Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Kevin Brownlow to receive special Oscar

In July, the San Francisco Silent Film Festival presented British film historian Kevin Brownlow with their 2010 Silent Film Festival Award. And now, word has gotten out that the Board of Governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences voted last night to present an Honorary Award to the renowned historian and film preservationist.

The award to Brownlow, along with Honorary Awards to director Jean-Luc Godard and actor Eli Wallach, as well as the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award to producer-director Francis Ford Coppola, will be presented at the Academy’s 2nd Annual Governors Awards dinner on  November 13 in Hollywood.

“Each of these honorees has touched movie audiences worldwide and influenced the motion picture industry through their work,” said Academy President Tom Sherak. “It will be an honor to celebrate their extraordinary achievements and contributions at the Governors Awards.”

The Academy announcement read, in part, "Brownlow is widely regarded as the preeminent historian of the silent film era as well as a preservationist. Among his many silent film restoration projects are Abel Gance’s 1927 epic Napoleon, Rex Ingram’s The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1921) and The Thief of Bagdad (1924), starring Douglas Fairbanks. Brownlow has authored, among others, The Parade’s Gone By; The War, the West, and the Wilderness; Hollywood: The Pioneers; Behind the Mask of Innocence; David Lean; and Mary Pickford Rediscovered. His documentaries include Hollywood, Unknown Chaplin, Buster Keaton: A Hard Act to Follow, Harold Lloyd: The Third Genius and D.W. Griffith: Father of Film, all with David Gill; Brownlow also directed Cecil B. DeMille: American Epic and Garbo, the latter with Christopher Bird." 


Above is a snapshot of Brownlow (seated center, looking at a book) surrounded by some of the other film historians present at the at the 2010 Festival.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Chaplin Festival coming to the Castro

In September, the Castro Theater will play host to a traveling series of films – a greatest hits, if you will, of the greatest of comedic actors, Charlie Chaplin.

Once dubbed “the most famous man in the world,” Chaplin has long been recognized as the preeminent icon of world cinema. From 1914 until 1967, Chaplin wrote, directed, produced, and starred in over 80 films, quickly advancing from slapstick to a unique comic style - immaculately constructed, deeply human, and always funny.

In cooperation with MK2 and the Chaplin estate, Janus Films is presenting a touring retrospective of Chaplin's best films. The schedule includes

Saturday, Sept.18, 2010 - The Circus (1928, 72 min.), The Idle Class (1921, 32 min.), and A Day’s Pleasure (1919, 19 min.), with an introduction by Glen David Gold, author of the bestselling Chaplin inspired novel Sunnyside.

Sunday, Sept.19, 2010 – City Lights (1931, 87 min.), A Dog’s Life (1918, 33 min.), and Sunnyside (1919, 30 min.)

Monday, Sept.20, 2010 - Modern Times (1936, 87 min.) and Pay Day ( 1922, 22 min.)

Tuesday, Sept.21, 2010 – The Great Dictator (1940, 124 min.) and The Kid (1921, 54 min.)

Wednesday, Sept.22, 2010 – Limelight (1952, 137 min.) and Shoulder Arms (1918, 37 min.)

And in October, Flicker Alley will release Chaplin at Keystone, a four disc, 34 film set of the comedian’s early work. The set features the UCLA Film and Television Archive restoration of Tillie's Punctured Romance, all-new musical settings by outstanding practitioners of silent film accompaniment, as well as several  special features including a short excerpt from A Thief Catcher (the recently-discovered film with Chaplin as a Keystone Cop), Inside the Keystone Project, a short documentary detailing the international restoration efforts behind this much anticipated release, and Silent Traces - The Keystone Film Locations, in which Bay Area film historian John Bengtson takes a "then and now" look at several Keystone film locations in a 10 minute filmed tour based on his book Silent Traces.

More about this upcoming release at a later date.

If one doubts that Chaplin, a comedic actor born in the slums of London, had as big an impact as he did on the 20th century – then consider this simple fact. Here in San Francisco, not one, not two, but three bookstores were named after his films. They are City Lights, Modern Times, and the former Limelight Books.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

At Books Inc

The good folks at Books Inc (on Market Street in the Castro) have a display of some of the silent film books and DVDs which had been on sale at the July Silent Film Festival. A couple of 2010 posters adorn the top of the display. (How many titles can you identify?)

If you're in the neighborhood, be sure and stop by their store at 2275 Market St.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

New Chaplin book by Kevin Brownlow

Had we but known . . . there's a new book by Kevin Brownlow about Charlie Chaplin. It's called The Search for Charlie Chaplin, and it was published in April by the UKA Press. The book is 222 pages in length, and is illustrated.

