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Monday, April 25, 2011

A Century of Sound, The History of Sound in Motion Pictures: The Beginning 1876-1932

For those interested in an obtaining an outstanding documentary on the history (form a mostly U.S. perspective) of sound in motion pictures, go to The Rick Chace Foundation Website.  From the website: "This educational DVD is now available free of charge ($10 shipping and handling fee) to qualifying institutions, schools, historians, researchers, scholars and other non-profit organizations."
DVD review with screenshots at Summer O' Babylon
More film sound history and links at

Sunday, April 24, 2011


Kay Francis, Kenneth MacKenna and Walter Huston in THE VIRTUOUS SIN (1930)

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Saturday, April 23, 2011

MAZURKA (1935) subtitles / Did Kay Francis do her own singing in CONFESSION (1937)?

I'm looking for an English, Spanish, French or Italian subtitle file (.srt) for MAZURKA (1935). Thanks!

Does anyone know if Kay Francis did her own singing in CONFESSION?

video courtesy of Taylormayes

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Sunday, April 17, 2011


William Powell, Kay Francis and Paul Lukas in BEHIND THE MAKE UP (1930)

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Saturday, April 16, 2011


(left to right) Regis Toomey, Paul Lukas, Charles 'Buddy' Rogers, Kay Francis and Nancy Carroll in ILLUSION (1929)

(note on back of photo) NOVEL CAMERA CRANE a special camera crane was built by Paramount to film the lavish banquet scene in "Illusion", all-talking adaption of Arthur Turin's novel.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Unheimliche Geschichten (Uncanny Stories) 1932


I'm looking for either an English subtitled release, or an English, Spanish, French or Italian subtitle file (.srt) for the 1932 version of Unheimliche Geschichten (Uncanny Stories). Thanks!


Saturday, April 09, 2011


Sunday, April 03, 2011

Cinefest 2011 Report

Cinefest 31 Syracuse N.Y. March17-20, 2011
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All silent films were given first rate accompaniment by Dr. Andrew Simpson and Ben Model.


Two reel version of Bizet’s CARMEN produced by Educational Pictures, directed by Howard Higgin and starring Rene Denny as Carmen. This very rare short showcases an impressive interior set, lavish costuming and some nicely done songs, but as for Denny's Carmen…en fuego she is not. Overall, THE IDOL OF SEVILLE was a relatively pleasing short film.


Paramount’s FORGOTTEN COMMANDMENTS was directed by Louis Gasnier and William Schorr and includes extensive archive footage from DeMille’s 1923 silent THE TEN COMMANDMENTS. This fun film stars Gene Raymond as Paul Ossipoff, a handsome dolt, Marguerite Churchill as his decent wife Marya, top billed Sari Maritza as the seductress Anya, and Irving Pichel as Professor Marinoff. 
The story concerns whether eager party member Paul Ossipoff will choose temptress Anya, symbol of everything not bourgeois, the embodiment of amoral, godless communism, or wife Maria, wholesome, domestic minded representative of the Christian valued West. Professor Marinoff personifies communism in all its cold, emotionless, nationalistic glory. Paul has on the Professor what youths of today would call a man crush. Even though the respected Marinoff fervently espouses the tenets of Marxism to Paul, it’s Sari Maritza’s irresistible Anya who effortlessly steals his heart and soul.
DeMille’s THE TEN COMMANDMENTS footage is impressive. Original film titles are used along with narration to parallel the corrupted, false idol worshipping Ancient Israelites with followers of communism, the contemporary Golden Calf. Even though the misguided Bolsheviks of our story don't suffer an epic, Old Testament like demise, be rest assured that goodness triumphs. The red threat eventually collapses under its own hypocrisy, wickedness is punished, and even the most zealous Marxist sees the light and converts to the side of righteousness.
Some amusing lines such as “Don't keep calling me “darling.” It's bourgeois” kept the audience laughing throughout. Judging by Paul’s reaction, for a card carrying communist to be called bourgeois is a grave insult. Gene Raymond is watchable, Marguerite Churchill suffered well as his dutiful wife, Sari Maritza sizzled and Irving Pichel, generally an enjoyable ham, kept histrionics in check. Despite (or depending on your outlook, because of) some heavy handed symbolism, unintentionally funny dialogue, and ill advised narration over titles, FORGOTTEN COMMANDMENTS was an enjoyable film. The audience certainly approved.


