Thursday, November 3, 2011

Silent Society of Hollywood Heritage Paying Tribute to Great Silent Film Actresses with an All-Day Silent Film Event

On Saturday, November 5th, 2011 from 2:30 p.m. - 7:30 p.m. the Silent Society of Hollywood Heritage is having an all-day tribute to some of the great actresses of the silent cinema by presenting several silent films throughout the day.

The tribute starts with a screening of SEX, starring Louise Glaum at 2:30 p.m., followed by ARE PARENTS PEOPLE?, starring Betty Bronson, Florence Vidor and Adolph Menjou at 3:30 p.m. and ending with the screening of LILAC TIME, starring Gary Cooper and Colleen Moore at 7:30 p.m.

All silent film presentations will be accompanied by the talented composer and musician, Michael Mortilla, who is to say the least an essential component to a silent film screening and a favorite among silent film cinephiles. I've always felt that the (silent) film is the body and the (silent film) score is the soul. To look at a silent film without music is to see and read the words but to have it accompanied by a talented composer / musician is to hear those words speak and joggle your emotions. I have been present at many silent film screenings where Mr. Mortilla was the featured composer and I, among other cinephiles, have never been let down by his wonderful musical presentations.

The Hollywood Heritage is located across the street from The Hollywood Bowl in the Lasky-DeMille Barn at 2100 N. Highland Avenue, Hollywood, CA

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

BEYOND THE ROCKS (1922) - Vintage Original 8x10 On-Set Still Photograph #19

BEYOND THE ROCKS (1922) - Vintage Original 8x10 On-Set Still Photograph #19

Beyond the Rocks was the only screen pairing of silent film legends Gloria Swanson and Rudolph Valentino. The image depicts a rare on-set publicity shot of Valentino sharking hands with the film's director, Sam Wood, as his co-star, Gloria Swanson, peeks at the camera from underneath Valentino's outstretched arm. "Madame" Eleanor Glynn, who wrote the novel upon which this film was based, is seated behind Wood's outstretched arm. Behind Valentino is the 35mm Bell & Howell motion picture camera which was used to photograph this film. This vintage original still photograph is in very fine- condition with a portion of the photograph's negative number handwritten in pencil in the white border below it. Vintage original 8 x 1 in. (20.3 x 25.4 cm.) U.S. single-weight gelatin silver glossy still photograph (NN: 430-2/28), very fine- condition and rare.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The 16th Annual San Francisco Silent Film Festival

The 16th Annual San Francisco Silent Film Festival will be held on July 14-17, 2011 at the beautiful Castro Theatre in San Francisco. The festival opens with the silent film UPSTREAM, directed by John Ford and ends with HE WHO GETS SLAPPED, directed by Victor Sjostrom. This year's event features eighteen wonderful programs of new discoveries and restorations, with extraordinary live musical accompaniment by top musicians in the field, including the Alloy Orchestra, Stephen Horne, Dennis James, the Matti Bye Ensemble, the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra, and Donald Sosin.

One of the highlights of this year's festival is the premiere of the restoration of MR. FIX-IT, a 1918 romantic comedy starring Douglas Fairbanks (pictured above) which was considered a lost film but was recently discovered and restored by The Goessel Family Foundation, which includes Dr. Tracey Goessel, the preeminent private collector on Douglas Fairbanks.

Of particular interest are two films by major directors: UPSTREAM (1927, US), director John Ford's splendid comedy which was thought lost for many years but was recently discovered in the vaults of the New Zealand Film Archive and preserved. Director F.W. Murnau's masterpiece SUNRISE (1927, US), while quite an accessible film, will feature a unique presentation with a solo performance on the electric guitar by Giovanni Spinelli.

The festival continues with HUCKLEBERRY FINN (1927, US), directed by William Desmond Taylor; I WAS BORN, BUT... (1932, Japan); THE GREAT WHITE SILENCE (1924, UK); IL FUOCO (1915, Italy), directed by Giovanni Pastrone; THE BLIZZARD (1923, Sweden), directed by Mauritz Stiller; THE GOOSE WOMAN (1925, US), directed by Clarence Brown and starring Louise Dresser and Jack Pickford; THE WOMAN MEN YEARN FOR (1929, Germany), starring Marlene Dietrich in her first leading role; SHOES (1916, US), directed by Lois Weber; THE NAIL IN THE BOOT (1931, USSR), directed by Mikhail Kalatozov; and HE WHO GETS SLAPPED (1924, US), directed by Victor Sjostrom and starring Lon Chaney.

