Showing posts with label Weekend update. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Weekend update. Show all posts

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Weekend update #12

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

1) As our neighbors at the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum in Fremont conclude this weekend's "Chaplin Days" celebration, word has gotten out that a previously unknown Chaplin film has been uncovered. The film, A Thief Catcher (1914), will be shown at this year's Slapsticon in Washington D.C. Directed by Henry Lehrman and featuring Keystone regulars Ford Sterling, Mack Swain, and Edgar Kennedy, A Thief Catcher  includes a young Charlie Chaplin making what Slapsticon describes as “an extended and very funny cameo as a policeman.” It's only a small role, but its discovery by film historian Paul E. Gierucki gives hope that other lost or unknown Chaplin work might one day come to light.

2) Recently, this blog was the recipient of a couple of nice comments on other blogs, including The Bioscope, which described us as "very active," and The Silent Movie Blog, which noted that we have a "good blog." Thank you. This blog got its start late last year. And Friday's post, about new educational and programming initiatives, was its 100th post in 2010. We're just getting started. . . .

3) Yesterday, we wrote a bit about Häxan, Benjamin Christensen’s fantastic 1922 silent film about witchcraft. The more one reads about it, the more bizarre it seems. Did you know, for example, that in 1968 an abbreviated version of the film (77 minutes long as opposed to the original 104 minutes) was released. That version, entitled Witchcraft Through The Ages, featured an eclectic jazz score by Daniel Humair (performed by a quintet which included Jean-Luc Ponty on violin) and dramatic narration by none other than William S. Burroughs! The restored version screened on July 17th at this summer's San Francisco Silent Film Festival will feature a score commissioned by the Swedish Film Institute from the acclaimed silent film composer by Matti Bye.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Weekend update #10

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

1) Along with a full schedule of films and special guests, a number of writers and film historians are also set to attend this year's Festival. They range from internationally known film historians and biographers to first time authors. On the schedule to meet the public and sign books are Sarah Baker (Lucky Stars: Janet Gaynor and Charles Farrell); Samuel Bernstein (Lulu: A Novel); Kevin Brownlow (The Parade's Gone By); Robert Dix (Out of Hollywood); Thomas Gladysz (The Diary of a Lost Girl); Donna Hill (Rudolph Valentino - The Silent Idol: His Life in Photographs); David Kiehn (Broncho Billy and the Essanay Film Company); Leonard Maltin (Leonard Maltin's 151 Best Movies You've Never Seen); David Menefee (George O'Brien: A Man's Man in Hollywood); Scott OBrien (Ann Harding - Cinema's Gallant Lady); Ira Resnick (Starstruck: Vintage Movie Posters from Classic Hollywood); Anthony Slide (Inside the Hollywood Fan Magazine: A History of Star Makers, Fabricators, and Gossip Mongers); Jeffrey Vance (Douglas Fairbanks); Gregory Paul Williams (The Story of Hollywood: An Illustrated History); and Lucy Autry Wilson (George Lucas's Blockbusting: A Decade-by-Decade Survey of Timeless Movies Including Untold Secrets of Their Financial and Cultural Success). One or two more may be added in the coming weeks. The date and approximate time of each of these signings will also be posted within the next week or so.

2) As in the past, also attending the Festival are musicians and film-makers, some of whom this year will be signing their respective CDs and DVDs. For example, after the "Variations on a Theme: Musicians on the Craft of Composing and Performing for Silent Film" panel on Saturday the 17th, we hope to have some of the musicians participating in that event sign their CDs. And at least of couple of DVDs will be making their debut at this year's festival. For example, Flicker Alley has just announced that it will be releasing Chicago (which was the hit of the 2006 Winter Event). We've been promised that it will be available at the festival. Also debut on DVD at the Festival is Elaine Mae Woo's acclaimed documentary, Anna May Wong: Frosted Yellow Willows. Woo will be on hand to sign copies of this soon to be released limited edition DVD.

