Sunday, July 1, 2012

Phil attends the 15th Annual Broncho Billy Silent Film Festival: Day Three, Part One: BABY PEGGY, THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM screening-July 1, 2012

Hello again and welcome back to the third and final day of the 15th Annual Broncho Billy Silent Film Festival at the Edison Theater in the Niles District of Fremont. Hosted by the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum, I'm once again giving you the up-to-the-minute play by play of the festival. Now the time has come to wrap up this fun-filled film festival, and boy what a way to end the it. Let's take a look at the first program for the day!

Baby Peggy (1921)
This afternoon's program focused on the life and career of Dian Serra Cary, better known as Baby Peggy. The program consisted of a brand new documentary on Cary, two rare and early one-reeler shorts, as well as an interview with author and Essanay Museum board member Larry Telles. But first up was the documentary.

Entitled BABY PEGGY, THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM, this hour long film directed by Vera Iwerebor chronicles the rise of Baby Peggy. After being discovered when she was just 19 months old, her fame took off and she became one of Hollywood's first major child stars. But like her peer Jackie Coogan, her parents had squandered all her money, and at age 11, Baby Peggy was broke and a has-been. Over the next several decades, she reinvented herself as Diana Serra Cary and became a film historian and a successful author. Now she is even more popular than ever, appearing at film festivals all over the world.

Now there is a scene in the film to which I was very happy to see. In 2008, Cary celebrated her 90th birthday here at the museum, and I was there to witness this very special occasion. Also at that celebration was Vera Iwerebor, capturing it all on camera. This event made its way into the documentary, and all of us here at the museum was very happy and pleased to be a part of not only the film, but of Cary's life as well!

immediately after the screening of the documentary, the two shorts was shown. On the piano for this program was the amazing Frederick Hodges.

BROWNIE'S LITTLE VENUS (1921): This funny and cute little short has Baby Peggy and her trusty sidekick Brownie the Dog helping her parents out by stopping a burglar that has broken into their house. Now in 2010, a copy of this film was discovered in a collection in Switzerland. The film has now been preserved by the UCLA Film and Television Archives, which is where this 35mm print came from. The film was originally distributed by Century Film to theaters on September 14, 1921.

LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD (1922): Our Baby Peggy plays the lead in this adaption to that beloved children's story. The film is an incomplete film, with a lot of the scenes at the beginning of the film still missing. To make them film somewhat complete, the UCLA Film and Television Archive used some of Cary's still photographs to complete the 35mm film print. The film was again released by Century Film on November 6, 1922.

Larry Telles and Diana Serra Cary
After a brief intermission, the program continued with Cary being interviewed by Larry Telles. Afterwards, she also took questions from the audience. Then she was given a standing ovation as she was leaving the stage. At 93 years old, Cary is one of the last living actresses from the silent film era! Having known her for the past four years, I can honestly say that she is, without a shadow of a doubt, one of the finest woman I have ever met. Intelligent, kind, generous, and funny, she is also a survivor. She was once loved by millions during her brief career in the silent film era, and is loved once again by millions of fans from all across the globe!

And that's it for this afternoon! Only one more program left of the festival, so come back here and read all about it! To learn more about the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum and their film schedule, visit their website at

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

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