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