Clara Bow & Andrei Tarkovsky + Pearl White & Experimental Movies

by Andre Soares
Clara Bow Mantrap
Clara Bow, Mantrap: The Silent Era's “It Girl.”

What do Andrei Tarkovsky, Edward G. Robinson, Clara Bow, Arthur Conan Doyle, and Audrey Hepburn have in common? Easy. They'll all be featured in some form or other at the Library of Congress' Packard Campus in Culpeper, Virginia, in May.

Andrei Tarkovsky will be represented by the classic sci-fier Solaris (1971), billed as the Soviet Union's answer to Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, and by the classic period drama Andrei Rublev (1969), a meditation on art, religion, spirituality, and human brutality and stupidity. A technicality: Solaris will actually be screened on April 27.

Edward G. Robinson stars in The Little Giant (1933), a pre-Code crime comedy featuring Mary Astor. The (at the time) energetic Roy Del Ruth (The Maltese Falcon, Taxi!, Employees' Entrance) directed.

Clara Bow is the star of Mantrap (1926), a fluffy romantic comedy of interest chiefly because of Bow and because neither of her two leading men – Percy Marmont and Ernest Torrence – could qualify as potential George Clooney rivals. A pre-Gone with the Wind, pre-The Wizard of Oz Victor Fleming directed. (I should add that Torrence always played either meanie brutes or kind-hearted ones; Marmont was a[n unlikely] romantic leading man. Sensibly, the actor didn't take the plot of his movies at all seriously, later on referring to them as “stupid” or “silly,” according to film historian Anthony Slide.)

Arthur Conan Doyle wrote The Lost World, made into a movie in 1925. The film features wild beasts, miniature dinosaurs, future Oscar winner Wallace Beery (as a professor/explorer, no less), The Broadway Melody's Bessie Love, and Bull Montana as an ape-man. Not to be missed.

Audrey Hepburn, alongside Rex Harrison, stars in George Cukor's My Fair Lady (1964). The reputation of this opulent musical has diminished somewhat in the last four decades; personally, I find it the best Hollywood musical of the '60s. Hepburn – who replaced Broadway's Julie Andrews – had her voice dubbed by Marni Nixon, but she's highly enjoyable all the same. Harrison, for his part, almost got replaced by Cary Grant. Although Harrison is flawless as diction-master Professor Higgins, I wish Grant, mid-Atlantic accent and all, had starred in an alternate version.

For more information, check out the Packard Campus website. See remaining April and May schedule below:

Friday, April 20 (7:30 p.m.)
ADAM'S RIB (MGM, 1949)
Husband-and-wife lawyers argue opposite sides in a sensational women's rights case. Directed by George Cukor. With Spencer Tracy & Katharine Hepburn. Comedy, romance. Black & white, 101 min. Selected to the National Film Registry in 1992.

Saturday, April 21 (2:00 p.m.)
THE ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN (MGM, 1939) Mark Twain's classic story of a rambunctious boy adventurer who escapes his abusive father by sailing a raft down the Mississippi River, accompanied by his friend Jim, a runaway slave. Directed by Richard Thorpe. With Mickey Rooney and Rex Ingram. Family drama adventure. Black & white, 91 min.

Thursday, April 26 (7:30 p.m.)
SALT OF THE EARTH (Independent Productions, 1954) Latino mine workers in New Mexico who go on strike, in spite of the tremendous hardships it causes. Directed by Herbert J. Biberman. With Will Geer and David Wolfe. Social drama. Black & white, 94 min. Selected for the National Film Registry in 1992.

Clara Bow / Mantrap via The Bioscope.

Andrei Rublev Andrei Tarkovsky
Andrei Tarkovsky's Andrei Rublev

Friday, April 27 (7:30 p.m.)
SOLARIS (Magna, 1972) An alien intelligence infiltrates a space mission. Directed by Andrei Tarkovsky. With Natalya Bondarchuk and Donatas Banionis. Sci-fi psychological drama. Black & White and color, 167 min. In Russian and German with English subtitles.

