We’re heading into the final stretch, guys and gals. So many plans and schedules have already been posted (mine is forthcoming, I swear)! The slow trickle of #TCMFF pals into my Hollywood hometown and everyone’s excitement is (as usual) giving me such joy. I’m just giddy with Classic Film Craziness!
So aside from the Print Resource Guide that I posted a few days back, I have something else very special to add to my “preservation and restoration stream.” As one of the TCMFF Social Producers, my focus is to increase knowledge about preservation, restoration & film archiving through social media platforms. As a working archivist, I wish to showcase why I truly believe that TCMFF is one of the strongest film festival venues dedicated to these critical procedures.
One of my favorite parts from TCMFF 2015 – an entire booth dedicated to cinephilia and why we, as film lovers, “heart movies”! So great!
For this blog, I got a wonderful and in-depthpre-TCMFF interviewfrom the knowledgeable Bob Furmanek of the 3D Film Archive about the restoration of GOG (Herbert L. Strock, 1954), which will be playing as the midnight show on Saturday night, April 30th at the festival! Bob will be there in person with his restoration colleague Greg Kintz, so that will be extra cool!!
Hope all of you enjoy this interview and perhaps learn a bit more about 3D preservation!
1) Can you give a short history on your relationship to this film and why it’s such a unique opportunity for TCMFF fans to be seeing it this year?
When I was living in Los Angeles and working for Jerry Lewis in the mid-1980’s, I spent a lot of time doing work in the old Technicolor building in Hollywood. Director Herbert L. Strock was still active at the time and maintained an office on the first floor. I used to visit with him quite often and naturally, we discussed GOG. At that time, it was lost in 3-D (the studio only had material on the right side) and he lamented the fact that nobody would ever see it again. For that reason, I made it a top priority to try to find the missing left side.
I eventually discovered the lost 35mm left side print in 2001 and carefully matched it to a new 35mm right side print from MGM. We screened the dual-35mm polarized 3-D prints in 2003 at the World 3-D Film Expo at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood. Mr. Strock got to see it again with a sold-out audience of 700 fans and it was a wonderful moment. Sadly, he passed away in 2005.
We spent five tedious months restoring the film last year for 3-D Blu-ray release through Kino-Lorber. Our new digital master has extensive color restoration and shot by shot 3-D alignment and left/right panel-matching. As a result, the audience at TCMFF will be seeing GOG in a better presentation than was technically possible in 1954. Mr. Strock would have loved it!
TRULY exquisite examples of the restored L/R eye work can be found by clicking on this picture. It will take you to the AMAZING “before & afters”!
2) You head up the 3D Archive. Why is it important to have a 3D Archive? Isn’t 3D still coming out?
Nearly every 3-D feature from the first forty years of stereoscopic cinema (1922 – 1962) was photographed and printed on dual-strips of 35mm film with one print representing the left side and the other representing the right. They were projected theatrically on two 35mm machines in precise synchronization. Polaroid filters in each projection port – and the corresponding polarized glasses worn by the audience – insured that each eye only saw the intended side in order to create a 3-D image. If either the left or right elements are missing, you have lost the film in 3-D. Since the early 1980’s, the Archive has worked very hard to ensure that most of them survive.
There were fifty Golden Age (1952-1955) domestic 3-D features and thankfully, forty-eight survive in their complete stereoscopic versions. The only lost 3-D features from that period are TOP BANANA with Phil Silvers and one half of SOUTHWEST PASSAGE with Rod Cameron.
A lobby card for Southwest Passage (Ray Nazarro, 1954) a partially lost 3-D film…
We are doing our very best to get as many released onto 3-D Blu-ray as possible so that people can see these films as they were originally intended. It’s been quite an obstacle and uphill battle securing licenses from the copyright holders but we don’t give up easily.
3) What is the most difficult thing about restoring a 3D film? What was the most difficult part of restoring GOG?
Right out of the gate, the workload is doubled and that presents many challenges with respect to time and financial resources. You basically have to restore the film twice. The most challenging aspect is ensuring that both left/right sides are perfectly aligned and panel-matched in order to present the best possible viewing experience. That means going through the film and making adjustments on every single shot. It’s very time-consuming and labor intensive but it’s absolutely crucial that both the left and right sides are matched.
On the average, we can restore a 3-D feature in three months: GOG took five. It was an enormous challenge because the left side was completely faded with no yellow or cyan information whatsoever. In addition, every single shot in the film required up to seven levels of correction including color restoration, left/right panel matching, flicker reduction, image stabilization, detail extraction from the superior right side element, stereoscopic vertical alignment and dirt/damage clean-up. Greg Kintz has literally worked a restoration miracle in bringing this 3-D gem back to life.
4) GOG is a Eastman color film, a stock that is known to fade if not cared for correctly. Can you talk a little bit about the process of the color restoration and why color restoration and 3D film preservation might be especially challenging (if it is)?
GOG had a rather complicated history so far as lab work and processing. It was filmed on Eastman color negative 5248 (25 ASA tungsten) and processed by the Color Corporation of America laboratory – formerly SuperCinecolor/Cinecolor – in Burbank. By time it was edited and ready for theatrical release in May 1954, the lab was in financial trouble and had been sold to Benjamin Smith and Associates, owners of the Houston Fearless Corp. As a result, the 35mm release prints of GOG were made by Pathé Laboratories in Hollywood. While some early Eastman color negative stock holds up pretty well if it has been stored properly, the 1954 Pathé color release prints were already faded within a few years after it was released.
Thankfully, the right side element used in the restoration (a 35mm inter-positive struck from the original camera negative) still had quite a bit of color. With a little finesse, we were able to tweak it digitally to bring back its original palette. The biggest challenge was then matching the faded left side with the right.
5) Without any spoilers, can you give us a scene to look for that was *especially* challenging in the process but your team thinks came out particularly well?
To be honest, there wasn’t one particular scene that was more difficult than others. The entire film was an incredible challenge! When Greg Kintz was doing his work and sending me 3-D Blu-ray test discs, I was constantly amazed at the restoration and how the image kept improving with each new level of correction. Additional dirt and damage clean-up was then done by Thad Komorowski and that helped immensely.
To give you an idea of what we achieved on a shoestring budget, Warner Bros. spent close to $300K restoring HOUSE OF WAX. We brought in the 3-D and color restoration of GOG for $10K.
After suffering through flat, black and white 16mm open-matte full-frame transfers on TV for decades, I never expected GOG to look as good as it does today. We’re very proud of the final result in bringing this lost 3-D classic back to life.
6) What are you particularly looking forward to seeing at the TCMFF?
Boy, that’s a tough question. The entire schedule is wonderful and there are many cinematic treasures to be enjoyed.
For me personally, the new restoration from the 35mm nitrate camera negative of FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLFMAN (Roy William Neill, 1943) is going to be quite a treat. That’s been a favorite of mine since I was a young Monster Kid in the 1960’s and watched New York TV’s Chiller Theater on Saturday nights. I even had the three-minute Castle Films 8mm fifty-foot home movie edition. It’s going to be great fun seeing it fully restored on the big screen!
Thanks again so much, Bob!!! Can’t wait for this screening!
I have been since last year when TCMFF2015 ended. I live for this film festival. My experience has shown me that TCMFF is one of the most organized and best staffed film festivals that I have ever attended and the content is truly the most dynamic and rare. For a film archivist and preservationist to say this is no small feat.
The films are sometimes familiar, many times obscure, always challenging and enjoyable. The festival welcomes audience members from all over the world and gives them access to films that they would not normally be able to see, especially not in the environment that they were designed to be seen in: a theatrical setting. This annually growing community of passionate film-goers and classic film fans that TCM has created is what I have termed “Classic Film Summer Camp.” I don’t think I’ve ever had such a great time waiting in line for a film as I have at TCMFF. I’ve met people from everywhere and learned about so many different lives, experiences and classic film star fandoms. Y’all can have Christmas- this is MY most wonderful time of the year!
For the second year in a row I have been asked to be a member of the wonderful TCMFF Social Producers’ Team. As Social Producers, we are a group of fabulous and intelligent classic film advocates and cineastes working with the TCMFF social media team to advance the goals of the festival and make it more enjoyable for everyone involved! Each of us has our own “theme” or line of “promotion” and we can be found under the hashtags #TCMFF and #TCMFFSP. Whether or not you are in attendance, you want to follow these hashtags! These folks are some heavy hitters!
So my theme this year? Well, nothing’s changed. Leopard and spots and all. I’ll be Tweeting, Tumblring, Instagramming on my most beloved subjects: film archiving, preservation and restoration.
