Sequences from William S. Hart’s “Blue Blazes Rawden” will be shown at Cinecon 57.
For those missing attending classic film screenings in person, the 57th Cinecon Classic Film Festival, the granddaddy of American vintage film fests, presents over 20 hours of rare and newly restored motion pictures and television kinescopes over Labor Day weekend, Friday, September 3 through Monday, September 6, 2021 on its webpage at www.cinecon.org. Occurring virtually once again due to the pandemic, the free event offers a little something from virtually every genre for film lovers of all ages. The festival will feature introductions by special guests, classic Cinecon memories, a Jane Withers tribute, and even surprise titles.
Two recent documentaries receive special screenings. The 2019 documentary, “Max Steiner: Maestro of Movie Music,” plays Sunday afternoon. Director Diana Friedberg examines the work of prolific, renowned film composer Max Steiner, perhaps most remembered for his score to “Gone With the Wind,” in the 2-year-old work. Critics and authors such as Jon Burlingame, Leonard Maltin, Michael Feinstein, and Steiner biographer Steven C. Smith offer contributions. The new documentary “This Is Francis X. Bushman” screens Monday afternoon before its release on DVD in September. Produced by the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum and written by Lon and Debra Davis, the documentary examines the life of silent film matinee idol Bushman, whose career spanned six decades. Perhaps best known as Messala in the MGM 1925 epic “Ben Hur,” Bushman served as one of Hollywood’s mid-1910s heartthrobs before becoming one of its respected elder statesmen.
Several silent features recently restored highlight festivities. The 1927 boxing film “Dynamite Dan” plays Friday afternoon, with a special introduction from Sara Karloff, daughter of the film’s star Boris Karloff. That night, charming Colleen Moore stars in the 1926 Hollywood Cinderella story “Ella Cinders,” with her niece Melinda Morrison Cox introducing. Saturday features what remains of the 1918 William S. Hart lumberjack film “Blue Blazes Rawden,” as well as the 1921 Thomas Meighan feature “The Conquest of Canaan,” which was filmed in Asheville, North Carolina. For those looking for a fun western fix, the 1928 “Hoofbeats of Vengeance” starring Rex the Wonder Horse, plays Sunday afternoon, with a repeat screening of the 1924 “Helen’s Babies” that evening, featuring the delightful Baby Peggy, inimitable character actor Edward Everett Horton, and the “It” girl Clara Bow. Monday concludes with the beautifully restored 1923 boy’s film “Penrod and Sam,” which premiered at the 2020 virtual Pordenone Silent Film Festival.
Two sound movies also screen during the weekend. “Green Acres” headliner Eddie Albert stars in the 1946 Republic film “Rendezvous With Annie,” about an American soldier stationed in Europe making a surprise meeting with his wife in America. Raucous comedy queen Judy Canova stars in the 1942 Republic film “SleepyTime Gal,” moving from decorating cakes at a swanky Miami hotel to performing in a singing contest. Irrepressible comedian Billy Gilbert appears along with everyone’s favorite gunsel Elisha Cook Jr. and future singer Eddie Acuff.
Television receives its due too, with the two-hour Kinecon at Cinecon program on Saturday featuring rare programs unseen for decades. The session kicks off with a salute to CBS Television City in Hollywood with appearances by George Burns and Gracie Allen, Jack Benny, Eddie “Rochester” Anderson, Art Linkletter, and Edward R. Murrow. Edward G. Robinson and Cesar Romero appear in an episode of the 1954 “The Martha Raye Show,” while Buster Keaton provides his own brand of physical comedy magic in footage from his live 1950 self-named show. The incomparable Franklin Pangborn appears in a 1951 episode of “The Variety Alan Young Show,” while Bing Crosby, Dean Martin, and Mitzi Gaynor co-star in the “Frank Sinatra Timex Show.” Edmund O’Brien and Beverly Garland star in a Lux Video Theatre production of “To Have and Have Not” which ran the night before Humphrey Bogart’s funeral in 1957. The Ritz Brothers co-star in an episode of the 1958 “The Ginger Rogers Show,” Sammy Davis Jr. appears with Milton Berle in a 1955 episode of his famous series, and a 1958 episode of “The Jack Benny Show” also airs.
A TV appearance by Milton Berle and Sammy Davis Jr. will be featured.
Comedy shorts spanning the silent and sound periods play throughout the festival, including slapstick Mack Sennett titles “Ice Cold Cocos” (1926), “A Close Shave” (1929), and the 1928 “Love at First Flight.” Clyde Cook stars in the 1924 “The Misfit” and the vintage comic duo Joseph Weber and Lew Fields star in the 1915 “The Delicatessen Shop.” The vaudeville star team was renowned as “Dutch” comedians, playing broad, slapsticky German immigrants. The 1950 “Cowboy Crazy” teases America’s love of westerns.
Other shorts screen during the weekend including the 1949 “Make Mine Monica” starring actress Monica Lewis, introduced by her son, producer/author Rocky Lang, and the 1937 comedy dance short “Swing Fever” starring Billy Gilbert, introduced by his nephew, Cinecon Board member Bryan Cooper. Noel Neill stars in the 1946 color short “College Queen,” kicking up her heels and tap dancing her way through college.
The festival includes a variety of other programming including silent trailers, a “Screen Snapshot” short, a tribute to the recently deceased Jane Withers, the 1933 Wheeler and Woolsey short “Signing ‘Em Up,” in which the team promotes the benefits of supporting the National Recovery Act (1933) to fellow RKO performers, the Thunderbean Animation program produced by Steve Stanchfield, and concludes on Sunday with an episode of the 1929 serial “King of the Kongo” starring Karloff, introduced once again by his daughter.
Accompanists for the silent films include Scott Lasky, Jon Mirsalis, and Frederick Hodges.
Many movies are of their time, featuring sometimes outdated sight gags, dialogue, and attitudes regarding weight, sex, or race that might seem odd now.
While the second Cineconline is free, the festival is gladly accepting donations, either by mailing a check to Cinecon, 3727 W. Magnolia Blvd. #760, Burbank, CA 91505, or by donating through this Paypal link.
To view the festival, please visit the webpage, www.cinecon.org to stream programming beginning at 3 p.m. Pacific Time / 6 p.m. Standard Time on Friday, September 3. Saturday through Monday programming begins at 12 p.m. Pacific Time / 3 p.m. Eastern Time. Look forward to seeing you online!