Sunday, January 29, 2012

Unveiling the New Napoleon Poster

To announce its special presentation of Abel Gance's legendary silent epic NAPOLEON in March, the San Francisco Silent Film Festival has commissioned this stunning poster by the legendary illustrator Paul Davis, perhaps best known for his iconic theater posters (Three Penny Opera, For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide...) for producer Joseph Papp.

Posters will be available for sale during all four NAPOLEON performance days at the Oakland Paramount (March 24, 25, 31, April 1) and online prior to the event. 
Stay tuned to SFSFF's website, Facebook page and Twitter for the on-sale announcement!
Or, sign up to be notified of poster availability by emailing

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Kevin Brownlow on PBS

Kevin Brownlow was on the PBS Newshour a few days ago speaking about the upcoming San Francisco Silent Film Festival presentation of Napoleon (1927). Jeffrey Brown spoke with the Academy Award-winning filmmaker and film historian responsible for the restoration.

More information and ticket availability at

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Historic San Francisco film emerges after 95 years

Robert Byrne, an East Bay film preservationist and President of the Board of Directors of the San Francisco Silent Film Festival, was part of the team (along with David Kiehn, one of the founders of the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum) behind the restoration of Twin Peaks Tunnel. This sponsored film from 1917 depicts a key moment in the development of the city of San Francisco.

In 2009, Byrne and Kiehn received a grant from the National Film Preservation Foundation to restore and transfer the film from 28mm to 35mm.

On January 21, the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum in Fremont will screen Twin Peaks Tunnel.  Saturday’s screening is the world premiere of a recently completed restoration of the historic film, which has not been publicly shown in 95 years.

Read more about this event and the history behind the film at SF Gate, the website of the San Francisco Chronicle.

The fragment of film strip depicted to the right comes from the original 28mm print of Twin Peaks Tunnel. Coincidentally, the scene shown of the beginning of work on the tunnel at Market and Castro on December 5, 1914 was shot not far from the home of the annual San Francisco Silent Film Festival, which takes place every July at the Castro Theater in San Francisco.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Le Petit Caporal - Napoleon

Last night's triple feature tribute on Turner Classic Movies to Le Petit Caporal (Napoleon) spotlighted the historical figure in three diverse features. 

In the period epic, Conquest (1937), Charles Boyer plays the French conqueror and Greta Garbo plays his Polish mistress, Countess Marie Walewska. In the second feature, Love and Death (1975), Woody Allen's satire of Russian history and literature, Napoleon makes a cameo appearance (played by James Tolkan) in a plot about an inept assassin's attempt on the life of the famous general.

In the third feature, Anthony Adverse (1936), Napoleon was also in the background but central to the story in which a dashing young adventurer (Fredric March) gets involved in the slave trade as well as the Napoleonic Wars. The Warner Bros. costume drama was directed by Mervyn LeRoy and nominated for seven Academy Awards, winning four of them including Best Supporting Actress (Gale Sondergaard), Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing and Best Music Score.

In conjunction with the showing of these Napoleon-related films, TCM has announced it will be serving as the official sponsor for The San Francisco Silent Film Festival's presentation of Abel Gance's 1927 masterpiece Napoleon on March 24, 25, 31 and April 1st at Oakland's Paramount Theatre.

The screenings, presented by the San Francisco Silent Film Festival in association with American Zoetrope, The Film Preserve, Photoplay Productions, and the BFI, mark the U.S. premiere of the complete restoration by legendary film historian Kevin Brownlow and the BFI, as well as the American premiere of the orchestral score by Carl Davis, who will conduct The Oakland East Bay Symphony - the first time in nearly 30 years since Napoleon has been screened in America with full orchestra. No other U.S. screenings are planned.

For more information, read the official press release.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Silent era screenwriter Frederica Sagor Maas dies at age 111

Frederica Sagor Maas, a pioneering female screenwriter of the silent era who penned films for likes of Clara Bow, Norma Shearer and Louise Brooks, died January 5th. She was 111 years old.
The La Mesa, California resident was one of the last surviving personalities from the silent film era. A "supercentarian," Maas was considered the third oldest person in California. In 1999, at the age of 99, she was a special guest at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival.

That same year, at the urging of film historian Kevin Brownlow, Maas had published her autobiography, The Shocking Miss Pilgrim: A Writer in Early Hollywood (University Press of Kentucky). In the book, which features a forward by Brownlow, she recalled her life both in and out of Hollywood.

In 1999, Maas visited San Francisco to promote her memoir. She made a brief appearance at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival, where she addressed a crowd of more than 1000, drew a thunderous round of applause, and signed copies of her book for her many new fans.

Following the death of Frederica Sagor Maas, a number of obituaries and articles have appeared on-line including those in the Los Angeles Times and Hollywood Reporter and on Alt Film Guide and and