Sunday, December 30, 2012

Castro Theatre presents Snow White and the Seven Drawfs

Tuesday, January 1 – Sunday, January 6, 2013
(1:30), 3:45, 6:00, 8:15
1937 | 83 min | DCP

For a limited engagement running January 1–6, the Castro Theatre will present a sparkling new restoration of one of the greatest animated films of all time,  Disney's much beloved classic Snow White and the Seven Drawfs. This new digital restoration,  coming some 75 years after its world premiere, brings the richness and beauty of the enchanting 1937 musical fairy tale to its full glory.
Based on the story by the Brothers Grimm, Snow White tells the tale of the beautiful maiden declared “the fairest one of all” by a magic mirror who befriends seven forest dwarves (Doc, Grumpy, Happy, Sleepy, Bashful, Sneezy and Dopey).

Named the “Greatest Animated Film of All Time” by the American Film Institute in 2008 -  and only one of two animated films to be included in AFI's list of 100 greatest American films of all time, Snow White and the Seven Drawfs was truly groundbreaking as the first full length Disney feature film, the first full length animated feature produced in the United States, and the first full length movie in color. For the film’s 75th anniversary, Disney has restored the beautifully rendered artistry of the film's cel animation, enhancing the richness of the picture.

This special presentation will be followed by a equally special screening at the Castro Theatre of the original silent version of Snow White (1916) on Saturday, February 16 at 10:00 am. Musical accompaniment by Donald Sosin on grand piano.

Walt Disney was a 16-year-old newsboy when he attended a free event at the Kansas City Convention Center in 1917 to see Miss Marguerite Clark on screen in a live-action rendition of a German fairy tale, Snow White. It was one of the first features he’d ever seen and he was hooked. “I thought it was the perfect story… It had the sympathetic dwarfs…the heavy…the prince and the girl. The romance…the perfect story.” 

As part of the Walt Disney Family Museum’s celebration of Disney’s Snow White, the San Francisco Silent Film Festival is thrilled to present Walt’s original inspiration. Directed by J. Searle Dawley with Marguerite Clark in the lead role, the film was thought lost until materials were discovered in the Netherlands, and a print was preserved at George Eastman House. Clark’s portrayal of the dewy fresh Snow White is pitch perfect—even though she was 33 at the time!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Best Films Books of 2012

It has been a great year for books about the movies. Looking over the many titles released this year, it's striking how many of the best of them – or at least the most compelling and interesting titles – are biographies or biographical career studies. If you have an interest in silent film or film history, there is something about the life story of an actor or director that makes for good reading – especially if that story is well told or groundbreaking in some way. With that said, here are 10 recommended books published in 2012, listed alphabetically by author.

Mae Murray: The Girl with the Bee-Stung Lips, by Michael G. Ankerich (University Press of Kentucky)

-- Mae Murray, known as "the girl with the bee-stung lips," was a fiery presence in silent-era Hollywood. Renowned for her beauty, she was a major star at Universal, playing opposite Rudolph Valentino in The Delicious Little Devil (1919) and most famously, in the title role of Erich von Stroheim's The Merry Widow (1925). Murray's moment in the spotlight, however, was fleeting. The introduction of talkies, a string of failed marriages, a serious career blunder, and a number of legal battles left the former star in a state of poverty and mental instability that she would never overcome. In this intriguing, thoroughly researched biography, Michael G. Ankerich traces Murray's career from the footlights of Broadway to the klieg lights of Hollywood, charting her rapid ascent to fame and decline into obscurity. The book includes an interview with actor George Hamilton, whom the actress befriended and danced with at the end of her life.

