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Friday, August 12, 2016

Swim On In, The Art Is Fine

Ice Or Ice-Age Movies, Take Your Pick

I include both these ads to show vary of entertainment put before Washington populace on 11-18-52. Also there was Billy Eckstine performing live at the National Guard Armory, Loretta Young and Jeff Chandler in Because Of You at the Ontario Theatre, and Van Heflin on stage in The Shrike for two weeks only. Ice Capades or Ice Follies hit seemingly all towns of any size back then. The Capades took fifty years to die, wrapping up in the mid-nineties after a public finally had enough. The DuPont Theatre opened as an art house, maintained that policy for years. To tout "Two Memorable Silent Films" was bold for no-talk being much as smallpox warning in 1952. Critic laud was a given for The Last Laugh and Caligari, each earning reams of praise since the 20's, but how much of common clay came to watch? Arties got by thanks to subscriber types who'd show for whatever they ran, hence "season tickets" that were popular. We could wonder what the prints looked like, a certainty that Caligari for one wouldn't approach amazing Blu-ray we now have. Folks felt refined for watching art flix, like obligatory stop at galleries or a poetry reading. Note The Lady Vanishes on its last day before the silent combo lands. United Artists was distributor for that Hitchcock reissue, and picked up $88K in domestic rentals for their pains, a nice number for a pic confined mostly to sure seaters (but wait, The Lady Vanishes also played our Liberty Theatre that year, so there were some mainstream bookings). The DuPont and similars got things seen that would not have been otherwise, and who knows but what lifelong fans and historians got born as result of being dragged there by friends or family. The Last Laugh is a foreign fave of mine. Shouldn't there be a Blu-Ray out on Region One by now?


Blogger Reg Hartt said...

I discovered THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI at 14 in the pages of FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND. When I asked the local movie house in Chipman, New Brunswick and then movies houses in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario where my father moved us when I was 17 to show it they looked at me like I was a one kid Communist plot to put them out of business. Then, in the pages of FAMOUS MONSTERS, I saw an ad from John Griggs offering CALIGARI. THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, METROPOLIS and more on 8mm. In Griggs' catalogue I saw many other silents offered including THE LAST LAUGH. Naturally, I ordered them with hard earned bucks got from cutting chickens for Kentucky Fried Chicken. When I showed these films to friends they rapidly got bored. When I moved to Toronto and started showing them to complete strangers who valued them because they knew what they were I discovered the great joy of sharing work I knew to be good with others who knew that too. I owe the life I am currently enjoying very much to that chance encounter with Forry Ackerman and James Warren's FAMOUS MONSTERS (which spurred on a ton of kids). For an influence parents did not approve of on sight it had a finer effect than does much of what is out there now.

11:24 AM  
Blogger radiotelefonia said...

This is nothing new: There have been cineclubs, at least in Argentina, since 1928 and silents were shown constantly since then. The Chaplin film CRUEL, CRUEL LOVE was restored by contributions from attendees to the shows that were presented by Salvador Sammaritano and, years later, I went to see his presentations myself and followed him on his TV show. Fernando Martín Peña, who started working with Sammaritano, continues his work specially on his own TV show that can be seen online for free and people save his introductions, something that I have done it myself as well.

Your post is deals with 1952. This poster for a reissue of an extremely obscure silent film, drawn by Osvaldo Venturi, is from the previous year.

12:20 PM  
Blogger DBenson said...

Back in the day Disneyland's Main Street Cinema presented silent movies a little like side show freaks.

Walking in the idealized front with a Gibson Girl mannequin in the ticket booth, you found a round room, attractively decorated, with half a dozen or so screens in little prosceniums and player piano music piped in. Each screen looped a different short or one reel of a feature, except for one that showed old intermission slides ("DON'T SPIT ON THE FLOOR! Remember the Johnstown Flood!"). Old photos show a guy outfitted as Chaney's Phantom of the Opera haunting the street in front.

There were no seats. The assumption was that modern audiences of the 50s and 60s would behold the relics, maybe watch a single reel through, and depart. I remember a Will Rogers parody of "The Covered Wagon" (they're ambushed by real estate salesmen); a peculiar early comedy about a man faking drowning to leave his wife, then re-emerging from the surf when he learns she inherited money; the opening reel of "Hunchback of Notre Dame"; and the 1915 Keystone "Dizzy Heights and Daring Hearts." I eventually acquired the last title in a Blackhawk 8mm release.

The Disneyland version now shows early Mickey Mouses; the Disney World clone was converted to a movie-themed souvenir shop. I can't have been the only kid who stubbornly watched them all. Anybody else remember Main Street Cinema?

6:11 PM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

I remember seeing the Main Street Cinema when we went to Disneyland in 1962. Too bad it's more/less gone now. That short about the guy who fakes drowning sounds like a Mr. and Mrs. Sidney Drew comedy featured in a 2013 Greenbriar post:

6:27 PM  
Blogger Scott MacGillivray said...

I wonder if the silent revivals in November were prompted by the release in October of THE THIEF with Ray Milland, then daring to present a film that was essentially silent, with no dialogue. Not that THE THIEF is on the same plane as those silent classics, but perhaps the exhibitor was going after the broader, more mainstream audience that had paid to see THE THIEF, instead of his usual cult-film crowd.

1:24 AM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Very good point I had not thought of, Scott. Thanks for mentioning "The Thief," a film I have actually not seen. Wonder who owns the negative of that these days ...

4:06 AM  
Blogger DBenson said...

I forgot I babbled about Main Street Cinema in a comment back then. Yes, definitely that film! I recall him faking a sort of amnesia while standing in his swimsuit; also an earlier scene where he's driving a hansom cab for his now-rich "widow" and modifies his epitaph.

Also remember "Caligari" as being one of the few non-instructional films in the school district's 16mm library. We 1970s high schoolers sort of got it was "modern art", but focused more on the photo-horror aspects. I brought my 8mm "Cops" to Drama class, where it met with mild amusement. Music might have helped.

Silents with real audiences were finally experienced at UCSC. There was a class on Keaton, and an accompanying series of open-to-the-public screenings in a huge lecture hall. This crowd "got it". Santa Cruz had a dandy revival house called the Sash Mill, but don't remember seeing anything but talkies there.

Years later, the Stanford Theatre in Palo Alto -- a restored mid-size movie palace -- regularly laced silents into its repertoire. Through the Packard Foundation they had a relationship with the Harold Lloyd estate and presented most of the features.

Cinequest, a San Jose film festival dedicated to independents and "mavericks", ran "Safety Last" in the massive California Theatre and filled it. People laughed and also screamed.

5:59 AM  
Blogger Barry Rivadue said...

I saw the Main Street Cinema too; I recall the walking around configuration more than the clips shown! Explanation makes sense, since most people wandered in and out for just a few minutes of perusal.

7:51 AM  
Blogger Dave K said...

Finally caught THE THIEF on Pub-D-Hub a year or two back. Not bad really.

3:07 PM  
Blogger Randy Jepsen said...

There used to be a full size movie theater at Disneyland. It was near Fantasyland. I remember going in and watching a color Mickey Mouse cartoon. And I remember going into that Cinema on Main Street as well.

8:06 PM  
Blogger Sean D. said...

I remember going into the Disney World version of the Main Street Cinema around 77 or 78. The two things I remember them showing was Steamboat Willie and The Great Train Robbery. The Hunchback and Keystone reels were probably running as well, but the memory is way too fuzzy to be sure.

8:34 AM  

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