Tuesday, September 15, 2015

TCM Honors Dickie Moore

Set your DV-Rs on September 24th because TCM will honor Dickie Moore that day.

The Star Witness is a must-see, a minor entry to filmland but a charming one, and an excellent display of how cute Dickie Moore could be. He whines throughout it to his older brother idol, and spends a good amount of time with grandpa who entertains him with Civil War stories. Moore and Sale worked together again in The Expert, possibly my favorite Dickie Moore movie. In his book, he remembered the shock of seeing Sale, who was in truth a young man at the time, without his makeup.

Sergeant York was one of Moore's own favorites. He remembered Gary Cooper fondly, who taught him to love the great outdoors.

6:15 AM Three Who Loved (1931)
7:30 AM The Star Witness (1931)
8:45 AM So Big (1932)
10:15 AM Gabriel Over the White House (1933)
11:45 AM The Story of Louis Pasteur (1936)
1:15 PM My Bill (1938)
2:30 PM Sergeant York (1941)
4:45 PM Out of the Past (1947)
6:30 PM Bad Boy (1949)

Thursday, September 10, 2015

John Richard Moore (9/12/1925 - 9/10/2015)

Today Dickie Moore died, and I'm heartbroken.

I know what you're thinking. How much could an 89 year old man I've never met mean to me? Plenty.

When I was 15 years old, I was a frustrated teenager with strict parents who did all they could to keep me at home. We couldn't afford cable, and I wasn't allowed to watch rated R movies without them screening them first and giving me their approval. This kept me out of the loop with a lot of my peers, but I found solace at the library among the plethora of black and white movies which had the bold NR sticker on the side indicating they were not rated and therefore fair game.

I came to old stuff gradually. When I was a kid, my dad introduced my sister and I to black and white comedy shorts, specifically the Little Rascals and the Three Stooges. We owned several of the Cabin Fever tapes, so when I got bored of watching the same movies over and over again I revisited the Rascals.

At this time Roswell had just ended. Roswell was a show about aliens which was aimed at teens. This was in the same era as Dawson's Creek, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Felicity. Ever the outsider, I watched Roswell, and while it had a very loyal and passionate fan base (which saved the show from cancellation twice by bombarding the network with Tabasco sauce-- an alien favorite) it couldn't survive the ratings game. I campaigned hard to achieve more viewership, even going so far with my "grassroots" campaign as to email unsuspecting people whose emails I found on various message boards and annoying everyone in my classes with my weekly announcements that "Roswell is on tonight!" It was this energy that was pent up waiting for an outlet that I channeled into my interest in old movies.

Watching the Little Rascals films with young adult eyes was quite a different experience from watching them as a kid. At seven, I was just amused by the various ways the kids played together, and I lived vicariously through them, knowing my parents would NEVER let us out of their sight long enough to explore a cave and meet a giant (Mama's Little Pirate) or to gather various pieces of trash to create a giant fire engine to drive down a big hill (Hi Neighbor). When I was older, I began to see the comedy behind the jokes, and to see just how adorable the kid actors really were.

It was all Dickie Moore's fault that I became the old movie nerd I am today. It was those big brown eyes and that deep put-on little man voice that did it. As a kid I thought he looked like my friend Kyle, but as a teen he just looked like the cutest kid ever, fodder for my budding maternal instincts. I began to wonder if he ever did anything besides the Rascals.

This was dangerous thinking, and I knew it. I had been down that road before, that intense wonder, the obsessive itch to find out everything I could about something and then some. And I knew this topic was an unpopular one, something that could get me teased even more than I already was. I gave it a few days. Curiosity won out.

I did a search of several of my favorite Rascals. I found out about the "curse," or the fact that many of them died young and because of unusual circumstances. But Dickie Moore was not only still living, but also had a long and varied career as a child star. He was the launching point. It was through him that I met Gary Cooper (Sergeant York), Marlene Dietrich (Blonde Venus), Robert Mitchem (Out of the Past) and others. I got his book from the library and read all about child stars I had never heard about before. There were more names and more movie titles than I knew what to do with. It was heaven.

I wrote him a fan letter a few years later, and to my surprise he responded. It was a brief but pleasant note, and the encouragement he gave me lead me to write to other stars I admired. His was one of the few responses I ever received.

