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The General (1926)
David Jeffers for NCRD Performing Arts
19 June 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Wednesday, July 22, 4pm, NCRD Performing Arts Center, Nehalem

"Don't enlist him. He is more valuable to the South as an engineer."

Johnnie Gray had two loves in his life; his engine, The General and his sweetheart, Annebelle Lee. When war breaks out between the states he dutifully tries to enlist, but is turned away. Union spies steal The General (with his girl aboard), forcing Johnnie to singlehandedly chase after them behind enemy lines in a daring rescue attempt.

Based on a true story, The General (1927) is considered by many to be Buster Keaton's masterpiece. The General also lays claim to the single most costly special effect of the Silent Era. Keaton originally planned to film in Georgia using the actual General, but Confederate veterans objected to a comedy and production was moved to Cottage Grove Oregon. Using modified logging engines, Keaton is a sight to behold as he deftly clambers on and around the moving locomotives with stunning ease and agility, barely sixty years after the real events took place.

NCRD Performing Arts Center presents Buster Keaton's The General (1927), the third of three silent films featuring live musical accompaniment performed by pianist Liz Cole.
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Girl Shy (1924)
David Jeffers for NCRD Performing Arts
23 May 2016
Wednesday May 25, 4:00pm, NCRD Performing Arts Center

"Say, Barney Oldfield, what are you trying to do - run away from your rear tires?"

A boy with a paralyzing fear of girls (and a panic stutter), writes a manual on the art of seduction. On his way to find a publisher, he meets a girl.

Girl Shy is all about the chase. Harold resolves to save his girl from the clutches of the villain, by any means possible. He commandeers numerous cars, hitches a ride on a fire engine, steals a wagon, three horses, a streetcar and a motorcycle in a mad dash to stop a wedding that must not take place. Lovely Jobyna Ralston returns for her second of six features with Lloyd and - courtesy of Hal Roach - several Our Gang kids make surprise cameos. Viewed through a modern lens, Girl Shy is an unkind joke, with a young man's disability as the butt. In spite of this it possesses the sentimental, off-kilter hilarity Lloyd played so well, in a less serious time.

NCRD Performing Arts Center presents Harold Lloyd's Girl Shy (1924), the second of three silent films featuring live musical accompaniment performed by pianist Liz Cole.
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The Kid (1921)
David Jeffers for NCRD Performing Arts
18 April 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Wednesday April 20, 4:00pm, NCRD Performing Arts Center

"A picture with a smile - and perhaps, a tear."

A kind hearted tramp discovers an infant abandoned by its unwed mother and raises the foundling as his own. Five years pass and the now wealthy mother, still pining for her child, encounters the boy without knowing his identity. When he becomes ill, she summons a doctor. The authorities intervene and a battle ensues as they attempt to take the boy.

Breaking from the established short format of motion picture comedy, The Kid (1921) was the sixth of nine films Charles Chaplin produced while under contract to Associated First National Pictures and his first full-length feature. Chaplin spent an entire year in production, exposing an unheard of amount of film for the resulting six-reel masterpiece. Five-year-old Jackie Coogan became an overnight sensation, seen by countless millions around the globe. Highlights include the spectacular dream sequence, several broken windows, and every mouthful of food, gleefully consumed. Watch for the flying dog.

NCRD Performing Arts Center presents Charlie Chaplin's The Kid (1921), the first of three silent films featuring live musical accompaniment performed by pianist Liz Cole.
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David Jeffers for SIFFblog2
28 July 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Monday July 30, 7pm, The Paramount, Seattle

The life of Jesus from the conversion of Mary Magdalene to the crucifixion is revealed in beatific splendor.

Directed by Hollywood's master of the spectacle, The King of Kings (1927) featured Cecil B. DeMille's by then standard combination of moralizing melodrama played against dizzying production values, monumental sets, and a cast of thousands. Outwardly expressing disdain for Sunday-school stereotypes, DeMille cast fifty-two-year-old H.B. Warner in the title role, dressed him in flowing robes and bathed him in glowing light, while art directors constructed scenes reproducing the work of 298 old masters. To sanctify Jeannie MacPhereson's anti-Semitic, evangelical Christian with-a-showbiz-twist screenplay, DeMille invited members of the clergy to visit the set, and received the stamp of approval from Will Hayes. Highlights include the spectacular palace of Mary Magdalene, the Calvary tempest and bookending Technicolor scenes.

