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Screening at Cinecon 53

Revised Aug 10, 2017

Cinecon is highly regarded among film fans for screening the rare and unusual films of the silent and early sound era—films that seldom get seen on a big screen. Cinecon combs the major film archives and Hollywood studio vaults to select often forgotten gems that deserve a fresh look and reappraisal. At Cinecon there is something for everyone—comedy, drama, musicals, Westerns. We show the latest restorations—and some one-of-a-kind rarities.

All films will be shown at Grauman's Egyptian Theater at 6712 Hollywood Boulevard, most in 35mm. Silent films feature live musical accompaniment. In addition to our films we will also feature several Special Programs. For a full list of films with screening times please check out our schedule page.

Here are some of the titles to be screened at Cinecon 53. More films will be added as they are cleared. For the most current film information visit our facebook page.     Film notes by Tobin Larson.

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STEAMBOAT BILL, JR. (1928, Buster Keaton Productions)
This year Cinecon will be starting in style with an opening night reception followed by a screening of this classic silent film comedy, starring Buster Keaton in the last movie he made as an independent producer. Making this screening all the more special, it will feature a period score compiled and adapted by composer/conductor Scott Lasky, from original silent era orchestral film cues, and performed live by the Famous Players Orchestra under maestro Lasky’s baton.

After the film actor Norman Lloyd with be on hand to talk about his friendship with Buster and about his own long career in acting.

In case you haven’t seen this film before: Buster is the wimpy son of burly steamboat Captain William Canning (Ernest Torrence) whose business is threatened by J.J. King and his new paddle wheeler. When Junior meets and falls in love with the rival’s daughter, Kitty King, sparks fly. When a hurricane lands in River Junction this film features some of Buster’s most famous stunts, including his most well-known stunt when the front of a house collapses around the star. Not to be missed!

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SPECIAL NITRATE PROGRAM:
UNTAMED
(1940, Paramount)
A beautiful Technicolor NITRATE print! This backwoods potboiler is a lot of fun, and great to look at. It is supposedly based on the novel “Mantrap” by Nobel Prize-winning author Sinclair Lewis, but the story goes that when Lewis saw the film he didn’t recognize it. No wonder: In the Canadian North village of Lost Lake, vacationing Doctor Bill Crawford (Ray Milland), falls in love with Alverna (Patricia Morison), the married wife of the town’s hunting guide (Akim Tamiroff). The doctor takes over a delicate operation when the local doctor dies in the middle of it. Then he struggles through a raging blizzard in search of a special serum needed to stop an epidemic that has hit the town. In the novel the protagonist is New York lawyer Ralph Prescott in Canada on a hunting trip. Ah, Hollywood! With a fine supporting cast including Jane Darwell, Esther Dale, William Frawley and Darryl Hickman among others. Patricia Morison will be our in person guest and will participate in a Q & A after the film.

Besides Untamed the nitrate program will feature the shorts Autobuyography (1934) and Speed in the Gay '90s (1932) plus the Bugs Bunny cartoon Hare Ribbin' (1944) to read more about this show visit the Special Programs page.

Nitrate screenings made possible through support of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, Turner Classic Movies, and The Film Foundation in partnership with the American Cinematheque and the Academy Film Archive.

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THE BLACK ROOM (1935, Columbia)
In a recent poll – which I just made up – we find that most Cinecon attendees became film buffs by watching b/w genre films on television, back in the days when television would show b/w. Some of the movies they watched were sci-fi or horror movies which played late weekend nights on local stations. We’ve decided to honor these “Creature Features” by showing this terrific little film. And happily we’ll be showing it without commercials every ten minutes and without annoying “humorous” comments by a local ghoulish host.

Horror icon Boris Karloff plays dual roles in this gothic film set in the early 19th century in an Eastern European monarchy. He plays twins, one brother good, the other brother evil (of course) born into royalty. Gregor, the evil one, is born first and thus becomes a Baron. Anton, the kindly brother is born a few minutes later and so inherits nothing. An ancient family prophecy states that the younger twin will kill his older brother. But Gregor murders his younger brother and hides his body by throwing it into a pit in the castle’s secret torture chamber whose onyx walls give it the name The Black Room. With Anton dead, how can the prophecy come true? With Marian Marsh as the beautiful Thea, whom Gregor lusts after in full Richard III fashion. Karloff’s fans, such as myself, consider this one of his best films. You won’t want to miss it!

