), the closing night film.