3) The West Coast - from Seattle and Portland in the north through the Bay Area to Los  Angeles and Pasadena to the south - seems to be a haven for silent film presentation. Yesterday, the Los Angeles Times ran an article about today's showing of the 1928 Buster Keaton film, The Cameraman. Timothy Brock will be conducting the world premiere of his new score at the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra's Silent Film Gala at Royce Hall on the UCLA campus. And as well, ran an article this past week about a May 28th screening of Pandora's Box at the Boston Court Performing Arts Complex in Pasadena. At that event, bassist Tom Peters will perform his original score to the film.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Weekend update #8

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

1) The San Francisco Chronicle ran a fascinating piece on their website on April 30th about something we had written about on this blog a few weeks back. The paper ran a piece on A Trip Down Market Street and local film historian David Kiehn's efforts to uncover its secret history. Be sure and check out the San Francisco Chronicle article here.

2) The San Francisco Silent Film Festival has announced another of the programs for this Summer's annual event. In it's last email newsletter, the SFSFF wrote "We are absolutely thrilled to tell you that we are bringing Matti Bye, a rising international musical star, to perform with the Matti Bye Ensemble. They will play their haunting original score for Benjamin Christensen’s incomparable Häxan, a witches’ brew of the scary, gross, and darkly humorous. Bye has been a composer and silent film accompanist at the Swedish Film Institute since 1989, and won the 2008 Guldbagge Award (the Swedish Oscar) for his score of Jan Troell’s Everlasting Moments, Sweden’s 2009 submission to the Academy Awards. We have the great pleasure of hosting Bye’s first West Coast appearance and cannot wait to share the talents of this luminary with you!"

3) Speaking of the San Francisco Chronicle and the San Francisco Silent Film Festival, the paper also just recently ran an article about the festival and the fact that it is celebrating its 15th anniversary this July. The article can be found here.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Weekend update #7

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

1) "It has recently become axiomatic that film criticism is in crisis." If you hadn't known, or perhaps had an inkling, or just had your doubts - be sure and check out the article about film scholar David Bordwell in today's New York Times. It's an interesting read. Bordwell is, of course, best known for the book he co-authored with Kristin Thompson and Janet Staiger, The Classical Hollywood Cinema: Film Style & Mode of Production to 1960 (Columbia University Press, 1985). Bordwell, now retired, also has an active website and blog.

Of that well known book, Manhola Dargis wrote in the New York Times: "Though well received, the book had its detractors and continues to draw criticism for, among other things, its cut-off dates and insistence on the coherence of the Hollywood style. The book alone certainly didn’t reintroduce history back into film studies, but its insistence on the historical conditions that control and shape 'textual processes,' along with the depth and breadth it brought to writing film history, has been profound. The discipline’s new emphasis on cinema’s past has been rewarding, but it also suggests that film studies has entered a nostalgic, even elegiac stage: many scholars have turned back the clock to write about early and silent cinema at the very moment that others are theorizing about the end of cinema in the digital age."

2) Are you looking to get rid of a playable upright or baby grand piano that can be tuned for a professional? We would be delighted to take it off your hands to use for the festivities surrounding the 15th Anniversary Festival, and beyond. If you or someone you know has just such a piano, please email San Francisco Silent Film Festival office manager Lucia Pier. Or give us a call! Contact info can be found on the SFSFF website.

3) Excitement continues to grow around the screening of the restored Metropolis at this summer's San Francisco Silent Film Festival. This very special event will mark the first showing of the restored version in Northern California! The world famous Alloy Orchestra will debut their score for the film!! And as well, archivists Paula Felix Didier and Fernando Peña of the Museo del Cine in Buenos Aires, Argentina (the team responsible for bringing the lost Metropolis footage to light) will be in attendance and introduce the film!!!  It's an event not to be missed!!!! KINO has just launched a mini-website all about the newly restored Metropolis. It contains lots of stuff, including a history of the film, stills, artwork, video clips and more. [Image courtesy of the Deutsche Kinemathek.]