The Life and Death of Thelma Todd, by William Donati (McFarland)

-- Thelma Todd, popularly known in the 1930s as the "ice cream blonde,” was more than just a beautiful actresses and delicious personality who played opposite Cary Grant, Buster Keaton, Laurel and Hardy, and the Marx Brothers. Todd's tragic death at age 29 – ruled accidental carbon monoxide poisoning though widely thought to be murder or suicide – transformed her into an icon of Hollywood scandal and mystery about which conspiracy theories still circulate. This biography covers a fascinating era in Hollywood history. Also examined is Hollywood's first major sex scandal of 1913, involving Jewel Carmen, the future spouse of director Roland West – the man Todd loved at the time of her death. The Life and Death of Thelma Todd includes a transcript of the coroner's inquest.

Mr. Griffith's House with Closed Shutters: The Long Buried Secret That Turned Lawrence Into D.W., by William Drew (Mutoscope Publishing)

-- Lillian Gish once said, "There was suggestion of mystery about Mr. Griffith that has never been solved." William Drew’s new book goes a long way in revealing that mystery. An industrious researcher, Drew has uncovered unknown material about the early life of D.W. Griffith, the pioneering director who not only helped create the "language" of film but was responsible for Birth of a Nation (1915), a flawed masterpiece for which he is still reviled today. Griffith is one of the most documented artists of the 20th century, yet Drew’s findings shed new light on Griffith the man and Griffith the filmmaker. This is a problematic book on a problematic figure, which nevertheless deserves to be read.

Col. William N. Selig, the Man Who Invented Hollywood, by Andrew A. Erish (University of Texas Press)

-- This may well be the film book of the year, simply because it so effectively documents the life and career of one of the least known though most seminal figures in all of film history. William Selig was a visionary, as well as someone who made it up as he went along – a pioneer who set the foundation for the movie industry we know today. Active from 1896 to 1938, Selig was responsible for an amazing number of firsts, including the first two-reel narrative film and the first two-hour narrative feature made in America; the first American movie serial with cliffhanger endings; the first westerns filmed in the West with real cowboys and Indians; the creation of the jungle-adventure genre; the first horror film in America; the first successful American newsreel (made in partnership with William Randolph Hearst); and the first permanent film studio in Los Angeles. Selig was also among the first to cultivate the extensive exhibition of American films overseas, which in turn helped create a worldwide audience for American films and contributed to American domination of the medium. But wait, there's more. . . . Selig discovered talent like Bert Williams and Tom Mix; encouraged actors under contract to write and direct; and helped the second generation of producers get a foothold within the industry, which led to the establishment of Warner Bros., MGM and Fox. He also had a knack at promotion. Selig’s popular Western travelogues, some of which were shot from the back of moving trains, were lent an air of verisimilitude when screened in parked railroad cars in the Eastern cities in which they played. Selig, notably, also produced a film that resulted in the Catholic Church lifting its ban on the viewing of motion pictures, and near the end of his career, produced a still controversial film about the Armenian genocide that starred a survivor of that historic event. Selig, seemingly, did it all.

The Silent Films of Harry Langdon (1923-1928), by James L. Neibaur (Scarecrow Press)
Stan Without Ollie: The Stan Laurel Solo Films, 1917-1927, by Ted Okuda and James L. Neibaur

-- James Neibaur is one of our most accomplished historians of early comedy. Late last year, he penned a notable book on Chaplin's early years. This year, he is responsible for two fine books on two iconic figures. In The Silent Films of Harry Langdon, Neibaur examines Langdon's quirky, slower paced films while making a case for his place among the era's great comedians. In Stan Without Ollie, Neibaur and co-author Okuda detail the little known career Stan Laurel had before teaming up with Oliver Hardy and achieving film immortality. Stan Without Ollie includes a forward by comedian Jerry Lewis, the subject of one of two forthcoming books co-authored by Neibaur due out in 2013. The other is on Buster Keaton.

Mary Pickford: Queen of the Movies, edited by Christel Schmidt (University Press of Kentucky)

-- Ahead of the major Mary Pickford biopic now in the works comes this lavishly illustrated collection of essays on one of cinema's first great stars. Co-published with the Library of Congress and featuring more than two hundred color and black and white illustrations, Mary Pickford: Queen of the Movies outlines the story of "America's Sweetheart," a gifted actress and film superstar who was also a philanthropist and savvy industry leader who fought for creative control of her films and ultimately became her own producer. One of the powerful women of early Hollywood, Pickford was also one of the co-founders of United Artists and, as this book reveals, a key figure in American cinematic history. Contributors include Molly Haskell, James Card, Eileen Whitfield, Kevin Brownlow and others.

