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.
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!
Hello all, I’m back!! And I’ve had a chance to rest a bit and get back into the swing of “normal” life. And of course, for me “normal” life includes blogging, so I’ve been gathering my thoughts and am pleased to present the first in several posts about my time in Frisco and Tinseltown. Today, let’s go blow-by-blow through the entire prestigious experience of the highly recommended San Francisco Silent Film Festival–hang on, folks, because it’s going to be a long one!
I have most thoroughly arrived and am taking in Day 2 of the festival! Depending on what time of the day it is in San Francisco right now, I’m either viewing the “Amazing Tales From the Archives” presentation; A Woman of the World (1925) starring Pola Negri; That Night’s Wife (Sono Yo No Tsuma) (1930), a Japanese homage to crime pictures; Mothers of Men or Every Woman’s Problem (1917), a melodrama centering around a suffragette; Varieté (1925), a tale of trapeze artists and sexual jealousy; or Behind the Door (1919), about a “barbarous crew of submariners.”
Or I’m, ya know, asleep because it’s either very early or very late in Frisco…and am resting up for more silents!!
Here’s a little recap of my visit to the festival last year. Regular readers might recall that I only went to a handful of showings, due to being on a separate trip at the time, but those showings were such fun that I couldn’t resist coming back in 2016: My Time At The San Francisco Silent Film Festival.
More to come about this year’s festival when I’m back in MN!
A few years ago I watched the hallowed classic Greed (1924) for the very first time. It was the shortest version, a fuzzy YouTube copy that probably makes Eric von Stroheim spin in his grave every time a viewer clicks on it (spinning while being immaculately dressed in his white Prussian uniform, mind you). And like any cinephile who makes an honest effort to appreciate film history…I liked it. It involved unusual characters. Its plot has interesting twists. It was obviously well-made. It was insanely dark. All in all, I was glad I watched it. I decided to put it on my “future re-watch” list, intending to study its skillfulness a little more at some point.
Now let’s fast-forward a bit to two summers ago. I was in North Carolina visiting friends, and one afternoon we decided to visit a used bookstore (they’re fellow bookworms). I was scanning some of the fiction shelves (okay, after first scrutinizing the few early Hollywood books they had with great concentration) and a familiar word caught my eye: McTeague. Ah! That was the novel that inspired Greed, wasn’t it? It even had a still from the film as its cover art. I almost put it back on the shelf, but it occurred to me that it would be a useful addition to a silentcinephile’s library. And I bought it. Continue reading
So I’ve been busy as Eric von Stroheim editing Greed lately, and here’s why (and, funnily enough, Greed is a tiny bit related!). I’m getting ready for a trip this weekend, a trip that happens to be checking off some very important items on my bucket list. And I am excited. Very excited. In fact, I’m this excited: