In Memory Of Ron Hutchinson

On Sunday, February 3rd, the family of film historian Ron Hutchinson shared the sad news that he had passed away from cancer on Saturday. He was 67. The classic film community has been reeling ever since, both shocked by the suddenness of the event and deeply saddened by the loss of a true giant in film preservation.

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Hutchinson was the co-founder of The Vitaphone Project, a group of passionate historians and collectors which aimed to rediscover and restore Vitaphone films. This early sound process (spanning the years 1926-1931) recorded dialogue and sound effects on discs which were then synchronized with the projected films. If you’ve ever taken in an early talkie or one of those late silents with sound effects–say, the magnificent King of Jazz (1930) or Colleen Moore’s Why Be Good? (1929)–chances are you’re quite literally hearing some of Hutchinson’s hard work.

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From Ron’s Facebook page.

Hutchinson had both discovered and assisted in the restoration of literally hundreds of early talkies, both shorts and features (especially “Vitaphone shorts,” which served as pre-feature entertainment in theaters). And as so many have attested in the past couple days, he was an enthusiastic and helpful supporter of countless preservation projects. He leaves behind a loving family and too many friends in the classic film community to count.

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A memorial service for Hutchinson will be held on Saturday, February 9th from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Piscataway Funeral Home in Piscataway, New Jersey. There is also talk of a special memorial event to be held later this year, possibly as a benefit for his beloved Vitaphone project.

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My friend Annette at Hometowns to Hollywood wrote a detailed article about Vitaphone and The Vitaphone Project here–it’s highly recommended!

Hutchinson was a fellow columnist on Classic Movie Hub, and his detailed articles on all things Vitaphone can be read here

 

Adieu, 2018–The Silent Community Year In Review

Happy New Year’s, everyone! It’s a day to celebrate, preferably Lilian Harvey-style:

As you do.

And as usual, it’s time to look back on the various silent-related film discoveries, DVD and book releases, and other noteworthy events from the past twelve months. I keep a running list of film news all throughout the year, so hopefully this “year in review” post is pretty thorough. But if I managed to miss anything important, please let me know in the comments! (And remember that it needs to be an event/discovery/release from 2018 specifically.)

Without further ado, let’s get started: Continue reading

See Ya, 2017: The Silent Community Year In Review

Happy 2018, everyone! Now that 2017 is officially  behind us, once again it’s time to recap the various silent film-related discoveries, restorations, events, DVD/Blu-ray/book releases, etc. from the past 12 months.

Now, I normally keep a running file of these kinds of stories which I update whenever they catch my eye. A couple months ago, however, my 9-year-old laptop breathed its last (or maybe it drowned–I kind of spilled water all over its keyboard). I had copies of nearly every file I owned backed up online–EXCEPT for, you know, a couple irreplaceable things like my 2017 film news file. Yes, about 15 dumb memes were safely tucked away but NOT THAT FILE. So forgive me if I missed anything absurdly obvious–I tried my best to get caught up again! Continue reading

A Sad Farewell To Historian David Shepard

Yesterday evening, January 31st, brought some sad news–the great historian and film preservationist David Shepard had passed away.

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This is a huge loss to anyone who loves silents and supports film preservation. Shepard is responsible for the restorations of Intolerance, The Navigator, Man With a Movie Camera, The Gold Rush, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, The Cheat, and countless others. To say that we owe him one is an understatement.

Shepard worked at Blackhawk Films in the 1960s (and bought the company in 1987), became a preservationist at the American Film Institute, and eventually started his own company, Film Preservation Associates. He’s worked with Kino, Flicker Alley, many film festivals, and has won awards for his tireless work. He has been both a huge help and huge inspiration to countless historians. In some of their own words:

“David was an extraordinary individual. I do not think it hyperbole to state that he significantly inspired most of our current film historians and archivists, and his countless works have been viewed and loved by nearly every serious classic film fan.”

“A Giant in the Film Preservation world has taken his leave from us this evening. A friend to so many of us, his legacy is large and immeasurable.”

“There was no better advocate for restoring classic films and making them available to modern audiences. I pray that David is chatting with many of the film greats in heaven today.”

“He leaves behind one heck of a legacy, as well as an influence on all of us who follow in his footsteps.”

Shepard had been suffering from an inoperable cancer, and passed away with his family, friends, and beloved dog at his side. He will be greatly missed.

So Long, 2016: The Silent Community Year In Review

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Happy New Year’s, everyone! With only a few hours left of 2016, it’s time for Silent-ology’s annual roundup of silent film-related news from the past 12 months. I try to make these posts fairly thorough, but let me know if there’s anything you’d like me to add!

Without further ado: Continue reading

How Do Silent Films Become “Lost”?

Ah, movies! We see them on T.V., play them on DVDs and watch them on Netflix and YouTube. We rave about them, argue about them and sprinkle our social media with photos and GIFs from them. Some of us, hopefully, even see movies in a theater.

You know, that place you have to drive to.

With movies practically coming out of our ears, it’s bizarre to hear that the vast majority of silent era films are lost. This doesn’t seem to make sense–how the heck can a film be “lost”? Why, it’s just kind of there, on the screen. It’s not is the same kind of object as a painting or a book…right? Continue reading