Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Phil attends the 22nd ANNUAL BRONCHO BILLY SILENT FILM FESTIVAL: DAY TWO at the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum - July 27, 2019

Hello again folks and welcome to Day Two of my trip to the 22nd Annual Broncho Billy Silent Film Festival here at the Edison Theater, home of the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum. Today there were several programs, lectures, and films for silent film fans to attend. So let’s not waste anymore time, and let me tell you all what went down!

First off, we were once again treated another WALKING TOUR OF NILES, lead again by our Niles residents and gurus Rena and David Kiehn (they also did this tour during the Charlie Chaplin Days event). For those who chose to stay at the museum for the festival, they were treated to a screening of BRONCHO BILLY AND THE BANDIT’S SECRET, along with the making-of documentary WINDOW TO THE PAST.

Afterwards, there was the A SALUTE TO THE 100th ANNIVERSARY OF THE AMERICAN SOCIETY OF CINEMATOGRAPHERS: ESSANAY CAMERAMEN AND THE BELL & HOWELL CONNECTION presentation at 1pm. Here, David Kiehn talked about all the various cameramen that worked for the Essanay Film Manufacturing Company, both here in Niles and at their Chicago location. Of course, Kiehn talked about the great and legendary cinematographer Rollie Totheroh, who would go on to become Chaplin's main cameraman. He also talked about other cinematographers who would join the ASC, including Fred Jackman, Ira Morgan, and Jackson Rose. Kiehn also talked about Frank D. Williams, the man who invented the Williams travelling matte process for special effects work.

At 3:30pm was the mid-afternoon screening event, which was called the ESSANAY STUDIO FILMS FROM CHICAGO TO NILES. It was five short film that were shot for both studios. I was super excited about this because I haven't seen too many of the films from Chicago, due to them being rare. Here was the rundown of film shorts:

TEN NIGHTS IN A BARROOM (1909): A cautionary tale about a family man who ends up spending too much time at his local bar, which ends up having a negative affect on his family and his job. A super cool rare short film from the Chicago studio. The movie was directed by Gilbert Anderson and was released on June 9, 1909.

A RANCHMAN'S RIVAL (1909) Made in the same year as the first short, but filmed in Golden, Colorado. Here, Gilbert Anderson portrays Broncho Billy, . This was the infamous film that Anderson was directing when his lead actor refused to listen to him. As a result, Anderson fired his actor right thee on the spot, and he took over the lead role, thus becoming the world's first cowboy superstar and making cinema history! The movie was directed by Gilbert Anderson and was released on December 11, 1909.

THE COWBOY COWARD (1911): Made in San Rafael, California (located in Marin County in the North Bay), Anderson plays a no-good card gambler that gets rejected by his sweetheart Gladys Field because of said bad habits. She meets the good-looking Robert Henry Gray, but lies to her to cover up his cowardly demeanour. The movie was directed by Gilbert Anderson and was released on December 16, 1909.

ALKALI IKE'S PANTS (1912): Made here in Niles, California, this was part of the Snakeville Comedy series. Here, Alkali Ike tries to woo the lovely and very available Margaret Joslin, but a monkey wrench is thrown into hi plan as Mustang and Coyote steals his only good pair of pants!
The movie was directed by Gilbert Anderson and was released on September 21, 1912.

FROM THE SUBMERGED (1912): Made in Chicago, the film stars E.H. Calvert as a poor homeless man who's about to commit suicide by throwing himself into the river when he is stopped by the good natured Ruth Stonehouse. When Calvert inherits his father's fortune, he remembers Ruth and begins to look for her, only to save her from trying to commit suicide as he tried to earlier. The movie was directed by Theodore Wharton and was released on November 12, 1912.

After the program, it was time for some dinner! So I headed over to my favorite place in Niles, Broncho Billy's Pizza Palace, where I ate some of the best pizza in town! After filling my belly up, it was time to head back to the museum for the night time show!

THE TRAIN WRECKERS (1905): A romance between a railroad engineer and the switchman's daughter is nearly ruined by train wreckers who knock out the girl and leave her on the tracks to be run over. The engineer perches on the engine's cow catcher and rescues the girl. Starring Gilbert Anderson and directed by Edwin S. Porter, the short was released by Edison Manufacturing Company on November 27, 1905 (it's also available on the Edison: The Invention of the Movies boxset from Kino Lorber).

THE BROKEN BRAKE (1920): Chapter of the popular serial by the name of "The Hazards of Helen", the short stars Helen Gibson, considered to be the first professional stunt woman. Here, she must save a both a train and a boxcar filled with dynamite! And she performs a really cool and dangerous stunt towards the end of the movie. Not many of her shorts survived over the years, so this was a really cool treat to watch! The short was released by the Capital Film Company in 1920.

Then it was intermission time! After, we all settled back in the theater, where Rena Kiehn awarded author/historian/researcher Marc Wanamaker with the prestigious Ray Hubbard Award for his contributions to preserving and protecting of film history.

RED SIGNALS (1927): Filmed on the Santa Fe Railway in and around Los Angeles in the late 1920s, the film is packed with action, this film showcases wooden box cars, speeding freight and passenger trains, explosions, derailments and almost a complete lack of regard for safety.  There’s even a treacherous switching move with a box car of dynamite. Starring Wallace MacDonald, Earle Williams, Eva Novak and directed by J.P. McGowan, the film was released by Sterling Pictures on March 1, 1927.

And that was it for Day Two of the festival!! Remember the Broncho Billy Film Festival concludes this Sunday! So make plans to attend this event! To purchase tickets and passes, view the festival's film schedule, and to become a member, visit the museum's official website at

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

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