Tag Archives: buster keaton

Treasure Trove of Silent Films Found in the UK

Mike Grant and his daughter Rachael were working at a recycling center in Sidmouth, Devon in the UK, when something unusual caught their eye. Next to an old tin of paint on an old shelving unit lay two 16mm film reels, discarded as junk along with the shelves and the paint. Upon further inspection, they discovered that these just weren’t any old junk film reels–these were films that dated back to 1909, and one of them was a reel of The Cardboard Lover (1928), a scarce Marion Davies film.

The Cardboard Lover, 1928.

The Cardboard Lover, 1928.

Halfway around the world, I became ecstatic when the story broke. The Cardboard Lover, a rarely seen gem, is one of Marion Davies’ all-time funniest films. It is available at UCLA and the Library of Congress, but the prints in both places are in desperate need of restoration. I have always bemoaned the fact that so few people have had a chance to see this delightful movie. Could this be an opportunity, I thought, for The Cardboard Lover to be restored and returned to its rightful place in the Marion Davies pantheon? As Marion’s current biographer, I could not have been more excited.

Upon further investigation into the discovery, it became clear that only one reel of The Cardboard Lover was found, thereby shattering my dreams of any significant restoration project from the newly found print. This is not to diminish, however, the significance of this find in Devon. In addition to the single reel of The Cardboard Lover, a print of the 1909 French film Jane is Unwilling to Work was found intact, as well as a 1910 Italian movie called Il Guanto.

These types of finds seem to have been increasing in recent years. In 2002, Colleen Moore’s final silent, Why Be Good?, was uncovered in the Cineteca Italiana. The story of how it was uncovered is a blog post unto itself, but suffice it to say that we now have a complete and restored version of Why Be Good?, thanks to the unparalleled knowledge of film aficionado Joe Yranski. The original Vitaphone sound disks, created to go with the film upon its original release, have been looped back into Why Be Good? and we now have the film as it was originally envisioned in 1929.

A clip from Why Be Good?, synced with the Vitaphone sound disks.

In 2008, Argentinian film historian Fernando Peña discovered a near-complete print of Fritz Lang’s epic sic-fi Metropolis (1927) in Argentina’s Museo del Cine in Buenos Aires. To add to his legacy among film fans, Peña made another startling find at the Museo del Cine in 2013, when he unearthed a 9.5mm print of Buster Keaton’s The Blacksmith (1922).

Buster Keaton in The Blacksmith, a print of which was recently discovered at the Museo del Cine in Buenos Aires.

Buster Keaton in The Blacksmith, a print of which was recently discovered at the Museo del Cine in Buenos Aires.

The Library of Congress estimates that 75% of all silent films have been lost. It is a saddening idea that as films continue to age and deteriorate, that number is steadily increasing. But as long as people continue to search and discover in unlikely places, we can remain hopeful that some of these movies presumed lost aren’t quite so lost after all.

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TCM Classic Film Festival Day 2: The Dawn of Technicolor, STEAMBOAT BILL JR., REBECCA, BOOM!

Dear readers, I’m usually so good about posting right after festival events, but after several late nights, I needed some sleep. The festival is now over, and I’m getting back into the swing of things. I apologize for the delay!

Day 2 was a jam-packed one at the TCM Classic Film Festival, the first day of the festival with a full docket of programming. I started off the day with a beautiful presentation called The Dawn of Technicolor, based on the new book by David Pierce and James Layton. Pierce and Layton were there discussing the facets of early Technicolor, and the differences between the two-strip Technicolor process and the much better-known three-strip process, as seen in movies like The Wizard of Oz. It was a fascinating discussion, touching on such concepts as lighting techniques for early Technicolor and difficulties in getting certain colors to register (blue was especially difficult), and Pierce and Layton showed the audience clips of very early Technicolor musicals that were a delight.

Since many of the early Technicolor clips that the audience saw yesterday are extremely rare, I will instead post here two clips that demonstrate the two-strip process and the three-strip process, respectively.

This is the “Tell Me, Pretty Maiden” number from The Florodora Girl. Pierce and Layton noted that, in addition to the difficulty in photographing blue tints, yellow tints were next to non-existent in the two-strip Technicolor process. The focus was on reds and greens, which came out in beautiful shades and this lends itself to the signature look of two-strip Technicolor.

You can see the difference between two-strip and three-strip Technicolor by looking at this beautiful clip, in which all the colors of the rainbow are represented as Dorothy goes over it. By 1939, three-strip Technicolor had all but replaced two-strip as the color standard in film, though color wouldn’t become industry standard until several decades later.

A wonderful and informative presentation, that I would recommend to anyone interested in film!

