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Not So Amazing Tales from the Archives: Digital Era

Wings Clara Bow Charles Buddy Rogers Richard ArlenWings with Clara Bow, Charles ‘Buddy’ Rogers, and Richard Arlen.
  • With its focus on digital technologies and the restoration of a 1960s hit, this year’s edition of the San Francisco Silent Film Festival’s “Amazing Tales from the Archives” wasn’t all that amazing.

Less than enthralling ‘Amazing Tales from the Archives’: The digital age & the restorations of William A. Wellman’s Wings & Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove

Ramon Novarro biography Beyond Paradise

This year’s edition of the San Francisco Silent Film Festival’s “Amazing Tales from the Archives” was perhaps the weakest of the series to date.

In the past, they have done a wonderful job in conveying the excitement of finding lost films or footage, assembling them together, preserving and restoring them. But with its focus on the “Digital Age,” this year’s installment didn’t discuss only silent films.

In brief:

The reconstruction of William A. Wellman’s 1927 World War I drama Wings was a familiar story of how an old print could be dusted off and used for the production of a Digital Cinema Package.

And I must admit that I was wholly uninterested in the technical aspects of the restoration of Stanley Kubrick’s 1964 World War III satire Dr. Strangelove – definitely not a lost film.

Bewildering technology

By now, we’re all aware of the importance of film preservation, which is part detective work and part modern technology. It has always been a painstaking pursuit of finding lost films or sequences, categorizing them, and placing them where they belong.

But the whole issue of technology escapes me. I’m not prepared to argue which is better: Film prints or digital transfers.

Wings & Dr. Strangelove credits

Wings was written by Hope Loring and Louis D. Lighton, from a story by John Monk Saunders (soon to be the husband of future King Kong star Fay Wray). Julian Johnson wrote the intertitles.

The first Best Picture (or “Best Production”) Academy Award winner stars “It Girl” Clara Bow, Richard Arlen, and Charles ‘Buddy’ Rogers, with Jobyna Ralston, El Brendel, future two-time Best Actor Oscar winner Gary Cooper (Sergeant York, 1941; High Noon, 1952), and future Hollywood gossip columnist Hedda Hopper seen in supporting roles.

Dr. Strangelove (a.k.a. Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb) was written by Stanley Kubrick, Terry Southern, and Peter George, from George’s book Red Alert.

The Best Picture Oscar nominee stars Best Actor nominee Peter Sellers (in multiple roles) and George C. Scott, with Sterling Hayden, Keenan Wynn, future Honorary Oscar recipient James Earl Jones, and H-bomb rider Slim Pickens seen in supporting roles.

“Not So Amazing Tales from the Archives” endnotes

San Francisco Silent Film Festival website.

Clara Bow, Charles ‘Buddy’ Rogers, and Richard Arlen Wings movie image: Paramount Pictures.

“Not So Amazing Tales from the Archives: Digital Era” last updated in January 2022.

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