Things heats up in August at the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum in Fremont. Known among early film devotees around the world, the venerable museum and theater is set to once again screen rarely shown early feature films (some not available on DVD), along with animated shorts, their regular “Comedy Short Subject Night” and Laurel & Hardy Talkie Matinee. What’s causing the heat? How about sexy “It girl” Clara Bow and sultry Evelyn Brent. Here is the line-up for the month.

“Saturday Night at the Movies” with Judy Rosenberg at the piano
Saturday August 4 at 7:30 pm

View slideshow: Hot August Nights at Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum

In Dancing Mothers (1926, Paramount), energetic “It girl” Clara Bow steals the show in this jazz age melodrama about societal expectations with a surprise ending. Penned by Edmund Goulding, and directed by Herbert Brenon, Dancing Mothers also features Alice Joyce, Conway Tearle, Donald Keith and Leila Hyams. A tinted version will be shown. The feature will be preceded by two shorts films, the animated Automobile Ride (1921, Bray) with Koko the Clown, and Dad’s Choice (1928, Paramount) with Edward Everett Horton.

Clara Bow
Clara Bow stars at Niles
Photo credit: Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum
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Having just completed their annual Broncho Billy Silent Film Festival, things quiet down a little in July at the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum in Fremont. This month, Niles will screen two seldom seen features , The Whip (1917) and The Sea Hawk (1924), a documentary on Sutro’s – San Francisco’s privately owned swimming, ice-skating and museum complex, as well as their regular monthly Comedy Short Subject Night and Laurel & Hardy Talkie Matinee. Here is the line-up for the month.

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The annual Broncho Billy Silent Film Festival, which runs June 29 through July 1, is a three day celebration of early film. Wide-ranging, it includes everything from locally made Westerns to an international tragedy, a historical epic, a documentary, an actuality, some comedies, and also comedy of manners.

This year, the Niles Essanany Silent Film Museum in Fremont is marking the Festival’s 15th anniversary with a veritable smorgasbord of cinema – including a not to be missed event with the last surviving silent film star, Diana Serra Cary (aka Baby Peggy). A new documentary about this 1920s pint-size child star, as well as a feature and two shorts featuring the will, also be screened.
Here is the line-up for the three day 15th annual Broncho Billy Silent Film Festival. More info atwww.nilesfilmmuseum.org/2012-bbsff.htm

Atlantis, with Frederick Hodges at the piano
Friday June 29 at 8:00 pm

 

Atlantis (1913)

Atlantis (1913)

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Though not well known today, Robert J. Flaherty was one of significant filmmakers of the early 20th century. Born in Michigan in 1884, he directed and produced one of the first successful feature length documentaries, Nanook of the North (1922). The film was a hit, and was praised by the likes of directors Rex Ingram and Sergei Eisenstein.

Nanook made Flaherty’s reputation, and in effect, launched a genre – the docu-drama. Ninety years later, Nanook is still screened and available on DVD.

Flaherty’s later films, each in the similar vein of narrative non-fiction, include Moana (1926) – for which the term “documentary” was coined, White Shadows in the South Seas (1928), Tabu (1931, with F. W. Murnau), The Land (1942), and Louisiana Story (1948, assisted by Richard Leacock). Each is a significant work, though none matched the commercial success of the groundbreakingNanook.

On Sunday, April 29 at 4:00 p.m., the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum in Fremont will screen another of Flaherty’s later works, Man of Aran (1934, Gainsborough Pictures). This third of Flaherty’s “film of the spirit of man” was shot between 1931 and 1933 on a rocky island off Galway County, Ireland. A poetic triumph, it helped establish a romantic mystique around the island that has endured for nearly eighty years.

Robert Flaherty's Man of Aran

Robert Flaherty’s ‘Man of Aran’ (1934) screens in Niles

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Before William S. Hart, Tom Mix or Buck Jones, before Gary Cooper, Harry Carey, John Wayne and Clint Eastwood – there was Gilbert M. Anderson – the world’s first cowboy film star.

Broncho Billy

Broncho Billy, photographed in San Francisco

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Jack Tillmany is a recognized authority on movies and movie culture – especially its local history. The Richmond district native is the former owner of the Gateway Cinema in San Francisco, a local pioneer in revival programming, and the author of Theatres of San Francisco (Arcadia, 2005) and coauthor of Theatres of Oakland (Arcadia, 2006). If you have any interest in old movie houses, urban architecture, or local history – each are must have books.

Gary Lee Parks is a south Bay resident and a board member of the Theatre Historical Society of America. As such, he has long assisted in the preservation of historic Bay Area theatres as both a professional and a volunteer. He also knows a lot, and is the author of the equally valuableTheatres of San Jose (Arcadia, 2009).

Recently, Tillmany and Parks met in the middle, as it were – and authored another fine title,Theatres of the San Francisco Peninsula (Arcadia, 2011). This recently published 127 page pictorial surveys the region’s many movie houses both past and present.

Theatres of the San Francisco Peninsula

Theatres of the San Francisco Peninsula

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She was the first of her kind.

In 1915, an American actress named Theda Bara played the screen’s first vamp. In the almost 100 years which have followed, a succession of similar, often sultry and sometimes deadly vamps, femme fatales, junior vamps (a name given to the more light-hearted flapper), gold diggers, vixens, bad girls and other man-ruining women have appeared on the screen. Before Lulu, and Lola, and Gilda – and before Pola Negri, Lana Turner, Kathleen Turner, and Sharon Stone, there was Theda Bara.

On Saturday, October 22, 2011 the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum in Fremont will screen A Fool There Was (1915), the taboo-breaking film that introduced the vamp to movie audiences. It is also the film that made Theda Bara a media sensation and international star.

Theda Bara as "the Vamp"

Theda Bara as “the Vamp”

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Having just completed their annual Broncho Billy Silent Film Festival, things quiet down a little in July at the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum in Fremont. This month, Niles will screen two seldom seen features , The Whip (1917) and The Sea Hawk (1924), a documentary on Sutro’s – San Francisco’s privately owned swimming, ice-skating and museum complex, as well as their regular monthly Comedy Short Subject Night and Laurel & Hardy Talkie Matinee. Here is the line-up for the month.

The Rink (1916)

Charlie Chaplin in The Rink (1916). This classic comedy screens at Niles in July

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June is a busy time at the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum. The month begins and ends with events honoring the Fremont museum’s unique legacy. The month begins with the annual “Charlie Chaplin Days,” which honors Niles’ brief but glorious association with the legendary film comedian. June ends with the 15th Annual Broncho Billy Silent Film Festival, which celebrates the museum’s similar association with the pioneering Western film star, Gilbert “Broncho Billy” Anderson. This latter event is a three day affair packed with a good deal more than just Westerns.

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Once a month, every month, the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum in Fremont screens an afternoon’s worth of Laurel and Hardy films. This month’s matinee, chosen from early in the comic duo’s long career, is something unusual.

After making names for themselves in the 1910s, Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy teamed up in the mid-1920s and soon found a following; like other stars, they saw their silent movies translated into various languages for worldwide distribution.

Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy

Laurel and Hardy speak

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