Photo: “Palace of Silents,” a documentary on the Silent Movie Theater.
Cinecon 48 featured several surprises. The Nicholas Sisters opened the festival by performing with their relatives, and Bert Wheeler’s granddaughter made an appearance. Another excellent surprise on Saturday was the moving documentary, PALACE OF SILENTS, which tells the story of Los Angeles’ Silent Movie Theatre. The production features great interviews, cinematography, and music as it reveals how John and Dorothy Hampton built and lovingly ran the theatre, the theatrical days under Laurence Austin and his tragic shooting, the revival under Charlie Lustman’s ownership, and its current days as the Cine-Family. Hopefully the filmmakers can line up distribution for this fine film.
A photo of May McAvoy in “The Bedroom Window” has been listed on EBay with bidding starting at $9.99.
Sunday, September 2 opened with the 25th Anniversary episode of SCREEN SNAPSHOTS (1953), which featured a quick in memoriam reel to great stars who had passed on during the short series’ run.
THE BEDROOM WINDOW (1924) featured May McAvoy, Ricardo Cortez, and Malcolm McGregor in a tale of murder and false accusation and played well.
The morning concluded with a series of MGM’s JOE MCDOAKES shorts, with honorees Phyllis Coates and Richard Bare answering questions and reminiscing.
After lunch, the 1914 Lasky film THE CIRCUS MAN showed early Hollywood, with images of Selma Avenue, the back of the church at I believe Hollywood and Vine, a jail, a train station, a bank building downtown (not all of the cornerstone could be seen), and more rural scenes. It told the story of a rich young man accused of murder who runs off and joins the circus before all ends well. The story was all over the place, but it was great to see the early locations.
FEARLESS FAGAN (1952) featured honoree Carleton Carpenter in a story about a lion and the young man who loved him, directed by Stanley Donen. Carpenter had interesting stories to tell about his time in Hollywood and on Broadway.
THE BLUFF (1915) concluded Sunday’s screenings, a hodge podge little story about two odd ducks trying to turn base metals into gold. Shot in Santa Barbara since it was an American Film Company (Flying A) picture, the film showed a newspaper insert with a story reporting farming in San Ysidro, as well as shots of I believe the mission in the distance, the foothills north of Santa Barbara, parts of downtown, and the area around the studio.
Monday, September 3 opened with the short HOLLYWOOD ON PARADE (1933), which featured Buster Keaton as main performer and narrator, cutting back and forth from contemporary jazzy 1933 to gentle 1903. Buster conducts the studio orchestra as men from both periods, speaks in rhyming verse, and even sings a little. The short featured former Movie Star Mystery Guests Grace Bradley and Lona Andre, as well as Kathleen Burke, as contemporary swimsuit models. Paramount performers such as Ernest Torrence, Ronald Colman, Warner Baxter, Richard Barthelmess, Lois Wilson, Joan Bennett, Tim McCoy, Bessie Love, George Brent, Ruth Chatterton, Louella Parsons, William Powell, Carole Lombard, Clive Brook, Joan Blondell, and George Barnes appear dressed in the costumes of 1903.
A photo of Kate Smith in “Hello, Everybody” has been listed on EBay with bidding starting at $16.25.
HELLO, EVERYBODY (1933) starred Kate Smith as Kate Smith, a young woman who sings and runs her family’s ranch and helps to fight the evil Water and Power Co. who wants to take over their land to create a dam, though they could build in another location. The film shot at the Paramount Ranch in Agoura and featured an icky former Senator who could have been Mitt Romney, talking about city dwellers who paid too much taxes but pushed capitalism all the way, how the road to riches is never wrong, and that rural areas should bail out cities and the rich.
The morning concluded with LADIES’ NIGHT IN A TURKISH BATH (1928), which starred two former Movie Star Mystery Guests, Dorothy Mackaill and Jack Mulhall. The couple possessed great chemistry and timing with each other, showing why they made a successful team. The film was the hit of the weekend, with hilarious titles such as “Speedy” Jack talking about how he uses women and then puts them back in circulation and Mackaill telling him to be like Lindbergh and fly away. Ladies’ man Jack falls for Dorothy and spends time with her parents, with James Finlayson playing her father. Mulhall and Finlayson escape from a raid on a cootchie dancer and invade the women’s night at the Turkish bath where Dorothy and her mother are visiting. Visuals and titles were spot on, and the film featured a building being built in downtown Los Angeles, possibly the Title Insurance and Trust building.
After lunch, the restored Mack Sennett short THE HOLLYWOOD KID played, looking great thanks to the work of Joe Rinaudo, photoplayer restorer extraordinaire. The film shows Vernon Dent battling to sign little Jackie Searl to a contract on the word of Sennett himself, and Searl’s father, Charles Murray, getting into mischief on the set panting over Phyllis Haver, Marie Prevost, other bathing beauties, with the film showing behind the scenes at the Sennett studio as well as its cyclorama in action.
A MACK SENNETT CENTENNIAL SALUTE followed, showing beautifully restored shorts that will play as part of TCM’s Sennett salute on Thursdays in September and that will be part of a massive Sennett DVD set coming out later this year. It featured the titles A DASH THROUGH THE CLOUDS (1912), showing Mabel Normand flying over the valley with shots of the San Fernando Mission and North Hollywood, with the edge of Griffith Park visible in the distance, A FISHY ROMANCE, RECREATION (1914) starring Charlie Chaplin flirting with a woman and causing problems around Echo Park, THE BANGVILLE POLICE, with a chase in the hills of Edendale, and THE SUBMARINE PIRATE, starring Syd Chaplin. The best part was clips showing surviving outtakes to WATER NYMPHS and BATHING BEAUTIES, with the beauties posing for moving and still cameras at Venice Pier and possibly Long Beach’s Pike Park for some kind of pageant, the girls pleading not to go into the cold water, and a parade of the beauties in cars that are labeled B. H. Dyas, Overland Autos, Venice Bathing Suit Store, etc. Seen in front of the stage is a giant bass drum labeled Keystone Kops Jass Band. Can’t wait for the rest of the films to show on TCM and DVD.
SHE WANTED A MILLIONAIRE (1932), a combo pre-code/film noir drama starring Joan Bennett and Spencer Tracy followed, with Bennett entering and winning the Miss Universe pageant in Atlantic City before marrying sadistic and vicious millionaire James Kirkwood. Will she be able to find happiness with Tracy? Una Merkel provided laughs, Bennett the looks, Tracy the wisecracks, and Kirkwood the hoariness, and the film shot possibly downtown with the large gas tank visible in the distance as well as stock shots of the promenade at Atlantic City, Times Square, and the Eiffel Tower.
STRAWBERRY ROAN (1933) was an ultra cheap Ken Maynard Universal western displaying terrible superimposed effects and bad lighting. It was more of a flashback story with singing and little action, but it demonstrated to me that I don’t need to see any more Maynard films.
A lobby card from “Love Under Fire” has been listed on EBay, with bidding starting at $33.
LOVE UNDER FIRE (1937), the last film of Cinecon 48, co-starred Loretta Young as a jewelry thief and Don Ameche as a Scotland Yard detective who fall in love during Spanish Civil war fighting. The film had fun interplay, romance, and dialogue, some entertaining music from Borrah Minevitch and his gang of harmonica playing cohorts, and the comic bluster of Walter Catlett.
All in all, another fine Cinecon of rare films and warhorses, demonstrating the power of films playing on a giant screen to enthusiastic audiences.