At my second Cinevent in 2008, Dickie Moore and the Little Rascals led me to new friends. Sitting on the Kukowski table just inside the door was Volume 8 of the Cabin Fever set, a tape I did not own. I bought it and began talking to David about the Rascals and how much I liked them. He showed me a lobby card featuring Dickie Moore, which I thought was hilarious because it depicted Dickie lying dead in the middle of the street, and Dick was one of the few stars of the era who was still alive. It took some time but I eventually bought the card and ever since have proudly displayed it on my wall.

I heard about a year ago that Dick was not doing well, that he was suffering from dementia and could no longer travel. This made me sad but it prepared me for the worst. Today's news is not a shock, but it is a blow, a close to a life that touched a lot of people through the years, and mine especially.

I recently wrote another fan letter to Dick, this time because of my recent quest to obtain autographs from classic stars before they inevitably pass away. He was married to actress Jane Powell, a very talented musical star who appeared in many escapist movies which never fail to put a smile on my face. I sent their photos and letter together and specifically requested that she relay my good wishes to Dick if he was too ill to read them himself. I wrote:

"My passion for classic movies brought me friends from around the globe, and you were inadvertently the catalyst. From the bottom of my heart, thank you for that. It means more to me than I can ever express... It is satisfying to know that you will receive this letter and understand that after all of these years, the movies you made as a little boy are still making people smile and will continue to do so for years to come."

Monday, May 25, 2015

Farewell Cinevent 47

Cinevent is over, and I had a great time. The Renaissance Hotel worked very nicely for the show and I heard lots of positive comments about the rooms. The main dealer room on the 2nd floor had spacious aisles which didn't force attendees to squish behind each other to visit the next table. The smaller rooms on the 3rd floor were easy to access and were nicely air-cooled, unlike the 6th floor at the previous hotel which was often stuffy and humid. I hope to contribute to the planning of next year's show and welcome any suggestions you may have.

Early Birds Prior to the First Screening Friday
Because of my limited budget this year I watched lots of films rather than spending my time shopping. Of course I spend a good amount of time in the dealer's room talking with friends and admiring the many posters and displayed items I could not afford. I have a difficult time sitting in the stiff-backed chairs in the screening room for more than two films in a row, so I spend the time in between walking and browsing. But after all, this is a film convention, and with such rare offerings, it would be silly to skip the movies altogether.
The first film was my favorite of the weekend. Johnny Doesn't Live Here Anymore is a alternately predictable and bizarre Monogram film starring beautiful Simone Simon. It begins in a train. Kathy is reading a magazine and stumbles upon an advertisement (for what I don't know) warning viewers to watch out for Gremlins. One appears and begins harassing the leading lady who tosses salt over her shoulder in order to ward off bad juju. It doesn't work. She arrives at her destination to find that the woman who invited her to room with her has just eloped and wants privacy. Kathy walks day and night and can't find a vacancy, and it is by chance that she stumbles upon a man off to join the military who won't be needing his room for a while. "How did you know my name is Johnny?" he asks her. "I call everybody Johnny," she sweetly responds. He sublets her his room but fails to tell her about the many keys he has distributed to various friends around town, all of them male. They pop in for a beer at night and for a shower in the morning and each time she has to sternly inform them that "Johnny doesn't live here anymore." Of course several of them are taken by her beauty and do all they can to get an invitation to stay. I liked this movie so much I bought a lobby card depicting the scene toward the end where Kathy is asked to choose between the two men she cares for.

My opinion of Shooting Stars was much different than most people I talked to. While I found it to be technically above average, the routine storyline and adequate acting left me feeling that the movie was okay but not special.  The story concerns an acting couple (Brian Aherne, Annette Benson) who are starring in a film together. Meanwhile, she is having an affair with a comedian working on the same lot. There are some beautiful shots in this movie, such as the overhead tracking shot which follows the action of various activities on the movie set, the moving camera which follows a dangerous descent down a hill on a bicycle, and the poignant ending which tracks a washed-up actress's slow departure from a set. These moments are the reason to watch the film.

I've been watching a lot of Elvis movies lately. Loving You is among the best because it has a plot which excuses the many musical numbers. The talented auxiliary cast makes it worth your time too. Elvis is a small town boy with an impressive stage presence, so a publicity agent (Lizabeth Scott) recruits him to help assist the waning popularity of her ex-husband's (Wendell Corey) traveling western show. The gimmick works wonderfully but people begin to become suspicious of her motivations. Shot in Technicolor, this film is a feast for the eyes, and if you're an Elvis fan, essential viewing.