This year's festival also includes interesting panel discussions including AMAZING TALES FROM THE ARCHIVES: THE ARCHIVIST AS DETECTIVE, hosted by Jan-Christopher Horak of the UCLA Film and Television Archive and Melissa Levesque of the Academy Film Archive; a selection of WALT DISNEY'S LAUGH-O-GRAMS, hosted by Disney author and historian J.B. Kaufman; VARIATIONS ON A THEME: MUSICIANS ON THE CRAFT OF COMPOSING FOR SILENT FILM, featuring all of the musicians performing at this year's festival and hosted by composer/musician/performer Jill Tracy; and AMAZING TALES FROM THE ARCHIVES: KEVIN BROWNLOW ON 50 YEARS OF RESTORATION, featuring Academy Award Recipient and one of the world's foremost authority on silent film, Mr. Kevin Brownlow.

For more information on this year's exciting event, please visit the San Francisco Silent Film Society's website at

Monday, May 16, 2011

Rudolph Valentino Birthday Tribute

On the evening of Wednesday, May 11, 2011 a celebration in commemoration of the birthday of silent film legend Rudolph Valentino was held at the Hollywood Heritage Museum in Hollywood, CA. The Museum was filled to capacity as silent film enthusiasts came to hear noted author and Valentino historian Donna Hill gave an entertaining presentation in connection to her book, "Rudolph Valentino, the Silent Idol: His Life in Photographs".
Ms. Hill delighted the audience by showcasing various rare photographs of Valentino which were not able to be included in her book. We enjoyed seeing some never-before-seen candid photos of the handsome silent star as well as beautiful scene stills and on-set publicity stills from his many films. Ms. Hill's presentation was augmented by a condensed presentation of "Blood and Sand" as well as several contemporary and older newsreels and documentaries on Rudolph Valentino.
The event was complimented by a truly amazing display of just a portion of noted Valentino collector (and author of "Valentino the Unforgotten"), Tracy Ryan Terhune. We were treated to view in person original movie posters from "Blood and Sand," "The Young Rajah," "The Eagle," " The Conquering Power" as well as a superb selection of original lobby cards from these films as well as some rare "pre-star" titles. Even more impressive was Mr. Terhune's beautifully arranged display of ultra-rare personal items that belonged to Valentino (including a pair of binoculars with the original case, a silk top hat and various decorative silver pieces) as well as equally rare trophies from a dance contest, an original poster from Valentino's famed "Mineralava" dance tour with his wife, Natacha Rambova, and numerous other amazing pieces.
Hollywood Heritage Board member Mary Mallory produced the event which was initially introduced by Hollywood Heritage's President, Richard Adkins. This was a very special and enjoyable evening that played to a sell-out crowd and is yet another sign of the enduring popularity of the silent cinema and one of it's greatest stars... Rudolph Valentino.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

D.W. Griffith's Artistic Impact on the Film Making Industry

Movie director, Peter Bogdanovich gives a strong argument for the acknowledgment of D.W. Griffith's film making techniques and unsurpassed artistic impact on movie making and succeeding directors on his blog "Blogdanovich".

We fully agree and are showcasing his blog below to share his insightful posting with our audience. Bravo, Mr. Bogdanovich.

The Birth of a Nation

In January, 2000, the National Society of Film Critics issued a blistering statement of protest that “deplores the rash decision” made by the Directors Guild of America’s National Board a month before to retire the name of its highest (lifetime achievement) honor, the D.W. Griffith Memorial Award, citing as their reason the racist stigma attached to Griffith’s 1915 Civil War landmark, The Birth of A Nation (available on DVD), the second half of which depicts sympathetically the rise of the Ku Klux Klan. The Film Critics went on: “The recasting of this honor, which had been awarded appropriately in D.W. Griffith’s name since 1953, is a depressing example of ‘political correctness’ as an erasure, and rewriting, of American film history, causing a grave disservice to the reputation of a pioneering American filmmaker…The DGA’s national board might spend its time on more significant business: as a watchdog pressuring the industry to improve on its shameful record of employment of minority filmmakers.” In other words, the racist aspects for which Griffith’s name was being removed perhaps still prevailed in current industry hiring practices.

