ELEVENTH ANNUAL SHASTA SILENT FILM FESTIVAL
All-Festival Pass – $25
Best price deal! Attend all 3 days of Festival!
Adults – $10 per film block
Children – $2
12 years and under, per film block
Tickets available at www.shastaartscouncil.org
Old City Hall, 1313 Market Street
open Tuesday—Friday, noon—5pm (Fridays, noon—6pm)
Doors: 6pm; Show: 7:30pm
Preceded by THE PAWN SHOP
King Vidor’s The Crowd is one of the greatest achievements of American silent film. We follow the life of an unexceptional man who thinks he can “beat the crowd” with no special gift except his optimism, a theme as relevant today as it was in 1928. Boy meets girl, boy marries girl; happiness and tragedy follow amid the humdrum routine of daily life in the big city. Among its breathtaking moments: the magical lights of Coney Island at night, the roaring grandeur of Niagara Falls and the terrifying enormity of New York City, where people thrive or are swallowed up. It’s shown with poetic beauty, startling realism and tremendous emotional impact. Selected for the National Film Registry, 1989.
Short film: On the centennial of its release October 2, 1916, we celebrate one of Charlie Chaplin’s cleverest comedies. He plays a pawnbroker’s assistant at work in a shop full of stuff. Every object he encounters is transformed for some comedic function, most famously an alarm clock that he autopsies with hammer, chisel and pliers.
Probably Buster Keaton’s best film although it’s not a straightforward comedy – it’s actually an action film, including clever doses of romance and comedy. During the Civil War, Johnny Gray (Keaton) drives a locomotive called the “General.” He tries to enlist in the Confederate Army but is turned down because the recruiter feels he’d be more valuable to the South as an engineer than as a soldier. However, both his family and his girl think he’s a coward, and they refuse to speak to him until he becomes a soldier. Months pass, and Johnny, sad and alone, is piloting his train when it is stolen from him by Union raiders. His efforts to recover the “General” – and to win back his girl’s love – become an unbelievably funny and action-packed series of events. This 1926 film is an epic, impeccably realistic in appearance. While funny, Buster is much more than just a clown: he evokes a lot of sympathy as well, and he genuinely becomes what can only be described as an action hero as well. His timing, whether for a joke or for a tender moment, is flawless. Keaton directed the film and does his own stunts, performing feats that are simultaneously hilarious and dangerous, all of them fantastic, but it’s scary to think that any one of these probably could’ve killed Keaton if something had gone even slightly wrong. Selected for the National Film Registry, 1989.
This superb film from 1920 made a star of Lon Chaney who, without elaborate facial makeup, is extraordinary as Blizzard, king of San Francisco’s underworld. He is able to convincingly play the part of someone who has had both legs amputated above the knee. Chaney is totally believable as he moves around on crutches. He shows incredible strength in using only his arms to climb ladders and ropes. Chaney’s performance is not merely a physical tour-de-force. His portrayal of the bitter criminal mastermind never descends into caricature. The viewer sympathizes with him even as his violent actions make him repellent. All of this makes for a great vintage macabre film that starts off well and just gets better and better, more and more intense and dramatic, as it goes along. It is hugely enjoyable, exciting and also at times quite shockingly violent for a movie made 96 years ago.
William Beaudine (1892-1970) is remembered today chiefly for his many comedy films, made both in America and Great Britain, and for his extended work on the television series Lassie. He began in 1909 as a property boy at Biograph, and by the 1920’s he was directing such silent classics as Little Annie Rooney, Sparrows, Penrod and Sam, and The Canadian (1926), adapted from a play by Somerset Maugham, a most uncharacteristic film for the director.
“We’re in the Canadian wheat fields. Robbed of her security by the death of her aunt, Nora Marsh (played by Mona Palma) arrives from London to stay on her brother’s farm. Abroad for Nora has meant Paris and the Riviera; she has no notion of frontier life, and doesn’t hide her distaste for her raw surroundings. She quickly makes enemies of her brother’s wife Gertie (Dale Fuller) and homesteader Frank Taylor (Thomas Meighan), especially after she wipes her knife and fork on her napkin – a faux pas subtly conveyed with surreptitious glances and brief gestures. The clash of wills and what we now call ‘lifestyles’ leads Nora to seek a desperate solution to get away: marriage to Taylor and a life on his wheat farm. ‘You said you needed a wife to cook and sew. Would I do?’ The rest of the film studies the strife between these two, married unsuitably, barely civil to each other.