So, for my first intro post, I have created a resource for everyone who may be currently planning their TCMFF schedules. I designed a spreadsheet that has cataloged the 35mm prints, DCPs, noted the restoration and preservations, and did my best to signify notes on World Premiere or North American Premiere, etc.
OF NOTE: the TCMFF schedule, while extremely reliable, is always subject to change. As a preservationist, projectionist and film series programmer myself, I can tell you that there are innumerable variables that can cause variations in guests, film format or program itself. This is just your garden variety disclaimer, folks, but it has to be said. You know it does. And since you’re reading this blog, I’m likely preaching to the choir, but it’s a necessary statement. Additionally, if I have not written it here, that does not mean it is NOT a premiere/restoration/etc. I have based this upon as much information as I could get. If there is something in need of correction, please contact me immediately! I would be pleased as punch to change it!
So let’s get down to business, shall we?
PART I: RESOURCES & PLANNING
So. Now that the disclaimers have been said, here is your 2016 TCMFF Format & Preservation Resource guide. Get to scheduling!
It’s alphabetical, and if anyone has any questions or problems reading it (or understanding the manner in which it has been broken down) please let me know. I will actively pay attention to any and all comments as they come in, and will be ABSOLUTELY ready to alter something if needs be.
If you would rather have it in a link form rather than embedded, go here.
It is critical for attendees to have this kind of format map. It may have taken some time to put together, but I know how important this resource is. Being able to access a full report of what has been restored, what has been preserved, what has been digitally reconstructed and how to identify each of these pieces in order to put together the fabulous puzzle that will eventually be your TCMFF experience is just invaluable.
Before moving into Part II, I briefly mention a remark about formats and preservation. Please consider the curatorial dedication and labor that has gone into the maintenance of all the films that you will watch this festival season, no matter what format they are in. Whatever your sensibilities or thoughts about format (analogue/digital, etc), every person with whom I have personally come into contact in my archival career who is involved in classic film preservation takes their job very seriously. Whether moving towards the creation of a Digital Cinema Package or striking a new 35mm print, my classic film archival colleagues work really hard to make sure that these materials see another generation and that another generation sees them. So let us be certain that if we downplay a digital format in favor of analogue, we do not forget that the digitization and digital work had to have an incredible amount of analogue preparation work done to it first. There are no classic films that were “born digitally” and thus you cannot have digital without analogue attention. Let us not forget that aspect of the workflow.
PART II: DATA BREAKDOWN
I compiled some data based upon what we have this year, print-wise. So if you want to get nerdy with me, here’s what we have…
From a preservation standpoint, I noted that the vast amount of 35mm was made up of rare works and, quite simply, the films that rarely make it out of the vaults. These films are the very reason that I continually attend TCMFF, religiously watch the channel until stupid o’clock in the morning (just…one…more…movie….), and truly appreciate educated colleagues like Will McKinley‘s continued updates on TCM as we move forward into various streaming and cable variations.
These are the films that caused me to become a preservationist. But we can get back to that.
The analytics – 33% of the films appearing at TCMFF this year will be shown in 35mm. These are films like One Potato, Two Potato (Larry Peerce, 1964) a film about interracial marriage that came out BEFORE the more socially palatable Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? (Stanley Kramer, 1967). Or a bewilderingly unheard-of feature like Double Harness (John Cromwell, 1933), a pre-code film that has been, quite literally, sitting in a vault until TCM bought the rights to it in 2006. These films catalyzed my film archival career and have subsequently reignited my film passion every year at the TCMFF. They are the “lost” or “forgotten” children of classic cinema.
While it’s beyond incredible to watch an old favorite on the big screen with a crowd, I would highly recommend that folks try to make it to at least ONE “rare pick” at TCMFF. Try the Film Noir Foundation/UCLA Film & Television Archive Restoration of Repeat Performance (Alfred L. Werker, 1947) or the rarely screened Bulldog Drummond Strikes Back (Roy Del Ruth, 1934). This is your opportunity!
So here are my “5 Points to Consider When Making Your TCMFF Schedule and Beyond.”
Restoration costs a GREAT deal of money. A LOT. Many grants, volunteer labor and insane hard work is involved just to get to the point of being able to approach the physical restoration. This relates to 35mm *and* DCP. Love your restoration folks and the restorations!
Lesser known films are riskier and have less potential for “return investment” in many people’s eyes. When you get the opportunity to investigate rare works at TCMFF or at a home repertory theater, you can be part of a new kind of “return investment.”
Supporting restorations & preservations (in 35mm *and* DCP) and making your voice heard through social media & online makes a difference. Boutique labels do exist for DVD/Blu distribution and we do have wonderful companies like Warner Archives, Flicker Alley and others who make it a mission to serve our community.
TCM (and TCMFF) serves the classic film community in a positive way by their continual & consistent showcasing of “forgotten films” or unusual materials — there is the possibility that, with more exposure, viewing more rarities on 35mm may lead to more preservation and restoration!
TCM also showcases incredible panels like the Academy Home Movies presentation (something that I will be livetweeting for the second year in a row) with the wonderful Lynne Kirste and Randy Haberkamp. What was previously a closed circuit of “35mm features” is now open to different formats and narratives (Super8, 8mm, 16mm – all transferred of course, but that IS what we get to see). If you have not attended this panel, DO IT. It is one of my favorite parts of TCMFF every year.
PART III: SAY HELLO!!! I’D LOVE TO MEET YOU! 🙂
When you see me walking around during #TCMFF, I will have my badge on and it will look like this:
Look for the blue and burgundy 16mm reels and the red circled SP on the badge.
My social media platforms that you can follow are…
And once again, check out the hashtags this year – #TCMFF, #TCMFFSP and follow @tcm on Twitter!
I will be returning with another post soon letting you know what my schedule will possibly be so that you can stalk…er…find me during TCMFF if you wish. But for now, enjoy!
In January of 2011, I saw 2 films that changed the way that I think about masculinity and cinema: ELECTRA GLIDE IN BLUE (James William Guercio, 1973) & SCARECROW (Jerry Schatzberg, 1973).
Really, they became two of my favorite films in life. But that is a whole other story.
Looking back, my impetus to attend stemmed from two things: my friend Cathie’s love of the EGIB soundtrack (which we played all the time in the car) and my purchase of the VHS for Jerry Schatzberg’s SCARECROW when I was working at Amoeba in the early ’00s. I remember the cover –
And I remember thinking: Hackman and Pacino did a movie together?? What???
So that story ends in a rather anti-climactic manner. I never watched the VHS. In fact, I no longer have the damn thing.
But I’m so glad. You can only lose your Movie Virginity for a film once and theatrically is the best way to do it.
This is the second time I’ve written on this screening. It had a heavy impact on me.
The first time, I wrote about ELECTRA GLIDE IN BLUEfor the film noir blogathon. This night was one of the best film memories/screenings of my life. And considering how many movies I’ve seen….THAT’S saying something.
Retracing my steps to 5 years ago. I had originally had plans for the night but they fell through so I did what any normal, red-blooded, cinematically-charged girl would do: I biked over to the LA County Museum of Art and attended the series that I had (sadly) missed most of, entitled “True Grit: The Golden Age of Road Movies.” I had no idea that there was a guest that night. I was there to see these rare films that never screen. And I was really excited about SCARECROW. I knew nothing about it- was it a comedy? Drama? Thriller? Somewhere in between? I had intentionally done no exhaustive research on it because I wanted to go in fresh. To be fair, even now it is rare to find people who are that familiar with the film, even though I feel it is top quality, desert-island material.
My time-memory is not perfect, but considering that the photo I took of my ticket says the double-feature began at 5:00pm, I think that it would make sense that our man Vilmos took the stage post-double feature.
I could lie and say that I was highly educated on the man’s career. But why? I wasn’t. It was more educational and beautiful to be introduced to him in this manner.
It would be absolutely fair, however, to say that yours truly had a decent idea of who he was. While I couldn’t name any film titles off the top of my head, I had seen many by that time. Mostly, I knew that there was this wonderful bearded signatory of the cinematographic community being welcomed gloriously to the stage, and…I just wanted to give him a hug. He beamed from ear to ear and I’m still not sure if I breathed during the Q&A or just smiled dumbly like I was high on drugs. Vilmos was infectious!!
He laughed and enjoyed the questions and discussion, thought it was funny that people were in such awe of his work. He shrugged so many times. “We just did it,” was his approach. A very classical no-nonsense approach.