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THE ACCUSING FINGER (1936, Paramount)
Actor Paul Kelly – in a rare leading role – plays a Deputy District Attorney, “Hot seat” Goodwin, who is out for wins, not for justice. He’s proud of his 100% conviction record, not caring if the accused is actually guilty or not. He soon finds himself in the hot seat himself when his estranged wife is found shot and murdered and all the evidence points to him. Sent to death row, he runs into the men he sent there! Interestingly, earlier in his life, actor Kelly spent two years in San Quentin for manslaughter after killing another actor in a fist fight. And yes, it was over a woman. Will these guys never learn? Cinecon hopes that the co-star in this film, actress Marsha Hunt, will once again grace us with a visit when we show this crime melodrama. Last year we had the honor of presenting Miss Hunt the 1st Cinecon Legacy award.

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SHARK MONROE (1918, Artcraft/Wm. S. Hart Productions)
One of 10 films William S. Hart starred in during the year of 1918, he also directed this adventure story. It was produced by Thomas H. Ince. In a fairly rare non-western role Hart plays hard-nosed “Shark” Monroe, Captain of the 3-masted schooner, The Indiana. Along with his side-kick “Onion” McNab, he agrees to transport lovely Marjorie Hilton (Katherine McDonald), and her alcoholic brother Webster, to the gold-rush Klondike. Once in Skagway Marjorie falls in with Big Baxter (Joseph Singleton) and agrees to marry him, not knowing that he’s a white-slave trader and that the wedding is a ruse. Soon it’s up to “Shark” to save her neck!

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THE BRAT (1931, Fox)
From a 1917 stage play written by Maude Fulton and probably inspired by George Bernard Shaw’s “Pygmalion,” this comedy was an early sound film for Director John Ford. In it a novelist (Alan Dinehart) is looking to find a subject for his next book when he comes upon an orphan (Sally O’Neil) who is appearing before a judge at a downtown night court, charged with stealing food. He pays her fine and brings her back to his family’s mansion so he can study her. She soon turns his dysfunctional family around by dispensing the wisdom she has learned living on the street.

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POWER OF THE PRESS (1943, Columbia)
From a story written by former newspaper reporter and future cult film director, Sam Fuller, and directed by Lew Landers, this film has an amazing cast of Cinecon favorites: Guy Kibbee, Lee Tracy, Otto Kruger, Victor Jory, Don Beddoe, Gloria Dickson and an unbilled Larry Parks. A corrupt newspaper publisher is committing wartime treason against the U.S. for his own personal gain. To cover up his crimes he has his partner assassinated. Then he plays up the murder in his paper to boost circulation. Terrific!

BTW Sam Fuller, with the help of his wife Christa, wrote the best autobiography I’ve ever read: “A Third Face.” And not just show business autobiography either, but best, period. In it he tells of graduating from being a child newsboy selling papers on the street to being a crime reporter while still a teenager. He would sleep in class because he was up all night covering murders and other crimes. Highly recommended!

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ANYTHING GOES (1936, Paramount)
This early film version of the musical was produced only two years after the opening of the Broadway show. It’s very close, plot wise, to the original, but shockingly, all but four of the show’s classic Cole Porter songs were jettisoned for new songs written by Hollywood songsmiths. Of course at that time Porter was just a working songwriter and not the legend he is now. And it was a regular business practice in the ‘30s when the studios owned their own music publishing companies. Still, you can’t miss when you have Ethel Merman reprising her role of Reno Sweeney from Broadway. And reading the contemporary reviews from the time, she’s as great here as she was on stage. Then you have Bing Crosby crooning the part of the juvenile lead – something that was not as appreciated by the critics at the time, but he is himself now a legend. Especially with the Cinecon audience. And this version of the musical is rare. The words, “Nobody’s seen this!” were uttered many times during our Cinecon film planning meetings.