“Beaudine does not resort to imposed drama or glossy style. He sets his camera in close, and says everything through facial expression and gesture. Not for a moment are the performances exaggerated: the actors behave like human beings. I asked Beaudine why he was given such a serious dramatic subject. ‘I was a comedy director, essentially. I was getting to the end of my contract with Warners, and they were renting me out to Paramount at $2,500 a week, with nothing for me to do. They sent me back to New York to do a comedy with Richard Dix. On the way back Paramount changed their minds, and since they were stuck with the contract, put me on The Canadian, an entirely different kind of thing from what I’d been doing. I did a fairly good picture, and they were satisfied.’ “Did you ever work on a farm in your life?” I asked. ‘No.’
He told me he’d never seen the completed film even in the 1920s, due to pressure of work. So when a print was due to be screened at the Los Angeles Museum of Art in February 1970, we tried to persuade him to come. He arrived in a wheelchair shortly before the film was due to start. Would he say a few words? ‘Not on your life,’ said Beaudine, ‘I’ll wait till I’ve seen it.’
The audience applauded during the picture, and they applauded at the end. And only then did Beaudine agree to talk. ‘ I’m very surprised,’ he said. ‘Why – I was quite a good director in spots.’ The audience gave him a standing ovation. He died a few weeks later.” — Kevin Brownlow, 1972
It may be 93 years old but this grand film directed by the great Rex Ingram is a marvel and still holds up today as an outstanding adventure drama. Based on Rafael Sabatini’s novel set in pre-Revolutionary France, an orphan named André-Louis Moreau (Ramon Novarro, in the performance that made him a star) becomes an outlaw French revolutionary. André falls in love with Aline de Kercadiou (Alice Terry), but her uncle would like her to marry the Marquis de la Tour d’Azyr (Lewis Stone), an older French nobleman. When de la Tour kills André’s friend Philippe de Vilmorin, André wagers a duel. Authorities order Andre’s arrest just before the duel, but he flees and takes the identity of Scaramouche, the clown.
Not only is it a rattling good story but also a superb example of silent filmmaking by a true artist. The sets and costumes are fantastic; the film has a rich, painterly style created by Ingram and his ace cinematographer John F. Seitz. The acting is first rate and there are a surprising number of twists and turns in this epic; nothing is ever quite as it seems. Enjoy!
FILMS OF 1916
1916 marked the midpoint of the First World War. The United States was still neutral, confident in isolation. But in the first eight months of the year France, Britain and Germany sustained 2.2 million casualties with the battle of Verdun, which began in February, and the battle of the Somme, which was launched on July 1st. The wartime collapse of the European film industry opened the way for domination of the world screens by American movies, which by 1916 had assumed a visual syntax that largely endures today. The major studio, distribution, and exhibition industry supporting them was also well established in 1916 by such companies as Paramount, Fox, Universal, and Metro. Here is a fascinating program of films from a century ago. The Selig Tribune newsreel issue of March 13th mixes sport and fire items with reports on faraway war events. American adventurer Donald C. Thompson enjoyed access to both sides of the line with his superbly photographed independent actuality Fighting the War. Every show included a comedy, in this case The Floorwalker, first of Charlie Chaplin’s great Mutual series. The feature-length film that came to dominate screens only two years earlier is represented by The Return of Draw Egan. William S. Hart, who starred in and directed this excellent western, cast the mold for similar films during the next several decades.
Preceded by The Cameraman’s Revenge
One of the last important Russian films completed before the 1917 revolution,
Father Sergius is a handsomely produced drama based upon a novella by Leo Tolstoy. Ivan Mosjoukine portrays a young successful army officer, Prince Kasatsky, who unknowingly falls in love with the Czar’s mistress. When he eventually finds out the truth about his fiancée (she wants to marry him to stop the rumors about her affair with the Czar), he is so shocked that he retreats to a monastery to become a monk (and after years Father Sergius). Still he battles with temptations of sexual lust and dreams of how things could have been. Co-directors Yakov Protazanov and Alexandre Volkoff emphasized the high and low points of the character’s life, filming in the actual palaces and private clubs described by Tolstoy. The movie has many uncommonly modern characteristics. Besides the daring subject it has a rather strongly developed lead character, good storytelling and cinematography and a script that deals with human emotions without being exploitative or sentimental. It is a prime example of the art film movement of pre-soviet Russia and a timeless story of unfulfilled love. Mosjoukine and Volkoff later enjoyed stellar careers in French cinema of the 1920s; after a period of exile, Protazanov returned to Soviet Russia where he directed major production such as Aelita, Queen of Mars (1924) and Chapayev (1943). The Cameraman’s Revenge (1912), also Russian, is a clever stop-motion animated film by Ladislas Starewicz who subsequently emigrated to France where he made beautiful animated fantasies until the 1960s.
