Claudette Colbert, Alla Nazimova, Marion Davies, Charles Boyer: Cinecon 2011

Allan Dwan, George O'Brien, George Webber, East Side, West Side
Director Allan Dwan, actor George O'Brien, cinematographer George Webber, East Side, West Side

Are you a movie lover in Los Angeles, unable to travel either to Venice or Telluride? Don't despair. L.A. has its own glamorous film festival this weekend. It's called Cinecon, now in its 47th year.

What's more: unlike the vast majority of movies screening at the more highly publicized Venice and Telluride – which will shortly be made available at theaters, DVD stores, or online streaming services – most Cinecon movies are nearly impossible to be seen anywhere else. In other words, it's September 1-5 at the Lloyd E. Rigler Theatre at Grauman's Egyptian on Hollywood Boulevard or (quite possibly) never. [Cinecon 2011 Schedule.]

This year's Cinecon rarities includes the following:

  • The first Los Angeles area screening in eight decades of Allan Dwan's East Side, West Side (1927), a risque silent drama starring Sunrise's George O'Brien and Virginia Valli, the leading lady in Alfred Hitchcock's first feature film.
  • Mitchell Leisen's Practically Yours (1944), a hard-to-find Claudette Colbert-Fred MacMurray romantic comedy about a secretary who makes up a tragic romance with a fallen World War II soldier – who, quite inconveniently, may be alive.
  • The early Marion Davies vehicle Beauty's Worth (1922), directed by Robert G. Vignola. In this romantic drama produced by William Randolph Hearst's Cosmopolitan Pictures, Davies plays an unsophisticated Quaker girl. The now forgotten Forrest Stanley is her leading man.
  • A newly restored print of the Alla Nazimova drama Stronger Than Death (1920), as per the IMDb directed by Nazimova's lover Charles Bryant (who also co-stars), Herbert Blaché, and future The Great Ziegfeld helmer Robert Z. Leonard. In Stronger Than Death, Nazimova plays an ailing dancer who, in order to help put down an uprising in the East Indian frontier, decides to risk death by dancing. Sounds silly? That's nothing compared to the pathetic fact that Nazimova's old estate, The Garden of Alla, is now one of Los Angeles' myriad ugly mini-malls and its adjacent parking lot.
  • And finally, a non-Hollywood rarity: Marcel L'Herbier's Le Bonheur / Happiness (1934), starring Charles Boyer, Gaby Morlay, Michel Simon, Paulette Dubost, and frequent L'Herbier collaborator Jaque Catelain. Both Boyer and Simon reprise their stage roles in Henri Bernstein's play about an actress (Morlay) who falls in love with an anarchist (Boyer) after he shoots her. It certainly sounds like a must-see. As per N. T. Binh's essay "Le Bonheur: la plus belle mise en abyme", the film is also historically important as L'Herbier, claiming authorship of his work, won a legal battle against Le Bonheur's producing company. Thus, L'Herbier became France's first official auteur.

This year's Cinecon honorees are Julie Adams, best remembered as the object of the Creature's affection in The Creature from the Black Lagoon; Jimmy Lydon, among whose credits are several Henry Aldrich movies, and supporting roles in Life with Father and The Time of Your Life; and Gene Autry leading lady Fay McKenzie of Sierra Sue and Home in Wyomin'.

For more information on Cinecon 2011, visit http://www.cinecon.org.

Photo: Cinecon

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Continue Reading: Cinecon 2011 Movie Schedule: EAST SIDE, WEST SIDE; PRACTICALLY YOURS; STRONGER THAN DEATH

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