Sunday, October 31, 2010

Weekend update # 23

Here are some spooky bites of news - offered on a regular basis - from and about the San Francisco Silent Film Festival and the world of silent film:

1) If you are looking for something fun to do tonight, then check out the special event the San Francisco Symphony has lined-up at Davies Symphony Hall. On Halloween night, the Symphony will present the restored version of the 1920 silent film, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, starring John Barrymore. The film will be accompanied by Dennis James on the Ruffatti Organ, along with Mark Goldstein and Todd Manley on percussion. The evening's concert screening also features the Buster Keaton short, The Haunted House (1921).

2) Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is included on the American Silent Horror Collection from KINO. This five disc collection is an outstanding asembly of early classics including The Man Who Laughs (1928) - directed by Paul Leni, The Penalty (1920) - starring Lon Chaney, The Cat and the Canary (1927) - directed by Paul Leni, as well as Kingdom of Shadows - a 1998 documentary narrated by Rod Steiger. The horror film, from the beginning of the 20th century to the end of the silent era, is explored in this haunting documentary... which has been described as a dance macabre of religion, carnivals, sex, nightmares, monstrosity, and death and includes scenes from 50 classic films like Nosferatu, The Golem, Haxan, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, Faust and others.

3) Speaking of documentaries. . . . Turner Classic Movies has announced a new series which looks at the history of Hollywood. "Moguls and Movie Stars: A History of Hollywood" is a seven-hour documentary series which traces 70 years of film-making in America. The series starts Monday on TCM.

Tomorrow's initial episode, "Peepshow Pioneers," looks at the earliest attempts to create moving images. Later episodes focus on big name stars, directors and producers like Douglas Fairbanks, Charlie Chaplin and Mary Pickford in the 1920s, the populist cinema of Frank Capra and everyman actors like James Stewart and Gary Cooper in the '30s, and Humphrey Bogart and noir in the '40s. Here's the lineup of TCM's "Moguls and Movie Stars: A History of Hollywood."

Nov. 1: "Peepshow Pioneers" (1889-1910)
Nov. 8: "The Birth of Hollywood" (1907-1920)
Nov. 15: "The Dream Merchants" (1920-1928)
Nov. 29: "Brother Can You Spare a Dream?" (1929-1941)
Nov. 29: "Warriors & Peacemakers" (1940-1950)
Dec. 6: "Attack of the Small Screen" (1950-1960)
Dec. 13: "Fade Out, Fade In" (1960-1970)

Adjunct to the television series is a traveling exhibit of Hollywood movie memorabilia which includes a stop in San Francisco at the Embarcadero Center on November 11-12. Included in this exhibit is a vintage camera from the silent era, a zoetrope demonstration, a signed check from MGM to John Gilbert (then the highest paid star in Hollywood), the vest and coat worn by Rudolph Valentino in The Sheik (1921) and much, much more. Explore the interactive TCM website to find out more.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Happy Birthday Diana Serra Cary!

Happy Birthday Diana Serra Cary! The silent film star known as Baby Peggy was born on this day in 1918. Cary, who lives in the greater Bay Area, was a special guest at the July San Francisco Silent Film Festival. At that event, fans lined up to meet the actress and get a signed copy of her highly recommended autobiography, Whatever Happened to Baby Peggy? - a new edition was published by BearManor Media and is available though online and independent bookstores.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Mystery of the Charlie Chaplin cell phone user

This story has been floating around the internet for some time, but has received renewed attention of late as it has been picked up by various local and even national media. You be the judge. . . . In footage shot at the Hollywood premiere of Charlie Chaplin's The Circus (at Grauman's Theater, 1928), there appears to be a woman passing in front of the camera who is speaking into her cell phone.

Of course, cell phones didn't exist back in 1928. That's why some have postulated that the odd-looking person seen speaking into their hand may be a time traveler. If that's so, might someone be able to contact this person and see if they could visit one of the nearby studios and pick up a lost film or two. Perhaps London After Midnight?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Valley of the Giants

The news that digitally preserved copies of 10 previously lost American silent films were presented last week to the Library of Congress by the Russian film archive Gosfilmofond includes a local twist with film history import.

One of the films presented to the LOC was Valley of the Giants (Famous Players, 1919), starring Wallace Reid, Grace Darmond, Charles Ogle, Alice Terry, and Noah Beery. The film was directed by James Cruze, a now under-appreciated director whose silent and talkie credits include The Covered Wagon (1923), Merton of the Movies (1924), Pony Express (1925), The City Gone Wild (1927), The Great Gabbo (1929), and the original Gangs of New York (1938). Cruze, originally trained as a stage actor, started working in films in 1911. By 1918, he had turned his attention to directing, and by 1927, was the most popular and highest-salaried director in the business.