And, of course, not only American film history was being rewritten, but American history itself. Certainly it was not the fault of The Birth of A Nationthat it took another nearly fifty years for the civil rights movement to start making big differences. Griffith was being used as scapegoat not only for an industry but for the country as well. Remember, in 1915, the First World War having just begun, women—-black or white—-still didn’t have the right to vote. Do we no longer revere Washington or Jefferson because they kept slaves? In his brilliant documentary on the black heavyweight Jack Johnson of the 1910s, Unforgivable Blackness, Ken Burns quotes lengthy, virulently racist passages from such contemporary newspapers as The New York Times, Los Angeles Times and The Chicago Tribune. As Robert Graves has pointed out, it is impossible not to be a part of your times, even if you are against them.

When The Birth of A Nation opened—-an independent film, the world’s first $2.00 screen attraction, the first three-hour epic and, in terms of attendance, the most successful movie ever made—-it was immediately greeted with a storm of controversy, considered by some white liberal and black groups as “a flagrant incitement to racial antagonism,” authorities being urged in several states to ban its exhibition.

Griffith was deeply shaken by the accusations of prejudice. Being a Kentucky Southerner, born only a decade after the end of the Civil War, he had learned his slanted history from members of his own family, reduced to poverty by conditions during the Reconstruction, acknowledged by all historians as an extremely turbulent and tragic era for the South. As an answer to the outcry against The Birth of A Nation, Griffith put all the money he had earned into his next picture, a $2.5 million colossus (an unheard of cost for its time), Intolerance (1916), charting the course of prejudice through four ages of history from Babylonian times to the present. Though certainly very influential to filmmakers, Intolerance was not a success, and while Griffith still would have several more box-office hits, he actually never recovered his own financial equilibrium.

Despite every valid attack on the biased history presented by The Birth of A Nation, there also can be no denying the unsurpassed artistic impact it had on virtually all subsequent pictures. It was the first film ever screened at the White House; after seeing it President Wilson said, “It is like writing history with lightning.” Nevertheless, D.W. Griffith’s career neither began nor ended with this one notorious movie. In the seven years preceding, he made over 450 short films, which formed not only the essential alphabet, vocabulary and grammar of moviemaking, but were acknowledged as state of the art before there was an art; introducing a new, more intimate, acting style, bringing numerous stars to pictures, from Mary Pickford and Lillian Gish to Mae Marsh and Richard Barthelmess.

Of the almost thirty features he made after The Birth of A Nation, there are several humanist masterworks such as Hearts of the World, Broken Blossoms(an interracial love story), True Heart Susie, Way Down East, and Orphans of the Storm. When I asked the great filmmaking pioneer Allan Dwan how he had learned to direct, he said he went to see Griffith’s movies and just tried to do what Griffith did. Nearly everyone did that. John Ford is unthinkable without Griffith, of course, but so is Hitchcock. Orson Welles told a Spanish critic who was starting a film magazine that the most appropriate name for a definitive publication on cinema would be Griffith, and that’s what it became.

Since movie directing really begins with D.W. Griffith, the choice of his name for a director’s lifetime achievement award was not only apt but inevitable. The removal of his name, though addressing belatedly both a personal and a national sin, diminishes the artistic heritage of the prize. To see The Birth of A Nation today—-much of which remains remarkably affecting, like the battle sequences, the murder of Lincoln, the homecoming of the Southern colonel—-is all the better to witness afresh the terrible divisions that ravaged the country in the worst war of its history—-at a toll of 600,000 deaths—-the aftermath of which plagues us still. We can see as well how far we had to go, how far we have come, and how much farther we have yet to travel.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

2011 CHAPLINFEST - February 4-5, 2011

The William S. Hart Park and Museum, Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society, Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County and the Los Angels County Department of Parks and Recreation will be presenting Charlie Chaplin's classic film, MODERN TIMES, to commemorate the 75th Anniversary of the release of the film on February 4th & 5th, 2011!

The 2011 ChaplinFest will be held at:
William S. Hart Park
24151 Newhall Ave.
Newhall, CA 91321.
You can get additional event info at