Saturday, April 28 (7:30 p.m.)
TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD (Universal, 1962) A Southern lawyer defends a black man wrongly accused of rape, and tries to explain the proceedings to his children. Directed by Robert Mulligan. With Gregory Peck, Mary Badham, Phillip Alford, Brock Peters and Robert Duvall. Drama. Black & white, 129 min. Selected for the National Film Registry in 1995.

Thursday, May 3 (7:30 p.m.)
THE LITTLE GIANT (Warner Bros., 1933) A Chicago beer magnate about to lose his business with the repeal of Prohibition, moves to California and tries to join society's upper crust, but his gangster origins prove tough to shake. Directed by Roy Del Ruth. With Edward G. Robinson, Mary Astor and Helen Vinson. Pre-code crime comedy. New print from the Library of Congress Packard Campus film lab. Black & white, 76 min.

Friday, May 4 (7:30 p.m.)
ANDREI RUBLEV (Mosfilm/Columbia, 1966) The 15th-century Russian icon painter, Andrei Rublev, struggles to reconcile his faith in God and the brutality of his country. Directed by Andrei Tarkovsky. With Anatoliy Solonitsyn and Nikolai Sergeyev. Historical epic drama. Black & white and color. 185 min. In Russian with English subtitles.

Saturday, May 5 (2:00 p.m.)
THE 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD (Columbia, 1958) Sinbad undertakes a quest to an island of monsters to find a cure for a princess who has been shrunken by an evil wizard. Directed by Nathan Juran. With Kerwin Mathews, Kathryn Grant and Richard Eyer. Fantasy adventure. Color. 88 min.
Thursday, May 10 (7:30 p.m.)

DONOVAN'S BRAIN (United Artists, 1953) A scientist keeps an unscrupulous tycoon's brain alive and falls under its influence.
Directed by Felix Feist. With Lew Ayres, Gene Evans and Nancy Davis. Science Fiction. Black & white, 83 min.

Friday, May 11 (7:30 p.m.)
MY FAIR LADY (Warner Bros., 1964) A phonetics instructor bets that he can pass a street urchin off as a lady. Directed by George Cukor. With Audrey Hepburn, Rex Harrison and Stanley Holloway. Musical romance. Color. 170 min.

Saturday, May 12 (7:30 p.m.)
MANTRAP (Paramount, 1926) A vivacious young manicurist married to a backwoods he-man, flirts with a vacationing divorce lawyer who has sworn off the fair sex. Directed by Victor Fleming. With Clara Bow, Ernest Torrence and Percy Marmont. Silent romantic comedy. New print from the Library of Congress Packard Campus film lab. Black & white, 86 min. Live musical accompaniment by Andrew Simpson.

Thursday, May 17 (7:30 p.m.)
AN EVENING OF TV DETECTIVES
Columbo (NBC, 1968-1978) Starring Peter Falk. Color. 90 min.
Baretta (ABC, 1975-78) Starring Robert Blake. Color. 60 min.

Friday, May 18 (7:30 p.m.)
SHAFT (MGM, 1971) Private eye John Shaft enlists the help of gangsters and African nationals when he is hired by a crime lord to find his kidnapped daughter. Directed by Gordon Parks. With Richard Roundtree and Moses Gunn. Action crime drama. Color. 100 min. Rated R. Selected for the National Film Registry in 2000.

Saturday, May 19 (7:30 p.m.)
THE FRENCH CONNECTION (20th Century Fox, 1971) Two New York narcotics cops set out to bust a French drug smuggling ring. Directed by William Friedkin. With Gene Hackman, Fernando Rey and Roy Scheider. Action crime drama. Color. 104 min. Rated R. Selected for the National Film Registry in 2005.

Thursday, May 24 (7:30 p.m.)
THE LOST WORLD (First National Pictures, 1925) A group of explorers go to Venezuela in search of dinosaurs reported to exist on a remote plateau. Directed by Harry O. Hoyt. With Bessie Love, Lewis Stone, Lloyd Hughes and Wallace Berry. Silent science fiction adventure with live musical accompaniment by Andrew Simpson. Black & white, 100 min. George Eastman House restoration. Selected for the National Film Registry in 1998.

