Cinefest recap anyone?

Open, general discussion of silent films, personalities and history.
  • Author
  • Message
User avatar


  • Posts: 3211
  • Joined: Thu Jan 03, 2008 11:48 am
  • Location: Albany NY

Cinefest recap anyone?

PostWed Mar 19, 2008 1:55 pm

I was hoping someone would have posted a Cinefest review by now- I don't really feel qualified since I was only there Saturday and Sunday, but here are a few of my reactions:

THE LADY: Norma Talmadge was nothing less than magnificent, and the supporting cast a joy to watch. There's a missing reel, but the contents can fairly easily be guessed at. Another reel has some severe decomp, but there's enough left that you can follow the action- although I wish that they'd recreated the damaged titles or used a freeze frame.

THE LOST VOICE: A real gem of a film. Great performances, a skillful blend of melodrama and comedy. An added bonus was some scenes of a vintage ballpark.

BOUGHT: Great to see Constance Bennett acting with her father Richard- both came off well, though Richard's makeup was rather overdone. I'm usually lukewarm on Ben Lyon's acting skills, but he was fine in this one.

GIFT OF GAB: Now that I've seen it, I never need to see it again. Edmund Loew was lively as always, but he just talked and talked and had nothing memorable to say. Gloria Stuart was beautiful, but showed little charisma. The plot stopped dead for a series of blackout sketches and musical numbers. It was great to hear Ethel Waters sing "I ain't gonna sin no more" but Id just heard it sung by another group, and I heard it again afterwards.
Eric Stott
User avatar

Mike Gebert

Site Admin

  • Posts: 5923
  • Joined: Sat Dec 15, 2007 3:23 pm
  • Location: Chicago

PostThu Mar 20, 2008 9:31 am

Yeah, I'm looking forward to hearing about this too! Anyone?
“I'm in favor of plagiarism. If we are to create a new Renaissance, the government should encourage plagiarism. When convinced that someone is a true plagiarist, we should immediately award them the Legion of Honor.” —Jean Renoir
User avatar


  • Posts: 1535
  • Joined: Fri Feb 01, 2008 1:57 pm

PostThu Mar 20, 2008 11:37 am

OK, here is my brief review, if you want further details ask me and I will post.

Films are graded on a scale of one (snoozer) to five stars (excellent).

Thursday, March 13th

BACK DOOR TO HEAVEN (1939) with Wallace Ford, Patricia Ellis
Sorry, didn’t see.

OFF HIS BASE (1932) with Eugene Pallette, James Gleason
A neat little comedy 2 reeler about baseball. ***

CLUB HAVANA (1945) with Tom Neal, Margaret Lindsay
Didn’t see.

TRAILER MANIA SHOW Hosted by Ray Faiola
This was a showing of a bunch of rare trailers from different films from silents and talkies. Interesting scene in “All Quiet on the Western Front” with Zasu Pitts playing Lew Ayres mom, which I haven’t seen before. ****

SHOOTING STARS (1928) with Brian Aherne, Annette Benson
Didn’t see

LET KATIE DO IT (1915) with June Grey, Tully Marshall, Charles West
Didn’t see.

THE SINGING FOOL (1928) with Al Jolson, Betty Bronson
Well, Al Jolson is one of those people that you either love or hate. I seem to be right in the
middle. I think his style is a little dated and his acting isn’t too great, but this is film history we are
looking at here, so some of those complaints can be pushed aside. Part sound, part silent, the
film looked excellent and was very enjoyable. ****

THE ANONYMOUS LETTER (1931) A William J. Burns short
These Educational shorts are always fun and this one didn’t disappoint. A very dry William Burns solves crimes. Nothing less, nothing more. I give this many stars because I am a huge fan. Were is the DVD release on these?? ****

Interesting film of John Barrymore sailing to an island and the shenanigans that ensue. The print
they showed was either printed or projected backwards, so reading the titles were a chore. Also,
if you are not a fan of animal cruelty the scenes of Barrymore screwing with the sea lions can be
to tough to take. **

SMOULDERING FIRES with Pauline Frederick, Laura La Plante
Very enjoyable film that you can figure out the ending about 15 minutes in, but it was fun for me, and Laura La Plante looked terrific! ***

PASSING FANCY (1933) with Takeshi Sakamoto, Nobulko Fushimi
I have this on DVD so I didn’t see it.

TOO MANY BLONDES (1941) with Rudy Vallee, Shemp Howard
Didn’t see it.

Friday, March 14th

WAYWARD (1932) with Nancy Carroll, Richard Arlen, Pauline Frederick
A fun story with the old theme of domineering mother who doesn’t like who her son hooks up
with. This pre-code was a lot of fun and Nancy Carroll turning in a great performance. ***

PAMPERED YOUTH (1926) with Cullen Landis, Ben Alexander
This film is based on the book “Magnificent Amberson’s” and is short and sweet but on the whole
not very interesting. Thanks to Kevin Brownlow for saving this but I could have done without it. **

DAY DREAMS (1928) with Elsa Lanchester, Charles Laughton
Neat film with Lanchester playing a girl who has a daydream about meeting the man of her
dreams and the problems that come along with that. Laughton plays a middle eastern character
and I thought this film was funny and terrific. ****

MARRIED? (1926) with Constance Bennett, Owen Moore
A smart little film that other than having a beautiful Constance Bennet in it was fairly forgetful. **

WOMAN TO WOMAN (1929) with Betty Compson, George Barraud
Even though there were some sound synch problems at the end, it didn’t stop me from enjoying this picture. ***

WILD HORSE MESA (1925) with Jack Holt, Noah Berry, Billie Dove
Didn’t see.

YOU'RE A SWEETHEART (1937) with Alice Faye, George Murphy
Didn’t see.

SHOWGIRL IN HOLLYWOOD (1929) with Alice White, Jack Mulhall
The rise and fall of an actress. This was one of my highlights of the entire weekend. Alice White looking her most DELICIOUS and an excellent story kept me more than interested. *****

FEED ‘EM AND WEEP (1928) with Max Davidson, Anita Garvin
I TRULY love Max Davidson. Any film he is in I have to see, but add Marion Byron, Anita Garvin and Edgar Kennedy and you have a great film. Max runs a diner and the 2 girls come and screw up the works. Highly enjoyable and funny, the print suffered from lots of jumps, but it is all that is available and still a miracle it exists. ****

STELLA DALLAS (1926) with Ronald Colman, Belle Bennett
I was pretty familiar with the Stanwyck version so it was nice to see this. A beautiful print of
a rather depressing film. Still, I enjoyed it. ***

I'LL TELL THE WORLD (1934) with Lee Tracy, Gloria Stuart
I am a fan of Lee Tracy and his smart talking but I know a lot of people aren’t so my opinion may
be biased. Tracy plays a newspaper reporter (big stretch there) and Gloria Stewart plays a
deposed princess about to retake power. I especially loved the scene where Tracy feels up
Stewart as they sit on the bench. A good one, but not a standout. ***

Saturday March 15th

IDLE CHATTER (1929) Vitaphone with Lou Holtz
A ROPE AND A STORY 1928) Vitaphone with Tex McLeod
Great way to start off the 35mm show at the Palace with 3 excellent Vitaphone shorts. Holtz is a dialogue comedian and although the sound was hard to hear at times this was fun. McLeod is a cowboy who tells jokes while doing rope tricks. It’s stuff like this that makes these Vitaphone shorts SO enjoyable. Gus Arnheim band offers some great jazz music. All 3 great and all 3 throughly enjoyed! *****

These may be historically interesting but after 2 minutes I was bored. **

A PHILISTINE IN BOHEMIA (1920) with Rod LaRocque
A semi-interesting film about mistaken identity. ***

THE STOLEN VOICE (1915) with Robert Warwick
Without question the worst film I saw all weekend. Boring and not much I can recommend about it. Saw numerous people around me snoozing during this one and it knocked me out for a few minutes too. When I awoke I thought I was watching a whole different film. Possibly the ONLY redeeming thing about this film is to see the Brooklyn Tip Tops of the Federal League playing baseball. For that and that only, it gets this *

VIOLIN OF M'SIEUR (1914) with Etienne Giradot
The title says it all. The violin and its owner their life together. A typical 1914 style film that was just OK. **

QUEEN HIGH (1930) with Ginger Rogers, Frank Morgan
Frank Morgan and Charlie Ruggles play business partners who hate each other and Ginger Rodgers is there to sort it all out. Plenty of scantily clad ladies for those people who enjoy those things. A fast paced comedy that kept me interested. ****

THE LADY (1925) with Norma Talmadge, Brandon Hurst
Another story that you could figure out the ending, but I really liked this film. Good acting by
Norma Talmadge of a rich stage star who hits bottom and comes back. This looked beautiful on
the screen although there was much decomp on the print. ****

HOME CURED (1926) Dir.: Roscoe Arbuckle with Johnny Arthur
Great comedy with Johnny Arthur as a hypochondriac. Lots of fun and many laughs. ***1/2

UNCLE TOM’S GAL (1925) with Edna Marion
OK comedy with a farm girl who thinks she is going to become a big movie star. **

RUNNING WILD (1921) with Eddie Boland, Jean Hope
Another comedy that was just OK. **

UNIDENTIFIED BILLY GILBERT with Billy Gilbert, Gene Schuler
Two mystery shorts with Billy Gilbert. Who were these made by, when, and why are all the
questions that need to be answered. My best guess is the early 30’s and made for a club like the
Masquers but who knows for sure. ***

ROBBER'S ROOST (1933) with George O’Brien, Maureen O’Sullivan
Didn’t see.

SOUTH TO KARANGA (1940) with Charles Bickford, James Craig
This print didn’t show up so they had an early screening of “The Gift of Gab”, which I didn’t see both times it played.

ONE ROMANTIC NIGHT {The Swan} (1930) with Lillian Gish
Have on DVD so I didn’t see this and after watching it I’m not sure I need to keep it.

Neat sampler of silent trailers. Some don’t exist anymore so it was good to see these. **1/2

LIFE IN HOLLYWOOD (1927) Keaton Studios
Nice compilation of scenes of outside of studios. It was great to see the big painting of its logo on
the Educational Pictures lot. **1/2

IRENE (1926)with Colleen Moore, Lloyd Hughes
Another highlight for me. Saw this at Capitolfest last year and needed to see it again. Little poor
girl does well and falls in love. Colleen Moore at her best. Too bad the Technicolor ending was
not on this print, but it was still fantastic. *****

BOUGHT (1931) with Constance Bennett, Ben Lyon, Ray Milland
Constance Bennett as a beautiful girl who thinks money and fame is what will make her happy.
Ben Lyon plays a fairly wimpy character in this one and I don’t think I saw him play another roll
like this. Ray Milland plays the rich guy who makes Bennett “be untrue to herself”. Creepy role
played by Bennett’s real life father Richard as her love interest/father figure. Good story, lots to
keep the audience excited and I don’t think I’ve EVER seen Constance Bennett look any better.
Her dresses were amazing!!! ****1/2

Sunday, March 16th

JUNGLE PRINCESS (1936) with Dorothy Lamour, Ray Milland
Didn’t see.