Directed by Alan Crosland, GLORIOUS BETSY is a romantic adventure tale based on the 1908 play by Rida Johnson Young about the relationship between Jerome Bonaparte (Conrad Nagel) and Elizabeth Patterson (Dolores Costello). Those expecting a silent film with awkward, out of place sound sequences will be pleasantly surprised by this reasonably entertaining film. A 16mm silent print was screened with first rate accompaniment by Ben Model. The plot revolves around the romance between Elizabeth Patterson and her French teacher. Elizabeth doesn't know her teacher is really Jerome Bonaparte. She eventually learns his true identity and they are wed, but Jerome’s brother Napoleon disapproves of the union. 
Conrad Nagel, oftentimes a hambone, acquits himself rather well as Jerome. Although not possessing the debonair qualities of a Barrymore or Gilbert, he is not without swagger and makes an entirely serviceable, If not lively, romantic adventure hero. If you weren't familiar with Dolores Costello’s work, by the second close up you'll be a fan. By the fifth close-up you'll be a big fan. By the tenth close up you'll love her. She's an amazing beauty. This film should have been called Glorious Dolores. The camera absolutely adores her and she is superbly photographed by Hal Mohr. 
Nagel lost a few performance points for his on-screen lovemaking, which was, at times, over the top. What Jerome does to Betsy in the privacy of her garden would, if done publicly, likely get him arrested. One wonders just where the acting begins and ends. Nagel must have also adored Costello’s face judging by the amount of kisses he lavished all over it. In one of his more passionate moments he managed to get rather well acquainted with her bosom. In all fairness, others in his shoes would have likely done the same. The scene is an example (albeit silent) of the type of overheated on-screen lovemaking that is often referred to as a catalyst in destroying the talkie film career of John Gilbert via HIS GLORIOUS NIGHT, and typifies the less than subtle performances during the transitional silent to sound period that were wickedly parodied in SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN. If this particular sequence in GLORIOUS BETSY had been selected for use with synchronized sound, perhaps the discussion would be about the career ending talkie debut of Conrad Nagel and a different, less cruel fate would have awaited John Gilbert. Well, I can dream, can’t I? Costello gives a good performance as the coquettish Baltimore belle, though there was a scene where I couldn't determine whether she was trying to express bewilderment or worry. Reacting to Nagel, perhaps she was conveying both.
Costello’s beauty isn't the only reason to see this film, though it is a very good reason. The film holds up on its own as a romantic adventure with credit going to director Alan Crosland. Noted singer Pasquale Amato, in his only screen appearance, does fine as Napoleon and John Miljan is effective as a villainous cad.

Ray Faiola presented a very entertaining program featuring a generous dose of lively, fast paced Columbia Studio trailers from the mid 1930’s to the 1950’s.


Directed by Reginald Barker, starring Enid Bennett, Charles Gunn, Thelma Salter, Adele Belgrade and Jack Gilbert. A friendless young girl finds love. This leisurely paced, simple story, which portrays basic human emotions in the most straightforward manner, makes for a very effective film. Enid Bennett is appealing and gives a subtle performance, ably conveying the pain felt by a lonely, sheltered girl. A young Jack Gilbert is fun as a likeable cad and makes the role his own.


Only one incomplete print of DENNY FROM IRELAND survives and the Cinefest crowd was fortunate for the opportunity to view this rarity. Shorty Hamilton portrays Denny O'Hara, an unlucky Irishman finding himself in a wee bit of trouble that necessitates hasty departure from his beloved Emerald Isle – and I don't mean North Carolina. Arriving in the United States, his fortunes change for the better after befriending a fellow expatriate. Shorty, a simple man, makes some very poor decisions and once again finds himself in a serious dilemma. This time luck is on his side and he manages, through no fault of his own, to come out practically unscathed. This would not be described as a sophisticated filmmaking even in 1918, but was likely popular fare with its target audience.


Rousing war film expertly directed by Raoul Walsh and well acted by the entire cast. I'd seen this film several times before on the small screen, but the impact from viewing a 16mm print with live accompaniment was considerable. This epic film, which spawned two sequels, covers the martial and romantic adventures of friendly enemies Sgt. Quirt (Edmund Lowe) and Capt. Flagg (Victor McLaglen), two career marines fighting, loving and laughing their way through WWI.
Though incessantly battling each other over women, they manage to conserve enough hostility to fight the Hun. The pair's rivalry becomes even more heated after they fall for Charmaine, a beautiful French peasant girl well played by the beautiful Dolores Del Rio. The movie shifts between comedy and serious drama and includes some very impressive night battle scenes. Despite abundant stereotypes and heavy reliance on broad comedy, this remains overall a very compelling film. Inspired accompaniment by Dr. Andrew Simpson, particularly during the battle sequences, made for a powerful film going experience.


