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Home Classic Movies Rare Movies: Alla Nazimova & Claudette Colbert + Best Actress Oscar Winner in Mammoth Musical

Rare Movies: Alla Nazimova & Claudette Colbert + Best Actress Oscar Winner in Mammoth Musical

Rare movies George O’Brien East Side West Side Allan Dwan George Webber
Rare movies: Director Allan Dwan, actor George O’Brien, cinematographer George Webber on the set of East Side West Side
Ramon Novarro biography Beyond Paradise

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 (website) on Hollywood Boulevard or (quite possibly) never.

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 the Cinecon website.

Thursday September 1 (image: Alla Nazimova)
7:10 Welcoming Remarks
7:15 HOLLYWOOD STORY (1951) 77 min. Richard Conte, Julie Adams, Richard Egan. Director: William Castle.
8:35 Q & A with Julie Adams
9:10 BLAZING DAYS (1927) 60 min. Fred Humes. Director: William Wyler.
10:20 In The Sweet Pie And Pie (1941) 18 min
10:40 SHE HAD TO EAT (1937) 75 min. Jack Haley, Rochelle Hudson, Eugene Pallette.

Friday September 2
9:00 SIGNING OFF (1936)
9:20 MOON OVER HER SHOULDER (1941) 68 min. Dan Dailey, Lynn Bari, John Sutton, Alan Mowbray.
10:40 THE ACTIVE LIFE OF DOLLY OF THE DAILIES (1914) 15 min. Mary Fuller.
10:55 STRONGER THAN DEATH (1920) 80 min. Alla Nazimova, Charles Bryant. Director: Herbert Blaché, Charles Bryant, Robert Z. Leonard.
12:15 Lunch Break
1:45 OPEN TRACK (1916)
2:00 ON THE NIGHT STAGE (1915) 60 min. William S. Hart, Rhea Mitchell. Director: Reginald Barker.
3:15 50 Miles From Broadway (1929) 23 min
3:45 CINERAMA ADVENTURE (2002). Director: David Strohmaier.
5:18 Discussion and surprises
6:00 Dinner Break
7:30 Gus Van’s Musical Shoppe (1935) 20 min
7:55 COLLEGE RHYTHM (1934) 75 min. Joe Penner, Ned Sparks, Lynn Overman, Jack Oakie, Lyda Roberti, Mary Brian, Franklin Pangborn, Lanny Ross, Helen Mack, Goo-Goo the duck.
9:30 HANDS UP! (1926) 70 min. Raymond Griffith, Marian Nixon, Virginia Lee Corbin.
10:55 THE NIGHT MAYOR (1932) 68 min. Lee Tracy, Evelyn Knapp, Eugene Pallette. Director: Benjamin Stoloff.

Saturday September 3
9:00 Many Sappy Returns (1938) 20 min
9:20 AN ARABIAN KNIGHT (1920) 60 min. Sessue Hayakawa, Lillian Hall, Jean Acker. Director: Charles Swickard.
11:20 ALWAYS A BRIDESMAID (1943) 62 min
12:20 Lunch Break
1:30 They All Fall (1925) 20 min. Bobby Ray, Oliver Hardy.
1:50 EAST SIDE, WEST SIDE (1927) 90 min. George O’Brien, Virginia Valli. Director: Allan Dwan.
3:40 HENRY ALDRICH, EDITOR (1942) 73 min. Jimmy Lydon.
4:53 Q & A with Jimmy Lydon
5:20 Dinner Break
6:50 Sunday (1961) 20 min
7:15 PRACTICALLY YOURS (1944) 88 min. Claudette Colbert, Fred MacMurray. Director: Mitchell Leisen.
9:00 FINDERS KEEPERS (1928) 70 min. Laura La Plante, John Harron, Jack Oakie.
10:20 Harry Langdon Home Movies
10:20 LET’S FALL IN LOVE (1933) 73 min. Ann Sothern, Edmund Lowe.

