Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Three reference works

Looking for an impressive reference work for the special silent film fan on your Holiday shopping list? Might we suggest one or two of these recent releases:

Mack Sennett's Fun Factory, by Brent Walker
McFarland, $125.0

This is a comprehensive career study and filmography of the pioneering film producer and Academy Award winner Mack Sennett, cofounder of Keystone Studios, home of the Keystone Kops and other vehicles that showcased his innovative slapstick comedy. The filmography included within covers the more than 1,000 films (including some made in the Bay Area) produced, directed, written by, or featuring Sennett between 1908 and 1955, including casts, credits, synopses, production and release dates, locations, cross-references of remade stories and gags, footage excerpted in compilations, identification of prints existing in archives, and other information. This hardcover book also contains detailed biographies of several hundred performers and technical personnel connected with Sennett. There are 280 photographs, and a HUGE index. If your special silent film fan enjoys early comedy, this is the book to get. Mack Sennett's Fun Factory is available at amazon.com or through select Indiebound stores.

The Encyclopedia of Early Cinema, by Richard Abel
Routledge, $59.95

This 789-page work, now in a new paperback edition, is a unique one-volume reference work which explores the first 25 years of cinema's development, from the early 1890s to the mid-1910s. These early years in the history of cinema have lately been the subject of resurgent interest and a growing body of scholarship, and have come to be recognized as an extraordinarily diverse period, when moving pictures were quite unlike the kind of cinema that later emerged as the dominant norm.

This encyclopedia covers all aspects of scholarship on early cinema, both traditional and revisionist. It contains articles on the technological and industrial developments, the techniques of film production, the actors and filmmakers of the time, and on the changing modes of representation and narration, as well as the social and cultural contexts within which early films circulated, including topics such as distribution, exhibition and audience. More than 950 entries have been commissioned from internationally recognized specialists, including Robert S. Birchard, Paolo Cherchi Usai, Patrick Loughney, David Robinson and others no doubt familiar to San Francisco audiences. Alphabetically organized, the entries range in length from short factual articles to full essays that offer clear and stimulating discussions of the key issues, people, practices, and phenomena of early cinema. The Encyclopedia of Early Cinema is available at amazon.com or through select Indiebound stores.

George Lucas's Blockbusting, by Alex Ben Block and Lucy Autrey Wilson
It Books, $29.99

Released earlier this year in softcover, George Lucas's Blockbusting: A Decade-by-Decade Survey of Timeless Movies Including Untold Secrets of Their Financial and Cultural Success is a  comprehensive 976-page look at 300 of the most financially and / or critically successful motion pictures of all time — many made despite seemingly insurmountable economic, cultural, and political challenges — set against the prevailing production, distribution, exhibition, marketing, and technology trends of each decade in movie business history. The silent era is represented, and the text includes contributions from noted writers and scholars Robert S. Birchard, David Kiehn, Russell Merritt, Michael Sragow and others. George Lucas's Blockbusting is available at amazon.com or through select Indiebound stores.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Passion of Joan of Arc

December 2 is sooner than you think. Next Thursday, don't miss


Presented by The Pacific Film Archive, Paramount Theatre,
and the San Francisco Silent Film Festival

Voices of Light / The Passion of Joan of Arc
An Oratorio with Silent Film
Music by Richard Einhorn
1928 Film by Carl Theodor Dreyer
Conducted by Dr. Mark Sumner

Thursday, December 2 at 7:30pm
Paramount Theatre, 2025 Broadway, Oakland

This extraordinary event combines Carl Th. Dreyer's masterful 1928 film The Passion of Joan of Arc and Richard Einhorn's oratorio Voices of Light, inspired by the film. Dr. Mark Sumner will conduct the 200-voice choir and 22-piece orchestra that are set to perform this brilliant work.

Voices of Light / The Passion of Joan of Arc has already been presented in various parts of the country, and its drawn rave reviews. The critic for the Albany Times Union called its oratorio of spiritual yearning "transcendent and extraordinary." While the Chicago Sun Times proclaimed its “moving score…sublimely matches one of the great films of all time.” To learn more, be sure and check out Michael Guillen's earlier interview with conductor Mark Sumner.

The Passion of Joan of Arc is considered one of the great films of the silent era, and one of the greatest of all time. Bay Area writer Judy Bloch has said, "Carl Dreyer’s remarkable depiction of the trial and execution of Joan of Arc (condensed for the sake of narrative from eighteen months to one day), was written largely from the actual records of the trial and based on historical evidence which had come to light in 1924, four years before the film was made. Often cited as an “austere masterpiece,” with reference to the starkness of Dreyer’s sets, his refusal to allow his actors to use makeup, and his use of extreme close-up photography, The Passion of Joan of Arc is in fact one of the most poignant, terrifying, and unrelentingly emotional historical documents ever filmed. “I am searching for nothing but life,” Dreyer wrote during the shooting. “. . . It is the objective drama of the spirit that is important, not the objective drama of the images.” Originally intending to make a sound film, Dreyer was forced by finances to abandon the idea. Maria Falconetti gives one of the greatest of all silent screen performances in her first (and last) film role, and Antonin Artaud and Michel Simon are memorably captured by Rudolph Maté’s camera."