Thomas Ince: Hollywood's Independent Pioneer, by Brian Taves (University Press of Kentucky)

-- Today, pioneering filmmaker Thomas H. Ince is best remembered for having died aboard a yacht belonging to media tycoon William Randolph Hearst. Officially he died of heart trouble, but Hollywood rumor suggested he had been shot by Hearst in a dispute over actress Marion Davies. The circumstances of Ince's death have tainted his reputation and, unfortunately, diminished the way his many contributions to the film industry are remembered. Ince, for one thing, turned movie-making into a business enterprise. Progressing from actor to director and screenwriter, he revolutionized the motion picture industry through the development of the role of the producer. In addition to building the first major Hollywood studio facility, dubbed "Inceville," he was responsible for hundreds of films, including The Italian (1915, as screenwriter) and Civilization (1916, as director), both of which have been selected for preservation by the United States National Film Registry. Author and archivist Brian Taves recounts a remarkable saga, providing a glimpse inside the world of a key silent-era filmmaker.

Lupe Velez: The Life and Career of Hollywood's "Mexican Spitfire," by Michelle Vogel (McFarland)

-- Michelle Vogel, who has authored excellent books on Olive Thomas, Gene Tierney, Joan Crawford, and others, has now penned the first full-length study of the life and work of the Mexican-born actress Lupe Velez. Over the years, many crude myths have surfaced about Velez, a beauty known as the “Mexican spitfire” who got her start in silent films. The most notorious is that she "died with her head in the toilet." This biography details Lupe's personal life and career - including her affairs with the likes of Gary Cooper, Errol Flynn and others, as well as her tempestuous marriage to Johnny Weissmuller. It also examines her untimely death, while putting to rest the ugly rumors and legends which have surrounded the actresses passing. Included are never-before-told family stories and photographs, and an analysis of the actress' continuing influence on popular culture. A foreword by Oscar-winning film historian Kevin Brownlow focuses on Velez's colorful public image.

Carl Theodor Dreyer and Ordet: My Summer with the Danish Filmmaker, by Jan Wahl (University Press of Kentucky)

-- Danish director Carl Theodor Dreyer achieved worldwide acclaim with his early masterpiece, The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928). Over the last few year, another of Dreyer's films, a lesser known later work, Ordet (1955), has begun to show up on lists of the greatest films of all time. In the year it was made, Dreyer granted a 23 year-old American student the opportunity to spend a summer with him during the filming of Ordet. That student became Jan Wahl, the author of more than one hundred books, many for young readers, as well as some touching on film and film history, such as DEAR STINKPOT: Letters From Louise Brooks. Wahl's Carl Theodor Dreyer and Ordet: My Summer with the Danish Filmmaker is a book, in the words of David Thomson, "far from the usual run of 'film studies'."


Colleen Moore: A Biography of the Silent Film Star, by Jeff Codori (McFarland) is an appealing study of the life and films of one of the biggest stars of her time. Regrettably, this otherwise worthwhile book is marred by a lack of copyediting which distracts from the author’s commendable efforts.

Little Elf: A Celebration of Harry Langdon, by Chuck Harter and Michael J. Hayde (BearManor Media) is a massive, 692-page scrapbook style compendium featuring more than 500 images as well as five of Langdon's vaudeville scripts, ten profiles from vintage movie magazines, and an illustrated, full synopsis of Heart Trouble (1928), Langdon's lost silent feature.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Rare 1925 Christmas Seals cartoon

Here is a rare silent film era animated cartoon from 1925, a promotional film for Christmas Seals, with a new score created by Ben Model. This is a transfer from a rare 16mm print in Model's collection, digitally restored to stabilize the image and clean up as much of the printed-in scratches and dirt as possible. While the film has no credits, animation historians have ID'ed it as the handiwork of veteran animator Dick Huemer, who worked primarily for the Fleischer Studios.