The Senator Was Indiscreet was another big hit with the audience. I am in the minority in my indifference to William Powell, but he usually makes good films, and this was no exception. A stuffy senator who is counting his chickens decides he wants to run for president even though he isn't even a candidate yet. He panders to all types, from native Americans to country folk to southern gentlemen, on a road tour across the country. Every day he records his experiences in a diary, something he has been doing for years, much to the chagrin of his manager. Of course someone steals the diary, and the senator and his associates frantically try to recover it before his and other politicians' reputations are ruined. There are lots of good jokes and the audience responded well to them.

Lloyd Nolan is billed first in Undercover Doctor, although his part is not the biggest. This is proof that not every film made in 1939 was a classic. The movie is a programmer, a film depicting true crime which isn't an unpleasant way to kill an hour, but which doesn't leave the viewer with anything when it is done. A doctor begins padding his pockets by treating gangsters who have been wounded in shootouts. The cops are out to find out who he is, and they do eventually. Unremarkable.

A few years ago, I was invited to join a group to watch 16mm films in a friend's hotel room, a common occurrence at film festivals. This year we had the luxury of the Monsterbash room. Among the short comedies (Our Gang, The Three Stooges, a Danny Kaye comedy), cartoons, and trailers were a few soundie shorts, including one that was particularly odd and poorly made, and therefore highly entertaining. I hope you like it as much as I did.

The Saturday morning Annual Animation Program always plays to a packed house. The highlights included Porky Pig in The Case of the Stuttering Pig which concerned a monster and a dark house, Donald's Dilemma which featured Donald Duck singing like Bing Crosby, and Lonesome Lenny which shows an overzealous dog smothering Screwy Squirrel to death.

If you like pre-code movies, you will like Luxury Liner. The story surrounds George Brent and his wife who is running off to be with a millionaire aboard a cruise liner. He becomes the ship's doctor to confront her about it. Meanwhile an enthusiastic blonde (Alice White) spends her time schmoozing men to get ahead in life. Her scenes are the most comedic, and the most scandalous. The ending is abrupt and silly, but the rest of the film is entertaining.

Each year there is a Charley Chase festival, and this year all of the shorts were silent. I don't recall ever seeing silent Chase films before, and I was excited to check them out. With this limited introduction, I still prefer the talkies, but these movies were fun too. The first, One of the Family, was the weakest of the offerings and concerned Jimmy Jump becoming a chauffeur. Hello Baby got more laughs by recycling jokes from other comedies of the era. Many Scrappy Returns revolves around suspected marital infidelity and features an elaborate door routine which is very well done. A One-Mama Man has Chase as a Count who is hired to impersonate himself at a party and evokes a lot of laughs.

The next film was Take the Stand, a rare Thelma Todd feature which is rumored to be the only copy outside of one trapped in an archive. My friends were bustling about how excited they were to see it, and I planned to watch it because of its rarity, but after the Chase shorts my butt couldn't take it anymore. I made a good choice. One friend left after about 20 minutes, and another groaned about sitting through the whole thing expecting a payoff and never getting it. "Some films are lost for a reason," he said.

The Nervous Wreck could have been a funnier film. A hypochondriac (Harrison Ford) goes to the country for his nerves and meets a flirtatious and impulsive blonde (Phyllis Haver) who is engaged to the town sheriff. Before departing on a day drive with the hypochondriac, she leaves a note telling her fiancee she is actually eloping with the new guy. On their drive they run out of gas, and rather than walk somewhere to get more, they accidentally hold up a passing car and have to hide out for a while. Pair this with every man's expectation that the blonde cook for them, which she hates and rejects outright, and the man's constant need for pills and relaxation and you get a mildly amusing silent which is okay but very forgettable.

I would have enjoyed 99 River Street had I not been dozing off periodically throughout it. It is a standard noir story which reminded me of the Hard Case Crime book series I love with superior acting performances, particularly by Evelyn Keyes. A taxi cab driver and his wife are no longer in love with each other. She resents him and he's given up trying. She embarks on an affair with a gangster and winds up dead and he goes on a mission to avenge her death even though his heart isn't totally in it.

I missed the first movie on Monday when I overslept. I forgot to set my alarm. Running on only a few hours of sleep each night definitely takes its toll.

