Sunday, May 29, 2011

San Francisco Silent Film Festival 2011 - Be There or Be Square

He Who Gets Slapped will close the 2011 Festival

The schedule for the 2011 San Francisco Silent Film Festival:

Opening Night, Thursday, July 14
7:00 pm Upstream
9:15 pm Sunrise

Friday, July 15
11:00 am Amazing Tales from the Archives I
2:00 pm Huckleberry Finn
4:15 pm I Was Born, But…
7:00 pm The Great White Silence
9:30 pm Il Fuoco

Saturday, July 16
10:00 am Disney’s Laugh-O-Grams  featuring J.B. Kaufaman
12:00 noon Variations on a Theme with silent film musicians and composers
2:00 pm The Blizzard
4:00 pm The Goose Woman
6:30 pm Mr. Fix-It
8:30 pm The Woman Men Yearn For

Sunday, July 17
10:00 am Amazing Tales from the Archives II  featuring Kevin Browlow on fifty years of Film Preservation.
12 noon Shoes
2:00 pm Wild and Weird featuring David Sheppard
4:30 pm The Nail in the Boot
7:30 pm He Who Gets Slapped

I'm very excited about the lineup this year and will be posting on the scheduled films and activities over the next couple of days.

Festival passes or single tickets may be purchased online from the SF Silent Film Festival Website.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Reading the Stars - Exhibit at The San Francisco Public Library

Thomas Gladsyz of the Louise Brooks Society has curated several literary exhibitions in the SFPL.  I'm proud to have donated some Valentino material for the upcoming exhibition.

Here is Thomas' announcement:

At least one vintage book featuring Louise Brooks will be featured in "Reading the Stars," an exhibit of books, magazines and other vintage reading material published during silent film era which will be on display at the San Francisco Public Library. All of the material - published during the Teens, Twenties, and early Thirties - pertain to the movies.

"Reading the Stars" is part of a small constellation of exhibits and programs titled "Shhhhhhh! Silents in the Library." The exhibits run June 25 through August 28 in the Main branch of the SFPL, on the Fourth Floor and Sixth Floor History Center Exhibit Space.

If you plan on coming to town to attend to the San Francisco Silent Film Festival, don't miss this chance to take a look at these library exhibits. I curated "Reading the Stars," and it is the fourth exhibit in about 12 years which I have helped put on. Additional details to follow. More info at

Friday, May 20, 2011

San Francisco Silent Film Festival Preview - The Great White Silence

The official announcement of the complete schedule for the 2011 San Francisco Silent Film Festival is imminent.  Mark your calendars for July 14th-17th at the Castro Theater. 

One of the films that has been announced is The Great White Silence.  The performance at the SFSFF will be accompanied by the fabulous Mattie Bye Ensemble.

The film has been restored and re-scored by the British Film Institute. The BFI has posted a fabulous 13 minute video piece on the scoring and the film.  I'm really anxious to see this on the big screen.

The official blurb from the SFSFF website:

The Great White Silence (1924)

A hundred years ago, cinematographer Herbert Ponting joined Captain Robert F. Scott’s ill-fated expedition to the Antarctic as official photographer. Ponting not only captured the magnificent vistas and charming wildlife, but documented camp life and scientific work as well. In 1924, he edited the footage into this extraordinary feature complete with vivid toning and tinting. The British Film Institute has recently restored the film using modern techniques to recreate the dazzling color and brilliant detail of the original.

You can buy your fesitval pass online here.

With any luck I will have more on the upcoming festival posted this weekend.  With even more luck, once the festival is finished I will have photos to post that will have been taken with a vintage 1915 era brownie camera (my new fun project). 

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

On the Bedside Table - Hollywoodland by Mary Mallory

I am very excited about the newly published book (today!) on Hollywoodland by a good friend of mine, Mary Mallory.  I've got mine on order and can't wait to get it on the bedside table to read.  Hollywoodland chronicles the story of how the Hollywood(land) sign came to be and the neighborhood that was built around the now iconic image that represents Hollywood.

