Cinecon Rarities

by Andre Soares

“Spend 5 days in the dark this Labor Day weekend at Cinecon 44,” suggests the Cinecon website. That sounds like a very good idea, indeed.

First of all, the American Cinematheque's Egyptian Theatre on Hollywood Blvd. has a good air-conditioning system. Second, the seats are quite comfortable. Third, the screen and projection are first-rate. And last – but definitely not least – each year at Cinecon you get numerous one-in-a-lifetime chances to see rarities of the sort that make your usual cinematic rarities seem commonplace.

Lloyd HughesFor instance, where else but at Cinecon 2008 (see full schedule below) will you get the chance to watch the 1929 early talkie courtroom drama Acquitted, starring the super-handsome Lloyd Hughes (right) and Margaret Livingston, that lustful homewrecker who almost destroys the idyllic happiness of George O'Brien and Janet Gaynor in F.W. Murnau's Sunrise?

Where else but at Cinecon 2008 will you get the chance to watch Heather Angel (remember her? No? You're not the only one) and Victor Jory (remember him? Never mind…) in the “steamy tropical drama” Murder in Trinidad, released in 1934, just as the Production Code was tightening its stranglehold around the neck of the American film industry?

Where else but at Cinecon 2008 will you get the chance to watch Damon and Pythias, a 1914 silent drama directed by Otis Turner, the “Dean of film directors,” and starring Herbert Rawlinson, one of the most popular stars of the early days of cinema. (I won't ask you if you remember Rawlinson.) I should add that Damon and Pythias, as per the Cinecon release, was the first feature completed at Universal City, behind the hills north of the Los Angeles basin.

You get the picture…

Now, who cares about those old, dusty, forgotten films and stars and directors and plots? Well, how about those curious to learn more about (mostly) American culture in the first half of the 20th century? Or those who enjoy making new – and at times quite enjoyable and/or eye-popping and/or challenging – discoveries? Or those who appreciate the craftsmanship and talent involved in the making of those “old, dusty, forgotten” films, which are undeniably old, but whose dusty-ness and forgotten-ness are the result of our culture's utter disregard for the past – no matter how relevant to our present.

So, what else does Cinecon 2008 have to offer? Lots.

Tom Mix in Sky HighThe 1922 Tom Mix Western Sky High, which, Cinecon tells us, is “the picture that established Mix's reputation for tongue-in-cheek action romps.” In this one, Mix has to deal with human trafficking along the US-Mexican border. Shot at the Grand Canyon, Sky High features “hair raising aerial stunts.”

Several reels of the newly restored (though incomplete) Triumph, a 1917 drama with Lon Chaney, Dorothy Phillips (a major star at the time), and William Stowell. Directed by Joseph De Grasse.

UCLA's recent restoration of Tillie's Punctured Romance (1914), which is supposed to be the first feature-film comedy ever made. Charles Chaplin, Mabel Normand, and Marie Dressler star. Mack Sennett directed.

The Poor Nut, a 1927 campus comedy with the charming Jack Mulhall, plus Charlie Murray, Glenn Tryon, and a very young Jean Arthur.

The Mollycoddle, a 1920 comedy with Douglas Fairbanks at his most likable. I've always found Fairbanks much too flamboyant and hammy, but in The Mollycoddle he is excellent as an effete gentleman who unexpectedly becomes a hero. I find this early comedy – directed by Victor Fleming (of Gone with the Wind and The Wizard of Oz fame) – much more enjoyable than Fairbanks' better-known (and generally better-liked) swashbuckling yarns.

Alice FayeAlso at Cinecon 2008: the lovely Alice Faye in Sing, Baby, Sing; the painful Al Jolson in the equally painful (two-strip Technicolored) Mammy; Charley Chase's first feature, Modern Love (1929); the newly restored The Blood Ship, directed by George B. Seitz, and featuring Hobart Bosworth, Jacqueline Logan, and Richard Arlen; and the “uncut” version of The Eagle and the Hawk, an aviation drama starring Cary Grant and a highly effective Fredric March, in addition to Carole Lombard in a small role.