San Francisco Docks was my least favorite film of the weekend. A couple of convicts escape from prison and ride back to shore in a fishing boat. At a dockside bar, a few men get into an arguement and later one of them ends up dead. A man is accused but claims innocence, and his sweetheart and friends at the bar step in to try to find the real murderer before he hangs. They flirt with comedy without achieving it occasionally, and attempt suspense but fall flat there too. This film is trying to be lots of other films and fails all around to be very entertaining at all. I did get a chuckle out of one line though, which said one man was "just in time to be too late."
I knew Melody Parade would have a thin plot and lots of musical numbers. Both are quite forgettable but they make for a pleasant ending to a great show. A nightclub is in trouble financially, until a wealthy woman promises to back them. At least they think she's wealthy because she has the same name as a millionaire, but she's the 4th, not the 3rd. No matter; she hires a stuffed shirt at $1000 per week (to make it more impressive) and starts bossing the boss around. Cinevent began and ended with a pleasant Monogram feature.

Losing Cinevent founder Steve Haynes was unfortunate, and the difficulty finding a new hotel after the last one closed added a wrench into an already stressful situation, but Michael Haynes and the other Cinevent organizers did an amazing job of keeping the show going and in the same tradition of years past. This is a show that celebrates nostalgia and sometimes attendees are resistant to change, but most everyone seemed willing and enthusiastic to adapt to the changes and enjoy themselves.

If you have any suggestions for next year's Cinevent, please let me know. And be sure to check out blogs of the attendees, like Jim Lane's Cinedrome, Caren's Classic Cinema, Cleveland Movie Blog,etc.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Go to Cinevent!

Cinevent is fast approaching (May 22-25), and pre-registered attendees are getting excited. For those of you who are not regular patrons or are on the fence about attending, let me sway you.

If you're a fan of classic movies, and if you've been watching them so long you've seen all of the standards or if you just like to check out new things, this is the perfect convention. The film program boasts 16mm film, which is an experience in itself, and an addictive one if you've never had it before. Unlike revivals, like CAPA's excellent Summer Movie Series at the Ohio Theatre, these are obscure movies which are not available on DVD, but which feature recognizable stars. If you only know Lon Chaney from his monster characters, now you can see him play Fagin in Oliver Twist accompanied live on the piano. If you've only ever seen Zita Johann in The Mummy, now you can see her with George Brent in Luxury Liner. If you've seen Larry Parks play Jolson a hundred times, why not check him out as a swashbuckler in The Gallant Blade?

Additionally, you can shop til you drop in the massive dealer's room. Vendors offer items in all price ranges from $1 up to a few thousand for film prints, original lobby cards, posters, movie stills, press books, vintage magazines, books, DVDs and videos, records, autographs and other various movie memorabilia.

One of the biggest drawbacks to watching these niche films at home is the lack of interpersonal interaction. Cinevent offers not only movies but conversation about them. And these people are knowledgeable film fanatics who just may be able to teach you a thing or two and turn you on to new things. In terms of the social component, there is no equal outside of conventions. Where else will you find a gathering this large in person?

Columbus has a lot to offer visitors in addition to Cinevent. The more I've traveled and visited other cities, the more I've appreciated where I was born and raised.

Places to Go:

  • The Ohio Historical Center
    This museum may be of particular interest to Cinevent attendees because of its exhibit on 1950s living which includes an entire Lustron home that visitors can explore. The Ohio Village opens Memorial Day and is a recreation of a real Ohio town in the 1860s.
  • Wexner Center
    Ohio State's art center screens a classic in conjunction with Cinevent annually. This year's offering is From Mayerling to Sarajevo, the love story of the Archduke Ferdinand and Czech Countess Sophie Chotek.
  • Columbus Museum of Art
    The art museum hosts everything from old masters like Picasso and Monet to modern art. There are currently exhibits on nurses in art, a photographic tribute to Marvin Hamlisch, and fabric art by Esther Nisenthal Krinitz. Admission is free on Sundays.
  • Franklin Park Conservatory
    If you're itching to be outside after a long day of watching movies, check out this beautiful garden oasis. In the spring, butterflies are put on display and released daily.
  • Columbus Zoo
    Often heralded as one of the best zoos in the country, our zoo features a large variety of animals sectioned off by continent, including the new Africa exhibit featuring giraffes.
  • Near East Side, German Village & Victorian Village
    If you're a fan of 100+ year-old architecture, you will want to drive through these historic neighborhoods to see how many beautiful buildings have been restored and preserved as residences in Columbus. It is a free feast for the eyes.
Places to Eat:
  • The Top
    This steakhouse has been in operation for 60 years and its swanky vintage vibe makes it a unique and memorable place to eat if you're willing to pay a bit more than you would at a chain. Pair your classic movies with a classic and delicious steak dinner.
  • Hickory House
    If you're particularly hungry, look no further than the Hickory House's combination dinners where you can choose between ribs, steak, chicken and shrimp in addition to large potatoes, salad, and dinner rolls.
  • La Chatelaine
    In search of something rich, hearty and flavorful? Check out this great French bakery/restaurant for anything from dinner, a quick bite to eat or just dessert. The biscuits are so flaky, you'll be addicted with just one bite.
  • Schmidt's 
    This sausage restaurant in the heart of German Village has been running for more than a century and was featured on Man Vs. Food. The bahama mama sausage is so popular it is sold in local grocery store.
  • Akai Hana
    This Japanese restaurant is so authentic, half of the menu is in characters. For fresh sushi, delicious appetizers or unique hot entrees, you can't go wrong here, and the staff is very friendly.
  • Ange's Pizza (& other locations)
    While some people flock to Massey's or Donato's or Plank's when they're in Columbus, I choose Ange's every time. If you like good, local, greasy thin crust pizza that doesn't cost an arm and a leg, you can't go wrong here.
  • Jeni's Ice Cream
    This unusual and locally sourced ice cream shop will be re-opened in time for Cinevent, which is great if you want to try something different like Goat Cheese and Red Cherries or Wildberry Lavender or Salty Caramel.
  • Graeter's 
    Do you ever wish you could visit an old-fashioned soda fountain? Greater's offers a variety of rich, traditional ice cream flavors, but you could have them made into ice cream sodas or sundaes. Or try a phosphate soda. Their spring flavors (strawberry chip and bourbon pecan chip) are especially good.
If you're unable to get away from downtown, the hotel's restaurant Latitude 41 features a somewhat unique but satisfying variety of meals. Tip Top is within walking distance and features a large ornate bar and good lunch options. The Elevator is a historical restaurant a few blocks away and is worth checking out.

Still not sure if you want to come out? Message me! I'll convince you.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Grand Finale of Cinefest

Thad Komorowski, David Gerstein, and Steve Stanchfield
watching polished cartoons
It is funny the way time goes by when you're at a convention. While living it, you're aware of time the same as any other day. You get hungry for meals and tired generally around the same times as you normally would. But when it is all over and you stop to reflect on events, they all run together into one continuous day. The spare hours spent sleeping and showering (or in some cases, just sleeping) melt away and sometimes the only way to differentiate Thursday from Saturday is the film schedule.

The first movie I watched was The Last Man on Earth. This is a quaint sci-fi story set in the future which gets lots of giggles in the beginning but overstays its welcome. If you enjoyed Just Imagine, you’ll love this. Elmer is a man with eyes for only one girl, but she cannot see his merit and no one else can seem to either. Her decisive rejection of him pushes him away so strongly that he becomes a hermit in the forest, and it is a good thing for him because an outbreak of “masculitis”, a disease which eradicates
Buying books from Doug Swarthout, a total of 18
males over 14 years old, gives him the coveted spot of the last man on earth. Hundreds of sex-starved women in outrageous and shockingly risqué dresses (who are they flaunting their bodies for?) impatiently wait for the pre-teen boys to come of age, searching the globe for any sign of a surviving man. They find Elmer and bring him back to civilization only to be auctioned off to the highest bidder, then confiscated by the government and given away to the winner of a boxing match. The movie is only 70 minutes long and the beginning is tightly edited but it begins to peter out at the end once the novelty wears off. With that being said, the novelty is pretty fun. Compare the short hoop skirts (which when pressed against, such as when dancing, flips up to completely expose a pair of bloomers) with the more demure and utilitarian styles of the actual 1940s. Imagine the endless jokes that could arise from such a story, many of which are alluded to in the discreet way that movies restricted by censorship regulations cleverly did. I recently bought a book called Mr. Adam published in the 1940s with a similar plot and I’m curious to read it and compare it with this film.