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Weekend update #5

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

1) Last weekend, we reported that a long lost 8mm home movie featuring footage of Charlie Chaplin had resurfaced, and would be shown in public for the first time in the United States. The footage was in the possession of Vermont resident Susan Cooke Kittredge, daughter of the late journalist and television host Alistair Cooke, who shot the film in 1933. The film was lost for over 70 years, and was only rediscovered after Cooke’s death in 2004.

After Kittredge discovered the film, she had the print restored. The 11-minute silent short, All at Sea, was screened on April 7th in Montpelier, Vermont. More than 100 people attended the event. According to the Canadian Press and other media sources, Kittredge plans a second showing in Middlebury on May 5, as part of a lecture about her father's life. However, she has no plans to sell the lone copy of the film, or seek a wider audience for it.

2) Back in 2007, the San Francisco Silent Film Festival screened Beggars of Life, the rarely shown 1928 William Wellman film based on the acclaimed book by hobo-writer Jim Tully. It, and the live musical accompaniment by the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra, drew a standing ovation. The film returns to the screen in the UK, where it will be shown with live musical accompaniment by the Dodge Brothers on April 18th as part of the British Silent Film Festival. More info here.

3) According to articles in the Utica Observer-Dispatch and elsewhere, controversy has once again broken out over the screening of the D.W. Griffith film Birth of a Nation (1915). The Upstate New York paper reports that a local theater plans to go ahead with its April 17th screening, despite letters to the editor and calls from community leaders demanding the screening be canceled.

Art Pierce, Executive Director of the Capitol Theater in Rome, N.Y., said the purpose behind showing the film is "not to 'create racial unrest' but to explore the film's artistic merits and to encourage understanding of a time in our nation's history a century ago when racial divisions were particularly evident." The Capitol Theatre, however, did agree to restrict those under 16 from entering the film without a parent or guardian.

Follow the links contained in this short write-up for more about the current controversy. A fascinating book which explores the history of the film and the controversy which has surrounded it in the past is Melyvn Stokes' D.W. Griffith's the Birth of a Nation: A History of the Most Controversial Motion Picture of All Time (Oxford University Press). That recommended book can be found online and at better independent bookstore.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Weekend update #3

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

1) Variety reports that Technicolor has donated its archive, one of the most important collections relating to color in film, to the George Eastman House. The gift is reportedly worth millions. According to Variety, "The Technicolor gift, which has been moved to a new Eastman House facility in Rochester, N.Y., includes rare cameras, documents and drawings, photographs, printers and processing machines, as well as corporate records going back to 1915." Of course, a handful of silent films are known for their early use of Technicolor, such as The Black Pirate (1926), which was shot entirely in two-strip technicolor - and The American Venus (1926), which featured Technicolor sequences.

2) A follow-up to the recent posts about online silent film magazines. Previously, we have covered some of the American, Brazilian and Spanish magazines which have been digitized and placed on the internet. There are also French, Italian, and English periodicals online, as well a few from other countries.An excellent guide to finding and accessing those titles can be found on the always excellent Bioscope blog at

3) The curiously named Eskimo Spit Bath Orchestra website is host to a fantastic collection of "fan photos" - those once ubiquitous and once inexpensive 5 x 7 photographs with printed or stamped signatures and inscriptions. (Few were actually signed by the stars.) As a matter of fact, there are so many - more than 380 - that the images have been divided into two pages, Cinema Stars 1924-30 A-L and Cinema Stars 1924-30 M-W. Here are a couple that caught our eye. Virginia Valli is on the left. Harry Langdon is on the right.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Weekend update #2

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

1) A few days ago, the Los Angles Times ran an article about one man's struggle to make a documentary about his search for the lost sets of Cecil B. DeMille's The Ten Commandments (the 1923 silent version). An epic film - the sets were in turn a "colossal Egyptian dreamscape" located along the California Coast. Year's later, in his autobiography, DeMille considered the prospect that his lost city would be unearthed: "If 1,000 years from now archaeologists happen to dig beneath the sands of Guadalupe . . . . I hope they will not rush into print with the amazing news that Egyptian civilization . . . extended all the way to the Pacific coast of North America."