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A SALUTE TO UNIVERSAL 1940s B-PICTURES
Fast, slick and enormously entertaining, these quickies demonstrated factory efficiency at peak form during the war years. Few are on DVD, many were never even released to TV, but all await rediscovery. So grab an extra-large popcorn and enjoy this triple-dip of pure pleasure:
NORTH TO THE KLONDIKE (1942) stars Broderick Crawford, Andy Devine, Evelyn Ankers, Lon Chaney and many more in this action-packed tale of murder and intrigue in the frozen north.
In LA CONGA NIGHTS (1940), Hugh Herbert pulls a Guinness by playing eight roles, mainly a dopey millionaire who just lo-o-oves the Rhumba. Constance Moore and Dennis O’Keefe co-star.
And RIDERS OF THE SANTA FE (1944) is an unusually clever western in which Rod Cameron arrives in a town so corrupt they’ve elected goofball Fuzzy Knight mayor because they think he’s too stupid to see all the crimes being committed right in front of his face.

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NO MORE WOMEN (1934, Paramount)
For years after their success in WHAT PRICE GLORY?(1927), Edmund Lowe and Victor McLaglen were cast against each other as battling rivals. That’s what happens in this lusty pre-code sea adventure. Here they play rival salvage boat captains. During the day they fight over the title of most successful salvage diver. At night they fight over women. Finally they both declare, “No more women!” Then McLaglen learns that Sally Blaine has inherited his ship, and she moves on board. Both men are instantly smitten. Lots of undersea photography and deep sea diving action

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SPRING TONIC (1935, Fox)
Based on the stage play “Man-Eating Tiger” by Ben Hecht, this is a fast moving, 58 minute, screwball comedy. When big-city bride Claire Trevor gets cold feet the night before her wedding she escapes into the country. There, she runs into moonshiners, local crazy people and a wild animal circus with an escaped tiger. Directed by veteran comedy director Clyde Bruckman (MAN ON THE FLYING TRAPEZE (1935)), with a stand-out cast of delightful character actors. With Claire Trevor, Lew Ayres, Zasu Pitts, Jack Haley, Sig Rumann, Walter King, Walter Brennen, George Chandler, and many more.

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WOMAN CHASES MAN (1937, Samuel Goldwyn Co.)
Millionaire Kenneth Nolan (Joel McCrea) is sensible and careful with his money, but seemingly everyone else is trying to con him out of it. That includes architect Virginia Travis (the marvelous Miriam Hopkins) and his own father B.J. Nolan (Charles Winninger) who has lost all of his own money investing it in crackpot schemes and inventions. John Blystone, veteran director of Laurel and Hardy and Buster Keaton features, directed this romantic screwball comedy.

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THE PERFECT WOMAN (1920, First National)
Anita Loos (GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES) wrote the script for this silent romantic comedy. Restored by The Academy Film Archive in 2016, Constance Talmadge plays a vamp with designs on a wealthy man. With Charles Meredith. And Ned Sparks(!) as an anarchist.

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THE PRESIDENT VANISHES (1934, Paramount)
Topical subject, eh? Directed by William Wellman, this political thriller was based on a novel written by Rex Stout, creator of Nero Wolfe. The publishers first credited the book to “Anonymous” in an attempt to pique the interest of the reading public. In the film, a group of the industrial military complex backs a fascist entity called the Gray Shirts in an attempt to force the U.S. into a war in Europe. To stop them, the President, an isolationist, fakes his own kidnapping. Starring Arthur Bryon as the President and Edward Arnold as the Secretary of War. With Paul Kelly, Peggy Conklin and Andy Devine. When asked what he thought about the movie Rex Stout said, “I hate like hell to admit it, but it was better than the book, I think.” The movie was condemned by the Catholic National Legion of Decency as “Immoral” and was one of the films that lead directly to the enforcement of The Motion Picture Production Code.