And more: the 1925 The Home Maker, a curious drama in which husband Clive Brook and wife Alice Joyce discover that strict gender roles aren't all they're cracked up to be; Outlaws of the Prairie, with hunky Charles Starrett; an early (and quite subdued) Bette Davis in the Columbia production The Menace; Paul Wendkos' muckraking The Case Against Brooklyn; and the silent version of Frank Capra's Rain or Shine.

And more: John Cromwell's 1930 Western The Texan, starring Gary Cooper (as “The Llano Kid”) and Fay Wray; the 1917 drama The Devil's Bait, starring 1910s serial superstar Ruth Roland, and featuring future director Henry King (he of The Song of Bernadette and Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing); another Gary Cooper Western, Anthony Mann's 1958 Man of the West; Ernest B. Schoedsack's Outlaws of the Orient, starring Jack Holt; and Ronald Colman's last major star vehicle, Champagne for Caesar.

And more… (See list below.)

Among the celebrities expected to attend Cinecon 2008 are Academy Award-winning actress Celeste Holm, producer Walter Mirisch, actress Elena Verdugo, and actor Warren Stevens.

For information on day passes (no tickets for individual screenings are sold) go here.

Cinecon 2008 Schedule (subject to change without notice):

Thursday August 28
7:00 Cartoon Centennials
7:45 Walter Mirisch Tribute Reel
8:00 Q&A w/ Walter Mirisch
8:30 MAN OF THE WEST (1958) Directed by Anthony Mann
10:20 TILLIE'S PUNCTURED ROMANCE (1914) with Charlie Chaplin

Friday August 29
9:00 The Iron Claw, ch. 13 (1941)
9:20 ACQUITTED (1929)
10:35 The Sign of the Cucumber (L-Ko comedy) (1920)
10:55 THE BLOOD SHIP (right, 1927)
12:05 Lunch Break
1:30 The Awful Goof (1937) with Charley Chase
3:15 THE HOME MAKER (1925)
6:10 Q&A w/ Warren stevens
6:35 Dinner Break
8:10 Off Again, On Again (1945) with Shemp Howard
9:40 THE MOLLYCODDLE (1920) with Douglas Fairbanks

Saturday August 30
9:00 business meeting
10:10 TRIUMPH (right, 1917; incomplete) with Lon Chaney
11:10 THE EAGLE AND THE HAWK (uncut) (1933) with Cary Grant & Fredric March
12:25 Lunch Break
1:55 Rootin' Tootin' Tenderfoot (Baer & Rosenbloom) (1952)
2:15 MODERN LOVE (part-talkie) (1929) with Charley Chase
3:40 SKY HIGH (1922) starring Tom Mix
6:00 Q&A w/ Elena Verdugo
6:30 Dinner Break
8:15 Screen Snapshot (1942) with James Stewart
8:25 THE POOR NUT (1927) with Jack Mulhall and Jean Arthur
9:45 THE NINTH GUEST (1934)
11:00 OUTLAWS OF THE PRAIRIE (1938) with Charles Starrett

Sunday August 31
9:00 The Iron Claw, ch. 14 (1941)
9:20 Abie Kabibble Outwits His Rivals (LaCava cartoon)
9:30 THE DEVIL'S BAIT (1917)
12:15 Q&A w/ Celeste Holm
12:40 Lunch Break
2:10 The Iron Claw, final chapter! (1941)
2:30 CRAZY HOUSE (1943) with Olsen & Johnson
5:10 THE TEXAN (1930) starring Gary Cooper

Monday September 1
9:00 Hetty King (1970)
9:20 SING, BABY, SING (1936) with Alice Faye
11:00 RAIN OR SHINE (alt. silent version) (1930)
12:30 Lunch Break
1:55 Southern Exposure (Krazy Kat) (1934)
2:00 MAMMY (1930) starring Al Jolson in color
3:35 SPEEDY (1928) with Harold Lloyd
5:10 THE MENACE (1932) starring Bette Davis

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