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Cinecon 46 in Pictures

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Saturday Day 3

Saturday was going to be a busy one with all of the special features scheduled for the day.

The Saturday line-up started Hal Roach comedy THE REAL MCCOY (1930) starring Charley Chase with Thelma Todd and Edgar Kennedy. Great fun as Chase and Kennedy wind up in the mountains disguise as hillbillies with Charley trying to woo schoolteacher Todd. Charley also gets to sing and play multiple instruments.

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We started our day with a special program about the new Warner Archive Collection of DVDs. Archive representative George Feltenstein was on hand with a unique screening for us. Knowing how much we cinephiles love unusual films George brought 2 rare early talkie shorts with him. THE MAYOR OF JIMTOWN (1928) and JIMTOWN CABARET (1929) both starred the legendary Broadway comics Flournoy Miller and Aubrey Lyles. These shorts have been unseen since their original release but will soon be available on Warner Archive DVD.

After the shorts George was interviewed by Bob Birchard and talked about the Archive and what our film fans could look forward to buying in the months to come. He also answered questions from our audience. As a tie in with our show Cinephiles were able to get a special discount on DVD orders until the end of September (2010).

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In the 1930s and 40s you got a lot of entertainment for your two bits, a cartoon, a short, imagea serial chapter and a feature length B-film. In an effort to recreate the feel of that early movie going experience we put together our Saturday at the Bijou program complete with prize drawings. Then we invited our members to grab their popcorn and jujubes and join us for a little old fashioned movie fun.

imageThe program started with a Max Fleischer sing-a-long cartoon DOWN AMONG THE SUGAR CANE (1932) with Lillian Roth (and our Cinecon audience actually sang along!).

The short, HOLLYWOOD SCREEN TEST (Universal, 1937), gave us a fascinating behind the scenes look at what goes into the making of a screen test by following a young lady as she goes through the process.

The serial episode was chapter 9 of Columbia's THE GREEN ARCHER (1940) starring Victor Jory.

Before the start of the feature film we held the prize drawing. Everyone with a full festival pass got their tickets for the drawing attached to the registration packet envelope but they had to be present at the theater to win.

We had some great prizes of film books and gift certificates to local establishments to give out.

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Then we ran our feature film THE THRILL HUNTER (1933). In this comedy cowboy star Buck Jones pokes fun at his image by playing a would-be action star who brags he can drive racing cars and fly aeroplanes. Then he gets into trouble when the film company hires him and then expects him to do his own stunts.

After lunch it was back to the theater for the film preservation program featuring several rare screenings including the much anticipated A THIEF CATCHER Following the film clips and documentary was a panel on preservation moderated by Cinecon officer Jim Harwood.

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Cinecon officer Jim Harwood opened the program by saying that film preservation is a subject that is near and dear to all of us at Cinecon because we love watching rare films. Jim has been actively involved with preservation first working at the Library of Congress for several years and then after moving to Hollywood he became the manager of Pro-Tec a company that does archival storage and restoration for the studios.

To introduce our first clip Jim brought up guest speaker and film historian Joseph Yranski.

FLAMING YOUTH (1923) became an iconic film of the roaring 20's and made a star out of a 5 year Hollywood veteran, Coleen Moore.

All that exists of this lost film is a single reel of clippings which has been lovingly preserved and beautifully maintained by the Library of Congress. As Yranski explained, the longest surviving sequence, of a wild pool party featuring nudity by both sexes, is one that audiences of the day probably never saw because of state and local censorship.

Seeing the tantalizing clips only made us wish for more.

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KEEPERS OF THE FRAME (1999) was introduced by its producer Randy Gitsch. Randy said that he always thought that the documentary would be a good fit for our Cinecon audience. Partly because the subject of preservation has always been important to our cinephiles and also because there are many (over 40) silent film stars in it along with the great historic newsreel footage.

He went on to relate several backstories about the rare film clips that were used in the documentary and why he felt so passionate about preserving that film heritage

Then Paul Gierucki came up to introduce the much anticipated, west coast re-premiere of the short A THIEF CATCHER (1914) featuring a previously unknown Charlie Chaplin appearance. Before Paul started his story about finding the Chaplin film he asked our audience if they wanted to hear the long or short version of his discovery. Our members naturally asked for the long version.

To read the story about the film click here

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After the Chaplin short Joe, Randy and Paul joined Jim for the preservation panel. The group discussed various issues and took audience questions.