Valley of the Giants tells the story of a young man (Wallace Reid), who upon his return from college, learns that his father is in danger of losing the family’s beloved land to an unscrupulous lumberman. The film is highlighted with a daring scene played out on a runaway logging train, as seen below.


Reid, a leading man known as "the screen's most perfect lover," was one of the most popular film actors of the late teens and early 20s. He teamed up with director Cruze for several pictures in 1919, including Valley of the Giants, a popular outdoor adventure. It was well reviewed in its day.

It was during the making of this movie, while filming on location in southern Oregon and northern California (including in and near Arcata, Eureka, and Korbel), that Reid was injured doing stunt work. He reportedly was given morphine injections for the pain by a studio physician in order that the actor might keep working; the injections eventually led to his addiction and untimely death on January 18, 1923.

Reid's passing was a turning point in the public's perception of early Hollywood. Some asked, "How could a wholesome young star have died of drug addiction?"

Shortly afterword, Reid's widow, Dorothy Davenport (billed as Mrs. Wallace Reid), co-produced and appeared in Human Wreckage (1923); she made a national tour with the film to publicize the dangers of drug addiction. That same year, Reid's mother published Wallace Reid: His Life Story, an early Hollywood biography.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Weekend update #22

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) A follow-up to Friday's post about lost silent films just recently presented to the Library of Congress by the Russia state. The films, created for the American viewing public, were distributed in other countries - including Russia - during the silent era. Shown in Russian movie houses, the films had been given Russian-language intertitles. Now, 10 of these films were repatriated to the United States. Read the complete LOC press release on this important donation here.

2) Don't forget, the Silent Film Festival's co-presentation of Carl Theodor Dreyer’s The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928) at the Paramount Theater in Oakland takes place on  Thursday, December 2 at 7:30 pm. More info here.

2) As it seems to be making the rounds of the internet of late, we thought to also post this  equally interesting and amusing clipping from the Chicago-based Essanay Film Manufacturing Company. (This early film studio - in existence from 1907 to 1925 - also had a branch in nearby Niles, CA.). The piece is an  undated rejection slip sent out to individuals who had submitted a treatment or scenario to the studio. The form is interesting because of what they did not want and amusing and even a little baffling because one couldn't be sure of what they did want.

Friday, October 22, 2010

10 once lost silent films presented to Library of Congress

Yesterday, Variety reported that 10 once "lost" silent films have been presented to the Library of Congress. According to the article, this may only be the tip of the iceberg . . . .

Digitally preserved copies of 10 previously lost American silent films were presented Thursday to the Library of Congress by the Russian film archive Gosfilmofond, where they have been stored since their initial release more than 80 years ago.

They are the first of what was described as a "mother lode" of some 200 silent films believed to be missing that ultimately will be repatriated by the Russian archive.

The initial cache includes 1923's "The Call of the Canyon," directed by Victor Fleming; 1924's "The Arab," helmed by Rex Ingram; and two pics from 1919, starring Wallace Reid, "You're Fired" and "Valley of the Giants."
The other motion pictures presented to the LOC were: "Kick In" (1922) starring Betty Compson, "The Conquest of Canaan" (1921) starring Thomas Meighan, "The Eternal Struggle" (1923) with Renée Adorée, Wallace Beery and Barbara LaMarr, "Keep Smiling" (1925) with Monty Banks, "Canyon of the Fools" (1923) with Harry Carey, and "Circus Days" (1923) with Jackie Coogan.


Thursday, October 21, 2010

Left in the Dark: Portraits of San Francisco Movie Theatres

Left in the Dark: Portraits of San Francisco Movie Theatres is a new book by Julie Lindow and R.A. McBride which celebrates The City’s historic movie theatres - and by extension its communal movie-going experience. The star of the book are 59 beautifully printed full-color photographs of various theater interiors including the Castro, Balboa, Roxie, New Mission, etc.... Each of the San Francisco theaters featured in this new book were built between 1910 and 1950.

The book also features a number of personal essays - each of which has local, literary, and scholarly appeal. These essays - by Gary Meyer, Eddie Muller, Rebecca Solnit, Chi-Hui Yang and others - accompany the lush full-color photographs found throughout this exceptional work. (More at
A website devoted to the book, which includes chapter excerpts, an image gallery, and links to the many theaters discussed in the book can be found at  Left in the Dark (published by Charta) is available direct from the publisher, through, and at select independent bookstores. In the coming weeks, various contributors to Left in the Dark: Portraits of San Francisco Movie Theatres will be taking part in events in San Francisco and Berkeley. Be sure and check out one of these remaining happenings:

Thursday, October 21, 2010 // 7pm, $5 admission
Balboa Theater
3630 Balboa, between 37th and 38th, San Francisco, CA
Impresarios Gary Meyer and Melinda Stone: Dish Give-Away, Sing-Along, Games