Grauman's Chinese Theatre held the West Coast premiere for their grand opening, charging $22 a seat!
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Seven Chances (1925)
David Jeffers for SIFFblog2
25 July 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Thursday July 26, 6:30pm, The Uptown, Seattle

A lawyer appears at the office of two businessmen on the verge of ruin. "This man has some kind of a legal paper with him!" "Maybe it's a summons!" On the morning of his twenty seventh birthday, Jimmie (Buster Keaton) learns that his grandfather has left him seven million dollars, providing he is married by seven o'clock on the evening of… his twenty seventh birthday. He immediately proposes to his sweetheart, who turns him down. "He said he must wed someone, and it might as well be me!" In a panic, he pops the question to every girl in town and demonstrates why falling asleep in church is always a bad idea.

Beginning with a Technicolor surprise, Keaton's Seven Chances includes the most outrageous chase ever filmed on the streets of Los Angeles, with a heart stopping leap across Beale's Cut. Keep an eye out for Jean Arthur's wedding ring!
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David Jeffers for SIFFblog2
21 July 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Monday July 23, 7pm, The Paramount, Seattle

"To be a Roman is to rule the world! To be a Jew is to crawl in the dirt!"

In first century Jerusalem, a Jewish prince is condemned by his childhood friend for a crime he did not commit. His mother and sister are imprisoned and Judah Ben-Hur (Ramon Novarro) is cast into slavery. Three years later, a Roman tribune adopts him when he saves his life in battle. With his wealth and freedom restored, Judah seeks revenge on Messala (Francis X. Bushman) as his journey parallels the footsteps of Jesus.

Inherited by the fledgling Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corporation, the creation of Ben-Hur A Tale of the Christ (1925) was as epic as the nineteenth-century best seller on which it was based. Plagued with production problems and a budget nearing four million dollars, Ben-Hur was the costliest feature of the silent era, but the enormous popularity and prestige of the film helped establish MGM as a major studio. Highlights include several breathtaking two-color Technicolor segments and the jaw-dropping climactic chariot race.
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Xiao Wanyi (1933)
The 38th Seattle International Film Festival and The 17th Annual San Francisco Silent Film Festival, David Jeffers for SIFFblog2
10 July 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Friday July 13, 7pm, The Castro, San Francisco

Saturday May 26, 2:30pm, The Harvard Exit, Seattle

"To kowtow before a tiger means to be his food."

An artisan toymaker is forced to leave her bucolic village and move to Shanghai when her husband dies and cheap foreign imports ruin her business. The change has tragic results for Ye Dasao (Ruan Ling-Yu), swallowed up by the violence and anonymity of city life, as she descends into madness.

Released by the Lianhua Film Company in 1933, Xiao Wanyi (Little Toys) was the third and final pairing of the "Great Poet" director Sun Yu and "The Garbo of Shanghai" Ruan Ling-Yu. Sun paints a sentimental portrait of country life with the lyrical imagery of handcrafted toys and masterful choreography of large groups. The jarring transformation to an urban nightmare is propelled by a dogged undercurrent of anti-imperialist propaganda. Of particular note are bookend images of tears on Ye's hands and an innocent image of toy tanks in playtime, which suddenly transport the viewer into the horrific reality of war.
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Piccadilly (1929)
David Jeffers for SIFFblog2
7 July 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Monday July 9, 7pm, The Paramount, Seattle

"Just imagine the whole place being upset by one little Chinese girl in the scullery."

A failing nightclub owner abandons his star for a beautiful Chinese dishwasher, who becomes an exotic sensation. Shosho leaves her old life behind and blossoms in the spotlight, while bitter, jilted Mabel withers on the vine, setting the stage for a tragic confrontation.