Scott Eyman, writing in the Palm Beach Post on August 3rd, said, "A few months ago I wrote a story about a film collector in Michigan who found a 16mm print of a 1914 Keystone comedy called The Thief Catcher, which features a previously unknown guest appearance by Charlie Chaplin. . . . As discoveries go, it was impressive, but it paled next to the discoveries made by Kevin Brownlow and David Gill beginning in 1977, when they accessed a vast trawl of Chaplin outtakes from 1916-1917, followed by that holy of holies, the Chaplin vault itself, which held sequences that he had cut from his films as well as a lot of fascinating miscellaneous footage.

All this resulted in The Unknown Chaplin, a TV series that, along with Heart of Darkness, still stands as probably the documentary about the filmmaking process. The Search for Charlie Chaplin (UKA Press) is Brownlow’s story of the process of finding the films and piecing the show together, and it palpably communicates the difficulties as well as the primal enthusiasm that it takes to persevere in a necessarily incremental project such as The Unknown Chaplin."

Brownlow's description of the book, via the publisher, adds to the story and reads in part: "It was a treasure hunt involving innocence and guile, accident and coincidence. A treasure hunt which took us to Switzerland, France and the United States. The treasure, when it was uncovered, revealed information as precious as the film itself. From the material, we compiled a television series called Unknown Chaplin, three hour-long documentaries produced for Thames Television. Apart from the experience of making the series, we learned so much about Chaplin we could not squeeze into the commentary we decided to preserve it in the form of a book."

More about this new book can be found on the publisher's page here. The UKA Press is an English-based publisher, and The Search for Charlie Chaplin is primarily available in England. However, copies can also be ordered over the internet via Amazon and through independent bookshops via Indiebound. [ The UKA Press has also issued two other similar "making of" books by Brownlow, How It Happened Here and Winstanley: Warts and All. ]

Back when The Unknown Chaplin was fist released and played on PBS (imagine that), Leonard Maltin discussed it on Entertainment Tonight. Watch this YouTube clip for a look back....

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Save the date

Save the dates: The San Francisco Silent Film Festival has announced that its upcoming Winter event will take place February 12, 2011 - a full day of silent film at the Castro Theatre! And, drum roll please, the next annual summer event will take place July 14-17, 2011.That four days of film!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Silent Stars Still Mesmerize

At "Leonard Maltin's Movie Crazy," film historian Leonard Maltin posted a column about the San Francisco Silent Film Festival and the "several recently-published books" he acquired at the event. The column, "Silent Stars Still Mesmerize," can be found here.

Friday, August 6, 2010

A few more pics from 2010

We thought to share few more pictures from the 2010 San Francisco Silent Film Festival. They depict one of the memorable highlights from the four day event.


Prior to the Saturday screening of William Wyler's late silent, The Shakedown (1929), regular Festival participant Leonard Maltin interviewed the three daughters of the Academy Award winning director. Judy (who serves as President of the SFSFF Board of Directors), Catherine and Melanie each recalled their father as a hard worker whose life was filled with FILM.

Melanie, in particular, recalled the time her father took her to see a revival screening of Erich von Stroheim’s Foolish Wives at Grauman's Chinese Theater in Hollywood - and afterword lavishly praised the silent film.

Each also recalled having grown up surrounded by Hollywood legends - who to them were just neighbors. When they were younger, one such neighbor was Charlie Chaplin.  As kids, the Wyler daughters remembered playing with future actress Geraldine Chaplin, with whom on at least one occasion they rode the dumb waiter at the Chaplin estate. Charlie, they also recalled, was often seated at the piano working on his music.


When Maltin asked the three sisters to name their favorite among their father’s many highly regarded films, each cited a different work - Dodsworth (1936), The Best Years of Our Lives (1946), and Roman Holiday (1953). The latter work, which won three Oscars and starred Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn, was one film in which two of the Wyler daughters, Catherine and Judy, had small uncredited roles.
Memories . . . and stories told. Don't miss next year's San Francisco Silent Film Festival.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Silent Film Festival mentioned in Variety

Over the weekend, Variety ran an interesting article about current efforts towards film preservation, especially those undertaken at the L. Jeffrey Selznick School of Film Preservation at the George Eastman House in Rochester, New York. The article included a mention of the SFSFF - "Ken Fox, still a student at the Selznick School, has nabbed a fellowship with the San Francisco Silent Film Festival and is restoring Mr. Fix-It, a Douglas Fairbanks title, from the sole known surviving print."

As was mentioned at this year's Festival, its hoped that Mr. Fix-It (1918) will be screened at next year's Festival. Be sure and check out the article in Variety.