Sunday, October 24, 2010 // 11am - 1pm
Vogue Theater
3290 Sacramento Street, San Francisco, CA
A "Then and Now" slide show with Katherine Petrin, Architectural Historian, and R.A. McBride, Photographer

Wednesday, October 27, 2010 // 7:30pm
Moe's Books
2476 Telegraph Avenue, Berkeley, CA
Midnight Carnival: Live Performance and the Movies, with Elisabeth Houseman, Joshua Grannell and Laura Horak

Thursday, October 28, 2010 // 6pm
The Green Arcade
1680 Market St. at Gough, San Francisco, CA 94102 
WALK the "Great White Way" to the Green Arcade with Eddie Muller, the Czar of Noir
MEET in front of the GAP Store on Market Street (at Powell)
Ladies (and men) encouraged to where hats and gloves.
7pm Event at Green Arcade
Readings by Eddie Muller, Melinda Stone, D. Scot Miller. Slide show by R.A. McBride. Music by Lars Mars and Durand Begault.

Saturday, Oct 30, 2010 // 5pm
Pacific Film Archive
2626 Bancroft Way, Berkeley, CA
Katherine Petrin and R.A. McBride present a slide show. Laura Horak reading from her chapter "Changing Marquees: Ever Evolving Exhibition"

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Shanghai Daily - Silence was golden on silver screen

The Shanghai Daily ran an interesting article today about a first ever event, the China and Foreign Silent Film Exhibition, which will be held from October 22 to 24 at the Shanghai Film Art Center.

Among the films to be shown are six silent films from the 1920s and 1930s which should be familiar to most any recent attendee of the San Francisco Silent Film Festival. These three films - each of which was shown in San Francisco in recent years - will also be shown in Shanghai. They are The Peach Girl, Wild Rose and The Goddess. Read more at

According to the article, "The Chinese pictures are representative of homegrown silent cinema, the cinematography of which has influenced many young film makers. . . . The exhibition was initiated by the 88-year-old Chinese performing artist Qin Yi who was deeply impressed by the screenings and live performance at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival."

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Weekend update #21

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) Looking for spine-tingling entertainment this coming Halloween? Enjoy silent films with live musical accompaniment?  If so, then check out the special event the San Francisco Symphony has lined-up for October 31. On Halloween night, the San Francisco Symphony will present the newly restored version of the 1920 silent film, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, starring John Barrymore. The film will be accompanied by Dennis James on the Ruffatti Organ, along with Mark Goldstein and Todd Manley on percussion. The evening's concert screening also features the Buster Keaton short, The Haunted House (1921).

2) David Kiehn is a local film historian with a knack for uncovering little known and fascinating aspects of local film history. He is one of the founders of the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum in Fremont, the author of Broncho Billy and the Essanay Film Company (Farwell Books), and is involved in recent local efforts to help preserve a historic sponsored film, Twin Peaks Tunnel (1917). Kiehn's research also led to the discovery earlier this year that the well known Miles Brothers’ film, A Trip Down Market Street, was not made in 1905 – as everyone had believed (including the Library of Congress) – but in 1906, just days before the San Francisco earthquake. Kiehn pinned down the date through a combination of historical research and an examination of little noticed details in the film itself.

Kiehn’s remarkable detective work is the subject of a segment on 60 Minutes which airs tonight, October 16th, at 7 pm on CBS. DON'T MISS IT. Here is a snapshot of Kiehn - speaking with Kevin Brownlow - which was taken at the most recent San Francisco Silent Film Festival.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

A new theater opening

We happened to notice this June, 1926 newspaper clipping on eBay. It's part of an entire page for sale from a vintage paper. As the newspaper came from San Francisco, it caught our attention.

It's a typical article of the time - as the opening of new theaters (anywhere around the country) received local coverage during what was a boom period in movie exhibition and attendance. What's most interesting about it are the many details found in the article about the theater and the opening event. Curiously though, the article doesn't mention what film would be shown. (That film, according to the eBay listing, was Julian Eltinge in Madam, Behave!, a second-run attraction.) The Irving Theater served the neighborhood for 26 years before being torn down in 1962.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Carl Th. Dreyer retrospective comes to Bay Area

Last week’s announcement that Carl Theodor Dreyer’s much heralded silent film, The Passion of Joan of Arc, would be shown in Oakland proved to be only the tip of the iceberg.

The Pacific Film Archive in Berkeley has unveiled a five week, 15 film retrospective devoted to the acclaimed Danish director. The series, curated by Susan Oxtoby, includes the December 2nd presentation of The Passion of Joan of Arc, which is co-presented by the Silent Film Festival. The retrospective starts November 5 and runs through December 12. All screenings take place at the PFA, except for The Passion of Joan of Arc, which will be shown at the Paramount Theater in Oakland. Hope to see you at at least a few of these special screenings.