Directed by a cornerstone of Weimar cinema, the great E. A. Dupont, and exquisitely photographed by Werner Brandes, Piccadillly was British International Pictures "…most expensive and prestigious production at the time." Featured performers include Thomas Jameson as Valentine the amoral boss, Gilda Gray as his faded star, Cyril Ritchard as her fawning partner and Anna May Wong in a dazzling role as the drudge turned star who saves the Piccadilly Club. Charles Laughton's cameo as a drunken, temperamental patron is memorable.

In spectacular fashion, Piccadilly exposes the seedy underbelly of nineteen-twenties nightclub life, from the box-office to the scullery, and the fish rots from the head down.
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Napoleon (1927)
The San Francisco Silent Film Festival 7th Annual Winter Event, David Jeffers for SIFFblog2
22 March 2012
Warning: Spoilers
March 24, 25, 31 and April 1, 1:30pm, The Paramount, Oakland

The Eagle of Destiny

The life of Napoléon Bonaparte as the heroic savior of France is revealed from age ten to twenty-seven. Beginning with his boyhood at military school in Brienne, Boneparte is viewed as an outcast and a leader. Emerging as a young officer during the Revolution, the adult Boneparte (Albert Dieudonné) is first seen in Paris at the Club des Cordeliers where Danton introduces La Marseillaise to the mob as their national anthem. Bonaparte then attempts to unify his native Corsica, survives The Terror, becomes the hero of Toulon and embarks on his conquest of Italy.

Directed by Abel Gance, Napoleon (1927) was initially conceived as the first of six chapters on the life of Bonaparte. Cut by MGM from an original 29 reels to eight for its 1929 American release (with von Stroheim's Greed a fresh memory), restoration of Napoleon became the life work of film preservationist Kevin Brownlow in 1954.
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Wings (1927)
The 17th Annual San Francisco Silent Film Festival, David Jeffers for SIFFblog2
12 February 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Thursday July 12, 7pm, The Castro, San Francisco

Monday February 13, 7pm, The Paramount, Seattle

"D'you know what you can do when you see a shooting star?"

Two boys from the same town become pilots in the Great War. They battle the enemy over France and each other over a girl back home. Jack (Charles 'Buddy' Rogers) and David (Richard Arlen) both love Sylvia (Jobyna Ralston), while Mary (Clara Bow), the girl next door, secretly pines for Jack and joins the ambulance corps to be near him.

Wings (1927) astonished moviegoers with wide-screen "Magnascope" and breathtaking effects achieved filming the actors in-flight from fuselage mounted cameras. Adding authenticity, director William Wellman, writer John Monk Saunders and Arlen all served as fliers during the War. The United States Army enthusiastically loaned Paramount Famous Lasky Corporation hundreds of aircraft, vast amounts of Texas real estate and an infantry division, over and above their astronomical $2,000,000 budget.

Wings shared the first Best Picture Academy Award with F.W. Murnau's Sunrise (1927). Roy Pomeroy also won the first Oscar for Special Effects.
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David Jeffers for SIFFblog2
5 February 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Monday February 6, 7pm The Paramount, Seattle

"From now on you are my prisoner of war -"

"- and my prisoner of love."

As the Russian revolution runs wild, a General in the Czar's army, Sergius Alexander (Emil Jannings) escapes execution with the help of a beautiful spy. Years later, a former revolutionist turned Hollywood movie director (William Powell) recognizes a head shot of the general, now a decrepit old man working as an extra, and plans his revenge.

Directed by Josef von Sternberg, The Last Command (1928) was the highlight of Jannings' brief Hollywood career. Combined with his performance in The Way of All Flesh (1927), The Last Command received the first Academy Award for best actor in a leading role. Screenwriter Lajos Biró was nominated for best original story. Evelyn Brent, previously featured in von Sternberg's Underworld (1927), stars as the lovely femme fatale Natalie in a complex, pivotal role.

Inspired by the life of General Theodore Lodijensky, The Last Command features one extraordinary, unexpected shocker and a table-turning, earth-shaking finale.
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Street Angel (1928)
David Jeffers for SIFFblog2
29 January 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Monday January 29, 7pm, The Paramount, Seattle

"Love is like the measles. When it comes, you cannot stop it."

