From the archives: A baker’s dozen: interesting people at the Silent Film Festival (2011)

July 16, 2012

The San Francisco Silent Film Festival is a film lover’s film festival. Many take part in the annual event, and many have interesting stories to tell. Here are just a few.

John Bengtson: this East Bay author has just completed a trilogy of pictorial then-and-now books which are works of visual archeology. Just out is Silent Visions: Discovering Early Hollywood and New York Through the Films of Harold Lloyd. The first two titles in the trilogy are Silent Echoes(about Buster Keaton) from 1999, and Silent Traces (about Charlie Chaplin) from 2006. Each is outstanding.

Karie Bible: runs the FilmRadar website and gives walking tours of the Hollywood Forever Cemetery (yes, the famous one where all the famous people are buried). She will be signing copies of Location Filming in Los Angeles, along with fellow Arcadia press author Mary Mallory, who just published Hollywoodland. Mallory works at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Kevin Brownlow: this Academy Award winning film historian got his start at the age of 18 when he began shooting his own alternative-history film, It Happened Here, about life in Nazi-dominated Britain. It took eight years, and is a remarkable achievement. Completed in 1964 but not released until 1966, this early “indie film” is out on DVD.

Left to right: historian Kevin Brownlow, silent film star Diana Serra Cary (“Baby Peggy”), preservationist David Shepard, and author Leonard Maltin at the 2010 Festival. (photo credit: Thomas Gladysz)

Frank Buxton: the amiable introducer of films and interviewer of guests wrote “Password,” a 1972 episode of the television series The Odd Couple. It was voted the fifth greatest TV show of all time! Buxton wrote other Odd Couple scripts as well as scripts for Happy DaysThe Bob Newhart Show, and Love, American Style. He also directed episodes of Mork & Mindy, and was the voice of Batfink in the 1960s cult cartoon series of the same name. This guy is great! And oh, he once worked on stage with Buster Keaton, and is an authority on OTR (that’s old-time radio). Did I mention this guy is great?

Matti Bye: won the Golden Beetle – the Swedish Oscar – for his score for Jan Troell’s Everlasting Moments, Sweden’s 2009 submission to the Academy Awards. His superb ensemble will accompany three films.

Douglas Fairbanks: the swashbuckling action hero and co-founder of United Artists appears not in person but on the big screen in an early romantic comedy, Mr. Fix-It (1918). Its a film which hasn’t been seen in San Francisco in nearly 90 years. Fairbanks was also an author of film scenarios and articles, as well as various can-do self-empowerment books which today would be termed “pop psychology” or “self-help.” (A few of his published works are on display at the San Francisco Public Library.)

“Who’s he?” With the inimitable Frank Buxton.

“HE”: the title character of the saddest clown picture you’ll ever see was the creation of a Russian writer, Leonid Andreyev. A friend of Tolstoy, Andreyev died only five years before He Who Gets Slapped (1924) was released. Andreyev’s granddaughter – the keeper of his literary flame – lives in San Francisco and may attend this special screening.

Dennis James: a performer since 1971, this world renown musician has toured with Lillian Gish and Charles “Buddy” Rogers and once played the glass armonica on a Linda Ronstadt album. A few years later, Ronstadt returned the favor and co-produced James’ Cristal: Glass Music Through the Ages along with Grammy Award-winning producer John Boylan.

Danyka Kosturak: has long worked behind the scenes at the Festival; this year she hopes to grab a seat and see a few films. Kosturak once fronted a San Francisco rock band who recorded a song about “It” girl Clara Bow.

Leonard Maltin: the well known film critic and television personality has been a movie buff all his life; he began his writing career at age fifteen by contributing articles to a movie magazine and was soon editing and publishing his own fanzine, Film Fan Monthly. How do you spell kinema wonderkind?

David Shepard: is a world renown film preservationist – his company, Film Preservation Associates, is responsible for the restoration of many classic works. Chances are, if you have watched a silent film on DVD, you’ve seen his handi-work. The list of movies on which Shepard has worked is extensive, and includes The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920), City Lights (1931), Faust (1926), The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923), The Mark of Zorro (1920), Modern Times (1936), The Phantom of the Opera (1925), Robin Hood (1922), The Thief of Bagdad (1924), and Les Vampires (1915), among others.

The one and only Dennis James. (photo courtesy of the San Francisco Silent Film Festival).

The one and only Dennis James. (photo courtesy of the San Francisco Silent Film Festival).

William Wellman Jr: the son of the Academy Award winning director has already written one book about his Father, The Man And His Wings: William A. Wellman and the Making of the First Best Picture. He’ll be signing books on Friday. Though he’s been a busy television actor (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Adam-12The Brady BunchHave Gun – Will TravelGunsmoke, etc…), Wellman Jr has recently completed what promises to be the definitive book about his Father’s remarkable life and many other distinguished works such as Beggars of Life (1928), The Public Enemy (1931), the first version of A Star Is Born (1937), the 1939 version of Beau GesteRoxie Hart (1942), The Ox-Bow Incident (1943), and Battleground (1949). Publication for his new book is set for 2012.

The complete line-up of films for the 16th annual San Francisco Silent Film Festival can be found There, you will find detailed descriptions for each program, including their musical accompaniment and special guests.


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