Martin Grams hard at work
My friend Rich Finegan saw The Road Back prior to Cinefest and described it as the sequel to All Quiet on the Western Front. I find WWI to be a fascinating and often neglected time in history and it is less common to get the German perspective so I naturally was interested in this film. It left something to be desired. Although it is about German soldiers after the armistice, no attempt was made to authentically portray Germans. The characters have German names, but they mispronounce them (Ernsts is “Earnst” instead of “Airnst”) and make no attempt at accents. The casting is totally inappropriate. (Andy Devine as a German? Really?) Leading man John King was especially wooden. About 45 minutes in, I began to wonder where exactly the story was going and whether or not it would ever end, which was I’m sure exacerbated by sitting for too long in those chairs and knowing there were so many people in the dealer’s room to talk to. Finally it began to draw to a close, and what a finale! Some people found the final speech, which outlined the hypocrisy of a nationalistic government urging youth to go off to war and kill men they do not know and then punishing them for using aggression against men who wrong them in peacetime, to be preachy and off-putting, but I was impressed by the passion behind it and the message which rings true in modern times. 

Meeting Leonard Maltin with my friend Keaton
It Pays to Be Ignorant was a cute game show that moved quickly and got a lot of laughs. It was scripted, but the actors were adept enough to make it look natural and candid.

The Return of Peter Grimm was based on a story by David Belasco, so of course it is pure melodrama. I saw the later talkie version with Lionel Barrymore years ago and enjoyed it. It is comparable to this version which moved quickly and had a good cast, including Janet Gaynor who is always pleasant.

I was in the theater for Me and the Boys but the projectionists were having trouble with the digital presentation (there was no sound) so they ended up moving it to after the Hal Roach Show. Since my friend needed a ride over to the hotel I left before they screened it. This was the first of many digital mishaps that plagued the show. 

Little Wheezer taunting Jackie in Spanish
Dick Bann's Hal Roach Show part one was one of the big highlights of the program for me. I became interested in Hollywood history and black and white movies because of the Our Gang series. I watched them over and over as a child, wishing I had the freedom those kids did to roam the streets and use their imaginations to make something wonderful without a dime in their pockets. Those shorts are and will always be affixed to my heart (which was why it was such a thrill to get my Little Rascals book signed by both authors at the show). Naturally I was excited to see Fantasmas (AKA the Spanish version of When the Wind Blows) because I never saw it, but also because it featured Wheezer, my favorite rascal, speaking Spanish (telling Petey, AKA Pepe to sic Jackie AKA Juanito). The movie was basically the same outside of a few cast changes, including Chubby's new very ethnic parents. Next we saw some newsreel footage of the gang when the Reunion in Rhythm short was filmed. Silent cast members in their early 20s visited the kids and posed next
Meeting Richard W. Bann
to their "replacements." I've seen clips from this footage in a documentary but it was fun to see how many times they filmed Alfalfa's painful singing and poor Jackie Condon having to attentively listen to it. Third was Crazy Feet, an early and rare Charley Chase comedy with several pre-code elements including a racist song title and very flamboyant male dancers. The comedy started out very strong with Charley, Thelma Todd, and another man wrestling each other in a tiny automobile. It lost steam when Charley went onstage and swung around on a rope for a prolonged period of time, but overall it was enjoyable. Last was Edgar Kennedy in Dad's Day. I have watched Kennedy in many films over the years, but I never saw a short where he was the star. This was my first and he went over well. The opening scenes where his family took advantage of him made me wonder why he didn't just haul off and slap them, but as the short progressed it got funnier, especially the bit where he tries to fight the bathing suit rental clerk and loses miserably. 

The Vitagraph Varieties presentation which was laid out in the program book was different than what they showed because of another problem with the digital medium. I do not recall which films they did show, but none of the four stood out as being particularly good.

When I saw in the opening credits of The Second Floor Mystery that the movie was based on The Agony Column by Derr Earl Biggers, I got even more excited than I previously was to see this early Loretta Young film. I loved the book so much I read it in one day but I didn’t realize there was a film version, so I was naturally very disappointed when about 10-15 minutes into the movie it shut off and restarted from the beginning. The projectionist tried several times to fast-forward it back to the correct moment, but it shut off again. By this time I was frustrated and since my friends were waiting for me to go to dinner, I decided to leave. They did show the rest of the movie and I heard it was quite good, so I will try to track down a copy to watch at home.

Gary Sloan running movies after hours

We got back from dinner too late to watch The Bride of Finklestein, which was a film by my friend Michael Schlesinger. He got good reviews from the crowd and I hope someday to see a Biffle and Shooster comedy.