He smiled, shook his head, told stories. He thought the whole thing was a gas.
All the things that he spoke about that night, I now treasure- as a professional in the film industry, as an archivist, preservationist, historian and film lover.
He spoke about coming to this country and working with Lazslo Kovacs, and how their relationship and Hungarian”ness” really added a new flavor to what was going on in film at the time.
He even spoke about working on THE SADIST (James Landis, 1963) a little bit, where he was billed as William Zsigmond. This was pretty thrilling to me because I really love this film.
Vilmos was allowed to talk, mostly uninterrupted, about certain technical and narrative aspects of SCARECROW that he was involved in.
The film relied quite a bit on improvisation (not always a cinematographer’s friend) and yet Zsigmond rolled with it, going so far as to call this work one of the “better of my films.” Even though he admitted that it was quite dark- content-wise and visually, matching many European films at the time as far as lighting went.
An audience member asked about an opening scene in which there were tumbleweeds rolling by as Pacino and Hackman stand at opposite sides of the road. Was this planned out? Did they choreograph the tumbleweeds? Vilmos just laughed. “They were tumbleweeds! They were around. They do what those things do.” No, Virginia, there were no tumbleweed wranglers.
Vilmos Zsigmond spoke about the way the film was shot and their “cinemobile.” He said it was dreadfully hot inside the car and while it was certainly a communal experience, it was a learning opportunity and tough.
I felt like I was going to film school just listening to him reminisce. But it wasn’t in a sad-nostalgia way or “tough-guy-walk-up-the-hill-in-the-snow” way. He treated the audience as though we were friends.
[Scarecrow] was a real road movie, made on a very low-budget, $800,000. We went to Bakersfield, we had to shoot in sequence. We were on the road. We sent someone ahead to find locations. There were no sets in the film. We used motel rooms and bars. We had a cinemobile [bus] that held everything, actors, equipment, crew. We had unusual crew, the smallest I ever saw, camera, gaffer, key grip, sound man, dolly man, boom operator. Everyone was helping; the driver of the cinemobile was pulling cables. We were traveling every day. At the beginning, in L.A., we went through the script and agreed on what we were doing. We settled in Denver, but we had no time to rehearse. [On the road] we had no time for rehearsal.
Al Pacino and Gene Hackman in Jerry Schatzberg’s SCARECROW (1973). Courtesy Warner Bros./Jerry Schatzberg
Vilmos Zsigmond’s eyes sparkled as he spoke, he had passion in his voice and love for his art. But he was a relaxed and centered guy. I never met him one-on-one, but I met his movies. I met him that night when I saw him speak about the film that I have now had the privilege to see twice on a big screen- once at LACMA and once at the Turner Classic Film Festival (TCMFF).
When you love what you do and you live for what you do, it’s hard to keep it inside. You exude that joy and dedication. That is the only way I can adequately describe Vilmos Zsigmond. He is so inspiring in that sense. Although he has passed away, he will always be inspiring in that regard. This is a man who filmed the Hungarian Revolution in 1956, escaped his homeland, and then shot films as diverse as HORROR OF THE BLOOD MONSTERS (Al Adamson, 1970), BLOW OUT (Brian DePalma, 1981) and REAL GENIUS (Martha Coolidge, 1985).
Aside from SCARECROW (obviously), I’m a sucker for BLOW OUT (Brian DePalma, 1981), THE LONG GOODBYE (Robert Altman, 1973), and MCCABE AND MRS. MILLER (Robert Altman, 1971). I consider these films to be part of my family. I will certainly admit to playing favorites on SCARECROW and BLOW OUT, however.
Tonight I will be watching SUMMER CHILDREN (James Bruner, 1965), another film that Zsigmond was credited on as “William Zsigmond” and lit by his pal, Laslo Kovacs. I’m looking forward to it. I’ve never seen it. There is very little written on it and I may pursue this more.
Wish I could see it in a theater, but them’s the brakes.
From what I have found, this film is another interesting addition to his oeuvre. It has been labeled “neo-noir” and American New Wave and all sorts of things. I’m excited because it features Catalina Island- one of my favorite places on the planet.
I would like to do some more in-depth research on it (especially as to the actual restoration process) but my brief look came up with a reasonable synopsis.
It was thought to be a lost film (although it was finished) but elements (including original camera negatives) were found in the early 2000’s and sound elements were located in other vaults. Apparently (as it goes in a case like this, from my understanding) a restoration was completed using a combination of the best elements that they located from all of these vaults over time, and Zsigmond assisted on the creation of the final product, getting it back to some estimation of what it was to look like.
If you have Amazon Prime, you can watch this tonight as well. I’m greatly looking forward to it.
I consider myself lucky to have been so warmly gifted with his laughter and stories for one night. I am also lucky because I will be able to have his films forever. While I absolutely am not a binary “digital or film or die!” person, I will say this about Zsigmond: he knew how to use the format of film. And I hope that those working with digital instruments today will take that under consideration and experiment, perhaps, with film while it is still around because there is something different there. Not better, not worse, simply different. And it is what digital is based upon. And cinematographers like Haskell Wexler and Vilmos Zsigmond built that machine. Let us try not to hire the wrecking ball too soon, eh?
The full schedule is up and we are only a few days away.
Yes, THAT schedule. The one that we have been impatiently waiting for with bated breath since our teary goodbyes and final hugs of “see you next year” last spring.
TCM FILM FESTIVAL IS ON LIKE TRON.
Last week, just before I left my house to join my colleagues and do some work for the Film Noir Foundation, I was alerted to the fact that the full schedule was up online and mine for the perusal. Getting that alert was Hell. On. Earth. There I was, rushing out the door, pushing my cats out of the way so that I could get on public transportation and make it to the lab on time, all the while knowing that the FULL LIST of films awaited me after my work was completed. But I love what I do and get completely entranced by it, whatever the particular job may be- print consultation, database research, repairing one of my own personal 16mm prints- so I almost forgot about it for that brief sliver of the day.
Don’t let anyone ever tell you that film preservation isn’t an amazing gig. It’s the dream of a lifetime, especially working with the Film Noir Foundation. My gig with them is tops. So I got home and opened my computer. A multitude of Facebook “TCMFF 2015-what-I-am-seeing-lists” exploded after the schedule announcement. Some of them full of hard and fast absolutes, and others flexible but still completely booked-up in their calendars and planning their eating methods and what theaters they would be running back and forth from. All within less than 36 hours of the schedule being up online. My good pal (and excellent writer) Mr. Peel of Mr. Peel’s Sardine Liquor asked the reasonable question: “How can you all be so sure so fast?” The short answer for me was that I’m wasn’t. And, I’m still not. So this post, while a rumination on the schedule and a brainstorming, will also serve as a recommendation list. I am going to go through this year’s schedule selectively. I am only going to mention certain films. But I will likely mention more than I will be able to watch during the festival. And I’m going to look at them in a very particular manner. And here is why:
Along with several other worthy film fans and professionals, I have been asked by the TCM Film Festival to be part of a new program called the “Social Producers Team.” Each member of the team will be specializing in their own social media-thread or theme based on an aspect of the TCM Film Festival that they have proposed or that they are best at. For example: my theme/thread centers on film restoration, preservation, and rare films/discoveries. I made this my raison d’etre because (duh) I’m a film archivist and my aim (in life as well as at #TCMFF) is to raise more awareness, interest and understanding about film preservation.I hope to “stock up” those TCM social media channels with a better understanding and a great passion for this important part of the film world in addition to fun tidbits of specialized information that I can provide.
Due to my career specialization, my film interests and choices may seem a little “off,” even for a classic film fan. While many TCM-ites will jump at the chance to see a movie on its anniversary or a silent picture based upon a live orchestral arrangement (superfragalistically cool, no doubt), I feel that it’s actually my job to see the restorations that are programmed. And that is across the board- on every format, 35mm or DCP. And yes, sometimes that may include a more modern festival presentation like Apollo 13 (I haven’t decided on that though). This is one of the ways I am able to keep myself up to date on what my colleagues are doing, how technology is evolving and what works are being preserved and why. Watching a modern restoration and the work that has been done can assist an archivist’s work in any number of classic film preservations.
Eartha Kitten asks, “Why can’t I go to the Film Festival tooooo?”
My work as the Nancy Mysel Legacy Project Recipient at the Film Noir Foundation has allowed and given me special training and insight into the restoration and preservation processes of these films as well as a unique advantage as to the discussion of film noir and its cast of characters (both fiction and non-fiction) itself. So in the discussion of these films and recommendations, I will definitely use that training to guide (and suggest) audiences see these films. It is a huge chunk of my life.
