The 21st Annual Broncho Billy Silent Film Festival gallops into action Aug. 10 through 12 at the marvelous little Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum in Niles, Calif., featuring a look at rare silent films, most in 35 millimeter, screening in an actual nickelodeon theatre. This year’s fest includes newly discovered and restored Chicago Essanay films and hard to see 28 millimeter films projected on actual vintage projectors, along with a walking tour and opportunity to take a relaxing train ride through Niles Canyon.
Friday night’s festivities kick off with a reception at 6 p.m., followed by a delightful 7:30 p.m. Edison Theatre screening of short films from 1908 through 1924 featuring virtually forgotten French comedian Max Linder. Linder, one of Charlie Chaplin’s idols, played a dapper character getting into all sorts of mischief, helping pioneer slapstick comedy onscreen as we know it today. Films to be screened include “Max Juggler Par Amour” (1908), “Max – Victime Due Quinquina” (1911), “Max and the Statue” (1912), and “Au Secours!” (1924). David Drazin accompanies the films.
The festival will feature several films starring Max Linder.
On Saturday morning, attendees have a choice of programs. At 11 a.m., a walking tour of the quaint community will be offered for a donation of $5, which includes stops at the city jail, bungalows constructed by “Broncho Billy” G.M. Anderson himself, his home, the train station, and other nearby locations. At the same time in the Edison Theatre, there is a free screening of the 2013 “Broncho Billy and the Bandit’s Secret,” a contemporary silent shot on actual silent period cameras using an actual Broncho Billy story. Following is the 40 minute “Window to the Past” (2017), showing the making of the film.
The festival will screen some 3-D films. Above is an example of early equipment used to view such movies.
After lunch, a program of early 3-D films are screened, some of which have appeared at 3-D Festivals around the country, including “Thrills for You” (1940), a promotion for the Pennsylvania Railroad, and “New Dimensions” (1940), a stop motion animation film showing a Chrysler assembling itself. It was the first color 3-D film shown at the the World’s Fair. Concluding the program is the 2011 “The City Quakes,” a 3-D documentary showing destruction after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. Eric Kurland and Robert Bloomberg host the program at 12:30 p.m., with Judy Rosenberg accompanying the silent films.
The afternoon includes a presentation of newly discovered and restored Chicago Essanay shorts featuring Leo White, Wallace Beery and Gloria Swanson, and sports writer Grantland Rice. Beery and Swanson star in the 1915 “The Broken Pledge,” while White appears in “The Fable of the Syndicate Lover” written by George Ade. Rice and other sportsmen fish for salmon in Northeastern Canada in a 1917 documentary film. The program kicks off at 3:30 p.m., with accompaniment by Greg Pane.
Above, a 28-millimeter projector.
USC Hugh Hefner Film Archivist Dino Everett screens a variety of moving pictures in the rare 28-millimeter format using actual 28-millimeter projectors for the Films on Parade program at 7:30 p.m. Titles include Harold Lloyd’s “That’s Him” (1918), the 1918 “How Movies Move” from Bray, 1910 Pathe one-reelers, “Our Pet” (1924), a Baby Peggy short found in Japan, and two Kinemacolor shorts. Jon Mirsalis acts as accompanist.
Sunday morning also offers an opportunity to sample competing programs. At 11:00 a.m., the Niles Canyon Railway offers a relaxing sightseeing ride by diesel locomotive through Niles Canyon to Sunol and return. Tickets cost $ 14, $11 for seniors, and $8 for children under 12. For those looking to stay inside, Larry Telles moderates and presents a free program saluting Elmo Lincoln’s Centennial as Tarzan the Ape Man by looking at early Tarzan history and super male action heroes of the silent screen in film clips and PowerPoint presentation. Bruce Loeb accompanies the films.
At 1 p.m., festival-goers can see “Heroes and Villains: Film Collectors and Movie Pirates,” with Mirsalis once again accompanying. Gary Meyer, formerly a co-director of the Telluride Film Festival will elaborate on how film collectors were persecuted and prosecuted, along with showing the films “The Great Train Robbery” (1904), a remake of the same titled film from the previous year, and “Captain Celluloid Vs. the Film Pirates” (1966).
An ad for a movie showing the devastation of the San Francisco earthquake.
“Capturing the Wild Planet on Film” closes out the festival at 4 p.m. with a variety of films showing diverse locations. There are travelogues from Hawaii by Burton Holmes, Lyman Howe, and Hollywood Film Enterprises, as well as two unique films capturing San Francisco both before and after the 1906 earthquake. The Miles Bros., a San Francisco based company, shot “A Trip Down Market Street” two weeks before the earthquake. After the devastation, they shot “San Francisco Earthquake Films,” one reproducing the previous short almost shot for shot and also capturing the City Hall on fire and others being destroyed. Judy Rosenberg accompanies the films.
Full festival passes cost $55 for members and $65 for non-members and can be purchased at nilesfilmmuseum.org. Full festival pass holders receive a program booklet and the opportunity to reserve their seats in the theater.