Sunday, January 31, 2016

Jessica Walters 75 -- January 31, 2016
Happy 75th birthday to actress Jessica Walter.  She is most famous for playing the difficult fan in Play Misty for Me.  Clint Eastwood starred and played the Carmel disc jockey.
I remember her in John Frankenheimer's Grand Prix as the racer's wife who cheated with James Garner. 

Friday, January 29, 2016

News of the Week January 29, 1916 --January 29, 2016

The 29-January-1916 Motography featured "News of the Week as Shown in Films," with items from current newsreels.

"Allegheny River reaches a flood stage of twenty-one feet during recent storms.  Copyright 1916 by Paramount News Pictures."  The Allegheny River passes through Pittsburgh.

"State militia arrive at East Youngstown, Ohio to quell riot.  Copyright 1916 by Pathe News."  Steelworkers at the Youngstown Sheet and Tube Company went on strike because of intolerable working conditions and starvation wages.  The workers made $500 a year while the company paid a 12 percent dividend. 

"The old river packet 'Kanawha' strikes pier and sinks at Parkersburg, W. Va.  Copyright 1916 by Pathe News."  Steamer Kanawha sank on 06-January-1915.  At least eight passengers died.

"U.S.S. Flagship 'Virginia' leaving Charlestown Navy Yard with fleet for Southern waters.  Copyright 1916 by Paramount News Pictures."  USS Virginia (BB-13) was a pre-dreadnaught battleship commissioned in 1906.  She was part of the Great White Fleet.  During World War One she escorted convoys.  She was decommissioned in 1920 and sunk in 1923 as part of General Billy Mitchell's bombing demonstrations. 

"Rear Admiral Robert E. Perry and a committee choosing a site for aerial patrol station.  Copyright 1916 by Paramount News Pictures."  Robert Peary and Matthew Henson had reached the North Pole in 1909.  In 1916 the retired Admiral was chairman of the National Aerial Coast Patrol Commission, which advocated the use of coastal patrol aircraft. 

"Employees of East Youngstown are paid off while under guard.  Copyright 1916 by Pathe News."  See above. 

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Luke Lugs Luggage -- January 28, 2016

Motography, 29-January-2016

Rolin was a company founded by Hal Roach and Dan Linthicum. Harold Lloyd was their first comedy star. Bebe Daniels was their cute leading lady and Snub Pollard was Snub Pollard.

Lonesome Luke resembled Chaplin with some variations, like a thin mustache instead of a toothbrush, and tight pants instead of baggy. "Luke Lugs Luggage" is probably a lost film. 

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Abe Vigoda, RIP -- January 27, 2016

After more than 30 years of reports of his death, actor Abe Vigoda has died for real.  I'm sorry.  He was good in everything I saw him in. 

I remember him in The Godfather as Sal Tessio.  "Tell Mike it was only business. I always liked him."
 I remember him in Barney Miller as Fish.  I didn't know he was only in his 50s. 

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Iconic City Hall --Invasion of the Body Snatchers -- January 26, 2016

The San Francisco Arts Commission sponsors the Art on Market Street Program, which has local artists put up a series of works on bus shelters on Market Street.  Iconic City Hall is a series by Kelli Inouye which depicts movies that have used San Francisco's beautiful City Hall.

In 1978, San Francisco director Phil Kaufman remade Don Siegel's 1956 science fiction classic Invasion of the Body Snatchers.  Donald Sutherland and Brooke Adams were the humans who were trying to figure out what was happening.

Monday, January 25, 2016

DVD: William Gillette in Sherlock Holmes -- January 25, 2016

Moving Picture World, 21-October-1916
Back in 2014, I wrote about William Gillette, author of a famous play about Sherlock Holmes and the first actor to become famous for playing the part:

At that time, Essanay's 1916 production of Sherlock Holmes, starring Gillette in his only feature film appearance, was thought to be lost.

Later in 2014, the San Francisco Silent Film Festival and the Cinémathèque Française announced that a print of the film had been discovered at the  Cinémathèqe.  The two organizations worked together to restore the film and translate the French titles into English.  It debuted at the 2015 San Francisco Silent Film Festival.

Later in 2015,  Flicker Alley released it on DVD and Blu-Ray.  I ordered and received my copy in early 2016.

Moving Picture World, 07-October-1916
The box contains two discs and a booklet.  The first disc has the movie with English or French titles.  Neil Brand provided the musical score.