Sunday September 4
9:00 Little Billy’s Triumph (1914)
9:15 THE HOPE (1920) 75 min. Jack Mulhall, Marguerite De La Motte, Ruth Stonehouse, Lillian Langdon. Director: Herbert Blaché.
10:45 DOWN MEXICO WAY (1941) 72 min. Gene Autry, Smiley Brunette, Fay McKenzie, Sidney Blackmer.
11:57 Q & A with Fay McKenzie
12:20 Lunch Break
1:30 Song Of Victory (1942)
1:40 ONE WILD NIGHT (1938) 71 min. Dick Baldwin, June Lang.
3:00 The Hobble Skirt (1910) 7 min
3:10 BEAUTY’S WORTH (1922) 80 min. Marion Davies, Forrest Stanley. Director: Robert G. Vignola.
4:40 THE BRASHER DOUBLOON (1947) 73 min. George Montgomery, Nancy Guild, Conrad Janis. Director: John Brahm.
5:53 Q & A with Conrad Janis (ends about 6:15)

Monday September 5
9:00 The Sergeant (1910)
9:10 DIPLOMACY (1926) 80 min. Blanche Sweet, Neil Hamilton, Arlette Marchal, Matt Moore. Director: Marshall Neilan.
10:40 THE MAD MARTINDALES (1942) 65 min. Jane Withers, Marjorie Weaver, Jimmy Lydon, Alan Mowbray, Gig Young.
11:45 Q & A with Jimmy Lydon and Jane Withers
12:00 Lunch Break
1:00 At All Costs (1916)
1:15 THE COWARD (1915) 60 min. Charles Ray, Frank Keenan, Gertrude Clair. Director: Reginald Barker, Thomas H. Ince.
2:25 GLAMOUR BOY (1941) 81 min. Jackie Cooper, Susanna Foster, Walter Abel, Darryl Hickman.
4:00 LE BONHEUR (1934) 98 min. Charles Boyer, Gaby Morlay, Michel Simon, Paulette Dubost, Jaque Catelain. Director: Marcel L’Herbier.
5:45 STORMY WEATHER (1943) 78 min. Lena Horne, Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, Cab Calloway, the Nicholas Brothers, Fats Waller.

Images: Cinecon

Luise Rainer The Great Ziegfeld Anna Held
Luise Rainer as Anna Held in The Great Ziegfeld.

Best Picture Academy Award winner The Great Ziegfeld (1936) will be screening tonight at 7:30 p.m. at the American Cinematheque’s Aero Theater in Santa Monica. Robert Z. Leonard directed this sumptuous MGM production, starring William Powell as theatrical showman Florenz “Flo” Ziegfeld, Myrna Loy as Ziegfeld’s wife Billie Burke (the good witch Glinda in The Wizard of Oz), and Luise Rainer as Anna Held.

For her performance – which amounts to a supporting role, including a highly effective telephone scene – Rainer won the first of her two back-to-back Best Actress Oscars. The following year, she would take home the statuette for her Chinese peasant in Sidney Franklin’s The Good Earth. Rainer, by the way, is the oldest Oscar winning performer around. The London resident turned 101 last January.

Featuring cinematography by Oliver T. Marsh and others, art direction by Cedric Gibbons, costumes by Adrian, and choreography by Seymour Felix, The Great Ziegfeld is a feast for the eye. However bloated and tacky some may find it, Felix’s Oscar-winning dance number “A Pretty Girl Is Like a Melody” – sung by future Warner Bros. star Dennis Morgan – deservedly remains a classic of its kind. (The Best Dance Direction Academy Award was discontinued in 1938.)

Unfortunately, The Great Ziegfeld is as dramatically conventional as a movie biopic has the right to be. Perhaps more so. The cast also includes Virginia Bruce, Frank Morgan, Reginald Owen, and Ziegfeld stage veterans Fanny Brice and Ray Bolger.