THE AUCTION (2007) Hosted by Leonard Maltin, Lafe McKee, Jr.
Lots of fun as usual. Leonard really keeps it funny and moving.

EXTRAORDINARY ADVENTURES OF MR. WEST in the LAND of the BOLSHEVIKS (1923) with Boris Barnet, Vladimir Fogel
Didn’t see.

DISAPPEARING ENEMIES (1931) with Rex Bell, Edward McWade
OK, comedy short about a young couple and their arguing relatives. **1/2

ONLY SAPS WORK (1930) with Leon Errol, Richard Arlen, Mary Brian
Here’s one that should have been good but just left me flat. Leon Errol is a thief who gets
Richard Arlen in on a bank robbery. Way over the top comedy by Errol that it seems to me that
the script was just not that good. *1/2

JAILBREAK (1938) with Barton MacLaine, June Travis
Didn’t see.

GIFT OF GAB (1934) with Edmund Lowe, Gloria Stuart, Ruth Etting
Didn’t see

That’s what I saw and my ratings. As for the show itself, I had a great time. I think the 35mm show is what brings the people in and I REALLY love the Palace over the Landmark. As beautiful as the Landmark is, I think the Palace is more intimate. The dealers rooms were pretty good offering stuff from t-shirts to DVD’s to film and the accessories that go with projectors. I thought that wasn’t much paper goods and the VHS has fallen off the earth, but people were still buying them and laserdiscs.

One quibble would have to be with the program. I wish that Cinefest would take a lead from Cinevent and post the players in the film with their role names and the running times of the films. I think this would be very easy to do and hope they will do it next year.

Thanks to everyone involved with the festival, you’ll certainly see me next year!
User avatar

Christopher Jacobs


  • Posts: 2287
  • Joined: Tue Jan 22, 2008 12:53 pm
  • Location: Grand Forks, North Dakota

PostThu Mar 20, 2008 7:17 pm

It was another first-rate Cinefest that started off with a bang and went by all too quickly. As usually happens, several recurring themes quickly surfaced and reappeared throughout the weekend. This year self-sacrifice was the pervading theme, whether parent for child (mother-daughter, mother-son, father-daughter, father-son), child for parent, sister for sister, or ex-fiancee for lover's new love. There were also more than one sick and/or dying child, long-time separations, a several movies about making movies, and a few other repeated plot devices -- besides, of course, the same actors popping up in two or three or four films.

I wrote an overview of the highlights Sunday night for the High Plains Reader that should be up on their website by this weekend (third link below my name, but I can also post it here if anyone's interested) Now I'm home again and have had time to put together brief comments on each film shown (yes, I sat through all of them, even several I'd already seen before, although my eyes couldn't always stay open during a couple of them). All the films were worth seeing at least once, and many would be welcome additions to a DVD collection (I got well over a dozen other titles, mostly from Kino, and managed to sell a few of my own while in Syracuse).

--Christopher Jacobs ... rom_Within

Cinefest 2008 Comments (Ratings of One to Four Stars)


BACK DOOR TO HEAVEN (1939) ***1/2
What a depressing, yet moving film! Wallace Ford is excellent in this downbeat drama, with Stu Erwin quite interesting to watch in the atypical role of a criminal.

OF HIS BASE (1932) **
Moderately entertaining baseball 2-reeler with Jimmy Gleason, a teenage "Baby" Peggy, and Eugene Pallette

CLUB HAVANA (1945) ***
Great moody B-version blend of WONDERBAR and GRAND HOTEL from Edgar G. Ulmer

Trailer Mania (1930s-40s) ***
Wonderful and rare trailers from the 1930s-40s, including ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT, a stunning I.B. Tech print of the STAR IS BORN trailer, and trailers from some of the films shown over the weekend, including YOU'RE A SWEETHEART.

SHOOTING STARS (1928) ***1/2
While not quite the cinematic tour-de-force that Asquith achieved with A COTTAGE ON DARTMOOR, this dupey print couldn't hide the fact that SHOOTING STARS was a beautifully staged, photographed, and edited variation on the studio love triange-murder mystery, and that there were some outstanding British-made silent features by directors other than Hitchcock.

LET KATIE DO IT (1915) ***
Solid rural comedy-drama with Jane Gray in a Mae Marsh role and Tully Marshall (!) as the romantic lead, looking younger than usual but still a bit old for the part, although maybe that's the point in the setting of this story. It has many obviously Griffith-influnced moments in the staging, characterizations, and story structure.

THE SINGING FOOL (1928) **1/2
The follow-up to THE JAZZ SINGER is a heavily sentimental early talkie with silent sequences that Jolson fans tend to love and those who don't like Jolson tend to hate passionately. Its silent opening reel is an amazingly shot and edited piece of cinema with its fluid, often subjective point-of-view camera. Although it slows down during most of the talking segments, Jolson's singing is as energetic as ever, and the dying "sonny boy" scenes can still pack a tear-jerking punch.

