Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Phil attends the SAN FRANCISCO EARTHQUAKE SHOW at the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum-April 16, 2011

Once again I ventured back in time where silent films still reign supreme. This past Saturday night, I headed back up to Niles and to the Edison Theater, home of the Niles Essanay Film Museum, where they held their annual San Francisco Earthquake Show. On the eve of the 1906 earthquake, the museum shows two of the most important shorts that pertain to this historic event, and they also show a full length film as well. But first the shorts:

Scenes from the film A TRIP DOWN MARKET STREET (1906)
The first short of the night was A TRIP DOWN MARKET STREET, made by the Miles Brothers. This particular short has made a lot of press recently, thanks in large part to its story being shown on 60 Minutes back in October. The museum's archivist David Kiehn spent months investigating the film's origin and when it was actually made. Some have said that the film was made in the spring or fall of 1905. But thanks to his tremendous research, Kiehn discovered that the film was made on April 14, 1906, just four days before the earthquake! The reason the film survived was because it was on a train en route to New York, where the Miles Brothers had an office, making them the first filmmakers to have offices on both coasts. The film itself is amazing, showcasing the City by the Bay in all its glory before disaster struck. The images of the people, driving in their cars, on bicycles, walking about carrying on with their lives, it really struck a nerve for me. The main reason is that a lot of those people that I saw in the film, might have perished just four days later. It really showed me, and it should show all of us, that life could end in a blink of an eye, and those around us are there for that moment, then vanish altogether. It should also remind us just how important it is to preserve out film heritage. This film shows what life was like 105 years ago. Because of the 60 Minutes segment, and its popularity on youtube, the film was picked to be part of the 25 films that the National Film Registry choose to preserve at the Library of Congress.

The second short film was entitled THE DESTRUCTION OF SAN FRANCISCO, which was released for home viewing use by Blackhawk Films during the fifties. This short was a compilation of footage that was originally shot by film companies such as Edison, Biograph, Pathe, as well as the Miles Brothers, but it is undetermined just which footage was shot by them. The short shows the fires and destruction of SF and it's rise from the ashes.

After a short break, the museum showed it's main feature THE THIRD ALARM, written and directed by Emory Johnson in 1922. The film stars Ralph Lewis as Dan McDowell, a fire fighter who and his trusted horse Bullet are forced into retirement when the fire department receive their brand new fire truck. Having no money to support his son Johnny (Johnnie Walker) to medical school, he's forced to look for a new career. But when a fire breaks out at Johnny's girlfriend, June (Ella Hall) Rutherford's apartment, both father and son try to save the day.

It's been a lot of fun going back to the museum, and I can't wait to go back again next Saturday for their immensely popular Comedy Shorts Night, which always sells out! To learn more about the museum and their movie schedule, please visit http://www.nilesfilmmuseum.org./

To see the 60 Minutes segment on Niles and A TRIP DOWN MARKET STREET visit  http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=6966797n

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

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