So now that we’ve gotten all of that out-of-the-way and you, my lovely reading public, know how I’m going to be recommending and dealing with these films, let’s get on with it, shall we? I’m gonna go by the TCM Festival Schedule if you wish to open that in a separate tab and follow along, and list day by day.
OH! Before I forget! I want to give a few shout-outs to my #TCMFF homies! So my TCMFF bestie is Dennis Cozzalio and if you don’t know him, well you should. His primary writing zone is Sergio Leone & The Infield-Fly Rule but he also has a fab new column called Fear of the Velvet Curtainover at one of my favorite sites ever invented, Trailers From Hell. While he’s not part of the Social Producers Team, I always get super-stoked to get to go to the movies with him every year.
My pal Peter Avellino- mentioned in the very beginning? Check out Mr. Peel. You won’t be sorry.
Señor Dan Schindel. He makes amazing desserts, kicks ass at Cards Against Humanity, is one of the nicest & smartest humans, and I’m hoping that we can see some movies in the same vicinity. I know he writes for various publications. He tweets at @danschindel.
There’s more, but let’s get on to the movies, eh?
3:00pm: The awesome and fantastic Bruce Goldstein from Film Forum in NYC is doing Trivia. If you are unaware, this man is really pretty rad. Guaranteed, he knows more than you do. I’ve seen him at my film archiving conferences and he’s a genuine badass. The time I got to hang out & chat with Norman Lloyd was when we were all at an event together. Am I gonna do trivia because I think I will win? OH HELL NO. I am positive that there are some of you out there who have memorized people’s entire filmographies much more thoroughly than I have. Do I wanna do it because it’s gonna be a hellovalotta fun? YOU BETTER BELIEVE IT. Now accepting offers for teammates…..
5:00pm: TCM PARTY – schmooze! Wheeee!
6:45pm: TOO LATE FOR TEARS: even if I am not there seeing it, watch out for my thread- I will be posting allllll about it. The restoration and the story behind it is MINDBLOWING. If you like film noir and you miss this film, I will question your commitment to sparkle motion. I have seen it 5 times now, never get sick of it. The restoration was nothing short of a miracle and the film content itself is just thrilling. Even my MOM loved it. She said, “I wanna see more films like that!” when I took her to the LA Restoration premiere. DO NOT MISS.
“Don’t ever change, Tiger. I don’t think I’d like you with a heart. “
10:00pm: MY MAN GODFREYPure and simple on this one, I’m a sucker for Powell and Lombard. I highly recommend BREAKER MORANThowever, as Beresford is fantastic and seeing it on 35mm is going to be great. Plus, going with the historical theme, I don’t think you could get much better. So I may end up there. But for now, I’m thinking GODFREY.
First up- THE DAWN OF TECHNICOLORDavid Pierce has done a great deal of writing on film preservation, silent film and archival topics. There is NO way I’m missing this. Technicolor is pretty much the coolest thing. You KNOW when you’re seeing Technicolor. This is one of the most thrilling things on the whole weekend for a n3rd like me. And in 35mm *and* HD? DUDE. I’m gonna be in a FRENZY when I get outta there…
Alternative to g33k lecture of amazingness? THE SMILING LIEUTENANT Ok, so if I wasn’t going to go do some Technicolor dorking out? I’d go and hang out with Ernst Lubitsch. I programmed this film in grad school as part of the film series I did at the New Beverly Cinema that celebrated archiving and 35mm. It played amazingly well and people loved it. This falls under “rarities and discoveries” and is a fabulous way to start your day. Highly recommend!
Miriam Hopkins is a goddess.
The next section is a doozy:
Probably hitting THE PROUDEST REBEL. This world-premiere restoration of a very rarely discussed Michael Curtiz film seems to hit a whole bunch of things I wanna check out. I’d like to see how Warner Bros did with this restoration and will be interested to hear David Ladd talk about his dad, Alan. For those of you not joining me there, I will make sure to set up a few notes to go out about REIGN OF TERRORbecause director Anthony Mann is The MAN. And you just can’t miss Norman Lloyd or John Alton’s cinematography. If you haven’t checked this out before…this is big screen French Revolution Noir. And yes- that *is* a thing.
I’m going to try to hit CHIMES AT MIDNIGHT, although I feel it may be packed and difficult to get into. I have been wanting to see this since I was in my late teens-ish. So 20 years or so? The main draw for me, of course, aside from Welles, is to look at it critically and see what the visual quality is of this restoration is and perhaps look a little deeper into what elements were used to create this new digital version we are to see. If I do not get into CAM, I’ll go see THE CINCINNATI KIDbecause I’ve never seen it and my grandma’s in it. No-brainer.
I will stomp Hollywood-Blvd-Superhero-people out of my way to make certain that I get to DON’T BET ON WOMEN. It’s a restoration (points!!), it’s a rarity (major points!!) annnnnd it has Roland Young in it (OMGZ MAJOR POINTS!!!). It also has Anne Morra from MoMA in New York coming to talk and she’s a rock star curator. Great lady to hear.
Film Noir Alternative: RIFIFI – if you have not see this film, and you are looking for something to see during this time slot GO SEE RIFIFI. JUST TRUST ME. You will not be sorry. It needs to be seen on a big screen. It is delicious and exciting and everything that you could possibly want a film to be. It may be one of my very very very very favorite heist films of ever. And that’s saying….A LOT.
I’m going to see THE WAR GAME. I went to University in Kent, England and I would very much like to see how this banned doc looks at the place I went to school in, many years later. Also, my own personal work in 16mm educational films really made this one peak my curiosity as well, considering all the nominations and the subject matter. I think this film is going to be a “TCMFF Sleeper Success.”
And there ain’t NOTHING NO HOW that’s keeping me away from the midnight screening of BOOM!. I mean, come ON!!!
You can’t keep me away from a film that has a hairpiece like this. NO WAY.
I am going to WHY BE GOOD?because I want to see the film of course but also because I *love* the Vitaphone Project and I want to see their restoration work on this! Can you imagine that this film, with Jean Harlow, Andy Devine and Colleen Moore may have never been found let alone restored? *shiver*
I highly recommend that folks go to the World Premiere of Warner Bros’ Restoration of 42ND STREET. I love that film, Dick Powell & Ruby Keeler. But I will be likely trying to go for the rarity, SO DEAR TO MY HEARTdue to a love for Burl Ives, an obsession with Beulah Bondi and a serious interest in seeing what looks like it could be a very unusual work for Disney, even live-action/animation mixed.
John Ford. AIR MAIL. This was a rough choice due to the fact that I really wanted to go to MALCOLM Xin 35mm or what I believe will be an absolutely REMARKABLE restoration of1776 done by Sony. I mean, they’re using unseen footage and the restoration is done from the original negative…I’ve always had such a great experience from Sony’s restorations. They really care about the FILM side of things even if it’s a 4K, so I’m a little bummed that the John Ford is up against 1776. But what can you do? Maybe I will change my mind.
Think of me like a doctor and that is my prescription. I have my own 16mm print of it and a poster of it from Hungary. It’s a GREAT movie. Those of you who do go, FIND ME DURING TCMFF and let me know what you think, okay?
It is at this point that I do a “wacky weird archivist thing” again- I highly advise that any/all/as many of you as possible go and check out the Hollywood Home Movies over at Club TCM at 6:00pm on Saturday. Lynne Kirste, one of the most amazing women that I’ve been lucky enough to get to know over the years in preservation, will be there showing you GREAT stuff. Ever thought about what Alfred Hitchcock did at home with the family? Ever considered what your fave stars might have been filming on vacation or when they had a BBQ? THIS AMAZING SESSION IS FOR YOU. HIGHLY RECOMMEND. And if you meet Lynne or Randy Haberkamp (also a SUPER rockstar!!) tell ’em I sent ya!!
During this next block on Saturday night, TCMFF decided to play three of my very favorite films right up against each other. And not just a teensy bit favorite, take-to-a-desert-island favorite.
So, what I’m saying is…if you wanna just go check out a movie, you can’t go wrong with FRENCH CONNECTION, ADAM’S RIB or THE LOVED ONE. But one a scale of 1 to rare? Go for THE LOVED ONE. You can just never see it enough and it’s goddamn brilliant. Gets more brilliant every time.
But you wanna get SUPER RARE? Like still moo-ing? Like ordering your steak blue??? Then I suggest where I’m going.