Thursday, May 31 (7:30 p.m.)
CHICAGO CALLING (United Artists, 1952) An unemployed alcoholic photographer desperately needs to raise $50 to pay his phone bill so he may get news about his hospitalized daughter. Directed by John Reinhardt. With Dan Duryea, Mary Anderson and Gordon Gebert. Domestic drama. New print from the Library of Congress Packard Campus film lab. Black & white, 75 min.

Tom Mix, Rudolph Valentino & Pearl White: Niles Essanay

You want action? Movie-movie action? Then forget The Avengers, which opens in the US on May 4. The following day, head instead to the Niles Essanay Film Museum in the northern Californian town of Fremont, where they'll be screening two action-packed flicks: Laughing at Danger and “The Tragic Plunge,” episode 7 of the serial The Perils of Pauline.

Haven't heard of either one? Well, Laughing at Danger was an independent production released in 1924. It stars Richard Talmadge (no relation to sisters Constance Talmadge and Norma Talmadge), who, according to some sources, was quite popular in the Soviet Union, of all places.

As for the serial The Perils of Pauline, it was a humongous success in 1914, turning Pearl White into a major screen star. Actually, more than that. White became a near-legendary movie icon, one whose adventures have been copied, remade, and rebooted ever since. In fact, I wouldn't be at all surprised if The Avengers features some bit or other taken from another movie, which had been taken from a previous movie, taken from another movie and another and another and so on going all the way back to the original copycat, which imitated – as an homage, of course – some moment from The Perils of Pauline.

More May action will follow on May 12, with a screening of the Tom Mix Western The Untamed and “The Snake in the Flower,” episode 8 of The Perils of Pauline. The lovely Pauline Starke (no relation to the imperiled Pauline) is Tom Mix's leading lady.

May 19 will be comedy-short night, featuring the likes of Charles Chaplin, Edna Purviance, Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd, and Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy.

And finally, on May 26 the Niles Essanay Museum will present one of the greatest silent films ever made: Rex Ingram's The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1921), a monumental blockbuster that catapulted Rudolph Valentino to superstardom. In terms of box office appeal, Valentino was sorta like Brad Pitt, George Clooney, and Robert Pattinson combined. A superstar if ever there was one. Valentino's leading lady in The Four Horsemen is director Rex Ingram's wife, the invariably excellent and very modern-looking and -acting Alice Terry.

For more information on the May schedule, check out the Niles Essanay Museum's website.

Experimental Film in Los Angeles, 1945-1980

Los Angeles Filmforum continues its film series “Alternative Projections: Experimental Film in Los Angeles, 1945-1980” with The Alternative Projections Marathon on May 18. As per the Filmforum press release, “for the penultimate experience, we celebrate with an incredible range of films and videos that we haven't squeezed into other screenings, with frequent breaks for socializing!”

Among the screening films are those by Pat O'Neill, Louis Hock, Chick Strand, Susan Mogul, Roberta Friedman and Grahame Weinbren, Gary Beydler, Michael Scroggins, Beth Block, William Hale, Amy Halpern, Morgan Fisher, Diana Wilson, Curtis Harrington, and others.

Among those, the best-known filmmaker is Curtis Harrington, among whose credits are more mainstream fare such as Games (1967), with Simone Signoret, James Caan, and Katharine Ross; What's the Matter with Helen? (1971), with Debbie Reynolds and Shelley Winters; a couple of Charlie's Angels episodes; and several episodes from Dynasty. Harrington died in May 2007.

The press release adds that “lots of folks (schedules permitting)” will be in attendance, but who those folks might be is unclear. The screenings will take place at 8:00 pm Friday, May 18 - 2:00 am Saturday, May 19, at the Echo Park Film Center, 1200 N. Alvarado St. Tickets cost $10 general, $6 students/seniors, free for Filmforum members.

For more details, head here.

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