I love Harold Lloyd features. Because of the kind of everyman character he played and the city locations, his movies captured a slice of history that costume dramas and horror movies never did. Match that with top-notch comedy and you’ve got the makings for a wonderful movie, and the silent version of Welcome Danger is no exception. Annette D'Agostino Lloyd introduced the movie and asked the crowd who had watched the sound version. Then she asked how many liked it, and the amount of raised hands significantly decreased. She laughed and promised the silent version was vastly superior, and judging by audience reaction, she was right. The images were polished, the comedy was truly funny and the story was entertaining. This was definitely the best feature I saw at Cinefest. Now I want to give the talkie version a shot to see how it compares.

With El Brendel expert Louie Despres
My Lips Betray has El Brendel, and that was all I knew about it prior to watching it. The movie is missing a reel, and you notice which one is gone because the romance abruptly evolves from something new and innocent to something fairly well established. Lilian Harvey was an adorable little comedienne, but her singing and dancing were not up to par. John Boles was very handsome as the leading man. This movie had the look of a much later film and reminded me of Fox musicals of the late 30s and early 40s. Unfortunately, El's part was so small it is hard to say much about it.

Tess of the Storm Country was introduced by a representative who worked on the restoration and his enthusiasm and sense of humor were refreshing, though his talk went a bit longer than was probably appropriate considering how delayed the schedule already was. To make matters worse, the digital presentation was in the wrong aspect ratio, so after 5 or 10 minutes of watching, they stopped the movie and said they would show it at a later time. Fortunately, I didn't miss the re-screening, although the movie was disappointing overall. Die-hard Mary Pickford fans like me will find contrasting this with the 1922 remake entertaining, but the later version is vastly superior. This 1914 original suffers from antiquated film making including heavy use of title cards to advance the story and lots of full length shots of the actors which encouraged more stagy acting from the auxiliary cast.

The final thing I watched in the screening room was Dick Bann's Hal Roach Show part two, and it was disappointing. The first short was an overly lengthy drama about a farmer who submits an autobiographical story to a studio and wins a trip to Hollywood only to be cast in the movie because of his prowess milking cows. It would have been better if it had been edited a bit more, but as it stands it felt like a short/feature hybrid. Next came an episode of the Gale Storm show where Gale and Zasu Pitts sneak away from quarantine on a cruise ship to visit the Hal Roach studios where they get mixed up in a doppelganger case with Boris Karloff. It was entertaining enough but nothing special.

Reunion with the Kukowskis: Keaton, Sharon, Steve & David
I heard the most raves about two films I did not see: Out All Night (because I was driving in) and The Synthetic Sin (because I was busy gabbing). 

So what did I learn? Digital may be the way of the future, but sometimes the old-fashioned way is best. Since I do not have a projector of my own, hearing the whirr of real film running through the machine is something I associate with film conventions and taking that away detracts a bit from the experience.

Let me say I had a great time, as I knew I would. I met people in person who I had only known online, saw familiar faces, and made new friends. Truly it is the people who make conventions worthwhile, which was brought home recently for me with the deaths of two convention regulars. It is true that the films are what bring us together and the organizers do a great job of offering rare attractions, but just as we savor the films we should also savor the moments together because they are fleeting. 
With Adam Williams

I hope the predictions that conventions will become a thing of the past are wrong, and that Cinefest attendees will still gather together. For those who have attended Cinefest but never Cinevent, let me encourage you to check it out. They are very similar in setup and crowd, although Cinevent has more dealers and a wider range of films. I consider my Cinefest trip to be the appetizer to the meal, and what a satisfying meal it is!

Monday, March 16, 2015


I have never been to Cinefest, but I have always heard good things about it. This year will be the last year this convention is held, so I decided I would find a way to attend.

Conventions are fun whether you know anyone who attends them or not. There are enough movies screened that you could enjoy yourself without talking to a single attendee. But anyone who attends without talking to people is doing himself a disservice. You can watch movies all day long at home. Conventions are places to chat with like-minded fans, and that is what I am most looking forward to at Cinefest.

However, it would be silly to go and not watch any movies. There are quite a few I intend to see, among others, which I have bolded. I hope to see you there!