Another one of the poorly made true-life detective stories in the William J. Burns series that some viewers seem to find campy instead of just bad.

Although the double-perf print was projected backwards, this home movie of John Barrymore and some sea elephants is pleasantly diverting.

A masterpiece of silent drama, with strong performances, especially by Pauline Frederick, in a love triangle that is still ahead of its time. Laura LaPlante also gets to do more than just look cute.

PASSING FANCY (1933) ***
Amazing and moving slice of life, if a bit slow starting, depicting a poor working class father-son relationship. It comes off like a cross between Italian neo-realism and French new wave but done decades before as a silent film in Japan!

TOO MANY BLONDES (1941) **1/2
Light, fast-paced, entertaining Universal musical comedy with newly married Rudy Vallee always doing the wrong thing for his new bride until all can be set right in Mexico, thanks to the connections of Shemp Howard!


WAYWARD (1932) **
Standard class-conflict melodrama. Pauline Frederick is the villain this time, the rich mother trying to break up son Richard Arlen's marriage to chorus girl Nancy Carroll, yet she manages to endow her selfish character with some sympathy by the end. Carroll looks great as usual and luckily doesn't have to sing much.

This 20-minute abridgement of the first version of THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS (blown up from 9.5mm) cuts out most of the characterizations to concentrate on the film's impressively mounted fire sequence. We can only hope the complete film will eventually be discovered somewhere as this fragment shows some potential.

DAYDREAMS (1928) ***1/2
Hilarious British short starring Elsa Lanchester having bizarre fantasies about Charles Laughton, with an almost surreal approach to the filmmaking by director Ivor Montagu.

MARRIED? (1926) **1/2
Nicely mounted and generally entertaining if predictable romantic melodrama about lumbering heirs and water rights, starring a very young Constance Bennett with Owen Moore.

WOMAN TO WOMAN (1929) **1/2
Decently-made British early talkie made in the U.S. starring Betty Compson as a French entertainer during WWI whose lover is called back to duty just before they can get married, and then gets amnesia and marries someone else after the war. Of course they reunite but there are lots of tear-jerking complications in an often surprisingly adult drama.

WILD HORSE MESA (1925) ***
Very well mounted medium-budget Paramount western in the days when Native Americans were still the noble oppressed underdogs, and here actually come to the rescue of Jack Holt when ueber-villain Noah Beery and his cronies attack! Billie Dove is in top form.

Another fun Universal musical and one of Alice Faye's best pictures, with George Murphy a delight as a bogus millionaire who supposedly buys out the house to her show as a publicity stunt set up by Ken Murray.

Wonderful behind-the-scenes look at the early talkie days in Hollywood is nothing new but still a lot of fun, with Blanch Sweet quite powerful as a fading star, Ford Sterling as a pragmatic but unexpectedly sympathetic producer, John Miljan as a sleazy director, and Jack Mulhall trying to be the love interest. It's really Alice White's picture all the way.

FEED 'EM AND WEEP (1928) **
Hal Roach slapstick with Anita Garvin & Marion Byron quite funny as a female Laurel & Hardy who find themselves as waitresses in Max Davidson's railroad cafe during an impossible rush of customers.

STELLA DALLAS (1926) ***1/2
Belle Bennett and Lois Moran are outstanding as mother and daughter in this powerful version of the soapy melodrama, with Ronald Colman sort of standing around whenever he's on, Alice Joyce getting in some strong scenes as his second wife, and Jean Hersholt great as Stella's lazy jerk of a boyfriend.

I'LL TELL THE WORLD (1934) **1/2
Lee Tracy is a fast-talking reporter (what else?) always trying to beat Roger Pryor to a story. Eventually he gets mixed up in an attempted eastern European coup with the American-raised heir to the throne (Gloria Stuart) used as a pawn for another revolution Tracy first wants to publicize, but then has to figure out a way to stop.


35mm PROGRAM at the Palace Theatre --
Three Vitaphone Shorts:
THE IDLE CHATTER (1929) **1/2
Lou Holtz has a few good lines in his ethnic running monologue.
A ROPE AND A STORY (1929) ***
Tex McLeod has some better lines in his version of Will Rogers' rope tricks to audio commentary.
Nice performance by the band, with some picture decomposition.

Interesting example of 16mm Kodacolor shot and processed the same day so various celebrities (including Thomas Edison, George Eastman, and many others) could see themselves on screen in color.
Fascinating selection of scenes made to show off the 3-color capabilites of the brand new Kodacolor home movie film that would never fade (since it was shot on black & white stock and projected through color filters). The process' only drawbacks were the low resolution and visible lines that went with its lenticular technology.

Moderately interesting two-reel romance of immigrants getting along in New York City but the program notes unfortunately gave away the ending.

Slow starting but quite entertaining melodrama of a generous opera star (Robert Warwick) who loses his voice and thus his income when a romantic rival, who happens to be a hypnotist, uses mind control over him. By a cleverly contrived stroke of luck he winds up becoming a silent movie star and more enjoyable coincidences continue through the end.

Clara Kimball Young, directed by husband James Young, is still in her young and attractive stage in this rather slow-moving 2-reel costume melodrama. I think I stayed awake through most of it, though.