Get your tickets now! Here's how:

To order through Ticketmaster, please click here.

Tickets on sale, free of handling charges, at Box Office at the Paramount Theatre (2025 Broadway, Oakland). The box office is located on the 21st Street side of the theatre. Paramount Theatre Box Office hours: Tuesday through Friday, 11:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Saturday, 11:00am - 3:00pm. Closed Sundays and Mondays.

Tickets are available on Ticketmaster until 4:30pm on the day of show. After that, they will be available starting two hours prior to showtime at the Paramount Theatre Box Office.

Prices: Nov 1- Dec 1: $20 SFF Member / $25 General
Day of Show (Dec 2): $25 SFF Member / $25 General

This event is General Admission. There is a limit of four (4) member-price tickets per member. Members Online: In order to receive your member discount online, you will need to enter a password on the Ticketmaster purchase page. If you are already a member, this password will be emailed to you separately. Members In Person: Please present your SFF Membership Card at the Paramount Theatre Box Office for your membership discount.

Michael Fox, writing in the East Bay Monthly, has described this event as “More than the centerpiece of the Pacific Film Archive’s Dreyer retrospective; it’s the spiritual highlight of the holiday season.”

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Silent Treatment

The latest issue of The Silent Treatment - a free email newsletter about silent film - is now out. And, it contains a piece about the upcoming San Francisco Silent Film Festival co-presentation of VOICES OF LIGHT / The Passion of Joan of Arc on Thursday, December 2 at 7:30 pm at the Paramount Theatre in Oakland.

There are also stories on the recent repatriation of films from Russia, the Lillian Gish film series in New York City, reviews of new books and DVDs, and an announcement regarding the 2011 Silent Movies Calendar, swimsuit issue.

To find out more and to subscribe to this great resource visit http://www.tstnews.net/

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

‘Baby’ Marie Osborne in San Francisco

The film world is mourning the loss of one of its earliest and oldest film stars. Child star ‘Baby’ Marie Osborne, whose career dated to the silent film era, passed away in Southern California on November 11 at the age of 99.

(more at both examiner.com and the New York Times)

The pint sized star made at least two personal appearances in San Francisco. At the Hippodrome Theater in 1919, Osborne made a personal appearance in support of her then recent release, The Old Maid’s Baby. She spoke from the stage, and the event was reported in the local press.

‘Baby’ Marie Osborne seems to have been a favorite of the old Hippodrome. Many of her films were screened there during the peak of her popularity, from 1914-1919.

Osborne, then about 11 years old and largely retired from acting, came to town once more in 1922. Osborne, along with numerous other films stars, came to San Francisco in support of Viola Dana and the release of her then new film, The 14th Lover, which was being screened at Loew's Warfield.

Along with ‘Baby’ Marie Osborne, also expected to attend this special happening were Billie Dove (then billed as Lillian Dove), Estelle Taylor (who would become Mrs. Jack Dempsey), Bebe Daniels, Mary Miles Minter, Thomas Meighan, Jack Mulhall, Lois Wilson, Ruth Roland, Fred Niblo, Clara Kimball Young, Hobart Bosworth, Conrad Nagel, May McAvoy, Enid Bennett, Shirley Mason, and others. 

Do notice the ticket prices (22, 36, or 13 cents plus tax), and that it's stated that smoking was permitted. Times do change.

At the height (so to speak) of her career, this tiny child actress was referred to as a “Baby Bernhardt” in the pages of the Oakland Tribune. And the San Francisco Chronicle referred to her best known film, Little Mary Sunshine (1916), which was, directed by Henry King, as “one of the sweetest child pictures ever filmed.”

A bit more about the actress can be found on Google books.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

‘Baby’ Marie Osborne

Child star ‘Baby’ Marie Osborne, whose career dated to the silent film era, has passed away in Southern California. The actress died on November 11 at the age of 99. According to press reports, the Denver-born Osborne was a favorite of audience during the First World War, when she made her film debut at age three, and soon appeared as the lead in 29 motion pictures (mostly for Balboa Studios), including Little Mary Sunshine (1916). That film is one of her few that survive to this day.

Her Wikipedia entry notes that her career was over by the time she was 8 years old. She returned to work with director Henry King (with whom she had worked before) in his 1934 picture, Carolina, with Janet Gaynor and Lionel Barrymore. Osborne also occasionally worked as an extra or a stand-in, frequently for actresses Ginger Rogers, Deanna Durbin, and Betty Hutton.

Among the press reports which have appeared announcing her death was this extensive article in the London Telegraph.

Henry King & Baby Marie (front), Lon Chaney with hat (center back)

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Like being there - 2010 Governors Awards

Here are links to some of the video recorded at last night's Governors Awards in which silent film historian Kevin Brownlow received an Honorary Oscar for his "For the wise and devoted chronicling of the cinematic parade."