A Neapolitan orphan girl joins the circus to escape prison and falls in love with a vagabond painter. Always fearful of discovery, Angela (Janet Gaynor) hides her secret from Gino (Charles Farrell) until it is too late.

The second of eight features starring Gaynor and Farrell, Street Angel (1928) had the impossible task of repeating their success in 7th Heaven (1927). Despite this insurmountable expectation, Street Angel reveals the considerable influence of F. W. Murnau on Fox Film Corporation and director Frank Borzage. Nominated for the first Academy Awards in art direction (Harry Oliver) and cinematography (Ernest Palmer), Street Angel won best actress, combined with Gaynor's performances in Sunrise (1927) and 7th Heaven.

Released with an overwrought Movietone musical score, as with 7th Heaven, Street Angel relies on similar themes of poverty and romance but succeeds most capably in the first three reels with a lovely portrayal of circus life.
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Tempest (1928)
David Jeffers for SIFFblog2
24 January 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Monday January 23, 7pm, The Paramount, Seattle

"Epaulets don't make an aristocrat. They will never accept you."

A peasant rises through the ranks to become an army officer in Czarist Russia. Treated with contempt by the aristocracy, Ivan (John Barrymore) is disgraced and imprisoned by the princess he loves, as revolution looms on the horizon.

Directed by former Harold Lloyd gagman Sam Taylor, Tempest (1928) is notable for Charles Rocher's photography and the art direction of William Cameron Menzies. Receiving the first Academy Award in that category for Tempest and The Dove (1928), Menzies created the role of production designer within the Hollywood studio system.

Barrymore ignored his audience in choosing Beloved Rogue (1927) and Tempest, his last silent films. Both casting and performance fall short in a lackluster story with one single, extraordinary exception. Character actor George Fawcett, the standard bearer for paternal authority figures in nineteen-twenties Hollywood, gives his career performance as The General. Fawcett's final scene, with Barrymore, is worth the price of admission.
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Three Loves (1929)
The 16th Annual San Francisco Silent Film Festival, David Jeffers for SIFFblog2
12 July 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Saturday July 16, 8.30pm, The Castro, San Francisco

A prince of industry abandons his bride when his head is turned by a mysterious and beautiful woman. Catching a glimpse of Staacha (Marlene Dietrich) through a train window, Henri LeBlanc (Uno Henning) is instantly bewitched. His resolve crumbles as she pleads for his help to escape her sinister travelling companion Dr. Karoff (Fritz Kortner). She only reveals the truth after Henri is hopelessly under her spell.

Based on Max Brod's original novel, The Woman Men Yearn For (1929) stars Dietrich the year before her breakout film The Blue Angel in a largely forgotten and surprisingly substantial role as the femme fatale with a twist. Excellent use of miniatures, industrial montage, spectacular costumes and the furious New Years Eve party are memorable. Director Curtis Bernhardt immigrated to Hollywood in 1940, establishing himself as a women's director in films starring Joan Crawford, Barbara Stanwyck, Rita Hayworth, Lana Turner and many others.
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The 16th Annual San Francisco Silent Film Festival, David Jeffers for SIFFblog2
12 July 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Revenge is a dish best served... to the lions!

Sunday July 17, 7:30pm,The Castro, San Francisco

A gifted scientist is betrayed by his mentor who discredits him, then steals his research, and his wife. Humiliated, Paul Beaumont (Lon Chaney) disappears into self-exile and the anonymity of life as a circus clown. He contently suffers for years until his nemesis re-appears and plots to corrupt the lovely young bareback rider Consuelo (Norma Shearer) with the help of her wretched father.