Friday, November 5, 2010 at 7:00 p.m. Day of Wrath (Denmark, 1943).

Sunday, November 7, 2010 at 2:00 p.m. The Parson’s Widow(Sweden, 1920).

Sunday, November 7, 2010 at 4:00 p.m. Love One Another (Germany, 1922).

Sunday, November 14, 2010 at 2:00 p.m. Once Upon a Time (Denmark, 1922).

Friday, November 19, 2010 at 7:00 p.m. Michael (Germany, 1924).

Saturday, November 20, 2010 at 6:30 p.m. The Master of the House (Denmark, 1925).

Sunday, November 21, 2010 at 2:00 p.m. Leaves From Satan’s Book (Denmark, 1919).

Sunday, November 28, 2010 at 4:50 p.m. Ordet (Denmark, 1955).

Thursday, December 2, 2010 at 7:30 p.m. The Passion of Joan of Arc (France, 1928).
Dreyer’s masterpiece — often named as one of the top ten films of all time — is paired with a live performance of “Voices of Light,” Richard Einhorn’s acclaimed composition for solo voices, chorus, and orchestra.

Friday, December 3, 2010 at 7:00 p.m. The President (Denmark, 1918).

Friday, December 3, 2010 at 8:40 p.m. Vampyr (France/Germany, 1931).

Friday, December 10, 2010 at 7:00 p.m. Two People  (Sweden, 1944-45).

Sunday, December 12, 2010 at 5:00 p.m. Gertrud (Denmark, 1964).

"Dreyer's work is always based on the beauty of the image, which in turn is a record of the luminous conviction and independence of human beings. His films are devoted principally to human emotions,” wrote the San Francisco-based film critic David Thomson in his New Biographical Dictionary of Film.

Additional details about the PFA retrospective, including film notes, can be found at   Also worth checking out is, and extensive European website which contains additional information on the director and his films.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Weekend update #20

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) San Francisco is a rather unique place. It's filled with the lovers of not only early film, but also lovers of literature and books and bookstores. In fact, at one time, San Francisco was able boast the presence of three independent bookstores whose names were derived from the titles of Charlie Chaplin films. There was Limelight (which focused on books pertaining to theater, acting, and the movies before its closure a few years ago), Modern Times on Valencia Street (the oversized gears in its logo are derived from the Chaplin film), and the world famous City Lights bookstore in North Beach. 

It wasn't surprising then that at last night's LitQuake salute to Lawrence Ferlinghetti and City Lights bookstore - which included everyone from Winona Ryder and Tom Waits to Patti Smith & (past SFSFF attendee) Lenny Kaye - should include not one but two mentions of Charlie Chaplin! The love goes on.

2) It's been a quarter of a century years since Louise Brooks passed away in August of 1985. Before her death, she bequeathed her private journals to the George Eastman House in Rochester, New York with instructions they remain sealed for 25 years. Yesterday, Variety reported that her journals have been unsealed and that "Eastman staffers have been poring over the journals before making them available to the public." In them, Variety noted, she comments on contemporaries including Greta Garbo, Marlene Dietrich and Humphrey Bogart. For a bit more on this breaking story, read David Cohen's report at  Should they be published (and let's hope so), a sample of what might be found in the journals can be found over on the Silent Movie Blog, where blogger Christopher Snowden has posted a few letters from Louise Brooks.

3) In the mid 1950s, Henri Langois uttered his now famous pronouncement - "There is no Garbo, there is no Dietrich, there is only Louise Brooks." Reportedly, this quip was in response to a question from a reporter as to why he had hung a huge banner depicting the then obscure actress outside the Cinémathèque Française, which was celebrating the birth of motion pictures. Opposite Brooks was the image of another singular personality from the silent cinema - Maria Falconetti (1892 – 1946).

Falconetti, of course, is best known today for her riveting performance (or rather embodiment) as Joan of Arc in Carl Theodor Dreyer’s The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928). As noted in a blog earlier this week, Dreyer’s silent film has a long history here in the San Francisco Bay Area. On Tuesday, the Silent Film Festival announced it would co-sponsor (along with the Pacific Film Archive and Paramount Theatre) a screening of the film which will combine a performance of Richard Einhorn’s acclaimed choral and orchestral work "Voices of Light" with Dreyer’s classic film. That special event is set to take place December 2 at Oakland’s Paramount Theatre. 

One other local screening of the film not noted in the earlier blog took place at the old San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in June of 1975. That retrospect included a pre-restoration print of The Passion of Joan of Arc - which despite it's incomplete nature - was then still "acknowledged as one of the masterpieces of the cinema."