November is a fantastic month for those who enjoy or who are just plain curious about silent films – all over the country.
Houston, Texas: This Saturday, we’ll be down at the Miller Outdoor Theater with bells on: because the 1920 classic “The Mark of Zorro,” starring Douglas Fairbanks, will be presented at 7:30 PM, with the live musical accompaniment of Rick Benjamin’s Paragon Orchestra. This is also a free event! The Miller Outdoor Theater is located at 100 Concert Drive in Hermann Park, just south of the Museum of Natural Science and the Houston Garden Center. There are other great free shows featured at the Outdoor Theater. (Tonight, in fact, is a showing of the sound documentary, “Hot Town, Cool City,” by artist Maureen McNamara, which is all about the city of Houston and its possibilities. Find out more at http://www.hottowncoolcity.org/)
Not only is Douglas Fairbanks’ star undimmed — he is delightful to watch in Zorro, one of his signature roles — but those who are new to silent films should also enjoy Fred Niblo’s direction. Niblo has made some other crowd-pleasers, especially Ben-Hur, and Blood and Sand with Rudolph Valentino. With Rick Benjamin’s music accompaniment, it shouldn’t be hard to catch the fever.
On Sunday, November 11 at 2pm (Veterans Day), the Silent Clowns Film Series at the New York Historical Society, 170 Central Park West, will show Clara Bow’s Wings. If you’re in New York City, and you’ve never seen a silent before, or you have a friend who has never seen a silent — this is as good as any introduction to the genre. A WWI epic that also served as one of Gary Cooper’s first movies, Wings still wows them with the dashing aerial photography, and the lovable, vulnerable Clara Bow. The Silent Clowns description: “Our silent clowns take a brief break so that we can present the first epic of the air, which not only won the very first Academy Award for Best Picture, but was the only silent film to ever do so. Based on director William Wellman’s own experiences as a flyer in World War I, Wings features incredible camerawork and action scenes still unrivaled in these days of modern digital effects.” The following week, November 18th, at 2 pm, Forgotten Clowns will return with a group of shorts: “On the bill for our annual tribute to neglected comics is Mack Sennett in The Would-Be Shriner (’12), She Landed A Big One (’14) with Wallace Beery as “Sweedie,” the Three Fatties in (’25), All Tied UpAnything Once (’27) with Mabel Normand, Cliff Bowes in Pep Up (’29), and bringing up the rear, Lloyd Hamilton in Blazing Away (’28). [note: as these titles are very rare and hard to access on film, this program will utilize video projection].” There is a ticket charge.
Beautifully restored, yet easy to appreciate music is also one of the highlights of another Douglas Fairbanks silent, being aired in Colorado this month: The Black Pirate, ironically appearing in early Technicolor, with featured accompaniment by the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra. This will be at 7:30 PM, Saturday, November 17, at the Louisville, Colorado Arts Center, on 801 Grant Avenue in Louisville. Tickets are $7 adults; $5 for seniors and students. Information and reservations at 303.666.7400.
On Sunday, November 18th, in Centerville, Iowa,, one of Norma Talmadge’s films, The Wonderful Thing,, will be premiering at the Majestic Theater at 7 pm, tickets $5. Talmadge and the crew came out to the region to film the outdoor scenes, a real treat not only for dyed-in-the-wool Talmadge fanatics, but also for Iowans who are curious about how the scenery’s aged in over 80 years!
In conjunction with the new publication of the book Silent Movies: The Birth of Film and the Triumph of Movie Culture the Library of Congress is sponsoring or co-sponsoring several showings of silent films throughout Washington, D.C:
Tonight, Friday, November 9th, at 7:00 pm, at the Library of Congress’ Mary Pickford Theater, they start with several shorts.
- “Color, Comedy, and the Coming of Sound” presents “one-reelers that highlight the use of color and sound from the start of the silent era to the early days of the talkie. Titles to be screened include, Metamorphoses du Papillon (1904), Kinemacolor fragment from Ye Olde Newsreel, the trailer for the lost feature American Venus (1926), and Abbie Mitchell: The Colored Prima Dona in Songs of Yesterday (ca. 1922-1925). Then we will screen a series of short films from the greatest comedians of the silent era, including Charlie Chaplin in Shoulder Arms (1918), Buster Keaton in One Week (1920), and Mabel Normand in Mabel’s Wilful Ways (1915). (135 mins, b/w & color, si & sd, 35mm).”
On Sunday, November 11th, at 4:00 pm, D.W. Griffith’s classic melodrama “Way Down East” will be showing at the East Building Concourse, Large Auditorium at the National Gallery of Art. Confidentially, I was so impressed by the dramatic climax on ice, that I once detoured into the town of White River Junction, Vermont — just so I could see where Lillian Gish had pulled off her impressive stunt. This is free, but first come, first serve.