Former Griffith leading lady, Blanche Sweet, teams up with matinee idol Carlyle Blackwell in THE CASE OF BECKY (1915) an intriguing tale of hypnotism and dual personalities--based on a play by David Belasco, and directed by Frank Reicher, who is perhaps best-remembered as the sea caption in the original 1933 version of King Kong.

image As a perfect addition to our preservation afternoon we presented a world-premiere restoration of the delightful Constance Talmadge comedy A PAIR OF SILK STOCKINGS (1918). The spectacular looking print was restored from 35mm nitrate by Patrick Stanbury who was on hand to introduce the film. He described how he found the print and the work that went into restoring/recreating the flash titles. The plot: Put upon husband Harrison Ford, after a series of stupid moves, ends up divorced from wife Constance who he still loves. Then tries to win her back through a very odd series of events. The film was a favorite of the weekend for many.

 
After dinner the evening session started with a re-premiere of the Charlie Chase comedy short FROM BAD TO WORSE (Columbia, 1937). Charley's a newlywed gets into all kinds of problems on his honeymoon as he ends up at war with a jealous husband.

THE SEA WOLF (Fox, 1930) is an early talkie adaption of the Jack London novel about cruel sea captain Wolf Larsen, played here by the outstanding Milton Sills, who runs his ship by terrorizing his crew into submission. This would be the last film for Sills who suffered a heart attack and died at age 48 only a week before The Sea Wolf was released.

Silent western THE TESTING BLOCK (Paramount, 1920) starred Eva Novak and long-time Cinecon favorite William S. Hart. Based on a story by Hart this film was one of the cowboy star's personal favorites. In typical Hart fashion he plays an outlaw who reforms for the love of a good woman. Years later his past comes back to get him as his former gang turns him in for past crimes and has to battle his way back to put everything right.

Jobyna Ralston, Ruth Taylor and William Collier, Jr. are featured in THE COLLEGE COQUETTE (Columbia, 1929) an early-talkie tale of college life. This is one of the few sound film appearances by Jobyna Ralston, who gained lasting screen fame as Harold Lloyd's leading lady in several films.




Cinecon 46 in Pictures

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Sunday Day 4

We started the morning with the Laurel and Hardy silent short DO DETECTIVES THINK? (Hal Roach-Pathe, 1927). The comic duo are detectives after an escaped convict in this classic.

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Our first feature of the morning was a soap opera of murder and amnesia, THE BREAKING POINT (1924, Paramount). It starred the famous silent screen vamp Nita Naldi along with Patsy Ruth Miller and Mat Moore.

Just for fun we invited film group the Daughters of Naldi to introduce the movie. The group is made up of (mostly) female silent film archivists and historians from across the country who gather together annually at Cinecon (and other film festivals) to celebrate silent films. After the show the ladies (and one gentleman barely visible in the upper left corner) stepped out to the Egyptian courtyard for a group photo.

Before the lunch break we showed our annual Universal B musical. This year it was a celebrity screening with dancer Bob Scheerer in attendance.

The film was MISTER BIG (1943) and starred former Cinecon honoree Donald O'Connor, Peggy Ryan, Gloria Jean, Robert Paige, Elyse Knox and an energetic group of young dancers known as the Jivin' Jacks and Jills. Not much of a plot but it did have some nice music, a bunch of great jokes and lots and lots of dancing.

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Bryan Cooper interviewed Bob after the film and started out by asking him what he remembered about making the film and working with the Jivin' Jacks and Jills.

Bob said that he remembered having a good time working with Donald, Peggy, Gloria and the rest of the dancers and that since most of them were under age they had to go to school on the set in between takes. They spent a lot of time rehearsing the dances and usually worked 6 days a week on the films.

The Jivin' Jacks and Jills got their start when the studio cast a bunch of very talented young dancers to appear in a teen oriented musical called WHAT'S COOKIN' in 1942. Bob said that he had no idea who came up with the group's name but it seemed to work. At some point the studio decided to do a series of films the kids. They cranked out over a dozen of these entertaining little musicals in a two year period and only stopped when Donald was drafted. Even though the films were made in 1942 and 43 the studio held some of them back releasing about 3 a year through 1945.

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Bob enjoyed working with the film's choreographer Louis DaPron and learned a lot from him. He also said that Louis was responsible for Donald O'Conner becoming a better dancer.

When they finished making the Jivin' Jacks and Jills films in 1943 they dropped Bob's contract. He made a couple of freelance films and did some stage work before he too when into the Army.

When he got out he found a job in a stage musical but when they wanted to go on the road he decided that he didn't want to go. He decided to make a career change,

He had a friend at CBS that helped him get a job as a production assistant there and he began to work his way up to becoming a director. By 1960 he had his first directing credit.

