Farewell To Fay McKenzie And A Film Fest Update

In my recent review of The Alice Howell Collection I mentioned that the 101-year-old actress Fay McKenzie, who appeared as a baby in Distilled Love (1920), got to enjoy a special screening of the short thanks to historian Stan Taffel and relative Bryan Cooper. Isn’t that just the best? Well, the news broke recently that Fay passed away peacefully in her sleep on April 16, just two weeks after I posted my review. Amazingly, she had been in films on and off throughout her whole life, starting with infant/child roles in silent films starring such luminaries as Colleen Moore, and eventually becoming known as Gene Autry’s leading lady in the 1940s.

Image result for fay mckenzie gene autry

In the 1950s Fay acted in several TV shows, and by the 1960s only made occasional film appearances (one was as a laughing party guest in Breakfast at Tiffany’s). In 2012 she received a Career Achievement Award at the Cinecon Classic Film Festival. Even more recently, she made a cameo appearance in an upcoming film called Kill a Better Mousetrap. 

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Fay with her Cinecon award.

Fay is survived by her son Tom and daughter Madora as well as two grandchildren. She was one of the very last living links to silent film history, and we’re all grateful she was with us for so long!

So here’s an exciting update: In a couple days, I will once more be at the beautiful Castro Theater, taking in the wonder that is the San Francisco Silent Film Festival! Guys, the lineup this year is glorious–not one, but two Buster features are bookending the event (The Cameraman and Our Hospitality), there’s a late ’20s Gary Cooper feature, Kevin Brownlow is introducing a film, and my birthday will be during the festival! It’s going to be another epic experience, I can feel it.

I’m also excited this year because I found a place to stay that’s close to the theater. And, well, that’s getting to be important (pardon me as this post takes a temporary dark turn). It’s no secret that the drug problem in San Francisco has been escalating at an insane pace. Unfortunately, when I was in the city last year I noticed a big difference in how safe certain neighborhoods felt, especially as a solo female traveler. Thus, this year I strategized and found a more peaceful place to stay. If you haven’t been to San Francisco and would like to go, definitely do your research on the neighborhoods. (Pro tip: never stay in Civic Center no matter how cool the historic hotels look!)

So I’m excited to explore a different area of the city–and hopefully will get to take a cable car to lovely Fisherman’s Wharf before I leave San Francisco for a couple days in Hollywood. Oh yes, my annual pilgrimage continues!

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So right now I’m wishing happy travels to my fellow festival attendees. Wednesday can’t come soon enough…!



14 thoughts on “Farewell To Fay McKenzie And A Film Fest Update

  1. Greetings from Austin, Texas!
    I am looking forward to another wonderful fest. We met up in the balcony.
    I do the opposite route. I just spent 10 days in Hollywoodland for the TCM Classic Film Festival. Came home & now leave on Wednesday for San Francisco.
    When is your birthday? We will have to have a drink & celebrate! Are you going to the Opening Night Party?
    See you soon…Ana

    • Thursday is my birthday, which will add an extra layer of specialness to an already special film fest. 🙂 I won’t be at the opening night party, though–am always pretty tired after the day of travelling! Looking forward to everything.

  2. Thank you for your wonderful coverage of Fay McKenzie. Outside of old film buffs like us, the news of her passing was largely unreported. That is sad! Good luck in San Francisco and give my regards to Hollywood.

  3. Sorry you had a bad location in San Francisco last year. I’m a woman in my 70s and spend a lot of time on public transportation and at the SF Main Public Library — Civic Center station. No problem. Homeless people do use the library, but I realize that if I were homeless, I’d spend my days there surrounded by books, too. The area around Sixth Street & Market has always been the Tenderloin — never a great place for a stroll! Fortunately the Castro neighborhood is a different place entirely. Hope you have a very pleasant trip this time. Last year, I realized that both you and “Movies Silently” were there, but I don’t know what either of you looks like so I couldn’t say “thanks for your work” in person. Thank you!

    • Staying so close to the Castro will be like icing on the cake, for me! In previous years I always stayed in the same location, but unfortunately, last year some of those same areas were getting too dicey for me, especially when travelling back to the hotel after those late night showings. The Tenderloin may be spreading, shall we say.

      If you’re at the festival this weekend, try and find me! 🙂 I have a picture in my “About Silent-ology” page, and I’ll have a Melies “Man in the Moon” shirt on at least one of those days… 😀

  4. Every time I read your posts I’m so happy I found you!!! Yet another thing learned AND a reason to save money for next year!!! Have a great time!!! ….with your recommendations, I have purchased a bunch of silent movies lately…maybe I’ll have my own silent film festival this weekend in my living room!!! 😉

    • Do it! No joke, I’ve toyed with an idea for a “Mini DIY Silent Film Festival” post (where you watch movies all day at home, but on a set schedule with little breaks in between and such 😀 ).

      Thanks for the compliments, Nancy, it’s so appreciated! Brightens my day. The San Francisco fest is magic, so definitely put it on the bucket list!

  5. I’ve been wanting to go to the SFSFF for years but have been nervous about going alone, since no one in my social circle can handle more than one silent film in a few months, let alone many over several days. Do you have any tips on being safe when going it solo?

    • Certainly! I have almost always gone solo and it’s always a blast with lots of nice people. It’s easy to take the BART train from the airport to the city, Uber is a big help in getting around too. In the past I stayed in the Union Square area and took a streetcar to and from the theater, but the Square/streetcar route are getting too dicey for me, especially at night. Uber’s an option but it does add up. The Castro neighborhood and neighborhoods by Glan Park station are very nice, I would recommend an AirBnB around there if you can. The festival is magical so I hope you make it there one day!

  6. Pingback: Sayonara, 2019–The Silent Community Year In Review | Silent-ology

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