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WOMAN-WISE (1937, Fox)
Allen Dwan directed this light-hearted, action-packed sports drama. Newspaper Sports Editor of the Evening Globe, Tracey Browne (Michael Whalen), is saddled with looking after the alcoholic, trouble-prone son of the newspaper’s owner (Thomas Beck). Then he discovers that a crooked boxing promoter, along with the sports editor of a rival paper, The Dispatch, is scamming the sport by bringing shaky, over-the-hill boxers back into the ring. To prove it, Tracey agrees to fight their newest “discovery,” Duke Fuller, and knocks him out. Then he meets Duke’s daughter Alice Fuller (Rochelle Hudson) and falls for her. But she seems to be falling for the paper owner’s son…

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SENSATION SEEKERS (1927, Universal)
This 1927 silent feature is one of the last films directed by Hollywood’s pioneering female auteur, Lois Weber. In it, beautiful one-time Ziegfeld girl Billie Dove plays “Egypt,” the free-spirited daughter of neglectful parents in a Long Island town where gossip rules. Arrested in a raid at a road house, she is rescued by the young Reverend Lodge. There’s an instant attraction between the two young people. Egypt’s reputation causes the local tongues to wag and the minister’s career is in jeopardy. The church-goers send for the Bishop! The movie’s ending features a ship wreck which was considered a sensation at the time and is still quite spectacular! Don’t miss this feature!

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THE TEXAS RANGERS (1936, Paramount)
Fred MacMurray, Jack Oakie, and Lloyd Nolan (Wow. Watta great cast!) are bandits who split up and ride in different directions to avoid getting captured. MacMurray and Oakie, needing easy money, meet back up and join the Texas Rangers. They figure that while pulling in a paycheck, they can get inside information that will make their next robberies easier and more profitable. But after saving lives during an Indian attack, they become heroes. And then the Major’s daughter (Jean Parker) sets her sights on ol’ Fred. The Code of the Rangers slowly takes over their consciousness. Then they are given the assignment to hunt down and capture the “Polka-Dot” Bandit, who happens to be their old pal Nolan. King Vidor directs.

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ALL-AMERICAN SWEETHEART (1937, Columbia)
The Four Esquires sing as gangsters attempt to take over an inter-collegiate rowing regatta. The varsity oarsmen fight back in this music filled, action-packed college drama directed by Lambert Hillyer. Patricia Farr stars as the sweetheart in question, with Scott Kolk and Gene Morgan. Look for Cinecon faves Don “Red” Barry, Vernon Dent and Bud Jamison in small rolls.

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SING AND BE HAPPY (1937, Fox)
In this 64-minute Fox B-musical Tony Martin is happy-go-lucky singer Buzz Mason whose father is an Advertising Executive and owner of the Mason Agency. His girlfriend Ann Lane (Leah Ray) works as a designer for her father’s rival advertising agency down the hall. His romantic rival for Ann’s hand, Allen Howard (Allen “Rocky” Lane,) also works for the Lane Agency, but secretly works for Mason. They all compete to land the same advertising campaigns; for the Posini hosiery company and the Henty Pickle Co. Joan Davis and Chick Chandler play a pair of song writers disguised as window washers trying to break (pun intended) into the business.

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THE SALVATION HUNTERS (1925, United Artists)
Shot on a miniscule budget by an unknown director, this filmed allegory so impressed Mary Pickford and Charlie Chaplin that they released it through their own studio, United Artists. And Chaplin admired it so much that he invited the director to Hollywood to work alongside him on a new project. The director “grew up to be” Joseph Von Sternberg and this was his first movie. This was a very unusual movie for its time, filled with symbolism, with dark, moody and gritty cinematography and ugly backgrounds. The actors play archetypes rather than rounded, realistic characters. They are “The Boy,” “The Girl,” “The Brute,” “The Gentleman,” etc. Some historians consider this America’s first independent film.

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MURDER AMONG FRIENDS (1941, Fox)
This comic mystery was written by John Larkin, who wrote many of the best of the Charlie Chan movies including CHARLIE CHAN AT TREASURE ISLAND (1939) and CHARLIE CHAN AT THE WAX MUSEUM (1940). Laughs and murder combine when Mary Lou (Marjorie Weaver), a law office clerk, thinks she has stumbled onto a murder conspiracy when she learns that half of a group of former college friends have dropped dead recently, and that they were all about to inherit the proceeds of a tontine, $225.000 worth. She takes her suspicions to Dr. Thomas Wilson (John Hubbard) whose father was one of the college friends and once she convinces him that she’s not altogether crazy they start searching for, and saving, the surviving members of the group. The poster’s tagline was LAUGHTER AND THRILLS! KISSES BETWEEN KILLINGS!