- Their description: “D.W. Griffith adapted his epic melodrama from a popular Victorian stage play. Lillian Gish, tricked into a bogus marriage, is abandoned by her “husband” when he discovers a child is on the way. Celebrated for its dramatic climax—a rescue on an ice floe during a blizzard—Way Down East was one of silent cinema’s most commercially successful endeavors. This 35mm print is a tinted restoration from the Museum of Modern Art, New York. (D.W. Griffith, 1920, silent with live accompaniment, 145 minutes).”
On Monday, November 12th, at 6:30 pm, the Goethe Institute will be showing Backstairs (1921) and Variety (1925). This is free (other showings have a small charge), RSVP to 202-289-1200 ext. 166.
- Backstairs (Hintertreppe):”When a young woman’s fiancée disappears, a lovesick mailman sends her letters under the fiancée’s name to help mend her broken heart. The woman learns the truth and starts to fall for the mailman but then her fiancée returns. Backstairs combines German expressionist style with realism to tell its tragic tale. Director Paul Leni (1885-1929) was a key figure in German expressionist filmmaking. In addition to Backstairs, his most popular films are Waxworks, The Man Who Laughs, and The Cat and the Canary. Leopold Jessner (1878-1945) was a noted producer and director of German expressionist theater and cinema. Although it was his first film, Backstairs was a major turning point which paved the way for later experimentation.”
- Variety (Varieté):
Emil Jannings, considered one of the great actors of the silent era, stars as Boss Huller, a former trapeze artist who abandons his wife and child for a young vamp. He ends up behind bars telling his sad story to a prison warden after he murders his mistress’s latest conquest. The original American release received a number of censorship cuts that reduced the running time by half; this is the uncensored version. Variety was skillfully shot by famed cinematographer Karl Freund, whose career spanned from filming features in Germany in the teens and twenties to American television shows (I Love Lucy and Our Miss Brooks) in the fifties. Director E. A. Dupont (1891-1956) was one of the founders of the German film industry. He was successful in the field of silent film as well as with sound with his 1929 release Atlantic, seen by many as one of the most innovative uses of sound technology available at the time.
Clara Bow Night! is the double-feature at the National Museum for Women in the Arts, on Tuesday, November 13th, beginning at 7:00 PM with Capital Punishment (1925) and followed by Helen’s Babies (1924). I’m quite jealous of those of you who can make these early features, ticket range from $4-$5 for both films. Reservations are required. Call 202-783-7370 or email email@example.com.
- Their description: “In the recently restored melodrama Capital Punishment (1925), Bow co-stars with Elliott Dexter. Helen’s Babies (1924), a comedy about a bachelor who fancies himself an expert on children’s behavior, brings Bow together with Baby Peggy and Edward Everett Horton… The program will be introduced by Library of Congress film programmer Christel Schmidt….Live musical accompaniment by Andrew Simpson.”
On Thursday, November 15, at 7:00pm, also at the Mary Pickford Theater, Erich von Stroheim’s infamous silent The Wedding March (1928) will be screened. Stars include von Stroheim, Harry Carr, Fay Wray, Mathew Betz, and Zasu Pitts.
- Their description: “A destitute playboy prince (Von Stroheim) agrees to marry a lame girl (Pitts) from a wealthy family to replenish the family coffers but then falls in love with a beautiful peasant girl (Wray) in this melodrama set in pre-WWI Vienna. Von Stroheim, best known to film audiences of his day as “the man you love to hate” and to the industry as a wildly extravagant filmmaker who cared little for budgets or commercial running times, does triple duty (directing, acting, and writing) on his penultimate silent feature. Von Stroheim lived up to his creative reputation while making The Wedding March and his producer (after several months and thousands of dollars over budget) pulled the plug on the production. The film was edited down to two features, The Wedding March with two-strip Technicolor and sound sequences and The Honeymoon which no longer survives. The final product might not be exactly what Von Stroheim envisioned but it is still considered one of his finest works. (115 min, b/w & Technicolor, si, 35mm)”
The Merry Widow will be shown on November 17 at 2:00 pm, in the National Gallery of Art’s East Building Concourse, Large Auditorium. This is a chance to see John Gilbert in his prime, as he stars in a black, baroque comedy by Erich von Stroheim.
- Their description: “Matinee idol John Gilbert and the “girl with the bee-stung lips,” Mae Murray, star in a black comedy based on Franz Lehár’s operetta. Erich von Stroheim’s second film for MGM studios proved critically and commercially successful for the Austrian-born director, whose continental sensibilities were popular with American moviegoers. At the time Photoplay Magazine described the film as “the most sophisticated love story ever presented on the screen.” (Erich von Stroheim, 1925, 35mm, 137 minutes).”