Cute short produced by Fox Film Corporation about sheep farming from the animal's perspective features some nicely photographed vistas and well composed shots.


Lively, clever, well done musical comedy had plenty of talent associated with the production including Joe May, Gloria Swanson, John Boles, June Lang, Douglass Montgomery, Oscar Hammerstein, Jerome Kern and Billy Wilder. So naturally it was a box office failure.
The plot revolves around the personal and professional entanglements encountered by amateur provincial musical artists after bringing their operetta to the big city. Once there, the novice players and young lovers Karl (Montgomery) and Sieglinde (Lang) meet renowned theatrical couple Frieda (Swanson) and Bruno (Boles). Frieda hungrily pursues inexperienced beefcake Karl, Bruno charms the lovely young Sieglinde and trouble ensues for all. Swanson is superb as a stage diva. Boles is amusing as her egocentric on and off-stage partner, Montgomery is appealing as the juvenile and Lang is gorgeous in the ingénue role.


Hugely popular child star Sunny Jim McKeen starred as “Snookums” in a series of late 1920s two-reel shorts about various comedic mishaps caused by an impish tyke. Judging from the edited version screened, this appeared to be an uninspired entry in the series. Also in the cast was Jack Egan, who would go on to lead roles in two rare 1929 Columbia musicals, THE BROADWAY HOOFER and BROADWAY SCANDALS.


Directed by James Cruze, and starring Alice Joyce, Warner Baxter, Dolores Costello, Zasu Pits and Walter Pidgeon.
A beautiful 16mm print was viewed. Good drama about a couple's unexpected reunion with their daughter who had been kidnapped years before. Well acted by the entire cast with Pitts a standout.


Humorous, entertaining short notable for the repartee and witty retorts between guests Boris Karloff, Oscar Levant, Franklin P. Adams, Alice Marble and host Clifton Fadiman.


More art film than mainstream fare, this innovative, stylized short film expertly blends Blues music, melodrama and song and dance with evocative wardrobe and dreary sets, infusing the viewer with the smoky, boozy atmosphere of a sleazy dive bar. Based on the song FRANKIE AND JOHNNY, all the film's varied visual and audio elements were combined so effectively they hung like a dark cloud over the characters, creating a sense of impending tragedy. Auteur Dudley Murphy obviously had a vision for this short. Direction, Photography and Art Direction were all first rate. Starring Gilda Grey and Walter Fenner.


Directed by Stuart Heisler, starring Billy Lee, Cordell Hickman and Richard Lane. Touching story about a father and his young son brought closer through their relationship with an underachieving bird dog.

Well directed and acted film includes some nice outdoor shots of bird dogs in the field. Also explores the tradition and culture of dog breeding and raising.


This was another very entertaining program presented at the festival and showcased numerous silent film trailers. It provided viewers with a chance to see some rare film excerpts and in some cases the only extant footage of lost films. Trailers screened included; DETECTIVES 1928, THE HEAD MAN 1928, FORBIDDEN HOURS 1928, KEEPER OF THE BEES 1928, A CERTAIN YOUNG MAN 1928 and several others.


Directed by Edmund Mortimor and starring Winter Hall, Lydia Knott, Wilfred Lucas, Blanche Sweet, Milton Sills and Gloria Hope.
An Interesting cast and film afforded the audience a rare opportunity to watch actress Gloria Hope. My favorite segment was the near the end of the film with Buck Blodgett (Harry Northrup) loving and desperately yearning for love in return from his cold, unresponsive wife Virginia (Blanche Sweet).


Morality, vengeance, justice and redemption are the themes explored in this well acted pre-code film. Victor McLaglen, Elissa Landi, Alexander Kirkland and Ralph Morgan star.


