Tuesday, May 26, 2009

quickie Cinevent post-show report

Another year of Cinevent has ended and after a LOOOOONG drive home I am ready to give a brief report of my weekend at the festival. I have to say "brief" as I was sick for the first two full days and didn't see many films but I will fill you in on the ones I did check out and enjoy.

The show was really kicked off with 2 Columbia pre-codes shown at the Wexner Center for the Arts on the campus of Ohio State University. "Virtue", a 1932 feature with Carole Lombard and Pat O'Brien (from a STUNNING 35mm print) and 1933's "Cocktail Hour" with Bebe Daniels and Randolph Scott. Of the two, "Virtue" was the clear winner of the night from acting and bawdiness standpoint. The story had much quicker pace than the Daniels picture and Lombard as the "bad girl gone good" won me over.

On Friday I was knocked out in my bed at the hotel, waking only for a cocktail of orange juice and Day-Quil between various episodes from the “Deadliest Catch” marathon.

Saturday and Sunday I certainly did my best to rise to the occasion and get to the screening room to check out the films. Of those I saw, I enjoyed “A Gentleman of Paris”, with Adolphe Menjou, the GREAT Lon Chaney and an energetic Lupe Velez in “Where East Is East”, the Janet Gaynor/Charles Farrell/Frank Borzage collaboration (with the most unlikely but enjoyable ending), “Lucky Star” and 1926’s firefighting drama, “The Fire Brigade” starring May McAvoy and Charles Ray.

I ALWAYS enjoy Cinevent’s Annual Animation Program and it was certainly nice to see a BEAUTIFUL Technicolor print of one of the Warner Brothers “banned eleven”, 1941’s “All This and Rabbit Stew”, but I can do without seeing an Andy Panda cartoon ever again. There were also abundant comedy shorts from Laurel and Hardy and Charley Chase. The latter was represented by 3 of the comedian’s two-reel efforts while at Columbia Pictures. Although most people unjustly believe this period was the nadir of his filmed output, it didn’t seem to affect the audience reaction any as there were MANY laughs during “The Grand Hooter” (1937), “Many Sappy Returns"(1938), and half of “The Mind Needer” (1938), which was interrupted by a real life fire alarm, a first time that has happened at ANY festival I’ve been to! We soon found out that it had been a false alarm and were allowed back inside, but it was dinner time and I never got back to see the last half of the film.

Being a Cinevent weekend, there were TONS of dealers in various rooms throughout the hotel selling posters, lobby cards, films, DVD’s and just about anything movie related for all the punters who arrived. I purchased a few El Brendel lobbies, a window card, and a couple of El pics. I also bought a bunch of other photos that will be appearing in later blogs, but here are a few that I picked up, just to give you a taste of what I found:

Jack Oakie and unknown from 1931's "The Gang Buster"

this photograph has NOTHING to do with this blog at all. I just thought it was a great picture to add to my collection. If anyone knows what it might say on the side, please let me know!

It was also great to connect with new and old friends alike and I had many informative (but above all FUN) conversations with collectors and historians (like Paul Gierucki from Laughsmith Entertainment, Richard M. Roberts, Andy Coryell and his wife Carrie, John McElwee over at Greenbriar Picture Shows, and Mike Gebert from the wonderful Nitrateville forum) and it was nice to meet up with Samantha, who has commented on some of my posts here and I must give a shout out to her fantastic website on Dick Powell, make sure you click over there and see the wonderful research she has been doing on his life and career. Also, I must say, the 10 hour drive from and back to Massachusetts was made much easier and enjoyable with my friend Rich Finegan sitting shotgun next to me. Thanks to Rich, the weekend was crazier and funnier than it otherwise would have been going solo, thanks Rich!

All in all, a great weekend and I can’t wait for next year’s Cinevent!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Cinevent 41!

Ah, yes. It's Memorial Day weekend so it must be time for Cinevent! To all those out there reading this, Friday May 22nd starts one of the "must go to" film festivals in the US, Cinevent in Columbus Ohio.

They are showing many wonderful films including "Trail of the Vigilantes" (1940), Lon Chaney and Lupe Velez in "Where East Is East" (1929), and Erich von Stroheim's 1928 feature "The Wedding March". Plus, they also sprinkle they weekened with Charley Chase and Laurel and Hardy films and the Saturday morning animation festival, which is ALWAYS a good time.

