Photo: Harold Lloyd in “Hot Water,” shown at Cinecon.
The 48th Annual Cinecon Film Festival is almost over in Hollywood. Once again, the festival features classic silent and sound films, many of which have not been seen in theatres since their original release. So far this year, there have been few Los Angeles or Hollywood locations visible in the films. Here is the roundup for Thursday through Saturday.
Thursday night, August 30 started off with a bang when the Nicholas Sisters, the granddaughters of wonderful dancer Fayard Nicholas of the Nicholas Brothers dance team, copied a dance their grandfather and great uncle were performing on screen. An energetic way to start the evening. This was followed by the musical short ARTISTRY IN RHYTHM (1944), with Hollywoodland resident Stan Kenton leading his really big band and singers in a variety of numbers, this was hip and swingy.
The first feature of the evening was another in the fun series of musical films from Universal Pictures starring the Andrews Sisters, this time in ALWAYS A BRIDESMAID (1943). The girls ran a lonely hearts radio show for people looking for love, and the film featured comic performances from Billy Gilbert and Charles Butterworth, along with groovy swing dancing from the Jivin’ Jacks and Jills.
A favorite Movie Star Mystery Guest, Jack Mulhall, starred in the second feature, DRUMS OF JEOPARDY (1923). While Jack made a dashing hero outwitting and overpowering slimy villain Wallace Beery in the fight over rare emerald pieces of jewelry, he disappeared for over thirty minutes in the middle of the picture.
The evening concluded with a fast moving, entertaining Fox picture called 15 MAIDEN LANE (1936), starring Claire Trevor, Cesar Romero, and Lloyd Nolan, in which Romero and possibly Trevor were romantic jewel thieves pursued by policeman Lloyd Nolan. This film contained beautiful evening dresses, along with a movie within a movie featuring THE SQUAW MAN (1914) co-director Oscar Apfel as a jewelry cutter.
I missed the Friday morning films as I was volunteering at the pass desk in the theatre, but was told that the Anna Mae Wong film DANGEROUS TO KNOW (1938) pushed the envelope of the production code, and featured one of Akim Tamiroff’s largest and best roles. Paramount rehashed one of their hit songs, “Thanks for the Memories” in the film. The Madge Kennedy film DOLLARS AND SENSE (1920) went over well, with a fine performance by Kennedy in one of her few surviving films. The morning concluded with the MGM short GROOVIE MOVIE (1944), a Pete Smith Specialty featuring jitterbugging by dancers Arthur Walsh and Jean Veloz, who made a live appearance. The applause was loud and long for this one.
A photo of Richard Conte in “The Spider” has been listed on EBay with bids starting at $39.99.
That afternoon, the surreal short YOU’RE NEXT (1919) featured the forgotten comic Marcel Perez, who made few films here in the United States. The film starts out with Perez asleep in his bedroom on the streets of a New Jersey town, with odd policemen, a strange romance, and funny action.
William S. Hart starred in WILD BILL HICKOK (1923), a biopic of the western hero that featured lots of action which I think was filmed out near his home in Santa Clarita, with what looked like the Santa Clarita train station in one shot.
Stars Jane Withers and Marsha Hunt appeared for the screening of GENTLE JULIA (1936), a gentle picture about small town life featuring mugging by Withers and romancing of Hunt by multiple men, including oily George Meeker and cornpone Tom Brown. Hattie McDaniel almost stole the show as the family maid.
The afternoon concluded with director Lois Weber’s penultimate film, SENSATION SEEKERS (1927), with a hot performance by Billie Dove. Jazz mama Dove finds romantic love with minister Raymond Bloomer. There was beautiful cinematography, action by Dove, and some pointed comments about women finding their own pleasure. In one scene, young partiers drive down a farm road in what was probably North Hollywood, just above Universal Studios.
The short BILLY AND HIS PAL (1910) led off the evening, a Gaston Melies’ Star Film Ranch short starring Francis Ford dealing with some untrustworthy Mexican bandoleros.
Edward Arnold gave a strong performance in the moving and entertaining DIAMOND JIM (1935), the story of Gilded Age tycoon Diamond Jim Brady, written by screenwriter Preston Sturges. There was witty dialogue, touching and tragic romance, and fine performances from William Demarest, Eric Blore, Binnie Barnes, Cesar Romero, and Jean Arthur.
Adolphe Menjou also gave a fine performance in the fun 1927 Paramount film BLONDE OR BRUNETTE, in which Menjou, tired of the Paris fast life, heads to the country (the Paramount Ranch where Forest Lawn is now located) to find an innocent girl (Greta Nissen), who falls under the bad influence of brunette Arlette Marchal, who gets her smoking, drinking, and dancing the Black Bottom and Charleston. Will Menjou find true love?
Saturday, September 1 started off with the short BACKSTAGE ON BROADWAY (1930), which features about 30 seconds of Fred and Adele Astaire dancing together, the only film footage of the siblings dancing oncamera.
The morning featured two long time favorites Harold Lloyd’s HOT WATER (1924) and Laurel and Hardy’s WAY OUT WEST (1937). HOT WATER features Lloyd in exasperating dealings with a live turkey and with his overbearing and pushy family members as they drive around Los Angeles, through places like Bunker Hill, Hancock Park, and the like. There is an in-joke in the film when a police officer gives him two tickets of traffic arrest, which are signed Gene Kornman, who was one of Lloyd’s still photographers. WAY OUT WEST contains the hilarious dance number by Laurel and Hardy to a song by the Avalon Boys. Their comic nemesis James Finlayson makes a funny appearance, as does former Movie Star Mystery guest Sharon Lynn.
Monty Banks starred in the entertaining THE COVERED SCHOONER (1923), in which he loves Helen, but her father wants her to marry a sea captain. The film showed a florist shop in the Hollywood area, the Santa Monica docks, the Hollywood fire station, and bungalows somewhere in the area.
THE GOOSE WOMAN (1925) is a wonderful film starring a powerful Louise Dresser as a former opera singer brought low by the birth of illegitimate son Jack Pickford. The film was based on a true criminal case out of time featuring murder and false accusations. Constance Bennett makes an early film appearance, and one of my favorite actors that I featured in a blog post, Gustav von Seyffertitz, played the district attorney. The Universal backlot stars as Dresser’s home and other farmlands.
WALK DON’T RUN (1966) starred Cary Grant and honoree Samantha Eggar in a comedy set during the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.
Bert Wheeler home movies from the early 1930s led off the evening, with his granddaughter Bonnie making an appearance. This was followed by HIPS, HIPS, HOORAY (1934), an envelope-pushing romantic comedy featuring comedy team Wheeler and Woolsey, who “keep on doin’ what they’re doin” with Ruth Etting, Dorothy Lee, and former Movie Star Mystery Guest and tragic actress Thelma Todd as they fight off duplicitous George Meeker.
John Ford’s excellent 1927 film UPSTREAM followed, featuring fine performances from Earle Foxe, Francis Ford, Grant Withers, Emile Chautard, Raymond Hitchcock, and others, as vaudevillains residing in a boarding house and what happens to everyone when one of the dimmer bulbs is plucked from obscurity to play Hamlet on the London stage. There are fine moments showing the acting life, theatrical work, and created family relationships.
The evening concluded with the film noir remake THE SPIDER (1945), starring Richard Conte as a New Orleans detective investigating events concerning performer Faye Marlowe. The film also featured comic bits from African American actor Mantan Moreland.