New musical score composed & performed by Ben Model. Music ©2011 by Ben Model. All rights reserved. // Film transfer by Bruce Lawton. Digital restoration by Archive Ade Restorations

Watch the unrestored version posted two years ago to see the difference at

Monday, December 24, 2012

Happy Holidays from Clara Bow and the San Francisco Silent Film Festival

Happy Holidays from Clara Bow and the San Francisco Silent Film Festival.

Speaking of the It Girl, on December 30th BBC TV is showing a new documentary about the actress titled Hollywood's Lost Screen Goddess, Clara Bow. More info here on this UK broadcast, which we believe includes an appearance by our own Diana Serra Carey (aka Baby Peggy).

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Giving. Enchantment. Taxes.

'Tis the time of year when you can support one of the Bay Area's most enchanting cultural events and take a tax write-off!
Our wonderful members and sponsors have made 2012 the most exciting year in our 17-year history! Our spring presentation of Kevin Brownlow's restoration of Napoleon accompanied by maestro Carl Davis set the bar high. We followed it with a triumphant summer festival that included the gorgeous restoration of Pandora's Box accompanied by the world premiere of Matti Bye's beautiful new score; Paramount's restoration of Wings accompanied by the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra with live Foley effects by Academy Award-winning sound designer Ben Burtt; Buster Keaton's The Cameraman preceded by an audience full of Buster Keatons (courtesy of our friends at Fandor). We launched a new website that contains all of our essays from years past and is full of beautiful images. We are adding new information all the time, and promise interesting articles and links to come. We could go on... 

We have exciting plans for this upcoming year (including our Silent Winter event on Feb. 16, our summer Festival July 18-21, and a very special spring presentation we'll be announcing soon) and we hope you'll join us in the festivities. Your support has made San Francisco Silent Film Festival the largest and most important event of its kind in the Americas.

We hope you'll take this opportunity to support us and take a well-deserved tax break!
Here's to 2013!

Night of A Thousand Busters by Tommy Lau

Photo © Tommy Lau

Friday, December 7, 2012

A Century Ago: The Films of 1912

A Century Ago: The Films of 1912 -- Presented by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts
 and Sciences in association with the California Film Institute
Hosted by Randy Haberkamp
Piano Accompaniment by Michael Mortilla
Presented on a 1909 Powers Model 6 Cameragraph Motion Picture Machine Restored 
and Hand-Cranked by Joe Rinaudo
Monday, December 10, 7:00
$12 (CFI members $9)
Smith Rafael Film Center, 1118 Fourth St, San Rafael, CA 94901; 415.454.1222

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences celebrates the year 1912 and its developmental contributions to motion pictures with this program of films organized and selected by Randy Haberkamp the Academy’s Managing Director of Programming, Education and Preservation, with improvised piano accompaniment by Los Angeles-based musician Michael Mortilla. A new facet of our annual presentation of A Century Ago is the contribution of Joe Rinaudo, the mechanical restorer and showman who will personally hand-crank films in the audience on his vintage projector.

The theme this year is Bigger! Faster! Longer! The year 1912 witnessed dynamic competition between established studios and up-and-coming producers such as Carl Laemmle of Universal and Adolph Zukor of Famous Players (which would eventually become Paramount). The unique development of cinematic language through faster editing, more sophisticated staging and production design, and expanding to feature-length formats made 1912 a particularly distinguished year.