Directed by Victor Fleming, starring Gary Coooper, Lupe Velez and Louis Wolheim.
Well directed, entertaining film most notable for Gary Cooper's so-called nude scene, which elicited giggles of delight from several ladies and a few gentlemen seated behind me. Also worth noting was the Cooper and Velez dance scene, which made up in primal passion what it lacked in technical virtuosity. The fire from Valentino's torrid tango in FOUR HORSEMAN OF THE APOCALYPSE and the slow burn from Garbo and Gilbert's smoldering, sensual waltz in FLESH AND THE DEVIL are comparable to the amount of heat that emanated from the screen during the Cooper/Velez two-step. Whew…I can't believe I just wrote that. 
Although it was reported that their romance had cooled such during shooting that only acrimony remained, I could find no onscreen evidence. The chemistry between the two was palpable and they set the screen on fire. Then again, it's been said that there's a thin line between love and hate, so I might have interpreted lingering glances between the two as passionate rather than tempestuous. The plot, as it is, concerns coarse frontiersman Sam Lash (Cooper) marrying lovely Spanish girl Lola Salazar (Velez). As the wide open spaces continue to beckon, Sam finds it increasingly difficult to remain domesticated and defy the call of the wild. The crowd seemed pleased both with the film and the fine accompaniment by Dr. Andrew Simpson.


Ruth Gilbert is delightful as Alice and the best thing about this odd, plodding independent short film shot in Fort Lee New Jersey.


The opportunity to see a very rare short film and to hear some unintentionally funny dialogue are the reasons to see this episode in the William J. Burns Detective series produced by Educational.

A SONG IN THE DARKThe Birth of the Musical Film. Hosted by Richard Barrios

A Song in the Dark author Richard Barrios introduced many delightful film clips from Dawn of Sound musicals, my favorite early sound cinema genre. A few of the many clips screened included Maurice Chevalier and Evelyn Brent in the Lubitsch directed APACHE DANCE segment from PARAMOUNT ON PARADE, an excerpt of Wheeler and Woolsey with Dorothy Lee in glorious two color from RIO RITA not included in the circulated print, Lupino Lane singing and performing an acrobatic dance from the legendary GOLDEN DAWN, the toe-tapping SINGING IN THE RAIN finale from HOLLYWOOD REVUE OF 1929 and Buddy Rogers in an impressively choreographed song and dance number from SAFETY IN NUMBERS.


Directed by Eddie Dillon, story and screenplay by Tod Browning, Chester Withey and F.M. Pierson, starring DeWolf Hopper Sr., Fay Tincher, Chester Witney, Max Davidson, Jewell Carmen, Eugene Pallette, with Lillian Gish and Wallace Reid in cameos. Plenty of talent was on board for this funny, fast paced comedy. My notes are incomplete on this one, but from what I remember the story involves mystics, swamis, vamps and other assorted crazy characters chasing after some sacred jewels in what I suspect may have been an all-in-one spoof of various genre and sub-genre films and characters popular at the time. I found DeWolf Hopper Sr. to be particularly funny as a blustery, broke and on the make actor.


Directed by Rupert Julian and starring Bebe Daniels, Lloyd Hughes, Montagu Love and Ned Sparks with songs by Oscar Levant and Sidney Clare.
Bebe's follow up to RIO RITA and another example of an early sound seriotragimusicomedy, or STMC for short. LOVE COMES ALONG had just about everything Rio Rita did - except in much smaller, less satisfying, black and white portions and sans Wheeler and Woolsey. The plot concerns an influential scoundrel's attempts to thwart lifelong happiness between a tough-talking dame with a soft heart and a boastful sailor with a soft head. Peggy (Bebe Daniels) cracks wise more often than Johnny (Lloyd Hughes) hitches up his sailor pants, and that’s saying something.
Beebe is at her best emoting during the singing scenes, especially during the final rendition of UNTIL LOVE COMES ALONG. As Peggy pours her heart out to lost love, she is overcome with emotion and eventually breaks down. It's a wonderful scene and the best the film has to offer. Bebe is also afforded some beautiful gowns to wear and looks stunning. Hughes is bland but serviceable as the love interest. Ned Sparks plays a perpetually drunk sidekick named “Happy” and has a few - too few - good lines. Montagu Love obviously relished his role as the villainous Sangredo. Just a fair film worth seeing for Bebe Daniels.


Directed by Reginald Barker and starring Geraldine Farrar and Lou Tellegen. The plot concerns well-to-do ladies man Don Mateo Diaz falling hard for commoner Concha Perez. It's not long before the lovely but hot-tempered Concha has Don Mateo wrapped around her little finger and their stormy relationship leaves him an emotionally shattered, shell of a man. 
Ferrar has definite screen presence and is convincing as the untamed, emotionally abusive woman. Tellegen is effective as the battered boyfriend.


Directed by Irvin Willat and starring Renee Adoree and Conrad Nagel. The audience viewed the thrilling, nail-bitingly effective rapids scene which contained amazing special effects and proved to be an impressive piece of filmmaking.