I will be smashing myself into a seat to watch hand-cranked films from the early 1900s. If you remember my writing series that I haven’t worked on in a while, I mentioned Lois Weber? They’re playing one of her films. I am SO excited about this one. The theme of history this year is just mind-blowing for me. Every year at #TCMFF has been good, but this one…wow. So yeah. I’ll be at the RETURN OF THE DREAM MACHINE: HAND-CRANKED FILMS FROM 1902-1913if you need me.
One of the most awesome people I know in archiving & preservation: Dino Everett, hand-cranking some film!!!
I’ve seen NOTHING LASTS FOREVER on a big screen. But that’s exactly why Imna see it again. See y’all at midnight on Saturday, eh?
So there’s a bunch of TBAs on here.
My basic plan is pretty stable. I have to see Pattonbecause, well, 70mm and George C. Scott and I ain’t never seen the dang thing before and I’m a Scott-a-holic. Ever since FIRESTARTER. Yes, you read that correctly. The film I started loving him in was FIRESTARTER. Still like that film.
I plan on providing PLENTY OF INFORMATION for everyone about NIGHTMARE ALLEY, in my role as Social Producer. I’ve seen that film somewhere between 7-12 times in the theater and it’s one of my top 5 film noirs. If you have not seen it, but feel safe going into a movie blind, I highly recommend that. Tyrone Power has never been like that and the lady-love of my everything, Joan Blondell, is….well, you just gotta see it.
I’m an information specialist. If I don’t go see DESK SET, I feel like the data management system gods will strike me dead the next time I try to call on them for help. Plus? I REALLY LOVE THAT FILM SO DAMN MUCH. Why are there no good movies about archivists or librarians anymore? Enough Said with James Gandolfini was pretty good but where are the rest? Representation, man!
Then its magic time. I’m a carnival and magic junkie. I’m hitting up the discovery, HOUDINI with Tony Curtis & Janet Leigh and then, the film I have been waiting for ever since it was announced, it’ll be time for THE GRIM GAME restoration. I am SUPREMELY excited about being able to report on the details, especially noting that this film’s restoration was a combined effort between a private collector and studio efforts. These are very interesting elements in any case but the fact that the film and its restoration became the thing of primary importance is fabulous.
See you in the seats! Check you on the Internetz!
Really excited to be going to TCMFF again this year and even more thrilled to be part of the Social Producers Team.
This is going to be a great year and I’m looking forward to celebrating film preservation, restoration and classic film with all you guys! Check you on the Blvd!
If you want to follow my TCMFF adventures and my Social Producer documentation, you can find me in the following places:
Los Angeles, California: the landscape for a criminally high number of films noir and the premiere setting for an unwieldy number of hardboiled novels and crime fiction. Of this urban environment, Aldous Huxley once remarked, “Thought is barred in this City of Dreadful Joy, and conversation is unknown.”
As a native Angelena, I quite like that my home has been labeled a “City of Dreadful Joy” and that any kind of exchange of words is somewhat mysterious. These elements (and other similarly toned descriptors) have always deeply connected me to crime fiction and its cinematic equivalent. Los Angeles has a long history with noir cinema. This film-based city and its highly urban-centered film genre/film cycle practically share genetic material. In other words, one thing would not be the same without the other.
Thusly, for a local such as me, it makes it even more exciting and appropriate when, once a year, Eddie Muller and the Film Noir Foundation bring NOIR CITY to the City of the Angels and spend some time with us at the American Cinémathèque!
I’ve been going to this festival for YEARS. Some of my dearest and greatest film memories were created here. It was here where I decided that I wanted to be a film archivist. NOIR CITY Los Angeles is the location where I have seen the vast majority of the films that knocked me out to the point of me chatting about them for the remainder of the year, until the next fest came along! My genuine joy with the quality of the prints, the acting and the stories just overflows every year. And it has been a social/film community thing, too- NOIR CITY allows me to spend a healthy amount of time in one of my favorite LA theaters, getting to see people that only come out for this festival. The Film Noir Foundation has provided quite a bit up until this point in this manner- for me and all my friends and colleagues.
I’m also in a unique position this year. As many of you may be aware, I was honored by the Film Noir Foundation in January with an award that really only happens in a noir fan’s (and recently graduated archivist’s), greatest dreams: I became the first participant in the Nancy Mysel Legacy Project, meaning that I will be working with the FNF on their next restoration project. I don’t think I have to tell you how thrilled I am. It’s all I’ve ever wanted and more.
This brings a new layer to attending this year’s NOIR CITY Los Angeles for me. It’s my home festival! For those of you in Los Angeles who may have not had the chance to go to NOIR CITY before, or may not have considered it, I would ask you to join me. Not just because it truly is one of the best film festivals, but also so that you may see what it is that I am completely and totally head-over-heels in love with, and have dedicated my life to preserving. These are incredibly special and wonderful pieces of cinema. I would love to spend some time with you experiencing these films and reveling in the dark. Shall we do so?
Last thing I will say before I go into the films themselves: since I have been to the festival quite a bit before- I have to say that this year in particular is pretty spectacular. GREAT 35mm prints, wonderful international work, exquisite restorations. And these are all things that I would say even if I were not involved somehow with the FNF. Seriously, the line-up is truly mind-blowing, and I am so excited! Hope to see you there! Oh and one last thing- I would highly suggest buying tickets for the shows ahead of time. They have been known to sell out. Your link to buy said tickets to get you into the marvelous dark mayhem of NOIR CITY can be found right here and if you want other info about the Egyptian theater itself (parking, etc), that may be found here.
NOW, AS THEY SAY, ON WITH THE SHOW!!!!
Friday – March 21, 7:30 pm
Introductions by Eddie Muller and Alan K. Rode of the Film Noir Foundation!
Too Late For Tears
TOO LATE FOR TEARS – 1949, 99 min, USA, Dir: Byron Haskin – 35mm
Restored by the Film Noir Foundation and UCLA Film & Television Archive, featuring Lizabeth Scott and Dan Duryea, this film is the film noir you didn’t know you were missing and the restoration you didn’t know could look this great! Unbelievably thrilling LA-footage and unforgettable characters!
LARCENY – 1948, Universal, 89 min, USA, Dir: George Sherman – 35mm
More Dan Duryea, and there’s nothing wrong with that! A rare one with Shelley Winters and the first film work of John Payne, the title may seem dishonest but the quality is straightforward good stuff!
Saturday – March 22, 7:30pm
Introduction by Eddie Muller of the Film Noir Foundation
Born to Be Bad
BORN TO BE BAD – 1950, Warner Bros., 94 min, USA, Dir: Nicholas Ray – 35mm (print from the George Eastman House collection)
Two words: Nicholas Ray. Two more words: Joan Fontaine. If those things mixed with a healthy slap of Robert Ryan doesn’t throw ya, I couldn’t imagine what would. This one’s going to be a doozie!
IVY– 1947, Universal, 99 min, USA, Dir: Sam Wood- 35mm
The second in this “Joan Fontaine double feature,” this film is not available on DVD so this is definitely not to be missed. Additional factoid: the role that Fontaine plays in this was originally supposed to go to her sister Olivia de Havilland! Oops!
Sunday – March 23, 7:30pm
Introduction by Eddie Muller of the Film Noir Foundation
Two Men In Manhattan
TWO MEN IN MANHATTAN (DEUX HOMMES DANS MANHATTAN) – 1959, Cohen Film, 84 min, France, Dir: Jean-Pierre Melville – DCP
Part of the monthly Cohen Film collection series, this Melville film is also part of NOIR CITY’s new focus this year on international noir works. This film is in French and English with English subtitles, and promises to be a real treasure!
A French heist picture directed by an American noir professional, this is globally considered to be one of the classics in crime cinema. French with English subtitles.
Wednesday – March 26, 7:30pm
It Always Rains on Sunday
IT ALWAYS RAINS ON SUNDAY – 1947, Rialto, 92 min, UK, Dir: Robert Hamer – 35mm
Somewhere between kitchen sink drama and noir is this film. Googie Withers really brings it in this exciting British entry to NOIR CITY!
BRIGHTON ROCK – 1947, Rialto, 92 min, UK, Dir: John Boulting – 35mm
The baby-faced and ultra-young Richard Attenborough plays one of the most sinister and blood-curdling characters in all of film noir in this film: Pinkie. Every bit of this film is fulfilling in a way that is, once again, wholly British, reminding us of this year’s international theme.