Most prints will be 35mm and are drawn from the collections of the Academy Film Archive, the Library of Congress and the UCLA Film & Television Archive. Program approximately 2 hours.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Sexiest Silent Star 2.0

The people have spoken! The results of our Sexiest Silent Star 2.0 survey are in. With write-in votes (one each) for Nils Asther, John Barrymore, Lon Chaney, Harold Lockwood, and René Navarre, Rudolph Valentino still wins handily with 57% of the vote in the male category. And once again Louise Brooks carries the female category with Clara Bow pulling a distant second. Write-ins on the female side include (with one vote each) Josephine Baker, Vilma Banky, Betty Compson (even though she was part of the survey!), Barbara La Marr, Lois Moran, and Olive Thomas. The Swedish star Mona Mårtenson got two votes! Skål, Mona!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Ultimate Buster Keaton collection

Just in time for the holidays...and now available for pre-order THE ULTIMATE BUSTER KEATON COLLECTION (Blu-ray only) contains of the Kino Classics' Ultimate Edition releases in one super-sized high definition boxed set. Includes SHORT FILMS COLLECTION: 1920-1923, THE SAPHEAD (1920), OUR HOSPITALITY (1923), SHERLOCK JR./THREE AGES (1923/1924), THE NAVIGATOR (1924), SEVEN CHANCES (1925), GO WEST/BATTLING BUTLER (1925/1926), THE GENERAL (1926), COLLEGE (1927, box set exclusive until early 2013), STEAMBOAT BILL, JR. (1928) and LOST KEATON (1934-1937). On sale now, click below to pre-order

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Give the Gift of Silents - 'tis the season

GIVE the
'tis the season! 
Holiday Gloria and Rudolph!
Give a GIFT MEMBERSHIP to the San Francisco Silent Film Festival and we'll send you a beautiful card to present to your favorite film fan - the perfect holiday gift!

Or give a SILENT WINTER PASS for our February 16 event! Or a specially discounted FESTIVAL 2013 PASS for the upcoming July 18-21, 2013 Festival (more than 25% off!). You will receive a lovely card for presenting your gift for each gift Pass you buy. (The holiday special discount on the Festival 2013 Pass is good only until December 31!)

Monday, December 3, 2012

Baby Peggy stars on Turner Classic Movies

Tonight, Turner Classic Movies (TCM) pays tribute to an American original, Diana Serra Cary, who in the 1920's was the child actress known as "Baby Peggy." Still active at age 94, Cary is widely considered the last surviving major silent film star.
Tonight's TCM line-up includes the television premiere of a new documentary, Baby Peggy: The Elephant in the Room (2012) by Dutch filmmaker Vera Iwerebor, as well as four silent films starring the diminutive actress, Carmen Jr. (1923), Peg o' the Mounted, Captain January and Such Is Life (all 1924).
If you don't know her name or films, you're not alone. Baby Peggy's film career ended some 85 years ago. And today, the one-time actress is largely known only to devotees of film history.
Baby Peggy: The Elephant in the Room seeks to change that. The title speaks to the unfortunate and almost tragic end to the actress' brief career, and the silence and denial which surrounded it. This fascinating and ultimately heartbreaking documentary tells the story of a childhood spent working like an adult.
Baby Peggy's story is a cautionary tale - one of worldwide fame, a fortune stolen, a trust broken, and a childhood lost. It is the epic story of a pint-sized movie star who conquered the world, only to lose it all. Iwerebor has done a fine job in telling Carey's story.

Turner Classic Movies will also screen Captain January, a film that helped make Baby Peggy a superstar. An adaption of the well known children's book, Captain January was the actress's second feature film and a smash hit in 1924. It tells the story of a lighthouse keeper who finds a little girl who has been washed ashore and tied to some wreckage. He adopts her and they become inseparable. Eventually her real family finds her and tries to take her away. The film was shown at the 2002 San Francisco Silent Film Festival.
Also set to be shown are three shorts starring Baby Peggy. These 2 reel films (approximately 10-12 minutes) were a popular form during the silent era, and they are how Baby Peggy got her start. Carmen Jr. (1923) is delicious comedic parody not to be missed.
Should you not be able to view this special evening of films, Milestone Video plans on releasing Baby Peggy: The Elephant in the Room later this year. The DVD release will include the three shorts, Carmen Jr., Peg o' the Mounted, and Such Is Life.