James Karen on Kevin Brownlow -

Lindsay Doran on Kevin Brownlow -

Kevin Spacey on Kevin Brownlow -


Honorary Award recipient Kevin Brownlow -

Weekend update #25 - yesterday, today and tomorrow edition

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

1) Yesterday, film historian Kevin Brownlow received his special Academy Award - an Honorary Oscar for his "For the wise and devoted chronicling of the cinematic parade."  It is more than well deserved. Follow this Academy link for more on Brownlow's many accomplishments. Below is one image from the event. More can be found here. As well as on film historian Frank Thompson's Facebook account.

2) Today is Louise Brooks birthday. The Denishawn dancer, silent film actress, and accomplished writer was born on this day in 1906. Come celebrate at a special event to be held today at the San Francisco Public Library.

3) Tomorrow, don't forget to tune into Turner Classic Movies continuing series on 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. And, its been getting good reviews. The series airs Mondays on TCM. Adjunct to the television series is a traveling exhibit of Hollywood movie memorabilia, which included a stop in San Francisco this past week. Local film historian Donna Hill, author of Rudolph Valentino The Silent Idol: His Life in Photographs, posted some snapshots of the exhibit on her Facebook account.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Weekend update # 24 - things to do edition

Here are some 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 local band named Silent Pictures has an obvious love for silent film. The band - composed of members from San Francisco groups Mellow Drunk, Dora Flood and Boyskout as well as Los Angeles bands Sky Parade and Gene Loves Jezebel, began recording music under the name Silent Pictures in 2008.  (Their influences include everyone from David Bowie and New Order to The Kinks, The Smiths, and The Magnetic Fields.) Tonight, they'll be performing at The Knockout (3223 Mission near 29th street in SF). And at 9 pm at the same venue, there will be a screening of the 1925 Clara Bow film, Parisian Love. More about the band at http://www.myspace.com/silentpictures

2) Tickets are now on sale for another silent film musical event - Voices of Light / The Passion of Joan of Arc - an oratorio with silent film, with music by Richard Einhorn and the 1928 film by Carl Theodor Dreyer, conducted by Dr. Mark Sumner. This special event will take place Thursday, December 2 at 7:30 pm at the Paramount Theatre in Oakland. More about the event at http://www.silentfilm.org/event-home.php

3) One week from today, another special event - this one celebrating Louise Brooks and a new edition of The Diary of a Lost Girl (the book which was the basis for the celebrated 1929 Brooks film of the same name) - will take place at the San Francisco Public Library. The event, "The Diary of a Lost Girl, from book to film," will include a short presentation by Thomas Gladysz, editor of the new edition, followed by a screening of the G.W. Pabst film.

Those planning on attending might also be interested to know that a special display on the fourth floor of the library features archival material related to the 1905 book and 1929 film. "The Diary of a Lost Girl, from book to film" is set to take place in the Koret Auditorium of the SFPL at 1 pm on November 14th (Louise Brooks birthday).

Earlier this week, the English-language news site Deutsche Welle ran an article about the event and this new edition of The Diary of a Lost Girl. More information on this newly published book and other related events can be found here.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Silent Film Festival Presents VOICES OF LIGHT

The Silent Film Festival, Pacific Film Archive, and Paramount Theatre present
The Passion of Joan of Arc
Thursday, December 2 at 7:30 pm
Paramount Theatre, Oakland
The Pacific Film Archive, Paramount Theatre, and the Silent Film Festival are thrilled to announce a presentation of VOICES OF LIGHT/THE PASSION OF JOAN OF ARC, an Oratorio with Silent Film on Thursday, December 2 at 7:30pm at Oakland's Paramount Theatre. This event combines the performance of Richard Einhorn's choral and orchestral work, Voices of Light, with Carl Theodor Dreyer's 1928 silent film The Passion of Joan of Arc. It's an event not to be missed.

Dreyer's depiction of the trial and execution of Joan of Arc is rightfully canonized as one of cinema's masterpieces. The film combines the actual written records of the trial with a style that draws on French Impressionism, German Expressionism, and Soviet Montage to create a visually breathtaking and emotionally intimate portrayal of the young woman's interrogation and last moments. As Joan, Maria Falconetti gives what "may be the finest performance ever recorded on film" (Pauline Kael).

The composition Voices of Light, scored by Richard Einhorn for soloists, chorus, and orchestra, "sublimely matches one of the great films of all time" (Chicago Sun-Times). Voices of Light will be conducted on December 2 by Dr. Mark Sumner and performed by a chorus of 200 voices and a twenty-two piece orchestra. Dr. Sumner and the University of California Alumni Chorus will be joined by the women of UC Berkeley's Perfect Fifth; tenor soloist Daniel Ebbers and baritone soloist Martin Bell; and UC Men's and Women's Chorales.

For  more information, please visit the Silent Film Festival website.

This event is General Admission:
$25 General / Member and Student Discount Discounts Available
Tickets available online at Ticketmaster.com and at the Paramount Theatre Box Office, 2025 Broadway, Oakland (box office located at the 21st Street entrance)