Thursday – March 27, 7:30pm
CAGED – 1950, Warner Bros., 96 min, USA, Dir: John Cromwell – 35mm
If ever there was a film that depicted women in prison, CAGED is one of the most star-studded and powerful. The first entry in the Eleanor Parker double feature, this film also showcases Agnes Moorehead, Jan Sterling and many others. Will not disappoint!
DETECTIVE STORY – 1951, Paramount, 103 min, USA, Dir: William Wyler- DCP
Another great performance from Eleanor Parker, matched only by the presence of one, Kirk Douglas, and directed by William Wyler. This film was nominated for several awards. Come and see why!
Friday – March 28, 7:30pm
Introduced by Alan K. Rode of the Film Noir Foundation
JENNY LAMOUR (QUAI DES ORFÈVRES) – 1947, Rialto Pictures, 102 min, France, Dir: Henri-Georges Clouzot- 35mm
A fantastic police procedural by the director of such gems as Diabolique and The Wages of Fear, this film is another look into how film noir was explored in the country of the term’s birth. In French with English subtitles.
ANGELS OVER BROADWAY – 1940, Sony Repertory, 79 min, USA, Dir: Ben Hecht, Lee Garmes- 35mm
This incomparable Ben Hecht-penned & directed film features Rita Hayworth & Douglas Fairbanks, Jr in a film about cons, gambling and moral devastation. You know- noir standards! Hecht was nominated for this screenplay- come and see why!
Angels Over Broadway
Saturday- March 29, panel at 6:30pm, film at 7:30pm
6:30pm – Southern CA Chapter of the Mystery Writers of America meet for a discussion on Los Angeles in noir and literature. Featured panelists: novelists Eric Beetner (Dig Two Graves), P.G. Sturges (the Shortcut Man series), and Steph Cha (Follow Her Home). Book signing will occur in lobby, shortly after the panel.
Introduced by Alan K. Rode of the Film Noir Foundation
SOUTHSIDE 1-1000 – 1950, Warner Bros., 73 min, USA, Dir: Boris Ingster- 35mm
Watch a brand-new 35mm print that highlights the dangers of counterfeiting and criminality within many fantastic Los Angeles locations, from downtown to Hollywood itself! Exciting!
ROADBLOCK – 1951, Warner Bros., 73 min, USA, Dir: Harold Daniels- 35mm
In the world of noir tough guys, there is only one Charles McGraw and this film says that with a vengeance. Come see McGraw in a rare leading role, playing an insurance investigator, doing what he does best- steal that screen!
Sunday – March 30, 7:30pm
Introduced by Alan K. Rode of the Film Noir Foundation
TENSION – 1949, Warner Bros., 95 min, USA, Dir: John Berry- 35mm
We lost a real gem when we lost Audrey Totter last year. This first film in the Audrey Totter double feature shows how smoldering hot and delicious this woman could be and just what an incredible medium noir could be for women and the expression of female sexuality at the time, regardless of the…outcome.
ALIAS NICK BEAL – 1949, Universal, 93 min, USA, Dir: John Farrow- 35mm
More Audrey Totter. That should just be a slogan in life. And in a Faustian work with Ray Milland in tow? HOW can you go wrong?? You just can’t. DO NOT miss this on the big screen. You will truly regret it. This is a great film with everything in its right place and everyONE in their right role.
The Italian version of James M. Cain’s The Postman Always Rings Twice. Need any further coaxing? If so, let’s put it this way- this is a VERY hot film. So hot that it was banned by Italy’s fascist government and MGM confiscated and destroyed all the prints it could possibly find. This is a must-see. Italian with English subtitles.
Thursday- April 3, 7:30pm
Hardly A Criminal
HARDLY A CRIMINAL (APENAS UN DELINCUENTE) – 1949, Film Noir Foundation, 88 min, Argentina, Dir: Hugo Fregonese
Returning to our international theme, this is the first in our Hugo Fregonese double feature. A film that investigates Buenos Aires criminality, this Argentinian noir looks at prisons and “perfect crimes” in a very familiar manner, illustrating how film language may not change when it comes to noir- the darkness is universal.
ONE WAY STREET – 1950, Universal, 79 min, USA, Dir: Hugo Fregonese
More Fregonese. This time featuring the likes of James Mason and the illustrious Dan Duryea! See what these American noir figures are like in the hands of Argentinian direction.
One Way Street
Friday-April 4, 6:30pm for book signing, 7:30 for film
Philippe Garnier will sign copies of his NEWEST RELEASE, Goodis: A Life in Black and White*, at 6:30PM in the lobby.
* First American publication by Eddie Muller’s Black Pool Productions
Introduction by Eddie Muller of the Film Noir Foundation
NIGHTFALL – 1957, Sony Repertory, 79 min, USA, Dir: Jacques Tourneur
Rarely played and underappreciated, this Tourneur gem features the lovely Anne Bancroft and Aldo Ray gritting out every bit of the darkness of this Goodis-penned work. Considering the cinematography on this, you will definitely want to see this on a big screen!
AND HOPE TO DIE (LA COURSE DU LIÈVRE À TRAVERS LES CHAMPS) – 1972, CCFC, 99 min, France, Dir: René Clement
1970s France, direction by Rene Clement, Robert Ryan and a French-speaking Aldo Ray and a David Goodis story to boot? Just say YES. Master heists and criminal undercurrents at every turn, this film promises nothing but satisfaction. It is a NOIR CITY essential. In French with English subtitles.
And Hope to Die
Saturday – April 5, 7:00 intro and screening, 9:00 dinner and party!
This is the BIG NIGHT!!!! There is dinner (provided by The Kitchen for Exploring Foods) and dancing and a bar and all sorts of exciting entertainment after the show! So get those tickets now and get those fancy outfits together! It’s going to be a BLAST! Advance tix are highly recommended. This is going to be so much fun!
DETOUR – 1946, Wade Williams, 70 min, USA, Dir: Edgar G. Ulmer
If you are unfamiliar with this film, it is a MUST SEE, even more so in a theater and with an audience. It is the classic B-noir and illustrates the brilliance of cinematic economy and perfect storytelling, visually and otherwise. This is a tight picture on a tight budget and one that Hollywood could still learn a great deal from!
For complete details about the party and the ticket arrangements, please go here. It’s an event that, much like DETOUR, you will not want to miss!
Sunday – April 6, 7:30
Introduction by Eddie Muller of the Film Noir Foundation. Discussion between films with author Mary Ann Anderson (‘Ida Lupino: Beyond the Camera‘ and ‘The Making of The Hitch-Hiker‘) and Alan K. Rode.
M – 1951, Superior Pictures, 91 min, USA, Dir: Joseph Losey – 35mm
If the excitement of viewing a restored 35mm print wasn’t enough, the cast for this American version of Fritz Lang’s classic should make your hair stand on end. Norman Lloyd, Raymond Burr, Jim Backus, Howard DaSilva and more keep this piece loaded with brilliance, not to mention it’s done by one, Joseph Losey. Support restoration and great works! Check this piece out! Not on DVD!
THE HITCH-HIKER – 1953, RKO, 71 min, USA, Dir: Ida Lupino – 35mm
This breathtaking restoration by the Library of Congress will have you thinking that the film was printed yesterday. But that also could be due to the content, as well. Actress and filmmaker Ida Lupino was a stellar woman in filmmaking history and this is one of the most striking pieces in her oeuvre. Come see Mary Ann Anderson discuss her work and then see it large and in charge…and restored, care of NOIR CITY, and for the final film of NOIR CITY Los Angeles 2014!
Alright, ladies and gents, here’s the rumble: after the yearly successful spin on the silver screen in Seattle, NOIR CITY thought it was high time to take it on the heel and toe and make it down to Austin, Texas for the first time and the Alamo Drafthouse Ritz. So from February 28 to March 2, if you happen to be around that joint, I highlyrecommend you take a look-see. This is going to be a tremendous event!
As documented in my earlier pieces, the experience of attending NOIR CITY is like no other. Carefully curated and meticulously planned, this festival presents collections of films, some of which have not been played in a theatrical context in years. These remarkable cinematic works are not only receiving a new life by the onslaught of fans attending NOIR CITY but they are also receiving new treatment in many cases, as a portion of the funds collected by the Film Noir Foundation (the non-profit organization behind NOIR CITY) go to future film preservation/restoration projects.