DON Q, SON OF ZORRO
Douglas Fairbanks plays both father and son in a delightful sequel to The Mark of Zorro. A tremendous critical and commercial success in 1925 and still a lot of fun, it’s rarely shown and almost forgotten today, perhaps because of its terrible title. One reviewer wrote: “Doug has never leaped so high, moved so quickly, or kept in constant motion so long before. The man isn’t human, that’s what he isn’t. He’s perpetual youth, a three-ringed circus, the personification of all juvenile heroes, all rolled into one …” For this film, Fairbanks hired expert Snowy Baker to teach him the twenty-foot Australian bull whip. Photoplay magazine opined: “It is guaranteed to drive little boys into frenzies of stunts until they break an arm or a new fad comes along”. Fairbanks was indeed a hero to young Marion Morrison, later known as John Wayne. He tried a Fairbanks stunt, jumping out a window clinging to a grapevine. “I ruined a beautiful grape arbor,” Wayne told a biographer. Directed by Donald Crisp, with Crisp and Mary Astor.
Preceded by Habeas Corpus
The great Harold Lloyd has a total triumph in 1924’s Girl Shy. This film is jam-packed with staggering comedic brilliance, a romantic tale with enough emotional pangs to please Chaplin, and yet an astonishing climactic action sequence that would make Keaton proud. Girl Shy tells the story of Harold Meadows, a bespectacled young apprentice at a tailor shop who stutters uncontrollably at the sight of a beautiful woman, and yet, ironically, fancies himself experienced enough to write a best-selling instructional manual on how to “make love” with the opposite sex. When Harold unexpectedly meets the girl of his dreams, a modest beauty from a wealthy family, his views on woman suddenly do a somersault, and it’s going to take every ounce of his energy to prevent his newfound sweetheart from marrying a coarse and arrogant bigamist. Harold found his perfect leading lady in Jobyna Ralston, who had just the right amount of prettiness and comic timing. Lloyd, the oddly-neglected genius of 1920s comedy, here justifies his incredible popularity with silent cinema audiences; he was a master of comic timing in everything from set pieces to a spectacular chase across downtown Los Angeles that is beyond the power of mere words to describe. As the Variety critic wrote, “it is a chase that caps anything that has ever been done on the screen.”
Habeas Corpus (1928) is a Laurel & Hardy comedy for Hallowe’en. Crazy Professor Padilla needs a corpse to test his theory and sends the boys to get one from the local cemetery. It’s not the plot but the deliberate pacing as L&H play off one another — half the film goes by while they’re trying to gain entrance over a wall!
Thanks to David Shepard, world-renowned film preservationist, the Festival can boast a real movie theater experience, with films projected off reels, accompanied by the chatter of an old-times movie projector.
Well-known internationally in film circles, Shepard has spent the major part of his career restoring early cinema for DVD and video editions. Recent projects include Abel Gance’s “La Roue” (1922), “Chaplin at Keystone” (1914) and C. B. DeMille’s 1927 production of “Chicago”. The list of other cinema restoration projects completed by Shepard throughout his career is considerable and significant.
Shepard taught cinema for 34 years at the University of Southern California, where he was also director of the Louis B. Mayer Film and Television Study Center; UCLA, where he was honored in 1983 as “the outstanding teacher in performing and integrated arts”; Claremont Men’s College; the University of Iowa; and Pennsylvania State University. He has also co-authored or edited more than a dozen books.
Shepard currently lives in northern rural California with eight dogs and works in a handmade log house of his own design. He is also active in community affairs and continues to work nationally with various archives and laboratories to preserve rare films.
In the words of Mike Mashon, Head, Moving Image Section, Motion Picture Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division, Library of Congress, “David is a giant in the field of film preservation, one of those rare talents who exemplifies the scholar’s rigorous research, the archivist’s attention to detail, and the fan’s unabashed love and enthusiasm for movies.”
The experience would not be complete without live accompaniment! Redding’s Festival is graced by extraordinary talent of world-class master pianist, Frederick Hodges! Hailed by the press as one of the best ragtime pianists in the world, Frederick Hodges is sought after by today’s foremost orchestras, festivals, conductors, and collaborative musicians.
Renowned as a pianist and singer, Frederick Hodges is recognized by audiences around the world for his mastery of diverse repertoire from Liszt to Gershwin. He has established a reputation as a truly versatile artist equally sought after as soloist, singer, and guest soloist with the California Pops Orchestra, and dance band pianist. He has appeared on national television, radio, and in several Hollywood films. He is also a sought-after silent film accompanist for both live performances and on DVD. He performs regularly at the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum.
“One of my most cherished musical pleasures is accompanying silent films. My drive for complete authenticity when creating silent films scores is motivated by my deep love, appreciation, and commitment to the artistic and musical culture of the silent film era.”
About the Artist: www.frederickhodges.com