Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Phil attends the 22nd ANNUAL BRONCHO BILLY SILENT FILM FESTIVAL: DAY ONE at the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum - July 26, 2019

Greetings from Niles, California! Today begins an annual film event that I’ve been fortunate to attend for well over a decade! Tonight begins the 22nd ANNUAL BRONCHO BILLY SILENT FILM FESTIVAL here at the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum! After a long day at work, I was really looking forward to a weekend of silent films, lectures, and friends! So let’s not waste anymore time and let the festival begin!

The night began with THIS IS FRANCES X. BUSHMAN (2019), a work-in-progress documentary about the biggest star from the Chicago Essanay Studio. Produced by the museum, the film was introduced by the director himself Lon Davis. This was cool to see, mainly because I've only seen a couple of images from the Chicago studio. I cannot wait to see when this project is completely finished!

After a brief intermission and social mingling, it was time for the feature presentation.

THE CHARGE OF THE GAUCHOS (aka Una nueva y gloriosa nación) (1928) is set in the early 1800s colonial Argentina, Manuel Belgrano (Frances X. Bushman) leads a revolt against the oppressive Spanish authorities, and his poorly trained and badly equipped army inflicts a series of stunning defeats on the superior Spanish and loyalist forces. Monica Salazar (the beautiful Jacqueline Logan), Belgrano's sweetheart, is the daughter of a prominent loyalist but is also a spy for Belgrano, sending him valuable information until she is caught and sentenced to be beheaded. Belgrano must gather his forces to rescue Monica before she goes under the headsman's axe.

Directed by Albert Kelly and released by in Argentina on May 10, 1928, the film was screened here in the states on September 16th that same year. However, it only played in theaters for a brief time before fading away to film obscurity. For years the film was thought to be forever lost, until a print of the movie was discovered in 2013. Tonight’s screening was considered to be the film’s first screening here in the states since 1928, and was an astounding silent classic! The print had Italian titles, which were lovingly translated by Jackie Capurro.

This was a historic film production, mainly because this was a major Hollywood studio production that was actually financed, supervised and produced by an Argentinean producer, in this case Julián Ajuria. The movie was released Film Booking Offices of America (FBO) to theaters in the fall of 1928. Ironically, Film Booking Offices of America would eventually morph into RKO Radio Pictures. The film's title was changed to THE BEAUTIFUL SPY for the American market, since most didn't know what a gaucho was.

I was familiar with director Albert Kelly, due to his contribution to the world of exploitation cinema. He directed some true cult classics, such as NO MORE CHILDREN (1929),  JUNGLE BRIDE (1931), DOUBLE CROSS (1941), and my personal favorite STREET CORNER (1948), which is available on DVD from the fine folks over at Something Weird Video!

And that my friends was the opening night of the festival! There’s still plenty more fun to be had, so don’t miss out on all this silent film festivities! To learn more the festival’s schedule, weekend passes, and how to become a member, please visit their website at

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show! 

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