QUEEN HIGH (1930) **1/2
Fun precode musical comedy with feuding business partners Frank Morgan and Charlie Ruggles talked into a bet where the loser (Ruggles) has to serve the winner for a year as his butler. A dark-haired Ginger Rogers adds lots of pep but hadn't yet had much voice training at this point and doesn't do any dancing.

THE LADY (1925) **1/2
Norma Talmadge is good in this melodrama, the old familiar story of forbidden mixed-class marriage, parent-child separation, and unwitting reunion, but this was the one that I soon wound up nodding off for a couple of reels. The last half hour was good enough that I'd like to see it again, however, on more than four hours of sleep.


Back at the hotel --

HOME CURED (1926) **
Familiar but fairly funny hypochondriac comedy starring Johnny Arthur.

UNCLE TOM'S GAL (1925) **1/2
Quite enjoyable comedy starring Edna Marion in a farm girl who gets cast in a low-budget movie version of UNCLE TOM'S CABIN as Little Eva, Topsy, and Liza!

RUNNING WILD (1921) **
Okay comedy with Eddie Boland running around a lot, trying to escape the police, until the payoff when he finally learns why they're after him.

Two Unidentified Billy Gilbert Sequences (1930?) *1/2
These were an odd curiosity and might have made more sense if they were excerpts from some longer film. As they stand, they're overly long gags, one with a poker game and the other with singing hobos.

ROBBER'S ROOST (1933) **1/2
This George O'Brien Fox western is not big-budget but better than a B, with Maureen O'Sullivan the cute love interest when O'Brien falls in with some cattle rustlers but changes his mind after he gets to know the English family who own the ranch (especially Sullivan).

GIFT OF GAB (1934) **1/2
Edmund Lowe talks his way into and out of a big-time radio job in this reasonably entertaining Universal musical that stops the plot periodically to let us see various singers and actors doing their bits on the air. Highlighs include Ethel Waters, Ruth Etting, and a couple of comic skits (one featuring brief cameos of Boris Karloff and Bela Lugois).

This theatrical early talkie version of THE SWAN seems a bit better than it did the first time I saw it, but still drags too much. Marie Dressler is okay, but Lillian Gish is not at her best, Rod LaRoque is often annoying, and Conrad Nagel has been better. It looks more like a film of a decent community theatre production than the slick Hollywood romance it should have been.

This is a fun amateur film created by editing together silent trailers (many for now-lost films) to tell the story via title cards of a man's trip to the movie capitol and all the stars he meets there.

This newsreel gives some great behind-the-scenes looks into many Hollywood studios and personalities.

IRENE (1926) ***
Colleen Moore is in top form in her typical poor-girl-makes-good story, always predictible but always fun to watch. Unfortuantely the Technicolor fashion show climax has all faded to red in this print (which had once belonged to Moore herself).

BOUGHT (1931) ***1/2
This Constance Bennett - Ben Lyon - Ray Milland romantic melodrama was one of the highlights of the convention, an extremely pre-code story of an ambitious poor girl trying to break into society and dealing with various male admirers in different ways. (It's basically a gritty, dramatic variation of IRENE!) It was fascinating to see her opposite her real-life father Richard Bennett as her mysterious benefactor. Milland was fine as the callous playboy and Lyon quite good as a struggling writer.


Ray Milland is the hero this time, as a hunter in Malaya playing opposite a sexy and delightful Dorothy Lamour as a female Tarzan who saves his life and sings "Moonlight and Shadows." For a 1936 production it verges surprisingly on precode shenanigans several times, and interestingly encourages interracial romance!

This Soviet Russian propaganda comedy would have been much more effective as a short instead of a feature, but has some amusing moments and typically Russian silent cinematic techniques blended with German expressionism and Mack Sennett weirdness.

Rex Bell stars in a pleasant sitcom about young newlyweds whose feuding relatives decide to visit at the same time.

ONLY SAPS WORK (1930) **
Watchable Leon Errol comedy has him as a crook with Richard Arlen as a rich boy trying to work for a living but becoming Errol's unwitting accomplice in a bank heist, and later trying to impress rich girl Mary Brian who doesn't know he's merely an employee at the health farm she's staying at with her father.

JAILBREAK (1936) **1/2
Cliched but fast-moving Warner Brothers gangster film that turns into a prison picture that turns into a murder mystery, naturally with a fast-talking reporter to tell the by-the-book detective how to do his job.

GIFT OF GAB (1934) **1/2
This was run twice because the print of SOUTH TO KARANGA that had been scheduled for Saturday wasn't available.

James Bazen

  • Posts: 262
  • Joined: Wed Dec 19, 2007 7:41 pm
  • Location: Canton, Ohio

PostThu Mar 20, 2008 8:25 pm

Okay, here's my report for my first Cinefest. This isn't a very detailed or thought out report as I was just writing my initial impressions off the top of my head. I had a really nice time and wish I hadn't waited so long to attend Cinefest. The Cinefest schedule is a more physically demanding one than Cinesation. Most nights the last film ended around one in the morning, then it was back up by eight to be ready in time for the nine o' clock start of the next day's films. On Saturday it was even earlier because we were transported to a theatre in downtown Syracuse for a 35mm program, and the buses left the hotel at 7:45. But all in all a great time and I look forward to attending next year. I missed a couple of the shorts, but otherwise was another of the obsessives who watched everything. Now on to the films...


