Friday, August 24, 2012

Screening of Twin Peaks Tunnel

One night only!
TWIN PEAKS TUNNEL
Film Strip of Twin Peaks Tunnel
- Screening & Discussion -
Wednesday, August 29 at 6:00 pm
California Historical Society
678 Mission Street, San Francisco 
 RSVP Here - Free Admission!

Please join us for a rare screening of the 1917 sponsored documentary Twin Peaks Tunnel. Shot during the years 1914-16, the film features exceptional footage of the construction of the Twin Peaks Tunnel, the clearing of Sutro Forest, as well as development of the Westwood Park residential district. Sponsored by the Baldwin and Howell Real Estate Company of San Francisco, newspaper advertisements indicate that the film was first shown on October 13, 1917 in their Kearny Street storefront.

In 2009 an original 28mm print of the film was donated to the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum. Recognizing the historical value of this motion picture time capsule, film restorer and preservationist (and SFSFF Board President) Rob Byrne and museum historian David Kiehn applied for and received a grant from the San Francisco-based National Film Preservation Foundation to preserve and restore the film.

Rob Byrne will tell a brief history of the film and its preservation, the background of the Twin Peaks Tunnel project and the development of western San Francisco followed by a screening of the complete 19 minute Twin Peaks Tunnel (1917). Woody LaBounty from Western Neighborhoods Project will also discuss Westwood Park, the building of the tunnel, and show some additional footage not included in the Niles print.

Rob Byrne is president of the board of directors for the San Francisco Silent Film Festival, a nonprofit organization promoting the artistic, cultural, and historic value of silent film.

Woody LaBounty is director of the Western Neighborhoods Project, a nonprofit focused on preserving and sharing the history of western San Francisco, which includes the Westwood Park neighborhood, prominently featured in the Twin Peaks Tunnel film. 

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Thursday, August 16, 2012

Frank Thompson - The Commentary Track

Frank Thompson is an acclaimed film historian and author with more than forty books and hundreds of articles, interviews and reviews to his credit. He has also worked as a writer for television, contributed commentary to various DVDs, and has produced, written and/or directed several documentaries. Thompson, we are also pleased to note, was also one of the very first author-guests at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival! He appeared at the Festival in 1997 to sign copies of his then recently published book, Lost Films: Important Movies That Disappeared (Citadel), an examination of 27 silent films that likely will never be seen again.

Recently, Thompson started a new venture - "The Commentary Track," a weekly podcast featuring conversations with leading film historians, archivists, actors and filmmakers on all aspects of film history. Each of these freely available podcasts last about an hour; in them, Thompson and his guests swap Hollywood stories and celebrate the great movies – and movie makers – of the 20th Century.

Thompson, who has also penned books on William Wellman, Henry King, Robert Wise and early film-making in Texas, has an obvious love for early Hollywood. And that's just what some of his guests - like Kevin Brownlow, Rudy Behlmer, John Bengtson, Marilyn Moss and others - have been discussing on "The Commentary Track." (Others, like Carl Davis and Randy Skretvedt will be heard in the coming weeks.) 

The San Francisco Silent Film Festival encourages you to check out "The Commentary Track." It is a lot of fun, and makes for great listening. We think the Rudy Behlmer episode is of special interest. Rudy speaks about having grown up in San Francisco, where he watched movies at the neighborhood Balboa Theater and also took in silent films at the Palace of Fine Arts and Jewish Community Center in the 1930s! And did you know about the Chaplin Festival on Treasure Island during the 1939 World's Fair....

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Peter Pan shows in Vacaville

As they have each year for the last few years, the Vacaville Christian School Radio Symphony in Vacaville will accompany the screening of a silent film. This year, the film is Peter Pan (1924), Herbert Brenon's classic film adaption of the classic story of a special boy.

Ralph Martin, director of the music program at the Vacaville parochial school, will lead an orchestra of students and adults in a performance of an original score. Screenings will take place at 7 pm on August 15 and 16 at the Brenden Theatres in Vacaville.


Released by Paramount Pictures in 1924, this silent-era telling of Peter Pan was the first film adaptation of the J. M. Barrie play, which had first been staged only twenty years earlier in 1904.

Brenon's film has an "all-star" cast which includes Betty Bronson as Peter Pan, Ernest Torrence as Captain Hook, Mary Brian as Wendy, Esther Ralston as Mrs. Darling, Philippe De Lacy as Michael Darling, and Virginia Browne Faire as Tinker Bell. Anna May Wong, a groundbreaking Chinese-American actress, plays an Indian princess named Tiger Lily.


At the time, the film was celebrated for its innovative special effects - notably in showing an  illuminated fairy, Tinker Bell, and in showing Peter Pan fly. In 2000, the film was deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" by the Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry.

Herbert Brenon was one of the exceptional directors of the 1920s, and Peter Pan stands as one of his finest achievements. Prior to Peter Pan, Brenon had scored a hit with The Spanish Dancer (1923), starring Pola Negri. It has recently been restored and was shown at July's San Francisco Silent Film Festival.

The year after Peter Pan, Brenon scored another hit with The Street of Forgotten Men (1925), a gritty story of beggars in New York's Bowery. It starred Mary Brian (who in one scene sits at a piano playing sheet music from Peter Pan), and marked the first film appearance of Louise Brooks.

The Street of Forgotten Men was followed by a remarkable run of popular and critical successes which includes A Kiss for Cinderella (1925), another film based on a J.M. Barrie story starring Betty Bronson and Esther Ralston, Beau Geste (1926), the original Great Gatsby (1926), Dancing Mothers (1926) with Clara Bow, the curiously named hit God Gave Me Twenty Cents (1926), Sorrell and Son (1927), and Laugh, Clown, Laugh (1928), with Lon Chaney.


This year marks the sixth time Martin and his students have tackled the score to a silent film. Previous screenings have featured such seminal silent films as Harold Lloyd's Safety Last! (1923), The Adventures of Prince Achmed (1926), the futuristic classic Metropolis (1927), the first film to win an Academy Award, Wings (1927), and Charlie Chaplin's City Lights (1931).

For more info: The Brenden Theatres are located at 531 Davis St. in Vacaville. Tickets may be purchased at the theater or at Vacaville Christian Schools, 1117 Davis St., in Vacaville. Tickets are $15 at the door.