The first original Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer production had to be spectacular and it was. Based on the play by Leonid Andreyev, He Who Gets Slapped (1924) was the second of nine Hollywood films directed by Swedish master Victor Sjöström. Ethereal images of clowns used thematically throughout the film are both hauntingly beautiful and horrifying. Chaney delivers a searing (and possibly his best) role as a broken, demoralized shell of a man, opposite a luminous Shearer, John Gilbert as Bezano her intended, Tully Marshall, Ford Sterling and of course, Leo.
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The 16th Annual San Francisco Silent Film Festival, David Jeffers for SIFFblog2
11 July 2011
Warning: Spoilers
"Mother isn't quite herself today."

Saturday July 16, 4pm, The Castro, San Francisco

A bitter old woman drowns her sorrows in gin and recalls her career as a great opera singer that ended with the illegitimate birth of her child. Long forgotten, the great Marie de Nardi (Louise Dresser) is known as Mary Holmes, the "Goose Woman" to her village, until detectives discover her past while investigating a murder. In an attempt to regain her lost fame she fabricates an eyewitness account of the crime which implicates her son.

Produced by Universal Pictures and directed by Clarence Brown, The Goose Woman (1925) begins as a beautifully stylized and modest character piece, but develops into a sensational morality play with a compelling performance by Miss Dresser as the title character. The supporting cast includes Gustav von Seyfertitz as Mr. Vogel, the States Attorney, Jack Pickford (inexplicably with top billing) as Mary's son Gerald Holmes and lovely young Constance Bennett as his fiancée Hazel Woods.
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Mr. Fix-It (1918)
The 16th Annual San Francisco Silent Film Festival, David Jeffers for SIFFblog2
11 July 2011
Warning: Spoilers
A Chump from Oxford

Saturday July 16, 6.30pm, The Castro, San Francisco

An American at Oxford sends his "happy-go-lucky" roommate home in his place to fix looming family problems. Reginald (Leslie Stuart) hasn't been to the states in fifteen years, so his sister, aunts and uncle are clueless when Remington (Douglas Fairbanks) shows up and turns their blue-nosed, stogy lives upside down. Before long, marriage engagements are broken, the house is filled with playful orphans and "Mr. Fix-It" is climbing the stairs on his hands.

Written and directed by Hollywood legend and Fairbanks favorite Allan Dwan, Mr. Fix-It (1918) is a shining example of the light comedy and physical gymnastics that made "Doug" a Broadway star. His dinner table tricks, antics with the kids and a spectacular mid-picture brawl are worthy of particular note. Mr. Fix-It was also released in April 1918 only days after Fairbanks, Charles Chaplin and Mary Pickford appeared before thousands at rallies promoting the third Liberty Loan drive.
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The 16th Annual San Francisco Silent Film Festival, David Jeffers for SIFFblog2
9 July 2011
Warning: Spoilers
An Adult's Picture Book View - I Was Born, But… (1932)

Friday July 15,4.15pm, The Castro, San Francisco

Two brothers move to a new town and learn that the ways of the schoolyard and the ways of adulthood are not so different. Keiji and Ryoichi play hooky to avoid a bully, are shamed by their father's subservience to his boss, and challenge authority while relying on each other.

An idyllic portrait of suburban life and emerging adolescence in pre-war Japan, I Was Born, But… (1932) is a well-suited introduction to the great director of social commentary, Yasujiro Ozu. Never was so much value placed on a sparrow's egg, so much pragmatism on a pair of unsharpened pencils or so much love conveyed in the eyes of a parent. I Was Born But… survives with a handful Ozu's silent films as the work of an emerging master. Unassumingly hilarious, modestly sentimental and uniquely Ozu, I was Born, But… ultimately transcends its cultural boundaries as a universal celebration of childhood.
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The 16th Annual San Francisco Silent Film Festival, David Jeffers for SIFFblog2
9 July 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Huckleberry Finn (1920)

Friday July 15, 2pm, The Castro, San Francisco

An old maid adopts motherless Huckleberry Finn to "sivilize" his coarse, free-spirited behavior. Her plans are thwarted when the boy is kidnapped by his father, the abusive town drunk. Huck escapes by faking his own murder and befriends a runaway slave. Their tranquil life of rafting on the river is interrupted by two seedy con-men who sell Jim and involve Huck in fraud, while he masquerades as his best friend Tom Sawyer and falls in love.