Back Door To Heaven(1939 **) I had expected much more from this one given the positive review this film was given in the program, but it turned out to be a rather depressing film from beginning to end without one glimmer of hope or happiness about a young boy who lives with his alcoholic, abusive father and beaten-down mother, who ends up and repeat convict who later is on the lam for a murder charge. In fact, the film is full of characters who haven't lived up to their childhood dreams and ambitions.

Off His Base(1932*) Rather tedious baseball comedy two-reeler with Eugene Pallette and James Gleason. A highlight was a rather engaging performance from a teenaged Baby Peggy.

Club Havana(1946***) Ultra rare Edgar G. Ulmer film. This was a sort of Grand Hotel story in which the unrelated stories of an odd assortment of characters are told amid a swanky nightclub. Despite having a nothing budget, the film is skillfully made and Ulmer evokes a taut and moody atmosphere.

Shooting Stars(1927****) This is the film for those who buy into the idea that nothing good ever came out of the British film industry. One of the highlights of the festival. What starts out as a comical satire on the film industry soon turns into a masterful and brooding emotional drama concerning a love triangle between a husband -and-wife acting team and the wife's slapstick comedian lover. Excellent performances from Annette Benson and an impossibly young and handsome Brian Aherne. Excellent cinematography, and the final denoument is one of the finest ever captured on film. I really hope this one comes out on DVD.

Let Katie Do It(1915***) A fun comedy-drama from the Triangle-Fine Arts studio. Jane Grey plays Katie, a household drudge for her parents and older sister. The family discourages her would-be suitor and he goes off to Mexico to work in her uncle's mine. Later, after her parents are gone Katie ends up having to care for her sister and her husband's seven children when they are killed in a train accident. Jane Grey is an interesting and attractive actress possessing a somewhat plain, yet lovely face with a dash of Gish-like ethereal radiance. Directed by Sidney and Chester Franklin and supervised by D.W. Griffith, the film has a low-key charm and serenity as well as a well-staged final sequence with a run-to the rescue of a cabin being attacked by crazed Mexicans.

The Singing Fool(1928**1/2) Al Jolson hybrid film about an up and coming entertainer who finds success and marries a faithless woman who brings about his downfall. Of course Jolson is one of those you either like him or you don't performers. I actually quite like Jolson's highly energized, manic singing and dancing. The story itself is perhaps a notch or two more maudlin for some people's comfort, but if you like Jolson as a singer it's worth seeing for his several musical numbers. And the opening shot with the camera sweepingly and smoothly tracking through the nightclub in search of it's proprietor is worth the price of admission alone.

Smouldering Fires(1925***) I have the old Grapevine tape of this film, but this film is even better on the big screen. Pauline Frederick gives an outstanding perfomance as a middle-aged stern businesswoman who falls in love with, and marries one of her younger bright employees. Later he falls in love with her younger sister. What could have been a routine triangle melodrama, Clarence Brown handles with great sensitivity and intelligence. Laura la Plante and Malcolm McGregor are equally fine in the roles of the guilt-ridden young lovers.

Passing Fancy(1933***) I was starting to doze during this one, but I was glad to see this Japanese classic from director Yasujiro Ozu. The film concerns the relationship between a young boy and his simple, uneducated father. While not as good as Ozu's later A Story of Floating Weeds, and running a tad bit long, this was nevertheless a film worth seeing with fine performances from Takeshi Sakamoto and Chocuko Aoki.

Too Many Blondes(1941**1/2) A pleasing Universal programmer with Rudy Vallee as a popular radio crooner and his wife who becomes jealous or his numerous blonde acquaintances. Lon Chaney Jr. and Iris Adrian take top comedy honors and the film has several snappy musical numbers between Vallee and Helen Parrish.


Wayward(1932***) Nancy Carroll plays a young showgirl who marries a young society gentleman much to the dissatisfaction of his domineering, class-conscious mother who schemes and manipulates to break the up the union. Nancy Carroll and Pauline Frederick are fine as the wife and mother-in-law, while Richard Arlen seems clueless.

Pampered Youth(1926** ) A two-reel Vitagraph film based upon Booth Tarkington's The Magnificent Amberson's. Rather primitive film bearing little resemblance to Orson Wells' later remake. Cullen Landis is rarely a satisfying leading man and here he fares no better.

Day-Dreams(1928***) Another highlight. This rare British silent comedy short is of interest as it features a very young Elsa Lanchester and Charles Laughton. But it is delightful and slightly avant-garde with it's use of trick photography to highlight the story of a boarding house maid who daydreams of being a great lady who thwarts the advances of an Indian Rajah.

Married?(1926 ***) Another unexpected delight. Not a great film but highly entertaining. Owen Moore and Constance Bennett marry only in order to save the family timber business from being sold to a group of rivals. It's a pretty typical scenario of two people who initially display a great dislike for each other who eventually fall in love. Owen Moore is exceedingly likeable and Bennett at this early stage in her career is already an exquisite figure of sophisticated urbanity. The only missing element was her distinctive throaty voice. The two play off each other beautifully. Great cinematography.

Woman To Woman(1929** ) A rather tedious melodrama with Betty Compson as a French showgirl during WWI who falls in love with a British soldier.The two want to marry but he's called away to battle where he suffers a serious injury the causes his him to loose his entire memory of the war. He marries another woman only to later remember his first love when he sees her performing in London after she has become a big success. Betty Compson is almost invariably a fine actress but seems at a loss here having to make the most of this stagey turgid drama and having to manage a rather unconvincing French accent.