Early on he directed THE DANNY KAYE SHOW and then did other variety shows. He soon was doing films and episodic TV shows as well. Some of the shows he directed during his prolific career were: LOVE BOAT, FAME, DYNASTY, THE COLBYS, HAWAII FIVE-O, IRONSIDE, STAR TREK, THE NEXT GENERATION and many others.

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Then it was the usual after the interview time for the fans to gather around and get autographs.

Bob is flanked by 2 great friends, dancers Rusty Frank to his right and Miriam Nelson on his left.

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And it's clear that everyone's having a good time with each other.

The afternoon session began silent comedy THE BOY FRIEND (Hal Roach/M-G-M, 1928) starring Cinecon favorite Max Davidson. Max pretends to be crazy to scare away his daughter's new boyfriend.

Then we jumped into our final celebrity screening of the weekend the offbeat 1958 western FROM HELL TO TEXAS (20th Century-Fox, 1958) shot in Cinemascope and directed by Henry Hathaway. Our in person guest Don Murray headed the cast which included Chill Wills, Dennis Hopper, Jay C. Flippen and Diane Varsi. In the film cowboy drifter Murray accidentally kills a man in a fight and has to go on the run when the man's wealthy and powerful family comes after him.

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On his way into the theater for the film Don met up with one of his KNOTS LANDING co-stars Ted Shackelford who had also come to see the film. The two old friends had a nice talk before going inside.

 

 

After the film Stan started the interview by asking Don what it was like to work in Cinemascope.

Don said that with Cinemascope you have these vast horizons which gave you a truer feeling of just how far his character had to go on his journey through Death Valley.

Stan asked Don for comments on some of his co-stars from the film.

Don said that Chill Wills was a really genuine guy and that what you saw on the screen was pretty much the way he was. Don knew Jay C. Flippen as musical comedy actor from Broadway so it was different to see him in a Western but he really liked Jay. Of actress Diane Varsi, he said he said she was a very interesting person, very intense but easy to work with.

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Stan went on to ask him about his first film BUS STOP and what it was like to work with Marilyn Monroe.

Don said it was interesting that they cast him as a cowboy in that part because he was from New York. He had to learn a Western accent and how to ride a horse for the part. Even though he had just learned to ride for the film he had to do his own stunts on bucking horses too.

He liked Marilyn well enough but found it frustrating to work with her because she wasn't always prepared for the scene and kept forgetting her lines. Since she also had a hard time staying on her marks so the director asked Don to help move her back onto her marks by gently pulling or pushing her to the right place while making it look like part of the scene.

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They talked about some of Don's other films. Don said that working on A HATFUL OF RAIN was a great experience. Since the film was based on a play they had a very well disciplined cast and he especially loved working with co-star Eva Marie Saint. It was a dream part.

Don worked with James Cagney on SHAKE HANDS WITH THE DEVIL and said that he was a no nonsense guy during scenes but he told a lot of stories about old Hollywood and kept people laughing and relaxed on the set.

He said that Henry Fonda was marvelous to work with on ADVISE & CONSENT but the best part of being in that film was meeting actress Betty Johnson who soon after became Betty Murray.

Don said that he loved working on KNOTS LANDING and that Michele Lee, who played his wife on the show, was a dream to work with. He decided to leave the show after only 2 years on it to write and star in his own show for CBS. They bought the show but never ended up making it.

During his career he's written several projects including the films HOODLUM PRIEST and THE CROSS AND THE SWITCHBLADE

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They talked about a lot of other facets of Don's long and distinguished career in films, television and on stage and about his family before taking audience questions.

Afterwards in was pictures with Stan.

And then fans gathered around Don to talk further with him.

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Besides Ted Shakleford other KNOTS LANDING friends showed up for the film including Michele Lee and show creator/producer David Jacobs.

And then after talking to his friends he spent a little more time signing autographs for fans.

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The whole Murray family came out to see the film and got together with Don in the Egyptian courtyard afterwards for a big group picture.

Our final film of the afternoon was the musical comedy DOUBLE OR NOTHING (Paramount, 1937) starring Bing Crosby and Mary Carlisle. Per a wealthy man's will four honest strangers (Bing along with Martha Raye, Andy Devine, and William Frawley) have the chance to inherit a lot of money if they can take $5000 and double it in 30 days. But the deceased man's family tries to sabotage the group's plan so that they can win the money instead. Carlisle is the daughter caught in the middle and falling in love with Bing.

After the film everyone rushed back to the hotel to get ready for the cocktail reception and banquet.

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