Missing the satirical bite and social consciousness of Mark Twain's 1885 novel, director William Desmond Taylor's Huckleberry Finn (1920) displays a sentimental fondness for the story in a production that typifies the consistent quality associated with Taylor and Paramount Pictures. Huckleberry Finn is also noteworthy as the first theatrical film version of the book and for Esther Ralston's oldest surviving performance in a feature film, as the object of Huck's affection Mary Jane Wilkes.
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Speedy (1928)
David Jeffers for SIFFblog.com
9 April 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Monday April 11, 7pm, The Paramount, Seattle

"New York, where everybody is in such a hurry that they take Saturday's bath on Friday so they can do Monday's washing on Sunday."

A soda jerk takes his girl on a date, then saves her granddad's horse-trolley from crooked businessmen. Harold "Speedy" Swift (Harold Lloyd) could hold down a job if it didn't interfere with baseball. During a stint as a cabby he drives Babe Ruth to work, nearly killing them both and gets fired when he sits behind his boss at the game. Pop Dillon can't work and laments, "The folks at City Hall said that as long as my car runs once every twenty-four hours, the car n' track is mine." Speedy and the neighbors step in to save the day in the hair-raising finale.

In his eleventh and final silent feature, Harold Lloyd made the most of bustling New York locations, including Coney Island's magnificent Luna Park and Yankee Stadium. Cutie-pie Ann Christy plays Jane, with Bert Woodruff as the gruff-but-lovable old man, but the dog nearly steals the show!

"The House of Hits!"

Starring Harold Lloyd, "The fastest, Funniest Feller in the Films," Speedy opened at Seattle's United Artists Theatre (formerly the Liberty) on 1st Avenue, Thursday, April 5, 1928 for the "First Showing Anywhere in the Wide, Wide World!" Jan Sofer and The United Artists Orchestra provided live musical accompaniment and performed an overture of popular tunes, "In the Song Shop." "Grab a seat in Harold's snicker special. He guarantees a laugh in every bump and a thrill in every rattle!"
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It (1927)
David Jeffers for SIFFblog.com
30 March 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Monday April 4, 7pm, The Paramount, Seattle

"So you're one of those Minute Men - the minute you know a girl you think you can kiss her!""

A feisty shop girl plots to romantically ensnare the handsome young owner of Waltham's Department Store with the help of his clueless friend, while working behind the lingerie counter. To save her friend's baby from the clutches of meddling welfare workers, she claims to be the mother, risking her own reputation and happiness.

Based on Elinor Glyn's vapid (and best-selling) study of sexual magnetism in the jazz age, "it" (1927) was a wildly popular bit of fluff that made an overnight sensation out of Paramount's in-the-flesh kewpie doll Clara Bow, while expounding the free-spirited flapper lifestyle and its snazzy vernacular. Directed by Clarence Badger with assistance from Josef von Sternberg, "it" features several prominent New York City locations and a trip to Coney Island's beloved Luna Park. The cast includes Antonio Moreno as Waltham, William Austin as his delightfully dopey sidekick Monty and twenty-five-year-old Gary Cooper as a newspaper reporter.

It came to the 5th Avenue

Elinor Glyn's "it" starring Clara Bow and Antonio Moreno opened at Seattle's palace of oriental opulence, the 5th Avenue Theatre on Friday, February 11, 1927. Fanchon and Marco's "Dance Poems" featuring Eddie Foyer and an all-girl dance revue highlighted the stage show, with Lipschultz and his Syncopating Soloists, "A Big Part of a Big Show." A bargain matinée for "The Shortest Title and the Longest Laughs" was offered from 12 to 1:30 for 25c. "Clara Bow has it. Men Cry for it. Women Die for it. 10,000 Girls in Seattle Have It. It Makes the World Go 'Round. See It and Know Why."
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L'argent (1928)
The San Francisco Silent Film Festival 6th Annual Winter Event, David Jeffers for SIFFblog.com
10 February 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Gekko à la Bourse

Saturday February 12, 3:30pm, The Castro, San Francisco

An unscrupulous banker battles for dominance on and off the floor of the Paris Stock Exchange. In a scheme to save his failing business, Saccard (Pierre Alcover) exploits celebrity aviator Jacques Hamelin (Victor Henry) by financing his solo transatlantic flight, then manipulating stock and Hamelin's fragile wife, when false rumors of the flier's death are reported.