Wild Horse Mesa(1925*** ) Adapted from a Zane Grey story, this western concerns a group of characters up against a group of horse thieves who clash in an attempt to capture wild horses which are being sold to the government at a handsome price a head. This film is rather slow in getting going, but eventually becomes thrillingly action-packed with a brutal fist-fight sequence and a race-to-the rescue of a leading lady trapped in the path of a fast-approaching stampede of horses. Jack Holt is the stalwart hero and Billie Dove does what little she has to do in a rather conventional leading lady role(Sporting a coiffure which seems an incongruous cross between pioneer woman, and Louise Brooks.) A very young Douglas Fairbanks also has a nice part.

You're A Sweetheart(1937***) A delightful piece of fluff with George Murphy hired by a theatrical producer to impersonate a millionaire as a publicity stunt for his girlfriend's new show. Murphy acquits himself nicely as a dancer and Alice Faye sings several songs beautifully including the film's romantic title song.

Showgirl In Hollywood(1930****) A film familiar to most of us, but terrific on the big screen.

Feed 'Em and Weep(1928**1/ 2) Others liked this one more than I did. Max Davidson owns a railroad stop restaurant who anticipates a trainload on their way to a convention. He hires two inept waitresses and hilarity ensues. Not my cup of tea although there is one sequence with a spread-eagled Anita Garvin after she falls down a ditch that was priceless.

Stella Dallas(1926****) Another film I had seen before on a VHS with no score, that really comes alive on the big screen with a beautiful print and an appropriate score. The first adaptation of the novel, Belle Bennett gives the performance of her life in the title role. Also terrific are Ronald Colman and the lovely Lois Moran as the daughter. Alice Joyce is radiant as the understanding society woman.

I'll Tell The World(1934***) Lee Tracy plays a fast-talking reporter who covers a missing dirigible and gets mixed up with a European princess and plotting amongst her subjects, all the while keeping a rival newspaper reporter at bay.

Saturday- 35mm Program at The Palace Theatre

The Idle Chatter(1929**) An amusing Vitaphone short featuring comedian Lou Holtz.

A Rope and A Story(1928** ) A Vitaphone short with Tex McLeod who does a comedy routine while performing various rope tricks. I didn't care for the comedy, but the rope tricks were very impressive.

Gus Arnheim and His Cocoanut Grove Orchestra(1928***) A terrific Vitaphone short featuring the bandleader and his orchestra delivering much toe-tapping music.

Eastman House Kodacolor Party Films(1928*) Not much entertainment value in these filmed sequences of a party featuring Kodak executives.

A Philistine In Bohemia(1920**) A story concerning the daughter of a boarding house proprietress who begins dating an Italian count who she later finds out is a chef at an Italian restaurant. Nothing special and while Rod La Rocque is supposed to be in the cast, I don't remember him at all unless he was one of the heavily made up Italians.

The Stolen Voice(1915***) Matinee idol Robert Warwick stars as a celebrated opera singer. Evil Dr. Von Gahl, a jealous rival for the affections of a society girl, decides to take revenge by taking away his rival's voice through hypnosis. Later, down on his luck, Warwick finds success again as a film star when he is aided by a former alcoholic friend who has become a success as a movie director. A silly plot, but well-made with gorgeous photography and good use of locations. Warwick is always worth seeing and makes quite a dashing and charismatic figure.

Violin of M'Sieur(1914***) A Vitagraph short drama about an elderly violinist and his daughter who are seperated during the Napoleonic wars. Etienne Girardot is excellent as the father and Clara Kimball Young is at the height of her dark beauty. Young's husband James Young is her rather uninteresting and charisma-deprived leading man.

Queen High(1930*** ) This was a delight from start to finish. Charlie Ruggles and Frank Morgan play bickering co-owners of a garter manufacturing company. When one loses a bet he becomes the butler of the other gentleman. Lots of snappy tunes including a show-stopping number by Ruggles. Also in the cast is a young teenage Ginger Rogers. Romantic juvenile Stanley Smith is one I don't believe I had seen before, but he had a fine singing voice.

The Lady(1925*** ) I have a crummy VHS of this film, so I liked seeing this on the big screen. I heard so many positive comments about this film afterwards making me think the time is right for Norma Talmadge to be given serious attention and to be lifted from her undeserved obscurity. Norma is a cockney music hall performer who marries a rich wastrel. Later abandoned and pregnant(Although not before she gives the statuesque Paulette Duval the beating of her life!) she ends up at the brothel of Madame Blanche. Later, her husband's father tracks her down to take her child away. Personally, even after seeing this on the big screen, I'm still a bit more partial to Norma's other Borzage film Secrets, but this is an expertly made vehicle and one to prove that Norma was indeed a highly skilled dramatic actress.

Mirthquake Comedies Program

Home Cured(1926** ) Amusing short starring Johnny Arthur as a hypochondriac who is cured after his wife has had enough of his fantasy ailments and devises a plot to teach him a lesson.

Uncle Tom's Gal(1925**) A fun story about a farm girl who stumbles upon a low-rent film company who find themselves without a leading lady for their production of Uncle Tom's Cabin. I've never seen Edna Marion before but she was an adorable comedienne and I wonder what else of her's exists.

Running Wild(1921**) A Rolin Eddie Boland comedy about a tuxedoed gentleman trying to elude the law. Okay film with a nice twist at the end.