All attendees of NOIR CITY assist in the preservation of the films no matter where it is- San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago, Portland, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, and now, Austin! Becoming part of this “bitter little world,” whether it is through buying a ticket or a t-shirt, assures the future survival of these films that are being shown. As someone who works in the world of preservation and restoration, just getting the chance to see excited audiences enter the theater and hear their remarks about recent restorations being shown is enough to make me know that I chose the right occupation. Some people like the rewards of teaching, other people enjoy the satisfaction received from selling a house- I enjoy the knowledge that someone has gotten intense joy out of watching a motion picture that has been worked on and “saved” from its own kind of death.
Bringing NOIR CITY to Austin and the Alamo Drafthouse Ritz is something that everyone involved is very pleased to see finally come to fruition. Eddie Muller, founder and president of the Film Noir Foundation, notes, “I couldn’t be more thrilled that Austin is the latest addition to the NOIR CITY roadshow. I love the Alamo Drafthouse and am excited to be part of its mission: keeping creative and communal rep programming thriving. Since this is the first NOIR CITY at the Drafthouse, it’s a virtual ‘greatest hits’ of all the titles the Film Noir Foundation has restored or recovered from obscurity. It’ll be a fantastic weekend.”
With that, please enjoy the following posters and small bits of information about the films that will be shown over the next few days!
Friday, February 28
Too Late For Tears (Byron Haskin, 1949)
Too Late For Tears (Byron Haskin,1949) Restored by the Film Noir Foundation and UCLA Film & Television Archive, featuring Lizabeth Scott and Dan Duryea.
Try and Get Me (Cy Endfield, 1951)
Try and Get Me aka The Sound of Fury (Cy Endfield, 1951) Rare film by a blacklisted director & recent Film Noir Foundation restoration, featuring Lloyd Bridges and Frank Lovejoy.
Saturday, March 1
Larceny (George Sherman, 1948)
Larceny (George Sherman, 1948) rare not-on-DVD film featuring the great John Payne & Shelley Winters!
Crashout (Lewis R. Foster, 1955)
Crashout (Lewis R. Foster, 1955) Fantastically exciting prison escape film featuring some of the best of the best: William Bendix, Gene Evans, William Talman and more!
Cry Danger (Robert Parrish, 1951)
Cry Danger (Robert Parrish, 1951) breathtakingly beautiful restoration done by the Film Noir Foundation and the UCLA Film & Television Archive that makes you think this film came out or was shot YESTERDAY. Dick Powell just rips that screen apart.
The Breaking Point (Michael Curtiz, 1950)
The Breaking Point (Michael Curtiz, 1950) This picture has the swoon-worthy John Garfield alongside the truly great Patricia Neal in what is really one of the best Hemingway adaptations ever put to screen.
Sunday, March 2
Repeat Performance (Alfred Werker, 1947)
Repeat Performance – (Alfred Werker, 1947) This 2012 35mm restoration, funded by the Film Noir Foundation and the Packard Humanities Institute, is not to be missed! ATwilight Zone-esque tale with dynamic performances from Richard Basehart and Joan Leslie, this film will knock your socks off, leaving you hungry for more.
Three Strangers (Jean Negulesco, 1946)
Three Strangers – (Jean Negulesco, 1946) – Co-written by John Huston, this film stars three of the more persuasive figures in the film noir acting canon: Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre and Geraldine Fitzgerald. While the plot may seem simple at first, the actuality is that this film is one of the darker and more unique pieces of noir cinema produced.
Alias Nick Beal (John Farrow, 1949)
Alias Nick Beal (John Farrow, 1949) – The chance to see this not-on-DVD film on a big screen is now yours! Experience the vibrant Audrey Totter and the oh-so-persuasive Ray Milland in a film noir that is like no other. Not to be missed!
The Chase (Arthur Ripley, 1946)
The Chase (Arthur Ripley, 1946) – End your visit to NOIR CITY Austin with one of the more unusual pieces put on film. Based on a Cornell Woolrich novel, this film has been called everything from “dreamy” to “expressionistic” and showcases Robert Cummings, Michele Morgan and Peter Lorre. The Chase is a great way to end a great weekend! Hope you enjoy!
Yesterday was a BIG day in a variety of ways. First of all, we started out in Mexico (cinematically, anyways), watching an absolutely gorgeous Anthony Mann film called BORDER INCIDENT (1949) that was shot by one of my very very favorite cinematographers, John Alton. It was amazing. So much so, that a woman behind me gasped and said, “This is rather gruesome, isn’t it?” Yes, a film from 1949 can be rather gruesome!
We then moved into a wonderfully unusual piece from Mexico called, IN THE PALM OF YOUR HAND – EN LA PALMA DE TU MANO (Dir. Roberto Gavaldón, 1951) which was truly extraordinary. I had never seen a Mexican noir before so that was great!
Then later on in the evening it was the restorations section.
One of the reasons I am up here (aside from my love/obsession for noir) is that I have been chosen to be the first recipient of the Nancy Mysel Legacy Grant, which is a huge honor and I am exceptionally thrilled and grateful. If you had told me, at the beginning of my film studies (approx. 15ish years ago) that I would be getting to the point where I would get to the point where I would get up on stage in front of a SOLD OUT audience of 1400+ people and tell them what Nancy Mysel meant to me and how important film restoration was and how very honored I felt receiving this award….WITH EDDIE MULLER??????
I would’ve laughed in your face and thought you were teasing me. I would’ve said “No way. Not me.” But that’s what happened last night. And I promise to uphold Nancy’s legacy in the best way possible because she was one of the most exceptional women in the film preservation community and inspired me to join and is one of the primary reasons that I chose this path, much like film noir is one of the reasons I fell in love with the cinema.
After the presentation, we watched two INCREDIBLE restorations that really were prime examples of what can be done if the right people, passions and resources are involved, even if you don’t have the original materials.
TOO LATE FOR TEARS(Byron Haskin, 1949) was just incredible looking. While Eddie said it was going to be a little rough going for a restoration due to the lack of original elements (great story about the retrieval, too!) it was nowhere near that! It looked fantastic- Liz Scott’s face, Dan Duryea’s suit, all the details were beautiful. My favorite thing about a noir restoration: make the desperation look gorgeous like cinema is supposed to. And TLFT certainly did. And…it was a wonderful film to boot with some really gritty real PURE noir lines. SO. MUCH. ENJOYMENT. Man, do I loooooove film noir.
“Don’t ever change, Tiger. I don’t think I’d like you with a heart. “
Afterwards, of course, was a film that I bought recently on Blu-ray but was waiting to see on big screen before watching at home: the incomparable Ida Lupino’s THE HITCH-HIKER (1953). All I know is that the folks at the LOC did a *smashing* job restoring this baby. The shine on the bumper on the car in the very beginning, the details of each separate leave and twig on the ground, each man’s five o’clock shadow…the details and the shadows were gorgeous!And this is all without losing any of the beauty of the film grain or the shadow and light of the film. What a movie.
Tonight we head to Japan and see the work of Akira Kurosawa! Pretty excited about that! Kurosawa does noir. Mmmmhmmm!
Welcome to Common Careers, the series about women who helped to create the moving image world and industry and make it the dynamic and vibrant world that it is today. As I noted in my initial introduction, this series has come about as a result of the fact that we have begun to talk about women’s invisibility on a larger scale again. Discussions on the Bechdel Test and statistics on how many women are hired on a regular basis in powerful roles have become part of the “daily share-ables” on our social media landscape (Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter). But what we are not making part of the new feminist media discourse is the fact that there was a previous set of women who set the stage and had their creative say and work ignored once the Big Boys with their Big Toys came around. These were the women who helped build what we have now and truly gave us a foundation for the way we look at actresses of today and women’s place in media. And they’ve been there since the very start. And with that, we will begin just there- at the very beginning of movie history, the silent era.
Lois “the Wizard” Weber (1879-1939), screenwriter, director, one of the highest paid professionals in the silent era, and highly focused on social reform and gender issues through her cinematic output
Lois Weber, author of “How I Became a Motion Picture Director” (1915), was, as Shelley Stamp writes, “one of the top talents in Hollywood. In 1916, she was the first and only woman elected to the Motion Picture Directors Association, a solitary honor she would retain for decades.” Not only that, Weber was one of the first individuals to use full frontal nudity in a film that was not intended for pornographic use.
While it may seem surprising that there were women in the the early days of film who were not only granted power within the industry but were also able to use their creative energies in order to further messages of female equality, it is essential to look at the social landscape at the time. Women’s suffrage had been growing and gaining speed and membership over the last 50+ years, so by the time Weber began her career as an actress and then as an apprentice under the guidance of the woman who is widely considered to be the first female motion picture director, Alice Guy-Blaché, the pursuit (and investigation) of subjects such as birth control, marriage, economics and freedom was not entirely verboten. At least not according to the standards that a modern female director of the time whose desire was to investigate these “social problems” through the filmic text and create a context for which more could be better understood and learned by a society that (more than likely) was not having much of it.
