Monday, August 22, 2011

The International Silent Film Festival

This year’s International Silent Film Festival in Manila features silent movies from around the world, each with live musical accompaniment. For more information, check out this article on a local Philippine website. The line-up of films looks appealing!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Our NEW YouTube channel

Check it out! The San Francisco Silent Film Festival now has a YouTube channel. Click on over and subscribe at

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Sounds of silent film star Baby Peggy

Earlier this year, Diana Serra Cary was interviewed by Mike Mashon of the Library of Congress about the recent discovery of a fragment of one of her once lost Baby Peggy films, The Darling of New York (1924). This video clip appeared on TCM (Turner Classic Movies) in April, 2011.

On Sunday, August 7th, Cary will be speaking about her life in Hollywood more than 85 years ago on the stage of the Koret Auditorium of the San Francisco Public Library. "An Afternoon with Baby Peggy" is set to start at 2 pm; the event includes the screening of one of the actress' short films. Afterwords, Cary will be signing copies of her book, What Ever Happened to Baby Peggy: The Autobiography of Hollywood's Pioneer Child Star.

Speaking of libraries, we recently noticed that the Library of Congress website has an audio recording of the early 1920's hit song, "That's My Baby." It's is performed by Fred Waring and His Pennsylvanians, one of the biggest musical acts of the time.

As can be seen from this scan of this vintage piece of sheet music, at the time of its release it was associated with one of Baby Peggy's films. (The song was recorded in October, 1923 and released as a 78 rpm recording in January, 1924). The diminutive dynamo is pictured on the cover of the sheet music.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Silent film star Baby Peggy celebrated in San Francisco

There is a new article about Diana Serra Cary / Baby Peggy on the San Francisco Chronicle website. "The return of Baby Peggy" can be found at here.

Coming attraction slide courtesy of "Starts Thursday"
The piece was occasioned by Cary's upcoming appearance at the San Francisco Public Library on Sunday, August 7th at 2 pm. "An Afternoon with Silent Film Star 'Baby Peggy" will feature a Baby Peggy short film (courtesy of the actress), an on-stage conversation, and a book signing. A little more info about the event can be found on the SFPL website and on its Facebook page.

The library is expecting a good crowd. The SFPL Koret Auditorium holds about 150 people. By the way: be sure and check out the San Francisco Public Library homepage which features a lovely image of Baby Peggy front and center -

Also, if you plan on attending, be sure and check out the various silent film exhibits on display around the library. More info on these exhibits can be found at on the SFPL website. The exhibits run through August 28.

Earlier, at 1 pm, on Sunday, August 7th there will be a 30 minute informal guided tour of one of the exhibits, "Reading the Stars," with exhibit organizers Thomas Gladysz, Christy Pascoe and Donna Hill. A little more info at the tour can be had at

"Reading the Stars" features rare vintage books relating to silent films stars such as Rudolph Valentino, Douglas Fairbanks, Louise Brooks, Buster Keaton, Mary Pickford, Eric von Stroheim, William S. Hart, Sessue Hayakawa and of course Baby Peggy.

Monday, August 1, 2011

16th Annual SF Silent Film Festival A Glorious Success!

After four days of packed houses and 18 extraordinary programs, the 16th Annual San Francisco Silent Film Festival ended on a spectacular note. 

Alexander Payne
Alexander Payne introduces the Closing Night Film 
Photo © Pamela Gentile
 The festival concluded with Victor Sjöström's masterpiece HE WHO GETS SLAPPED and the brilliant accompaniment by the Matti Bye Ensemble from Sweden. In their excellent introductions of the film, Guest Director Alexander Payne declared himself a "Silent Film Festival lifer," and Leonard Maltin expounded on the festival's growth and success.  

Four days earlier, the festival started on Opening Night with one of the more remarkable discoveries in recent years - the restoration of the lost John Ford film UPSTREAM, with accompaniment by the Donald Sosin Ensemble.

Brownlow and Napoleon
Kevin Brownlow illuminates his restoration of Abel Gance's NAPOLEON
Photo © Pamela Gentile 
The excitement of Opening Night was doubled by the announcement that the San Francisco Silent Film Festival, in association with American Zoetrope, The Film Preserve, Photoplay Productions, and BFI, will present Kevin Brownlow's restoration of NAPOLEON at the magnificent Paramount Theatre, Oakland, with Carl Davis conducting the U.S. premiere of his orchestral score. 
Brownlow went on to give an incredible presentation on Sunday morning detailing his life's masterwork of the complete restoration of Abel Gance's epic. Because of the scale and complexity of this production, this is the one and only opportunity to see this restoration in the United States. Napoleon tickets and information.

Silent Film Festival Award
Executive Director Stacey Wisnia presents the Silent Film Festival Award to Jan-Christoper Horak of UCLA Film & Television Archive
Photo © Pamela Gentile 
Saturday afternoon saw Executive Director Stacey Wisnia's presentation of the Silent Film Festival Award to the UCLA Film & Television Archive. Jan-Christopher Horak accepted the award onstage and introduced UCLA's recent restoration of THE GOOSE WOMAN, featuring Lousie Dresser's incredibly nuanced performance and accompaniment to match by Stephen Horne.
Matti Bye Ensemble
The Matti Bye Ensemble accompanies 
He Who Gets Slapped
Photo ©Pamela Gentile 

The fruits of the collaboration between the Silent Film Festival and the Headlands Center for the Arts to create a residency for Matti Bye and Kristian Holmgren culminated in the premiere of three beautiful scores at this year's festival. Their indelible accompaniment of THE GREAT WHITE SILENCE brought the audience to tears and received a standing ovation. 

The festival struck many other high notes:

The premiere of the George Eastman House restoration of the Douglas Fairbanks romp MR. FIX-IT, with accompaniment by Dennis James on the Castro's Mighty Wurlitzer, the preeminent theater organ in the world. 
Jonathan Richman
Jonathan Richman introduces
Il Fuoco with his Golden Rule  
Photo ©Tommy Lau  

Jonathan Richman invoked his personal Golden Rule in his hilarious introduction of the Italian diva film IL FUOCO: don't give the film away! Stephen Horne's accompaniment of the film was infused with the ethereal voice of Jill Tracy. 

The czar of noir Eddie Muller gave a rousing and appreciative introduction to the rare screening of THE WOMAN MEN YEARN FOR, Marlene Dietrich's first starring role, with lovely accompaniment by the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra.

This year's VARIATIONS ON A THEME panel sparked controversy with its sometimes heated and often eloquent discussion of different approaches to silent film accompaniment. 
Giovanni Spinelli
Giovanni Spinelli accompanies Sunrise 
Photo ©Pamela Gentile  
 The Thursday night presentation of SUNRISE was accompanied by the world premiere of Giovanni Spinelli's electric guitar score. Spinelli performed onstage with the film, inspiring both rapturous praise and equally adamant detraction. 
The very rare presentation of Mikhail Kalatozov's artful agitprop film THE NAIL IN THE BOOT featured music by Stephen Horne, who accompanied on piano, accordion, and flute (sometimes simultaneously!).  

On Saturday morning, Leonard Maltin and J.B. Kaufman gave a tour of Walt Disney's first animated shorts, DISNEY'S LAUGH-O-GRAMS, which, with accompaniment by Donald Sosin and student musicians, delighted adults and children alike.  

We loved seeing you there and sharing these films and programs with you, and cannot wait to see you again in March for NAPOLEON at the Paramount Theatre!