For filmgoers looking for the rare and unusual, the 54th Annual Cinecon Classic Film Festival opens Thursday at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood, with a cornucopia of silent and sound films, many unseen since their original release. Featuring newly restored films, live accompaniment, and Golden Age Hollywood stars, Cinecon celebrates the cavalcade of cinema over its five days.
For the second year in a row, the festival opens with a reception in the Egyptian forecourt before the opening screening. Kicking things off is a very rare Kinetophone short, the first American film attempts at synchronizing sound and picture by Thomas Alva Edison and his crew. The newly restored 1924 feature “Helen’s Babies” follows, starring the irrepressible Baby Peggy, Edward Everett Horton, and the rising starlet Clara Bow. Child expert Horton, who doesn’t particularly like children, is left in charge of Peggy and another niece, with complications ensuing. The Burbank-based Famous Players Orchestra accompanies the film. .
Mary Mallory’s “Living With Grace” is now on sale.
Several other restorations screen over the weekend, including “Little Orphant Annie” (1918), one of Colleen Moore’s first starring roles, two Laurel and Hardy two-reelers, “Brats” (1930) and “Hog Wild” (1930), the 1920 Universal gangster film “Outside the Law” starring Priscilla Dean and Lon Chaney, and recently rediscovered footage shot after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, revealing a streetcar traveling down a damaged and desolate Market Street.
The festival features several rare formats besides the Kinetophone. Rare television kinetoscopes play in a special program Saturday afternoon in the small Spielberg Theatre at the Egyptian, and that evening, two rare nitrate prints will be screened, the 1937 cartoon “September in the Rain” and the 1933 Stu Erwin feature “He Learned About Women.” The 1960 short “The Tale of Old Whiff,” originally shot in 70 millimeter and supposedly in Smell-O-Vision, starts things off Monday morning.
Special programs are featured throughout the weekend as well. Opposite the Laurel and Hardy shorts Friday, historian Mark Cantor presents another “I’ve got those ‘just gotta see it but it ain’t on YouTube’ blues” at the Loews Hotel, playing filmed musical shorts featuring such big band performers as Count Basie, Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington, Harry James, and more. Jerry Beck presents a program of newly restored animated shorts in the Spielberg Theatre late Saturday afternoon. Tom Barnes, who presents the Retroformat screenings at the Egyptian, projects 8 millimeter and 16 millimeter shorts revealing Hollywood in the 1920s at the Loews on Sunday afternoon. The documentary program, “Regina Doyle: The Untold But True Story,” also plays in the Spielberg Theatre on Saturday afternoon.
Classic Hollywood stars also make an appearance during the festival. Legendary Eva Marie Saint will participate in a question and answer session following the screening of her 1956 film “That Certain Feeling” starring Bob Hope on Friday afternoon. Late Saturday afternoon, top child star Cora Sue Collins will take part in a Q & A following her 1932 film “The Unexpected Father,” the only film of hers she has never seen. The classy Marsha Hunt will attend the showing of the 1935 film “The Virginia Judge,” her first appearance onscreen. All guest appearances are confirmed subject to unforeseen circumstances.
Films starring iconic stars are screened as well, including Boris Karloff in “The Ape” (1940) late Friday night, Thelma Todd with Alice White and Jack Mulhall in “Naughty Baby” (1928) Saturday, Ann Blyth in the 1951 film “The Golden Horde,” and Jean Harlow and Spencer Tracy in the 1931 film “Goldie.”
Classic funny man Jack Oakie gets his own mini-fest over the weekend with three films playing: “Sweet and Low Down” (1944) Thursday, “Once in a Lifetime” (1932) Saturday, and “Million Dollar Legs” (1932) Monday.
Two Spanish-language features starring Raul Roulien also screen, “It’s Great to Be Alive” (1933) and “Insure Your Wife!” (1935).
Rare one- and two-reelers kick off each day’s programs and after meal breaks, including a 1939 Columbia “Community Sing #1,” Mentone shorts, the 1926 Andy Clyde-Billy Bevan Mack Sennett short “Wandering Willies,” the Kinetophone “Musical Blacksmiths” starring a very young Viola Dana, and an episode of the 1935 serial, “The Infernal Triangle.” Such comic supporting players as Max Davidson, Vince Barnett, and Bert Roach star in the 1932 Universal short, “The Trial of Vince Barnett.”
Silent films will feature live accompaniment by pianists Dr. Jon Mirsalis, Frederick Hodges, and Scott Lasky.
Vintage film memorabilia can be purchased in the dealers’ room at the Loews Hotel from Thursday afternoon through Sunday evening.
Look forward to seeing you at the movies this weekend!
Correction: IT’S GREAT TO BE ALIVE is in English.