Besides its three Academy Award wins, The Great Ziegfeld was nominated for three more Oscars: Best Director, Best Film Editing (William S. Gray), Best Art Direction (Gibbons, Eddie Imazu, Edwin B. Willis), and, bafflingly, Best Writing, Original Story (William Anthony McGuire).

Note: There’ll be a drawing tonight for free tickets to Center Theatre Group’s production of Funny Girl, the story of Fanny Brice, at the Ahmanson Theatre. Barbra Streisand played Brice in the 1968 film version directed by William Wyler. The Great Ziegfeld 35mm print courtesy of the Academy Film Archive.

The Aero Theatre is located at 1328 Montana Avenue.

The Great Ziegfeld photo: American Cinemathque

Kay Francis William Powell Jewel Robbery
Kay Francis and William Powell in Jewel Robbery.

Kay Francis & William Powell + Myrna Loy & Jean Harlow Movies: LoC Screenings

Kay Francis, William Powell, Myrna Loy, Jean Harlow, John Barrymore, and Mary Astor are some of the stars featured in September at the Library of Congress’ Packard Campus in Culpeper, Virg.

Kay Francis and William Powell can be seen together in Jewel Robbery (1932), a charming pre-Code comedy directed by, of all people, William Dieterle. Dieterle would become closely associated with some of Warner Bros.’ most tedious biopics, usually starring Paul Muni. The year of 1932 was a good one for the Francis-Powell combo, who also starred in Tay Garnett’s highly successful – and quite moving – melodrama One Way Passage.

William Powell can also be seen in another charming comedy, Libeled Lady (1936), co-starring Powell’s frequent screen partner Myrna Loy, in addition to Spencer Tracy and future Powell fiancee Jean Harlow. Deftly directed by the underrated Jack Conway, Libeled Lady went on to receive a Best Picture Oscar nomination; Powell himself was nominated that year for Best Actor, but in another charming comedy: Gregory La Cava’s My Man Godfrey.

Also at the Packard Campus in September 2011: John Barrymore is legendary seducer Don Juan (1926), while Mary Astor – at one point Barrymore’s lover in real life – is one of his seducees in this enjoyable silent comedy-drama directed by Alan Crosland (of The Jazz Singer fame); Joan Crawford delivers one of her greatest performances as a self-sacrificing mom in Michael Curtiz’s Mildred Pierce (1945), which also features great acting turns by Ann Blyth and Eve Arden; and a young James Franco can be seen in an episode of the television series Freaks and Geeks.

Of special interest: a screening of Sergei Paradjanov’s 1965 Ukrainian family drama Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors.

The information below is from the Packard Campus press release:

All shows are free, but children twelve and under must be accompanied by an adult. The theater is at the Library of Congress Packard Campus located at 19053 Mt. Pony Rd. in Culpeper, VA. Reservations are encouraged and can be made one week in advance (for Saturday shows the previous Friday.) Call the information line at (540) 827-1079 ext. 79994 or (202) 707-9994 Monday through Friday from 9:00 am to 4:00 p.m. Reservations are held until ten minutes before show time. The theater lobby opens 45 minutes before showtime.

Request ADA accommodations at least five business days in advance at (202) 707-6362 or

Titles are subject to change without notice.

Ronald Reagan Knute Rockne: All American
Ronald Reagan, Knute Rockne: All American.

Thursday, September 1 (7:30 p.m.)
THE WANDERERS (Orion, 1979)
Set against the urban jungle of 1963 New York’s gangland subculture, this coming of age teenage movie is set around the Italian gang the Wanderers. Directed by Philip Kaufman. With Ken Wahl, John Friedrich and Karen Allen. Action drama. Rated R. Color. 117 min.

Thursday, September 8 (7:30 p.m.)
MILDRED PIERCE (Warner Bros., 1945)
A housewife-turned-waitress finds success in business but loses control of her ungrateful teenaged daughter. Directed by Michael Curtiz. With Joan Crawford, Zachary Scott and Ann Blyth. Drama. Black & White, 111 min. Selected for the National Film Registry in 1996.

