Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Phil goes Hollywood, Part 1: Phil attends the final day of CINECON 47 at the Grauman's Egyptian Theater-Sept. 5, 2011

Hello and greetings from Hollywood!! While visiting a good friend of mine down here in SoCal for my vacation, I decided to check out all of the wonderful film events while I'm here for the week. Today I was lucky to attend the fourth and final day of the 47th Annual Cinecon Classic Film Festival, held at the world famous Grauman's Egyptian Theater in the heart of Hollywood! So let's get this show underway!!

The first film shown was a short called THE SERGEANT (1910). It was one of the earliest narrative films to be filmed on location in Yosemite Valley in Yosemite National Park. The film was believed to be lost until it was discovered in a cache at the New Zealand Film Archives in 2010. It is also the first film to be preserved through the American partnership with the NZFA. It was directed by Francis Bogg and was released by the Selig Polyscope Company on September 22, 1910.

Then a surprise short was shown that wasn't on the schedule. It was an Our Gang short that unfortunately I cannot recall what the title was. But it had to do with what the gang wants to be when they grew up. Using some from very trippy-looking special effects with the camera lenses, it was very psychedelic. Once I remember the title, I'll re-edit this.

The first feature length film was DIPLOMACY (1926),  a great silent film about spies and secret government agents. Based on an 1877 play by Victorien Sardou, the film stars Blanche Sweet as Dora, who falls in love and eventually marries Sir Henry Weymouth, who's brother  Julian Weymouth (Neil Hamilton) is a memeber of the special British Intelligence, who needs his brother's help to escort a very important treaty that could help bring peace to the world. A great little film that took me by surprise. The film was directed by Sweet's then husband Marshall Neilan and released by Famous Players-Lasky (which was latter renamed as Paramount Pictures) on September 20, 1926. Providing musical accompaniment for all three silent films was the great Phil Carli.

Next up was a delightful talking film entitled THE MAD MARTINDALES (1942). Sent in early 1900, the Martindale family is in a financial situation, thanks in large part to the father Hugo Martindale's (Alan Mowbray) overindulgent spending. So it's up to his youngest daughter Kathy (Jane Withers), along with the help of her friend Bobby (Jimmy Lydon), to save the family home. The film was directed by Alfred Werker and distributed by 20th Century Fox on May 15, 1942.

After the screening, both Jane Withers and Jimmy Lydon appeared on stage and did a great and funny Q&A for the audience. I was lucky to meet both of them, and I got Miss Withers to sign my Cinecon program!!

After a one hour lunch break, it was back to the films:

The silent film THE COWARD (1915) was shown first. Now I have seen this film before at the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum, so it was great to see it up on the big screen at the Egyptian. Charles Ray stars as young Frank Winslow, a selfish, coward of a son who deserts his post during the Civil War. When he returns home, his father Jefferson Beverley Winslow (Frank Keenen) goes in his place to fight in the war. But when an Yankee platoon arrive at Frank's home, he learns of a weakness in the Yankee army, and finds the bravery to go back and report his findings to his superiors. The film was released by Ince-Triangle-KayBee on November 14, 1915. My friend from Niles Frederick Hodges provided the musical accompaniment.

The second film shown after lunch was GLAMOUR BOY (1941), starring the great Jackie Cooper. In the film Cooper plays Tiny Barlow, a down and out former child star who gets a second chance coaching new child star Billy Doran (Darryl Hickman). He also meets and falls in love with an up and coming actress named Joan Winslow (played by the beautiful Susanna Foster). But when Tiny accidentally costs Joan her shot at stardom, it's up to Billy to bring these two love birds back together, and their careers back on track. A fantastic film for me to discover! The film was directed by Wesley Ruggles and distributed by Paramount Pictures on December 5, 1941.

Up next was the french import called LE BONHEUR (1934). This was my least favorite film of the night. The premise sounded good: actress Clara Stuart (Gaby Morlay) is shot by anarchist artist Philippe Lutcher (Charles Boyer) and is place on trial for his crime. However the two fall in love, but their romance is doomed right from the start. Like I said it sounded like a winner, but I didn't care for it at all. Some scenes were unnecessary, the ending of the film was dragged out too long, and I really didn't care about the main characters. The film was released by Pathe-Natan on February 27, 1934.

The final film of the night was a Hollywood musical that I've been wanting to see but never got around to. STORMY WEATHER (1943) was one of the best all black cast films that was made since the 1930s. The film stars Bill "Bojangles" Robinson and Lena Horne as Bill and Selina, and their romantic adventures throughout the years. Also making appearances in the film are Cab Calloway and His Band, the Nicholas Brothers, Ada Brown, and Thomas "Fats" Waller. While light on story, the film nonetheless captures the audience's attention and takes its place in Hollywood history: a film made for black audiences and starring the biggest names in black entertainment! A great film to watch!! The film was released 20th Century Fox on November 17, 1943.

Overall, I had the best time here at Cinecon 47!! And I only did ONE day of the festival! I might have to come check out the whole festival next year. So if you happen to be in Hollywood for Labor Day weekend next year, you should really check out the festival! If you would like to learn more about the Cinecon Film Festival, visit their website at http://www.cinecon.org/cinecon_home.html

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

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