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THE TEXAS STREAK (1926, Universal)
Hoot Gibson plays a Hollywood cowboy actor in this silent western. Riding back to Hollywood after a film shoot he is bucked off the back of a prop truck. What happens next, well, you'll have to see to find out.

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NOW I’LL TELL (1934, Fox)
In this crime drama Spencer Tracy plays a Jewish, New York gambler and racketeer, Murray Golden, a character loosely based on the real Arnold Rothstein, who was nicknamed “The Brain.” Rothstein orchestrated the infamous “Black Sox” World Series scandal in 1919, and was fictionalized in “The Great Gatsby.” The story in this film is told from the perspective of his wife Virginia (Helen Twelvetrees). (The studio purchased her autobiography for this film). She is often wronged by him, but loves him nonetheless. Also starring Alice Faye, and with an appearance by that up-and-coming actress, 6-year-old Shirley Temple.

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BELL BOY 13 (1923, Thomas Ince, Co.)
A young man (Douglas MacLean), about to inherit his family’s fortune, dreams of marriage to his actress girlfriend (Margaret Loomis). His father (John Seppling) disapproves and pulls his son’s funding and threatens to disinherit him. The boy leaves home and gets a job working as a bellboy in a local hotel. Then, taking a cue from the recent Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, he leads his co-workers in a strike. William Seiter, Director of Laurel and Hardy’s SONS OF THE DESERT directed this silent comedy.

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BOWERY TO BROADWAY (1944, Universal)
Universal designed this musical comedy as a showcase for Maria Montez, but she ended up with a fairly small role because this movie is jam-packed to the gills with other stars. Jack Oakie and Donald Cook are rival Irish-American theatre impresarios during the Gay 90’s, each trying to top the other. All this is an excuse to showcase a multitude of musical numbers and comedy skits. Guest stars include- among others - Susanna Foster, Turhan Bey, Ann Blyth, Frank McHugh, Leo Carillo, Andy Devine, Thomas Gomez, Evelyn Ankers, Donald O’Connor, Peggy Ryan, Mantan Moreland, Ben Carter, and more!

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WHEN DAWN CAME (1920, Hugh E. Dierker Photo Drama Prod.)
The “dawn”- referred to in this title- is the restored sight given to blind girl Mary Harrison (played by the lovely Colleen Moore) by the hero who has fallen in love with her. “A soul-stirring story of human appeal!” and “The Story of Stories!” the original poster for this silent drama declared.

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CAPTAIN BLOOD (1924, Vitagraph)
As a young man I went through a phase when I read everything I could find written by Italian blood-and-thunder author Rafael Sabatini: “Captain Blood,” “The Return of Captain Blood,” “Scaramouche,” “The Sea Hawk” and my personal favorite of his novels “Master-at-Arms,” the only one of those books not turned into a movie. Of course the sound film version of CAPTAIN BLOOD (1935) made Errol Flynn a star. And it’s no surprise. The book and the film are both action-packed. Many of the stories from Sabatini’s books became classic movies after sound came to Hollywood. But a good story is a good story and quite a few of them were also made earlier as silent films, including this one which, lost for years, has been reconstructed by The Library of Congress.

When Dr. Peter Blood - following the physician’s oath - operates on a rebel soldier, he is arrested by the King’s men and sent into slavery in the south seas. He leads a rebellion, steals a ship, and becomes a pirate on the high seas. J. Warren Kerrigan stars as Captain Blood, a year after starring as the rugged lead in the classic silent western THE COVERED WAGON (1923). CAPTAIN BLOOD was his last film before retiring from film work. Jean Paige stars as Arabella Bishop, the woman Blood loves. She also left her acting career right after this film. And for a good reason. She married Albert Smith, her boss, and the President of Vitagraph.

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POLLY REDHEAD (1917)
World Re-Premiere! Newly preserved by Universal, this charming little comedy stars Ella Hall as a Pickford-ish waif with a toddler brother who talks her way into a maid’s job for wealthy Gertrude Astor and George Webb and naturally turns the household around. Directed by Jack Conway, with a fun turn by Louise Emmons as a tipsy housekeeper.

As always films are listed here pending final clearance and are subject to change.

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