The second disc has several extras.  There is a talk about restoring the film by Robert Byrne at the 2015 San Francisco Silent Film Festival.  I liked his use of illustrations.  American Mutoscope and Biograph's 1900 "Sherlock Holmes Baffled" was the first known Sherlock Holmes film.  "A Canine Sherlock Holmes" was a 1912 Charles Urban production starring Spot, the Urbanora Dog.  Spot gave a strong performance.  "Più forte che Sherlock Holmes" was a 1913 Giovanni Pastrone trick film. Talkies were the Fox Movietone interview with Arthur Conan Doyle and film of Gillette's miniature steam railroad at his Connecticut estate.

The booklet has essays on William Gillette, the production of the film, its restoration, its musical score and the two Movietone productions.

The feature was found in a set of cans, each containing several small sections of film.  The feature had been cut up into a serial for French exhibition.  The titles and intertitles had been roughly translated into French.  The film was divided up for tinting into orange for day scenes and interiors and blue for night scenes.

I was surprised while watching the film to see several fades that occurred in the middle of scenes.  They did not seem to represent time lapses.

Bisbee, Arizona Daily Review, 24-December-1916
William Gillette was old, but I saw that Orson Welles was right, Sherlock Holmes did look like William Gillette.  He could be commanding.  Edward Fielding didn't bring any character to Watson.  Marjorie Kay was pretty as Alice Fielding, but didn't display much acting.  French actor Ernest Maupain was scary as Moriarity.

The exterior of 221B Baker Street did not look appropriate.  The finale took place in Watson's office, after a title that said 221B had been burned.

I went to sleep while watching the movie on two different days, but it was not the movie's fault.  I have had to work late several days.

I'm grateful to the San Francisco Silent Film Festival, the Cinémathèque Française and Flicker Alley for giving me the opportunity to watch this movie.

Moving Picture World, 01-April-1916

Sunday, January 24, 2016

The Zoetrope -- January 24, 2016

From The Story of the Motion Picture: 65 B.C. to 1920 A.D. By Ben Jehudah Lubschez.  Last month we read about WG Horner's invention of the Phenakistoscope:

James Clerk Maxwell was a Scottish scientist.

Some twelve months after Plateau's invention of the Phenakistoscope, W. G. Horner in 1834 described the Daedaleum, a cylindrical derivation of the Phenakistoscope, later called the "Wheel of Life," and "Zoetrope." With this no mirror was needed as with Plateau's device. It consisted of a hollow cylinder which could be rotated on its axis. The various phases of a moving object were depicted around the lower edge of the inside of the cylinder, and the vertical slots were cut above the images near the upper edge of the cylinder. Looking thru the slots at the pictures while revolving the cylinder, produced the illusion. For some reason this device was not popularly introduced until i860, and it is still on the market as a toy. Various forms of it were patented in the United States, England and France. Rather serious models of it were patented by Desvignes in France in i860, and by W. F. Lincoln of Providence, R. I. in 1867.

In all devices having narrow slots for observation of the pictures, more or less distortion resulted as the picture viewed passed before the slot. If the slot moved in the same direction with the picture, as in the Phenakistoscope, the picture appeared elongated; if it travelled in opposite direction from the picture, as in the Zoetrope, the picture appeared compressed. Plateau recognized this shortcoming and compensated for the resultant distortion by distorting his original diagrams in the opposite direction, the two distortions neutralizing each other and the result being normal. In 1869, however, Clerk-Maxwell remedied this defect in the Zoetrope by substituting for the slots, lenses so arranged as to form the images of the moving pictures at the center of the revolving cylinder of the Zoetrope, thus the images would be apparently stationary. In 1877 Reynaud attained the same result in a simpler way and his device, which he called the Praxinoscope, attained a popularity which lasted many years. In the Praxinoscope both the slots and lenses were done away with: around a drum in the center of the cylinder were arranged little sloping mirrors placed half-way between the rim of the outer cylinder and its center. The reflected images of the different phases in the mirrors therefore appeared at the center of the revolving cylinder just as in Clerk-Maxwell's device. Altho by the ingenious use of mirrors the Praxinoscope was combined with the stereoptican and ultimately was used with actual photographs as one of the immediate predecessors of the film machines, it is only a variation of the Zoetrope and would be of little interest except for the fact that in it, and its prototype by Clerk-Maxwell, was recognized the fundamental principle that, to avoid distortion and blurring, the image viewed must be momentarily at rest or apparently so. This principle was independently discovered several years earlier by Dr. Coleman Sellers of Philadelphia in an ingenious photographic machine which he called the Kinematoscope, and which will be taken up later.