Thursday, March 19th
9:00 am OUT ALL NIGHT (1933) with Zasu Pitts, Slim Summerville
10:15 am BEST OF MOSTLY LOST III From the Library of Congress (1)
11:05 am YELLOW FINGERS (1926) with Olive Borden, Ralph Ince
1:15 pm TOWER OF TREASURES, RKO TRAILERS Hosted by Ray Faiola
2:15 pm LIFE IN THE RAW (1933) with George O’Brien, Claire Trevor (3)
3:20 pm LAST MAN ON EARTH (1924) with Earle Fox, Grace Cunard (4)
4:30 pm THE ROAD BACK (1937) with John King, Richard Cromwell
8:00 pm IT PAYS TO BE IGNORANT (1948) with Tom Howard
8:10 pm KING OF THE KONGO, CHAPTER 10 (1929) With Boris Karloff
8:35 pm LUCKY BEGINNERS Hal Roach All Stars
9:00 pm RETURN OF PETER GRIMM (1926) with Janet Gaynor (4)
10:10 pm CAPTAIN FLY-BY-NIGHT (1922) with Johnnie Walker, Shannon Day
11:15 pm THE THIRD ALARM (1922) w/Johnnie Walker, Ralph Lewis, Ella Hall

Friday, March 20th
9:00 am SERVICE STRIPES (1930) Vitaphone short with Joe Penner
9:10 am MEN ON CALL (1931) with Edmund Lowe, Mae Clarke
10:20 am ME AND THE BOYS (1929)
10:30 am DICK BANN’S HAL ROACH SHOW #1 Hosted by Dick Bann
1:00 pm STORY OF COLOR IN THE MOVIES Hosted by Eric Grayson
2:30 pm PAINTED WOMAN (1932) with Spencer Tracy, Peggy Shannon (3)
3:40 pm VITAGRAPH VARIETIES From the Library of Congress (1)
4:45 pm SECOND FLOOR MYSTERY (1930) with Loretta Young (3)
8:00 pm BRIDE OF FINKLESTEIN (2015) Hosted by Michael Schlesinger
8:20 pm A SONG IN THE DARK, More Dangerous Rhythms by Richard Barrios
9:35 pm HEART TO HEART (1928) with Mary Astor, Lloyd Hughes (1)
10:40 pm LUCRETIA LOMBARD (1923) with Irene Rich, Monte Blue
11:45 pm RISKY BUSINESS (1938) with George Murphy, Dorothea Kent

Saturday, March 21st
9:00 am SMOKING GUNS (1934) with Ken Maynard, Gloria Shea
10:00 am WELCOME DANGER (Silent Version) with Harold Lloyd, Barbara Kent
12 Noon THE DAWN OF TECHNICOLOR Early Technicolor Musicals
1:10 pm FLORIDA STUDIO FILMS From the Library of Congress (1)
2:15 pm NEW KLONDIKE (1926) with Thomas Meighan, Lilia Lee, Paul Kelly (1)
3:25 pm SEA SORE (1934) with Arthur Tracy, Baby Rose Marie
3:45 pm MY LIPS BETRAY (1933) with Lilian Harvey, John Boles (3)
4:50 pm TESS OF THE STORM COUNTRY (1914) with Mary Pickford (5)
8:00 pm WE WE MARIE (1930) with Slim Summerville, Eddie Gribbon
8:30 pm TEA MAKING TIPS (1925)
8:50 pm SYNTHETIC SIN (1928) with Colleen Moore, Antonio Moreno (2)
10:05 pm THE DANGER GAME (1917) with Madge Kennedy, Tom Moore
11:10 pm BABIES, THEY’RE WONDERFUL (1947) with Patsy Kelly
11:20 pm THREE KISSES (1955) Paramount Topper
11:35 pm THE BACK PAGE (1933) with Peggy Shannon, Russell Hopkin

Sunday, March 22nd
9:00 am THE BIG BROADCAST (1932) with Bing Crosby, Burns and Allen
10:30 am THE AUCTION (2015) Hosted by Leonard Maltin and George Read
12:30 pm ONCE A SINNER (1931) with Dorothy MacKaill, Joel McCrea (3)
1:40 pm CALGARY STAMPEDE (1926) with Hoot Gibson, Virginia Brown
2:35 pm DICK BANN’S HAL ROACH SHOW #2 Hosted by Dick Bann
3:40 pm CODE OF THE SEA (1924) with Rod LaRocque, Jacqueline Logan
4:40 pm THE SEA LION (1922) with Hobart Bosworth, Bessie Love