As we will see, looking at the early women in film, they may not always have aligned themselves with the women’s rights movement. While the content of their filmwork and their careers and, indeed, their very existence in the film community identified them as having a strongly advanced female position, many of these women didn’t identify with political structures and their personal lives reflected a different world than their professional ones. Women in early film, Lois Weber being a prime example, were not always “big hearty independent females who didn’t need a man.” As history has shown, a certain percentage of the hard luck stories of these amazing women came from their dedication to their marriages or relationships above their careers, and much of their work and careers failed when their relationships did. Lois Weber was extremely successful throughout much of her life, but had terrible luck with men (struck it rich with the alcoholic variety), and ended up dying penniless and practically forgotten at age 60. The only film community members who supported this legendary figure after death were other women in the community: celebrated screenwriter Frances Marion paid for her funeral and renowned gossip columnist Hedda Hopper gave her more than a few sentences in the newspaper as an obituary. And for a woman who changed the silver screen? That seems beyond heartbreaking. It’s just wrong.
Lois Weber and her first husband, Wendell Phillips Smalley, began making films together for Universal in the 1910s. Weber could do it all and did! She wrote, directed, acted, did subtitling, edited and apparently developed negatives as well. She started really getting attention when she started making films that made people a little upset due to the highly controversial content. The primary film talked about within this context is her 1914 feature film, Hypocrites, which she directed and wrote. Not only did this film feature full frontal nudity, but it dealt with issues of moral blindness, religious figures and being faced with the “Naked Truth” in the form of (literally) the naked form of a highly attractive (but uncredited) Margaret Edwards (who later plays a naked statue in the film as well).
Hypocrites was banned in Ohio, reportedly asked by James Michael Curley, the mayor of Boston at the time, to have the negatives be painted over so that the “Naked Truth” be a bit less revealing, and altogether scandalous. But it was popular and gained her confidence with the higher-ups at Universal who made her one of the top-paid filmmakers in Hollywood at that time. Weber went on to make other films like Where Are My Children? (1916) with her husband, which focused on illegal abortion, birth control and concepts of “obscenity” loosely based on Margaret Sanger.
Still from Lois Weber’s “Where Are My Children?” depicting the soul of a baby above a possible mother…
This film was very popular (although, again, not with the censors), included the “high-tech” use of trick photography and multiple exposures and inspired an unofficial sequel, Hand That Rocks the Cradle (1917) in which Smalley and Weber star as husband and wife sex education and family planning advocates. Tragically, Hand is considered a lost film, like many of the great silent works of the day, and unless it is located at some later date (never give up hope!), we may never know what that film held for us. Erik Bondurant writing on Where Are..states that “Lois Weber, one of the first and greatest directors in cinema history, provides a much-needed woman’s voice and eye on the topic.” While many things about abortion and family planning have changed since the days of Margaret Sanger getting slapped with obscenity charges for birth control pamphlets, I think it is safe to say that the films that Weber contributed within this genre of women’s social reform are no small matter in film history. Indeed, if one were to look at the films released in 2013/14, and consider what we can/can’t do and what is socially acceptable or what will make money and the fact that we are allowed R ratings and plenty of full frontal nudity (no negative painting required!), it could be said that the works being released in the teens were of a more strident and generous nature for women’s livelihoods.
Aside from issues of family planning, Lois Weber tackled poverty and its connection to a young woman’s moral breakdown (Shoes, 1916), drugs (Hop, the Devil’s Brew, 1916), antisemitism (A Jew’s Christmas, 1913) and many other issues with her films. The problem is that, much like Hand That Rocks the Cradle, most of these films are lost to us. As Anthony Slide so deftly notes, “The major problem in any attempt to rediscover America’s first female directors is that the films themselves are missing…Lois Weber directed some forty feature films but only a dozen can be found in film archives. It is not even the simple matter of the films being lost. An equal problem is that what films have survived are not always the best examples of the director’s work.”
Lois Weber was not only a striking figure by way of filmic subject matter or in the high amounts of money that she was being paid as a filmmaker, but when she left Universal in 1917, Weber formed her very own production company, establishing her place in history as the first female director to do so. Lois Weber Productions concentrated on films that were more focused on the female experience in domestic life: What Do Men Want (1921), a melodrama about male infidelity in marriage, and The Blot (1921), a story that centers on issues of poverty and wealth between the classes and how they experience one another and survive were examples of the kinds of works that were par for the course. However, unlike working for Universal, she was able to have a great deal more power in the manner in which the films were shot (on-location and in narrative sequence).
While Weber’s career went downhill in the 1920s, and some have attributed it to her failed marriage to Smalley (as he was her partner in many creative endeavors) it is more likely, according to Shelley Stamp, that things took a downturn due “to larger circumstances at play in Hollywood during the early 1920s, circumstances that compromised the fate of many independently run production companies, especially those headed by women. Plus, Weber’s focus on urban social problems, rather than amusement, and on the complexities of marriage, rather than romantic courtship, was increasingly perceived as outdated, overly didactic, and dower.” However, it is worth mentioning that during this same time, Weber solidified her relationships with the female community of Hollywood in a variety of ways and, although her career might have been heading south, she was maintaining her dedication to being a strong woman in the community and seeking out bonds with the rest of the women in Hollywood. She went to special women’s luncheons, did a national speaking tour on the subject of “Woman’s Influence in the Photoplay World.” “Alternating with her talks on ‘woman’s influence,’ ” As Shelley Stamp writes, “Weber also spoke about more controversial topics like ‘Moving Picture Censorship’ and ‘The Sunday Blue Laws’ to women’s clubs in Denver, Salt Lake City, Topeka, and Indianapolis. A staunch opponent of censorship, Weber addressed clubwomen at a time when they were stepping up calls for greater regulation of motion pictures. Following their successful campaigns for women’s suffrage and prohibition, both ratified in 1920, women’s groups were considered extremely influential and effective advocates for social change.” If Lois Weber couldn’t change the world through making the films, she was going to try to connect with the other powerful women in the country in order to create and point out the changes that needed to occur. Once a social reformer, always a social reformer.
Stamp’s initial summary of Weber’s career turnaround is highly probably. While Lois Weber eventually remarried and produced more films, she never again reached that same peak that she had back in the ‘teens. But judging from publications of the time, she may have not been alone in this. Circumstances changed for industry women in the 1920s and onward. The May, 1917 issue of Photoplay magazine describes the misogynistic landscape that women directors were dealing with to a T: “Another good omen is the subsidence of the ‘her-own-company’ epidemic. It seems to have been a winter disease, as the coming of spring brought with it a cessation of corporation founding activities.” Of course, this “news piece” is just above another item that discusses Ruth Ann Baldwin, another female director of the time, describing her in terms of belonging to the “so-called fairer sex” and having just married an actor that she had recently “bossed around” in a number of films for Universal. As time went on, opportunities for women to flourish a la Lois Weber, slowly collapsed and transitioned into very different opportunities and all new challenges. Although women maintained a certain amount of power and became highly in other areas, the so-called “her-own-company epidemic” was a very special period of film history and one that really created a space for films to be made that explored the female experience.
Finally, Lois Weber’s work, while we don’t have as much as we would like, has had some wonderful time spent on it recently and has renewed interest in this wonderful and tragically ignored figure in women’s film history. The EYE Film Institute in the Netherlands has done a remarkable job restoring her film Shoes (1916). I was lucky enough to see a presentation about it at an archivist’s conference a while back and the work and energy that they put forth on this piece is simply stunning. With that, I leave you with a clip showing the before/after of the restoration work, and hope that you have enjoyed this week’s Common Careers!
ADDENDUM: Huge shout out to Professor Shelley Stamp!! She was an amazing professor that I actually was lucky enough to have during my undergraduate years at UCSC, and without her copious writings on Lois Weber, I would not have been able to verify some of the information I had and thus complete this profile. I highly recommend that you read the entirety of this article if you are more interested in Lois Weber: http://www.frameworkonline.com/Issue52/521stamp.html and also REALLY recommend that you all visit the Lois Weber profile that Shelley Stamp also did on the INCREDIBLE AND AWESOMEWomen Film Pioneers Project.https://wfpp.cdrs.columbia.edu/pioneer/ccp-lois-weber/