Friday, September 9 (7:30 p.m.)
JEWEL ROBBERY (Warner Bros., 1932)
A wealthy, married woman becomes captivated by a debonair jewel thief. Directed by William Dieterle. With Kay Francis and William Powell. Comedy, crime, romance. Black & White, 68 min.

HEAT LIGHTNING (Warner Bros., 1934)In the Mohave Desert, a woman and her kid sister run a gas station, lunch counter, and auto camp. One day their hum drum lives are shaken when jewel thieves and mysterious strangers arrive on the scene. Directed by Mervyn LeRoy. With Aline MacMahon, Ann Dvorak and Preston Foster. Crime drama. Black & White, 63 min.

Saturday, September 10 (2:00 p.m.)
HONEY, I SHRUNK THE KIDS (Disney, Buena Vista, 1989)
An inventor accidentally shrinks his children with his latest contraption. Directed by Joe Johnston. With Rick Moranis and Marcia Strassman. Family, sci-fi, comedy. Color. 93 min.

Thursday, September 15 (7:30 p.m.)
FREAKS AND GEEKS (NBC-TV, 1999) Color, 44 min. With James Franco.

Friday, September 16 (7:30 p.m.)
THE BLACK HOLE (Disney, Buena Vista, 1979)
A research vessel in outer space in the year 2130 finds a missing ship commanded by a mysterious scientist on the edge of a black hole. Directed by Gary Nelson. With Maximilian Schell, Anthony Perkins and Robert Forster. Sci-fi adventure. Color. 98 min.

Saturday, September 17 (7:30 p.m.)
Three generations of pioneers take part in the forging of the American West. Directed by Henry Hathaway, John Ford and George Marshall. With James Stewart, Debbie Reynolds, Henry Fonda, Carroll Baker and Gregory Peck. Epic adventure, Civil war, railroad western. Color. 162 min. Selected for the National Film Registry in 1997.

Thursday, September 22 (7:30 p.m.)
The story of legendary Notre Dame football player and coach Knute Rockne. Directed by Lloyd Bacon. With Pat O’Brien, Ronald Reagan and Donald Crisp. Biography sports drama. Black & White, 98 min. Selected for the National Film Registry in 1997.

Friday, September 23 (7:30 p.m.)
A newspaper man, his jilted fiancée, and a suave ladies’ man hatch an elaborate scheme to turn a false news-story into the truth, before a high-society woman can sue for libel. Directed by Jack Conway. With William Powell, Myrna Loy, Spencer Tracy and Jean Harlow.
Romantic comedy. Black & White, 98 min.

Saturday, September 24 (7:30 p.m.)
DON JUAN (Warner Bros., 1926)
This swashbuckler about the legendary lover who fights to survive intrigue in the court of the Borgias is notable as the first silent film released with Vitaphone music and sound effects. Directed by Alan Crosland. With John Barrymore and Mary Astor. Adventure, romance. Black & White, 112 min.

Thursday, September 29 (7:30 p.m.)
THE LIVING DESERT (Disney, Buena Vista, 1953)
True-Life Adventure feature with dazzling footage of the American desert and its inhabitants. Directed by James Algar. Narrated by Winston Hibler. Family nature documentary. Color. 69 min. Selected for the National Film Registry in 2000.

Friday, September 30 (7:30 p.m.)
SHADOWS OF FORGOTTEN ANCESTORS (Dovzhenko Film Studios, 1965)
A heartfelt family tragedy set during the early part of the 20th century in the Ukrainian Carpathians. Directed by Sergei Paradjanov. With Ivan Mikolajchuk, Larisa Kadochnikova and Tatyana Bestayeva. In Ukrainian language with English language subtitles. Historical drama. Color. 97 min.

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1 comment

Betty -

Wished that I lived in the area just to see some of those movies. Love your articles, keep up the good work.


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