Directed by John Francis Dillon and starring Jack Pickford, Gloria Hope and John Francis Dillon.
This was the second film of the festival to feature actress Gloria Hope. Perhaps someday I'll get the opportunity to see her in 1919’s TOO MUCH JOHNSON. Plot involves innocent bystander Jack Robin (Pickford) mistaken for a “Jimmy Valentine” type safecracker. Jack Pickford is not without talent, but here proves to be just an ordinary juvenile lead, unable to lift this tale above mildly diverting. Director Jack Dillon appears in a supporting role as “Spider” and tries his best liven things up.


Directed by Pal Fejos and starring Barbara Kent and Glenn Tryon.
One of my favorite films is a beautifully told story about two lonely people who find each other. I'd only seen the silent print before, so it was a treat to finally see the sound sequence version. The first talkie sequence at the beach is a nicely done, suitably understated scene reflecting the awkward anxiety of budding romance and flows well enough with the previously silent portion of the film. The other two talkie sequences, however, especially the belabored scene at the police station, are incongruous and rather jarring. Thankfully, these awkward talking scenes do little to dampen the overall effect of this wonderful film.
Masterfully directed by Fejos, who vividly transforms Coney Island’s Luna Park from joyous delight for lovers united, to heartlessly cruel for lovers divided. Kent and Tryon as the girl and boy next door are both charming and likeable.


A stunning 35mm print, beautiful photography by Karl Struss and fine performances made this film one of the highlights of the festival. The plot revolves around WASPy southern socialite Temple Drake, a bad girl from a good family. She realizes that fully exploring her peculiar proclivities would open Pandora's Box, so she remains an unconscionable tease.
Unfortunately, fate, amongst other things, places her in an uncomfortable position where the box is opened for her. Based on William Faulkner's novel SANCTUARY. Talented Steven Roberts directed, adeptly using lingering, extreme close-ups focused on the menace drenched face of unforgettable bad guy “Trigger”, superbly played by Jack LaRue. Miriam Hopkins is outstanding as Temple Drake.


Robust, grand adventure tale takes place in the Canadian wilderness and details the lawlessness that necessitated the formation of the Royal North West Mounted Police.
Starring Antonio Moreno and the lovely and talented Renee Adoree.


Amusing and sometimes silly comedy about Queen Ninon (Mae Murray), ruler of the land known as Jazzmania. The film is strictly a vehicle to showcase the talents and personality of Mae Murray

Although I was familiar with Harry Fox's earlier work as an actor through available episodes of the 1916 serial BEATRICE FAIRFAX, I was always curious as to what one of his vaudeville performances might look like. The restoration of the 1929 Vitaphone short HARRY FOX AND HIS SIX AMERICAN BEAUTIES  has made that possible. Harry Fox, the man who may or may not have originated the fox-trot, was born Harry Messman in San Francisco in 1882. Fox was already a longtime successful musical theater performer and vaudeville headliner before appearing in this 8 min. short. He had worked his way up from café entertainer and burlesque performer before coming to prominence around 1909 as a vaudeville solo act. He then went on to partner with The Melnotte Twins, The Millership Sisters, and then later formed on and off stage partnerships with both Yancsi Dolly and Beatrice Curtis. This Vitaphone short shows Fox to be a talented, confident performer. He gives an amusing performance and shows off a capable singing voice. Also known as an eccentric dancer, he unfortunately doesn't display that talent in this short. If anyone gets a chance to view this short, keep your eyes on the six American beauties to see if you can recognize one of the girls. Here's a hint: she would go on to become a famous and beloved film comedienne. A few years after making this short Fox would team with Evelyn Brent  on a successful Vaudeville tour. The two teamed as well in a successful offstage partnership that would last until his death in 1959.

*Originally reviewed for Capitolfest 2010


All eyes on Lon Chaney mugging shamelessly as a mincing, flamboyant dandy.


Enjoyable film with Constance Talmadge perfect as an heiress masquerading as a maid in order to put a potential beau through his paces. Kenneth Harlan also stars.

Entertaining film contains good performances and several lively, eccentric musical segments.
Some of George M. Cohan's patented dance moves showcased in THE PHANTOM PRESIDENT (and presumably originating from the stage) can also be seen, done spot on by Cagney as Cohan, in YANKEE DOODLE DANDY.

THE AUCTION - Hosted by Leonard Martin, Lafe McKee, Jr. and Paul Doherty

Leonard Maltin was a good natured, entertaining host/auctioneer and kept things moving along. There were some wonderful lots and great deals to be had. 

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