More than 30 years ago, film school graduate Peter Brosnan embarked on a journey that has yet to end - a quest to find DeMille's set, exhume it, and produce a documentary about this unusual piece of Hollywood history. Read more here 

2) A follow-up to our March 19th blog about a recently begun project to digitize old American film publications and put them online. As of now, the Internet Archive hosts four years of Photoplay, and one volume each of Motion Picture Classic and Moving Picture World, with more to come. Researchers, film historians, and silent film enthusiasts should also be aware of another website, Issuu, which also hosts vintage film publications. (Issuu is a Flickr-like site for pdf documents - both vintage and contemporary.) When last we checked, Issuu had long runs of both The Reel Journal and Boxoffice on it's site. A keyword search on either title will turn up plenty!

3) Colleen Moore's Fairy Castle is an elaborate and truly amazing miniature "doll house" created by the silent film star in the 1930s. It is full of antiques and priceless one-of-a-kind objects - all in miniature. The Fairy Castle includes murals painted by Walt Disney; chandeliers adorned with real diamonds; the tiniest Bible ever written (dating to 1840); and ancient statues more than 2,000 years old. There are also pieces donated by Rudolph Valentino, and what is reported to be "a sliver of the true cross." The library is full of minature books - most handwritten editions by authors like F. Scott Fitzgerald, H.G. Wells, and Edgar Rice Burroughs. In 1949, Moore donated the Fairy Castle to the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, where it remains on display. If you should ever find yourself in the Windy City, be sure and check it out. [Picture below of actress Colleen Moore within her Fairy Castle via the Museum of Science and Industry website.]

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Weekend update #1

Here are some brief bits of news from the San Francisco Silent Film Festival and the world of silent film:

1) Today's New York Times ran a splendid article on actress Norma Talmadge, and her sister Constance. The article by Dave Kehr, "An Independent Woman, Nobly Suffering in Silents," was occasioned by the recent release of two Talmadge sister DVD's. Until now, only a handful of her earlier movies have been available on home video. The new KINO discs, which received a write-up on this blog back in January, should be available this summer at the book & DVD table at the SFSFF's July event (if you can wait that long). 

Once a superstar, the article lamented the decline of Norma Talmadge's reputation, and concluded "Like a character in one of her own films, this much-abused woman deserves to have her reputation restored." We suggest attending the SFSFF in July and see what all the fuss is about. One individual who has long championed Norma Talmadge is longtime Festival attendee Greta de Groat, who along with her "excellent Talmadge Web site (" received a shout out in the New York Times piece

2) Our friends and colleagues at the George Eastman House in Rochester, New York have recently named a new curator of motion pictures. Earlier this month, Dr. Caroline Frick Page, who has worked in film preservation at Warner Bros., the Library of Congress, and National Archives, was named the sixth curator of motion pictures in the museum’s 61-year history. More on the appointment can be found here.

3) What becomes of old theaters - especially the movie palaces of the 1920's? Well, in the case of one splendid theater in Bueno Aires, it became a bookstore. BoingBoing has a small piece on the Librería El Ateneo Grand Splendid, which was recently profiled as one of the best bookshops in the world by the Guardian (UK) newspaper. Elsewhere on the net, this English-language travel guide to Bueno Aires relates the history of the building, which began as a live theater in 1919 and started showing motion pictures in 1929. One can imagine Argentinian writers / film enthusiasts Jorge Luis Borges and Adolfo Bioy Casares having spent many an afternoon or evening in this theater of the imagination. Thanks to lukas_y2k for the photo below.