Mary Mallory is a film historian, photograph archivist, and a member of the Cultural Affairs Committee of the Studio City Neighborhood Council. She serves on the Board of Hollywood Heritage, Inc., for which she also acts as a docent at the Hollywood Heritage Museum. Hollywood Heritage, Inc., is a nonprofit organization dedicated to preservation of the historic built environment in Hollywood and to education about the early film industry and the role its pioneers played in shaping Hollywood's history.

Mary recently was interviewed by the Los Angeles Times regarding her new book:

My book is an Arcadia Publishing book detailing the history in photographs of the neighborhood of Beachwood Canyon originally known as Hollywoodland.

Hollywoodland extends from 2690 N. Beachwood Drive up towards Mt. Lee and the Hollywood Sign (this was originally in Hollywoodland before being donated to the Department of Parks and Recreation in 1945). The book details the early history of Beachwood Canyon, the construction of the development, amenities, histories of many of the homes and architects, a history of the Hollywood Sign, listings of famous residents, and a chapter on movies filmed up there.

It is based on Hollywood Heritage’s S. H. Woodruff Collection (one of the developers of Hollywoodland) and other Hollywood photograph collections, photos from Bison Archives, the Margaret Herrick Library, me, and others, and all profits got to Hollywood Heritage.

I made the suggestion to the HH Board, on which I serve, that we should try to do something with the Woodruff Collection, and since I made the suggestion, I got to do it. I’ve always wanted to do a book, and especially one on Hollywood history.

I learned so much about the architects, homes, and residents. It was fun, but I continue to research. I just walked most of it recently trying to get photos of the original homes, trying to identify homes with photos we have.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

A Vamp Goes to the TCM Festival - Guest Blog Report

My good friend Joan attended some of the TCM Festival last weekend.  Here's her take on what she saw and how much fun she had.  This is a cross-posting from Nitrateville (excellent message board if you do not know about it).

The Second Annual TCM Film Festival has ended and it is time for your Spokesvamp to issue an official Daughters of Naldi report on the proceedings. The City of Angels put on a big smiley-face for the festival, providing a light Santa Ana that tamed our cranky Spring weather, giving us warm weather during the day and balmy breezes to rustle the palm trees in the evening. Unhappily, these winds also adversely affect the Spokesvamp’s coiffure: she often looked like Sparky, Queen of the Electricity People.

The Festival was well-attended, mostly by out-of-towners who appeared to be enjoying themselves immensely, racing up and down Hollywood Boulevard snapping photos of themselves standing by the stars of their favorites, quaffing the best martinis in town at Musso and Frank’s, and happily chatting with fellow film buffs about the cinematic treats in store.

The TCM Film Festival is an embarrassment of riches for the classic film buff. Films run at several venues, often with talks and interviews taking place concurrently at “Club TCM.” Your Spokesvamp found herself ensconced on the horns of a dilemma more than once; she was forced to choose between seeing Bette Davis in Now, Voyager or Kay Francis in British Agent, Hayley Mills in The Parent Trap or esteemed film historian Kevin Brownlow, and Hayley Mills in Whistle Down the Wind or esteemed film historian Donald Bogle. For the record I went with Bette rather than Kay, and Hayley beat out both esteemed film historians. Never have I so resented the legal strictures against cloning.

I was on the guest list for some films, and I opted not to purchase a pass and to “fly standby” for the other films I wanted to see. Ergo, I missed out on one of my choices (Night Flight), a failure that caused me first to sulk and then to consume several pounds of fudge purchased from that disastrously placed candy shop in the Hollywood and Highland complex. A pass for next year’s festival is a must.

Golddiggers of 1933: Color me embarrassed, I’d never seen this film before. Quelle cast! Joan Blondell, Dick Powell, Ruby Keeler, Ginger Rogers, and Warren William, with Busby Berkeley’s “out-there” choreography, it doesn’t get precodier than that. It sags a bit in the middle, but I’ll put up with pretty much anything from a film with Joan Blondell and Warren William in it. The print shown was not a good one; not bad enough to affect my enjoyment, but I noticed it, and it irritated me. A bunch of grapes.