Friday, January 22, 2016

News of the Week January 22, 1916 --January 22, 2016

The 22-January-1916 Motography featured "News of the Week as Shown in Films," with items from current newsreels.

"Horses at Boston waiting to be shipped to the French Government.  Copyright 1916 by Paramount News Pictures."   I have mentioned it before, but the armies still depended greatly on animal power.

"Gas explosion wrecks an oil tank steamship, Aztec, in its New York dock.  Copyright 1916 by Pathe News."  On 04-January-1916, Norwegian steamer Aztec blew up in Brooklyn, where she was docked.  Several crewmen were killed and injured.  The ship had carried a load of gasolene to France. 

"Major-General Bell, who has just taken command of the Western division of the U. S. Army.  Copyright, 1916, Mutual Weekly."  George Bell, Jr. was a West Point graduate who commanded the El Paso District during the border troubles.

"Pittsburgh police department takes motion pictures of the rogues it captures.  Copyright 1916 by Paramount News Pictures."   I think I have seen this one before.

"Fair swimming fans of Chicago go bathing in Lake Michigan despite ice and snow.  Copyright 1916 by Pathe News."  I wouldn't do that.

"Italian line 'Guiseppe Verdi' arrives in New York armed to repel submarines.  Copyright 1916 by Pathe News."  Verdi was a new liner armed with two three-inch guns.  There was controversy about arming civilian ships.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

One of the Most Desperate Ring Fights Ever Known -- January 20, 2016

New York Clipper, 13-January-1906
On 20-December-1905, Light Heavyweight champ Bob Fitzsimmons fought Philadelphia Jack O'Brien at the Mechanics Pavilion in San Francisco.  This was their second fight.  O'Brien won when Fitzsimmons retired after the 13th round.  Fitzsimmons had won a 24-July-1904 fight against O'Brien in Philadelphia.  Fitzsimmons was a former heavyweight champ.

The Lubin Manufacturing Company offered the complete 13 rounds or the "six best rounds."

"The Greatest Money Maker of the 20th Century."



Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Alan Rickman, Haskell Wexler, Vilmos Zsigmond, RIP -- January 19, 2016

I was sad to learn that actor Alan Rickman had died.  I would have happily rented his voice at any time.  Everyone seems to be posting about his roles in Harry Potter and Die Hard.  I liked him in CBGB and Robin Hood and Sense and Sensibility and Hitchhiker's Guide and all sorts of other movies that people have not mentioned.  I wish I could have seen and heard him on stage.

Haskell Wexler had a wonderful eye.  He served in the Merchant Marine during World War II.  His ship got torpedoed and as the crew sat in the lifeboat, the German U-Boat surfaced and the survivors through they would be machine gunned.  Instead, the captain recorded the scene with a movie camera.  Wexler wondered whether the captain was using black and white or color stock.  I particularly like Bound For Glory.  I need to see more of his documentaries.

Cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond also died.  He left Hungary after the 1956 revolution and settled in the United States.  He worked with everyone from Robert Altman to Woody Allen.  He did some cool stuff with colors.  Newscasters had trouble pronouncing his name. 

Monday, January 18, 2016

Triangle Signs Charley and Syd Chaplin for New Triangle Comedies --- January 18, 2016

Motography, 15-January-1916

This article says that the Triangle Film Corporation announded that "the two Chaplins, Charley and Syd, will shortly be presented to the public in comedies of an entirely new vein, under a new Triangle brand."  Didn't happen.

Charlie had been with Essanay for about a year.  Syd had been with Keystone, a Triangle affiliate, for some time.

Samuel Rothafel was a famous New York showman, nicknamed Roxy.  He later hosted a radio show, Roxy and his Gang.  His last name was often printed as "Rothapfel." 

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Arthur Johnson 100 Years -- January 17, 2016

Motography, 29-January-1916

Actor Arthur Johnson died 100 years ago today, on 17-January-1916.  He had been the leading man in DW Griffith's first film as director, "The Adventures of Dollie," in 1908.  In 1911 he moved to Lubin, where he acted and directed.  His health failed in 1915 and he retired.  He may have had tuberculosis.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

DVD: Accidentally Preserved, Volume 3 -- January 16, 2016

They're at it again.  Famous film accompanist Ben Model has produced a third volume of the Accidentally Preserved series.  Model and others dug into their collections of old 16mm prints, which were mostly made for the home rental or purchase market. Some of the movies only exist in old home use prints.  Naturally he also created the musical scores.  Some of the scores were done using a virtual organ.