On Monday, 19 November 2007, at 6:30 pm, at the Goethe-Institute, F.W. Murnau’s Tartuffe (Herr Tartüff)< (1925) will be presented with English intertitles. Tickets are $4-6, you can call 202 289 1200 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
- “Director Murnau, best known for his German expressionist silent features Nosferatu (1922) and Sunrise (1927), makes a contemporary version of Molière’s French comedy as a film within a film. The nephew of an old man, who has been disinherited from his uncle’s will due to a scheming housekeeper, disguises himself as the owner of a traveling cinema. He shows the old man a film version of Molière’s play to open his eyes to the caretaker’s deception.
F. W. Murnau (1888-1931) was one of the most influential directors of the silent film era. He took part in the expressionist movement and directed a number of movies acknowledged as masterpieces by film scholars.”
The National Gallery of Art is also featuring Show People, presented on November 24 at 1:00 pm, in the East Building Concourse, Large Auditorium. For those viewers who only know Marion Davies based on recent movies like Peter Bogdanovich’s The Cat’s Meow, or as the thinly veiled character in Citizen Kane,, this film will be a revelation. Davies was an excellent comedienne, but many people have not had the chance to see her best work.
- Their description: “Released at the end of the silent era, Show People is King Vidor’s side-splitting spoof of Hollywood’s fledgling film business and a clever hurray-for-Hollywood tribute to movie-making. Comedic charmer Marion Davies does her legendary (both on and off screen) impressions of the cinema’s biggest luminaries while a number of other stars, including Charlie Chaplin and Douglas Fairbanks, make cameo appearances. (King Vidor, 1928, 35mm, silent with music track, 82 minutes).”
That same day, the AFI Silver Theater is presenting, on November 24th, at 1:00 pm, the original silent “Chicago” (1927).
- “Former Chicago Tribune crime reporter Maurine Watkins wrote the play, basing it on two infamous 1924 Chicago murder cases involving Beulah Annan and Belva Gaertner. The play opened in New York in December 1926 and a year later this film version with Phyllis Haver and Julia Faye premiered. The movie, scripted by brilliant scenarist Lenore Coffee, plays like a 1930s Warner Brothers pre-code with its fast pace, witty title cards and straight forward view of lust, greed, betrayal, and moral corruption.
On at Monday, 26 November 2007, 6:30 pm, the Goethe-Institut features Asphalt (1929) with English intertitles. Tickets are $4-6, you can call 202 289 1200 or email email@example.com
- “A beautiful jewel thief seduces the honest policeman who arrests her after a robbery. Betty Amann and Gustav Frohlich (Freder in Fritz Lang’s Metropolis) star in what is considered one of the last German Expressionist films of the era. The visual style combined with the pulp narrative gives Asphalt the feel of a film noir, a Hollywood genre that became popular in the 1940s and was influenced by German cinema of the 1920s.
Joe May was one of the pioneers of German cinema. He studied in Berlin and founded his own film production company in 1914.
On Friday, November 30, at 7:00pm, the Mary Pickford will be showing the 1926 version of Beau Geste, starring the velvet-voiced Ronald Colman in a silent role, and co-starring Neil Hamilton, Alice Joyce, William Powell, and Mary Brian.
- Their description: “Three brothers flee from London after independently confessing to the theft of an expensive family heirloom. The men join the French Foreign Legion but instead of finding escape and adventure, enter a world filled with violence, deceit and murder. The brothers are later connected to an eerie mystery when their military garrison is found manned by dead men. Brenon’s silent version, originally released by Paramount as a “prestige” picture, played exclusively for a year in large US cities before being released nationwide. The film, the first of three based on Wren’s novel, was box office gold running in theaters for two straight years. More famous today is William Wellman’s 1939 classic remake starring Gary Cooper but director Douglas Heyes tried again with less success in 1966 with actors Guy Stockwell, Leslie Nielson, and Telly Savalas. (105 min, b/w, si, 35mm) Live music provided by Ray Brubacher.”
Lots of terrific films to see!
The dickering between the “Sneaky Chef” and Jessica Seinfeld, wife to Jerry, over their similar books about how to “hide healthy vegetables into foods kids love” is pretty funny. Did it stray into classic TV territory? Well, only because “Seinfeld” is still a very funny show that will be loved for years to come — even though members of its core cast seem to have lost touch with, oh, basic manners. Recently, Jerry opined that the “Sneaky Chef” was a “wacko” on the Letterman show – see the video here. (Attention: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Jason Alexander, please don’t do anything embarrassing in public. I enjoy watching you too much.)
I only occasionally read food blogs, so I had no idea how much this had been debated, (or that Seinfeld’s agent was the same one who had repped Kaavya Viswanathan, the young Harvard undergrad whose novel turned out to be plagiarized). Barbara Fisher’s food blog Tigers and Strawberries has the lowdown on the entire kit n’ hidden kibble in the kaboodle.