So thanks to several carefully-planned Hollywood trips, I’ve been very fortunate to visit some really cool silent-related locations, such as the site of the former Keystone studio, Grauman’s Chinese Theater, the Roosevelt Hotel, the Chaplin studio, Buster Keaton’s gravesite, the Egyptian Theatre, Musso & Frank’s, and the closest a stranger can legally get to Buster’s Italian Villa.
I’ve also had priceless experiences at both the Buster Keaton Convention in Muskegon, Michigan and the San Francisco Silent Film Festival. For a classic film lover, each and every one of these experiences was a dream come true–from the big festivals to the little moments like relaxing in L.A.’s Echo Park and thinking, “That’s the same lake all those Keystone comedians had to jump into!”
But there’s still several places I’m bound and determined to visit one day, and as of right now these sites are in my top 6: Continue reading
Have you ever wondered: What was the very first western ever made? It would have to be a film older than a Tom Mix or William S. Hart flick, and even older than the mini-dramas by Biograph or Vitagraph. Many who’ve debated this subject will point to an Edison short, Cripple Creek Bar-Room Scene, which is less than a minute long, is more “vignette” than “plot-driven,” and was shot a swell 120 years ago. I’m gonna point to it, too.
I’ve been drawn to this ancient little film in the past mainly because of one thing: this still photo, likely taken so Cripple Creek could be registered for copyright. Let’s take a minute and just look at it.
If it seemed a bit quiet on Silent-ology lately, it’s because my beloved Grandpa passed away last week on Independence Day. He was 91 and had, without a doubt, enjoyed a “life well-lived.” He leaves behind his wonderful wife of nearly 70 years, a dozen children, dozens of grandchildren and great-grand children, and even one great-great-grandchild.
And of course, he leaves behind countless memories for all of us to share with each other during each holiday gathering, BBQ or impromptu get-together. And for me, a few of those memories involve bringing over Buster Keaton shorts to watch with him and Grandma.
During my recent Hollywoodland trip, there was one place I was determined to finally visit: the Musso & Frank Grill on Hollywood Boulevard.
Haven’t heard of it? Well, my friends, if you love classic films then you need to know this heavenly place exists. It’s something exceedingly rare in today’s L.A.: a venerable and perfectly-preserved restaurant that’s served generations (and generations!) of stars. Having first opened in 1919, it’s been a Hollywood institution for almost a full century–and its commitment to tradition is refreshingly strong.
Here’s the first in a few posts recapping the highlights of my recent week in Hollywood. Hope you enjoy!
As you may remember, after attending the San Francisco Silent Film Festival earlier this month I also went on a good long trip to Hollywood. This time, not only did I revisit some beloved locations like Grauman’s Chinese Theater, the Chaplin studio (I finally achieved my goal of having Breakfast at Charlie’s), the Cahuenga alley and Echo Park (which to me is actually Keystone Comedy Park), but I sought out some new places too (like finally making it to the Griffith Observatory, 10/10 would recommend). And after being asked by about 50,000 people handing out fliers on Hollywood Boulevard if I wanted to go on a tour, I decided that yes, actually I would like to try out a tour.
Ah, but little did the 50,000 flier-touting people know that I already had a tour booked. And not just any tour–the TCM Movie Locations bus tour!
Now that I’m home from California, here is my recap of this year’s fabulous festival! Fun fact: portions of this post were written while sitting at the bar of the Pig ‘N’ Whistle restaurant on Hollywood Boulevard, next door to Grauman’s Egyptian Theatre…not an office I get to use every day!
Opening Night Presentation: Wednesday, May 30
I arrived in San Francisco in the mid-afternoon of May 30th, and after doing a bit of sight-seeing among those windy hills (but no cable car-riding–drat those eternal lines!) I took one of those historic streetcars down to the Castro theater. Ah, beautiful Castro theater, how I’ve missed thee. After missing the 2017 fest, it felt “right” to finally be back.
The 23rd San Francisco Silent Film Festival began with a tribute to the late Frank Buxton, who had a lengthy and busy career in TV, movies, and radio (he was a writer on Happy Days and directed episodes of Mork and Mindy, to name a few things). He had been an indispensable member of the festival board, and it was clear how much he was already missed.
Then the lights went down, the great curtains parted to reveal the screen–I do love that quiet, magical moment of anticipation–and the 5-day festival of beautiful restorations and the world’s finest live accompaniment had begun!
Per a reader’s request, here is a piece on one of the greatest and most respected silent film legends–Lon Chaney. As you read this, I am currently at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival–and yes, I’ll be recapping every moment of it!
There was a popular, widespread joke back in the 1920s–“Don’t step on that spider, it might be Lon Chaney!” A joke which, of course, referred to his remarkable use of makeup and acting skills to create bizarre characters who stick in the popular imagination. Indeed, Chaney was one of the rare actors who was so skilled that he became a legend in his own time, graced with the title “The Man of a Thousand Faces”–a title which is linked with his name to this very day.
Little Orphant Annie (1918), the latest film restoration by film historian and collector Eric Grayson, is a rare gem for silent film fans–especially those who enjoy falling down research rabbit holes as much as I do. It’s come out at the perfect time–exactly 100 years since its initial release, and 100 years after the death of James Whitcomb Riley, author of the poem “Little Orphant Annie.” It’s the earliest available film that stars Colleen Moore, who within a few years would define “flapper” for a generation. Watching it requires you to put aside any memories of 1977 musicals involving little redheaded girls singing hopeful songs–and even the Little Orphan Annie comic strip, which didn’t debut until 1924. Continue reading
…That is, the San Francisco Silent Film Festival, which starts May 30. And yes, I’M COMING BACK, BABY!!
Last year, as some readers may remember, I had to skip the event due to a family vacation abroad claiming most of my travel funds. But this year, I’m making up for it–I’ll be returning to the Castro theater for the entire beautiful festival, and am planning on attending every showing if I possibly can. I might add that the festival spans five days this year, so this is not a challenge I accept lightly. I AM READY. Continue reading