The DVD contains nine films, all comedies, all shot silent, and one released with a synchronized sound track.

"Wanted: A Nurse" was a 1915 Vitagraph one-reeler starring Mr and Mrs Sidney Drew.  Sidney Drew, uncle of the famous Barrymores, was a clubman who fell in love with a pretty nurse, played by Lucile McVey, Sidney's second wife.  The movie required much image stabilization to make it viewable.  It was a charming story, worth the effort.

"Service A La Bunk" was a 1921 TuSun one-reeler starring Bobbie (aka Bobby) Ray, whom I don't think I had ever seen before.  There were some nice gags with a pedal car.  The effeminate restaurant owner had on a strange makeup, which appeared to include teeth drawn on his lower lip.  There was a nice scene on a Los Angeles rooftop.  There was also one blackface gag.

A very short film called here "A Citrate Special" was unique.  There is no information about where or when it was produced.  It employs a series of scatological gags.  It could not have been released to the public.

"The Whirlwind" was a 1922 movie produced by and starring Joe Rock.  I have wanted to see Joe Rock ever since I read a book of interviews with people who had been in the early movie business.  The chapter about Joe Rock was very interesting, but his starring movies have been hard to come by.  The wind effects reminded me of Steamboat Bill, Jr.  Joe Rock was good, making his entrance in an auto powered by a sail.

"No Vacancies" was a 1923 Speed Comedy about a shortage of rental housing.  Things never change.  It meandered a bit, but had some funny gags.

"Love's Young Scream" was a 1928 Christie comedy about a complicated elopement and an exploding jail.  Professional old guy Jack Duffy appeared in this one and "No Vacancies."  This one zipped right along.  It was preserved from a print made for television. 

Big Boy appeared in "Hot Luck," a 1928 Jack White comedy.  There was lots of action around a firehouse, which would please my friends who like fire equipment.

"Whose Baby" was a 1929 Universal comedy starring Arthur Lake, who later played Dagwood Bumstead over and over again.  Here he was not obnoxious, but the way he and others treated the baby was disturbing.

Little Billy Barty appeared in "Half a Hero" shot silent in 1929 by the Weiss Brothers, but released in 1930 with a synchronized soundtrack.  Only the second reel survives.  There was a chimp, two dogs, a monkey and a pretty white horse.  Billy was cute.  I remember seeing him in many movies on their first releases.  I was going to say first runs, but then I thought about "A Citrate Special."

Steve Massa wrote the introductions and recreated missing titles and intertitles.  

Look for the DVD.  It is a lot of fun.

The Accidentally Preserved website:

Volume One:

Volume Two:

Friday, January 15, 2016

News of the Week January 15, 1916 --January 15, 2016

The 15-January-1916 Motography featured "News of the Week as Shown in Films," with items from current newsreels.

"Results of a French aeroplane raid on Germany.  Copyright 1915 by Pathe News."  Both sides were practicing aerial bombardment. 

"A German freighter captured by Russia sails from New York with ammunition for the allies.  Copyright, 1915, Mutual Weekly."  Several German freighters were taken over by the allies. 

 "The leading magnates of organized baseball assemble at Cincinnati and declare peace.  Copyright, 1915, Hearst-Selig News Pictorial."  John K Tener was the president of the National League.  Garry Herrmann was president of the National Baseball Commission.  Ban Johnson was the president and founder of the American League.  The three men made up the National Commission, which ran baseball before the position of Commissioner was instituted in 1920.  I assume peace was declared after the Federal League folded.

"Oxen used to distribute milk in Roseland, New Jersey.  Copyright 1915 by Pathe News."  Distributing milk by ox sled must have been rare for this to be considered newsworthy.

 "Colonel E. M. House leaves for Europe on diplomatic mission.  Copyright 1915 by Pathe News."  Edward Mandell House was a friend and adviser to Woodrow Wilson.  He frequently performed informal diplomacy.