Now Voyager: I’ve seen this film a zillion times and so have you, so I’ll skip the plot reprise. As far as I’m concerned, Now Voyager is perfect, so seeing it on the big screen with a theater full of equally appreciative fans was a huge treat. At Bette's Cinderella moment, when she appears for her first time after her stay at Camp Valium, wearing that chic Orry-Kelly suit and the fabulous spectator hat, the audience clapped enthusiastically; when Bette tells Paul not to ask for the moon, a collective sigh tinged with wobbly sobbing floated through the theater. Hearing the film was also an epiphany. I suddenly understood why Bette Davis complained about Max Steiner’s scores. The music is magnificent, but it is so overwhelming in the theater setting one almost hears Bette saying “Oh Jerry, let’s not ask for the moon...Jerry? JERRY?? I SAID LET’S NOT ASK FOR THE MOON!!” As we filed out of the theater, dabbing our eyes with our lace hankies, the woman in front of me said “Every time I see that movie, I want to start smoking.” A bunch of grapes, a wave of the foot-long cigarette holder, and a drive in the Isotta Fraschini for Now, Voyager.

The Merry Widow: TCM’s showing of Erich von Stroheim’s film was produced by Patrick Stanbury, introduced by Kevin Brownlow, and accompanied by Maud Nelissen and “The von Stroheim Virtuosi,” playing Nelissen’s score. The print was the best currently available, but I don’t get Mae Murray so the film itself left me cold. Did I mention this was one of the best silent film musical performances I have ever heard? Knockout. No, really. Thank you, TCM, for bringing Maud Nelissen to Los Angeles. A snuggle from the bejeweled feline for The Merry Widow. Maud Nelissen gets the keys to the Isotta Fraschini.

The Parent Trap: My filthy secret is out--yes, I am a Hayleyholic! And as I discovered at the festival’s showing of The Parent Trap, I am not alone. The Egyptian Theater was packed to the rafters and the lady herself got two Big Standing O’s from her happy fans. TCM created a beautiful montage from Hayley’s many performances over her five decade long career (I assume this will be shown on television in the future) and Leonard Maltin interviewed the star, still an attractive and soignée woman. The Parent Trap also needs no plot reprise from me. Greate Arte it ain’t and thank heavens for that: it’s charming, fun, and it entertains. Hayley is at her most mischievous, and Brian Keith and Maureen O’Hara have great chemistry and give relaxed, twinkle-in-the-eye performances. The cast includes supporting stalwarts Una Merkel, Charlie Ruggles, and Leo G. Carroll (who almost steals the film as the cleric with an unseemly taste for good liquor and a malicious sense of humor). As a plus, the film boasts beautiful mid-century design in settings and costumes-- it’s sort of Mad Men only with people you like. A drive in the Isotta Fraschini, a doff of the turban, a nose-touch from the bejeweled feline, and a whole vineyard full of grapes. It’s Hayley, dammit.

The Cameraman: Buster Keaton’s late silent classic, accompanied by Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks in a rollicking score that had me wanting to boogie in the aisles. This time around I focused on things other than Buster: Eddie Gribbon’s marvelous performance perfectly complementing Buster’s stoicism, the sheer thespic genius of Josephine the monkey, omg is Buster nekkid in that swimming pool?, and my favorite moment--Buster’s eyes, rising from the pool, targeting the substantial woman in the tent-like bathing suit. I never fail to hear the theme from Jaws in my head during that scene. A handshake from the uniformed Prussian and a hearty wave of the foot-long cigarette holder.

Whistle Down the Wind: Another Hayley film, yippee! Whistle Down the Wind is a 1961 British film, based on a novel written by Hayley’s mother, Mary Hayley Bell, and directed by Bryan Forbes. It was filmed on a shoestring budget on a farm in soggy Lancashire, with a cast of the cutest darned kids you’ve ever seen in one film, all talking in impenetrable accents. As Cari Beauchamp pointed out in her excellent interview with Mills after the film, it was Alan Bates’ first movie, but Hayley was already a seasoned professional. It’s not one I’ll race to see again, but it’s good, and worth your time. A nice bunch of grapes for Whistle Down the Wind.

TCM always has interesting pre- and post-film graphics; those used at the festival were wonderful, with definite mid-century feel to them, although the bouncy balls made me come over all 1968 and Jimi Hendrix-like. They were groovy. Big thanks to TCM, their schedulers and planners, and their cheerful and helpful volunteers and staffers, for a fun three days. This Daughter of Naldi is already looking forward to next year.