The festival is augmented by over 170 tables of memrobilia dealers with posters, photographs, magazines, DVD's, just about everything a collector could hope for! Go to their website, here, for more details.

The three photographs here are from the Janet Gaynor and Charles Farrell 1929 feature "Lucky Star" which is scheduled for Sunday afternoon at 1:30PM. See you there!!!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Rare film #1 - "Mother's Helper" 1933

Last week I wrote in my blog that I had recently acquired three rare El Brendel films on DVD, so let's get to it by presenting the "lost" El Brendel/Zasu Pitts short for the NRA, "Mother's Helper". Last year I penned an article about this 3 minute short and you can read about it using this link, and just to refresh your memory, here is a brief synopsis of what occurs:

"El Brendel tries to explain in a Weber and Fieldian manner how his working only 40 hours weekly will give another man employment. When his wife, Zasu Pitts, wants to know if the NRA affects housewives, Brendel explains he has attended to that and brings in the hot looking Esther Muir, explaining that in the future she’ll take care of half of Miss Pitts wifely duties. Miss Pitts conks Brendel for the fade out."

Here are some screencaps:

The gentleman who found this film, Eric Grayson, is an avid film collector and preservationist, and I asked him to write a little bit about how this rare film can be saved for future generations before it turns to dust:

As far as we know, the original print I found of Mother's Helper is the only one to have survived. I have offered it to a number of archives who are not interested in preserving it. In most ways you can't blame them. They have deteriorating prints of their own that are in desperate need of immediate preservation. Many of you may not know that simply transferring it to a digital format is NOT a preservation. A good piece of 35mm film is the equivalent of 4000 lines, while the best DVDs are 525 lines and even HD is only 1080. Ideally, Mother's Helper should be transferred to safety film through a good archival negative.

This can be done at a private lab, but it is expensive. I would estimate that it would cost about $500 for a new negative, perhaps more if the soundtrack must be rerecorded. From this new prints can be struck and shown in theaters that might be interested in showing older films. I'm all for doing thing kind of thing; I've done a number of them myself. This particular project, with sound track, is a little too expensive for me at the moment. It would be a cool thing to do, in this the 75th anniversary of the NRA.

Many collectors get the name of being private hoarders who won't share anything. Most of them that I know are the exact opposite. We love to share. I, for one, can only afford to share so much, when film lab costs are skyrocketing and interest in older films is steady to declining slightly. I really love to promote the idea of seeing
films on a big screen as they were meant to be seen. I spent several hundred hours repairing prints of The African Queen so that it could be enjoyed in 35mm again (see it on the big screen in May 17 in Phoenixville, PA).

Eric Grayson

If you wish to arrange for a screening of "Mother's Helper" or any of the other films in Eric's collection, you can contact him through his Facebook page here.

Eric and I have been talking about options for the preservation of this little gem and so I am going to try to raise the $500 privately to get this done. ANYONE who wishes to donate to the cause can email me for more details. I have set up a PayPal account for this drive and ANY dollar amount will get us closer to this goal. I will be posting every once in a while to let the readers know how much money we have received so far, so let's do our part for film preservation!

Monday, May 11, 2009

a large format movie palace

I have decided that every once in a while I will post some fairly unique photos that BEG to be shown at full size and here is one.

This is a pic of the Loew's Paradise Theatre located at 2413 Grand Concourse in the Bronx, New York. I would date this photo around late '29 as they are showing the Marion Davies feature "Marianne" (released in a silent and talkie version in the fall of that year) and the theater opened on September 7, 1929 with Warner Oland in "The Mysterious Dr. Fu-Manchu".

Thankfully, the theater was listed as a
New York City Registered Landmark building 1997, fully restored, and is still in use today as a special events venue.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Mr. Brendel builds his dream house

These two photographs, originating from the Fox Films publicity department, show El "working" on a house that him and his wife had built around the early 30's.

Looking at a couple of factors, including the Fox still numbers and their correlation to other stills in my collection and the time period these were shot, I have established that these pictures were taken at the address which was then named 274 Glenroy Avenue in Los Angeles. It is unknown, at this time, how long the Brendel's lived in this house, but by the time they registered to vote in the 1938 Congressional election, they had moved to 11106 Sunset Blvd.

The house still stands today (thanks Google Maps street view) but the address now is 274 South Glenroy Ave.