"The famous Seventh U. S. Cavalry leaving San Francisco for the Mexican border.  Copyright, 1915, Mutual Weekly."  The Seventh Cavalry, Custer's old unit, served in the Mexican Punitive Expedition.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Faye Dunaway 75 -- January 14, 2016

Happy 75th birthday to Academy Award-winning actress Faye Dunaway, who was born on 14-January-1941.  She appeared in many good movies, including Chinatown, Bonnie and Clyde, 3 Days of the Condor and The Thomas Crown Affair.  I didn't care for Mommie Dearest.  Then she stopped getting parts because of her age.  A French actress would have made a lot more movies.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

DVD: The Marcel Perez Collection -- January 12, 2016

Motography, 29-January-1916

Undercrank Productions, producers of the Accidentally Preserved and Musty Suffer series have also made The Marcel Perez Collection, a tribute to a little-known silent-era comedian. One reason he was little known is that he went by a variety of names in a variety of places.

Perez was probably born in Spain and began appearing in films for Pathé Frères in France.  In 1910, he signed with Ambrosio Films in Turino, Italy.  The first set of films includes five films he made for Ambrosio.  He played a character called Robinet.  The movies are fun and Perez shows a nice goofy quality.  "Robinet's White Suit" works a nice series of variations on an old gag.  After Italy entered World War One in 1915, Perez went to America and starred in films and directed there.  This was unusual because most people who starred in film comedies in Europe did not succeed when they moved to America.

Perez did very well, appearing under a variety of character names including Bungles, Tweedledum, Twee-Dee and Dweedledum.  The second set of films includes five American movies that Perez directed and starred in.  He plays a hayseed in "A Bathtub Elopment," but more urban characters in the others.  In "A Busy Night" he plays most of the characters.  Some films are missing footage, but we are lucky to see what is there.  The whole first reel is missing from "Camouflage," but what survives is great fun.  It does include some blackface.

Ben Model's accompaniment is impeccable.  

The set was published with an accompanying book by Steve Massa, Marcel Perez: The International Mirth-Maker.  It examines what we know about the complicated life of Perez.  I enjoyed the movies and the book. 

Moving Picture World, 14-October-1916

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Grauman's Chinese -- Joan Blondell -- January 10, 2016

Joan Blondell, widely loved Warner Brothers star, left her hand and high-heeled shoe prints in the forecourt of Grauman's Chinese on 10-February-1937. Her upstairs neighbor is Hearst gossip columnist Louella O(ettinger) Parsons. DSCN4147.

I think I have enjoyed every movie I have seen her in, including Footlight Parade, Gold Diggers of 1933, The Public Enemy, Topper Returns  and Nightmare Alley. 

I took this on 18-July-2009.

Friday, January 8, 2016

News of the Week January 8, 1916 --January 8, 2016

The 08-January-1916 Motography featured "News of the Week as Shown in Films," with items from current newsreels.

"Welcoming Yoshito, 122nd Emperor of Japan in Kyoti, Japan.  Copyright 1915 by Pathe News."  Yoshihito was crowned Emperor on 10-November-1915, succeeding his father, Meiji.  Yoshihito suffered from health problems throughout his reign.  Yoshihito's son Hirohito became regent in 1921.  Yoshihito died in 1926.  I assume that Kyoti means Kyoto.

"Roger W. Babson conducts outdoor office in zero weather.  Copyright, 1915, Mutual Weekly."  Babson was an eccentric entrepreneur who founded three universities and colleges.  I don't know what he was doing outside in zero degree weather. 

"Ex-Bandit Al Jennings in New York City.   Copyright 1915 by Universal Animated Weekly."  Jennings was a former bank and train robber who once shared a prison cell with O. Henry.  Jennings later starred in some movies.

"Two immense grain elevators in Pennsylvania are destroyed by fire.  Copyright, 1915, Paramount News Pictures."  I have not been able to find any details about these fires.

"Christmas trees shipped from Maine woods.  Copyright 1915 by Pathe News."  I wonder if they still travel by rail. 

"A view of U. S. flagship Pennsylvania.  Copyright 1915 by Universal Animated Weekly."  Dreadnaught USS Pennsylvania (BB-38) was launched on 16-March-1915.  During the Pearl Harbor attack, she was in drydock, but her anti-aircraft guns fought back.  15 of her crew were killed, but she was able to sail to San Francisco for repairs.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Monday, January 4, 2016

Seattle's Big Coliseum Opened -- January 4, 2016

Motography, 29-January-1916
The 2500-seat Coliseum Theater in Seattle was the largest movie theater in the United States when it opened.