A cautionary tale of fraud, corruption and the evils of money, L'Argent (1928) was based on Émile Zola's original 1890 novel and brought to the screen by director Marcel L'Herbier for the princely sum of five million francs. With a dizzying combination of complex camera-work, editing, monumental set construction, locations including Le Bourget Field and the Paris Bourse, L'Herbier's epic also included a literal cast of thousands. Standout performances feature Brigitte Helm as the slinky femme fatale, Mary Glory as the forlorn Mme. Hamelin and Alcover as the greedy whirlwind who goes down fighting.
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La Bohème (1926)
The San Francisco Silent Film Festival 6th Annual Winter Event, David Jeffers for SIFFblog.com
7 February 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Saturday, February 12, 8pm The Castro, San Francisco

"Oh, Art she is a fickle jade, If you work for her, you'll ne'er be paid!"

An aspiring playwright and a waif fall in love as they struggle to survive a life of poverty in nineteenth-century Paris. Mimi (Lillian Gish) sacrifices her own welfare for the sake of Rodolfe's (John Gilbert) success and pays the ultimate price.

Lillian Gish signed a spectacular two-year, six-picture contract with fledgling MGM studios in May 1925. She chose La Bohème (1926) for her first film and King Vidor for her director. "Suggested by" Henri Murger's Scènes de la vie de bohème, the popular story was well suited for the vast resources of MGM and their ambitious young head of production, Irving Thalberg. Photographed by the legendary Henrik Sartov, highlights include the lovely picnic (a Seurat masterpiece brought to life) and glowing scenes from the theater. Despite an obvious lack of chemistry shared by the principles, the film soars on magnificent production values and Gish's heartbreaking performance in the final reel.
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David Jeffers for SIFFblog.com
25 October 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Monday, October 25, 7pm, The Paramount, Seattle

"She made of my life a changed thing and never can it be the same again!"

An orphan (Rockcliffe Fellowes) grows up on streets of New York's Lower East Side and becomes the leader of a violent criminal gang. A social worker (Anna Q. Nillsson) turns his head and saves him from his immoral ways, but the past won't let him go.

A glowing tribute to the Settlement House Movement, Regeneration is based on My Mamie Rose, the autobiography of Bowery Boy Owen Kildare. While D. W. Griffith's The Musketeers of Pig Alley (1912) is generally considered the dawn of the gangster film genre, Regeneration is the first of the feature era. Director Raoul Walsh firmly established the start of his half-century career with this influential film, produced by Fox Film Corporation in their first year. Moonlighting Kalem Studios star Nillsson and newcomer Fellowes interact with touching realism as the kind-hearted socialite and the Fools Highway thug in this balanced tale of love, disaster and redemption.
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Underworld (1927)
David Jeffers for SIFFblog.com
17 October 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Monday, October 18, 7pm, The Paramount, Seattle

"Attila, the Hun, at the gates of Rome."

A drunk (Clive Brook) stumbles onto a bank robbery "...in the dead of night" and the gangster committing the crime snatches him from the street. Impressed by his resolute character when humiliated and threatened with violence, Bull Weed (George Bancroft) nicknames the derelict "Rolls Royce" and offers to put him "on his feet." The gangster's moll Feathers (Evelyn Brent) and his new man fall in love and engage in a struggle over happiness, or loyalty to their friend, as the coming battle envelops them.

Film critic Andrew Sarris described the setting of Underworld, directed by master realist Josef von Sternberg, as "festive criminality." Brook delivers a career performance as the sage with nothing to lose, opposite Bancroft's archetypal thug. Comedian Larry Semon is also featured in a rare dramatic role. Based on an original story by Hollywood legend Ben Hecht Underworld won the first Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay.
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