Unidentified Billy Gilberts 1&2(**) Two unknown fragments of the comedian that are perhaps part of a larger production.

Robber's Roost(1933** 1/2) George O'Brien plays a cowboy who becomes a part of a group of farmhands who decide to steal cattle from their wealthy English employer. Things are complicated when O'Brien falls in love with the younger sister of the farm owner. Not one of O'Brien's better westerns, but with sufficient entertainment value.

One Romantic Night(1930* ) It's ironic when folks complain about an early talkie such as Lights of New York. Here's a film made two years later that is considerably worse. Radiant Lillian Gish never looked lovelier, but for a star who just a few years before was giving brilliant dramatic performances in silent films such as La Boheme, The Scarlet Letter, and The Wind, she comes off rather poorly in this adaptation of of the Molnar play The Swan. The whole film is rather stagey, stilted and ineptly directed. Conrad Nagel and Rod La Rocque come off slightly better as the would-be suitors who vie for the princess. And Marie Dressler steals it as the exasperated mother. This film might have been gold in Lubitch's hands. But sadly it's a crashing bore.

Silent Trailers(****) A fascinating collection of silent movie trailers of such films as Old Clothes, Go West, That Royle Girl, The Vanishing American, The New Commandment, and Her Sister From Paris among others.

Life In Hollywood(1927***) A fascinating installment in the newsreel series taking the audience behind the scenes of Hollywood.

Irene(1926****) This Colleen Moore film is always a delight. Moore plays a New York Irish lass who enters the world of high fashion. This film was run as tribute to the late Rusty Casselton.

Bought(1931***) Perhaps one of Constance Bennett's most unusual films. Bennett plays a poor, working-class girl who dreams of a society lifestyle.. Later, her worn, hard-working mother informs her that she is an illegitimate child. After her mother's death, she finds work as a fashion model and is torn between a senstive author and a reckless playboy. This one was very well recieved by the cinephiles. Also in the film was a rare appearance by Constance's real-life father Richard Bennett.


The Jungle Princess(1936* **) Exotic, Dorothy Lamour in her film debut. She plays an exotic Malaysian jungle queen who encounters a British hunter when he stumbles in the jungle and twists his ankle. The two fall in love and the usual complications ensue. Despite the oft-recycled plot, Lamour is charming and sings a lovely ballad "Moonlight and Shadows" There's action including a sequence in which hundreds of chimpanzees descend upon a group of natives who hold Lamour captive. All in all a fun film and important as the first film of a great star.

The Auction- Here the movie-watching was put on hold as film critic Leonard Maltin presided over an auction of items contributed by Cinefest attendees. Some of which were sold to benefit the Syracuse Cinephiles Society.

The Extraordinary Adventures of Mr. West In The Land of the Bolsheviks(1924***) A rather unusual and fun Russian comedy by Lev Kuleshov. This film is part Hollywood-inspired satire and Russian propoganda about an American adventurer who travels to Russia and encounters a group of Bolsheviks.

Disappearing Enemies(1931**) Okay two-reel comedy Rex Bell and Marion Shockley star as a married couple who matchmake at getting their feuding aunt and uncle together.

Only Saps Work(1930**1/ 2) Richard Arlen plays a former college football hero who takes on work as a pantry boy in a health club. In order to impress a girl that he likes, he makes her believe he owns the health club. Later he meets up with a petty criminal who implicates him in a bank robbery. Reasonably entertaining Paramount programmer.

Jailbreak(1936***) With such a pedestrian title and no blockbuster names in the cast, one doesn't expect much, but this turned out to be a very well made and entertaining Warner Bros. mystery programmer about a reformed criminal who intentionally slugs a cop in order to elude the clutches of a rival gang leader. When the gang leader is sent to prison, the reformed crook is murdered. Barton MacLane does his usual job as the tough police detective, although most of the sleuthing was carried out by Craig Reynolds as a go-getting reporter.

Gift Of Gab(1934***) Edmund Lowe plays a fast-talking smooth operator who lands a plum job as MC of a radio program produced by a chicken livers king. As his popularity grows, so does his arrogance until he suffers a humiliating fall from grace. This film seems to get mixed reaction. I thought it was a delight. With witty, snappy dialogue, deftly paced action and a winning romantic teaming of Lowe and lovely Gloria Stuart this Universal film was the equal to any similarly themed Warner Bros comedy of the period. Add to this an array of theatrical and musical numbers by such stars as Ruth Etting, Ethel Waters, Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, Chester Morris, and many others making guest appearances.
User avatar

Mike Gebert

Site Admin

  • Posts: 5923
  • Joined: Sat Dec 15, 2007 3:23 pm
  • Location: Chicago

PostFri Mar 21, 2008 7:13 am

Thanks for the reports, all, and yes Chris, I always like to read how you try to convince normal people in North Dakota that sitting in a theater for four days is not madness....
“I'm in favor of plagiarism. If we are to create a new Renaissance, the government should encourage plagiarism. When convinced that someone is a true plagiarist, we should immediately award them the Legion of Honor.” —Jean Renoir
User avatar



  • Posts: 9280
  • Joined: Tue Dec 18, 2007 12:31 pm
  • Location: Dallas, TX USA

PostThu Mar 27, 2008 6:25 pm

Leonard Maltin has a wrapup on his website (as well as an appreciation of Richard Widmark).

Return to Talking About Silents

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 8 guests