Next I went to Club TCM to hear legendary film historian Jeanine Basinger speak about portrayals of history in the movies. Professor Basinger is the head of the film department at Wesleyan University, and founder of the renowned film library there, as well as one of the most respected figures in the world of film studies. She discussed the way history has been portrayed in Hollywood and what devices filmmakers use when trying to depict events for which we may not have all the information, or when trying to make history interesting and screen-worthy. One thing she talked about was what she calls the “letters of transit” device, referring to the plot of Casablanca that hinges on Victor Laszlo getting letters of transit out of Morocco when letters of transit did not exist in reality. The filmmakers used this device to add spice to the story, and it worked brilliantly. No one seems to care that letters of transit did not exist in reality, they existed in Casablanca and that seems to be enough. It was a great discussion, and hearing Professor Basinger speak is something that all students and scholars of film should be able to do.

A scene about “letters of transit” in Casablanca (1942).

Next up was the Buster Keaton classic Steamboat Bill, Jr., complete with a new score by silent composer Carl Davis, who also conducted the orchestra. It was a brilliant score and great fun to watch. Buster Keaton is typically hilarious and, naturally, gets into some real shenanigans. This is the movie with what is probably Buster Keaton’s most famous scene:

Steamboat Bill, Jr. was made in 1928, when Buster Keaton was at the peak of his career. Unfortunately, it was also right before his downfall, with contract switches and the coming of sound essentially putting a halt to what was one of the most glorious careers of the silent era. It was interesting to watch it in this context, as one of the great silent comedians was at the top of the world…only to fall off shortly thereafter.

A personal favorite, Rebecca, came next. I have written about this movie many times before, but it’s such a masterpiece of lighting, cinematography, and acting that I see something new every time. This time, I noticed that director Alfred Hitchcock uses very long lines in his camerawork, perhaps to emphasize the tallness of the estate Manderley. Nearly all the doorways and windows are structured to draw the eyes upward, and even the furniture and shadows are designed to guide the eyes up. Take a look at this scene, and notice the narrow, vertical light on the wall from the window, as well as the narrow structure of the window itself:

It is said that nothing in Hitchcock is accidental. If that adage holds true, this is a genius work of subtlety on his part.

The festival this year features an unusually high number of films that one can read through a queer lens–and Rebecca is certainly one of them. The relationship between the evil Mrs. Danvers and the late Rebecca de Winter can be inferred very clearly in this movie, as evidenced by this scene. Though filmmakers were kept from stating the relationship explicitly, the eerie scenes with Mrs. Danvers in Rebecca’s room do more for a queer reading of the film than anything that could have been stated explicitly.

The next movie, Boom!, is one that I have seen before on the big screen and it is a movie so bad that it’s a lot of fun to watch. I can barely tell you the plot, except that it takes place on a Greek island and Elizabeth Taylor is a drug addict who is visited by death, played by Richard Burton. It features monstrously terrible and nonsensical dialogue, and my friends and I were laughing the whole time. It’s the perfect midnight screening.

I’ll update about Day 3 tomorrow!

SILENT AUTUMN 2014

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Every year between their regular annual festivals, the San Francisco Silent Film Festival presents a smaller, single day event at which patrons are treated to all the vibrancy and excitement of the regular festival, on a smaller scale. In the past, the event has taken place in the winter, but as this year’s large festival took place 2 months earlier than years past, what was previously Silent Winter became Silent Autumn in 2014. As usual, Backlots was there for the action.

The day began with Laurel and Hardy shorts, and though Saturday public transportation schedules impeded my ability to see all of them, I arrived in time to catch the final short. What I saw was choice. I have seen a good deal of Laurel and Hardy, and as a friend of mine put it, “It says a lot about Laurel and Hardy that when you just think about them, you smile.” Though I much prefer their silent comedies to their sound work, I must agree that seeing them in any situation puts a smile on the film fan’s face. I regret not seeing all the shorts, but I’m very lucky that I got there in time for the next showing…a rare treat.

Next up was Son of the Sheik, Rudolph Valentino’s final film and featuring a new score by the Alloy Orchestra. Introducing the movie was noted Valentino author (and friend of Backlots’) Donna Hill, who discussed in detail the intricacies of filming and Valentino’s life at the time. It was a glorious movie with a magnificent score, and Donna’s introduction was a perfect segue into the experience. Valentino has been well-represented at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival this year. The opening night movie of the main 2014 festival was The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, a real crowd-pleaser and a Valentino staple, and Son of the Sheik seems to be the ideal way to round out a very Valentino-centric year.

On the lineup after Son of the Sheik was a program from the BFI called A Night at the Cinema in 1914, showcasing several clips and shorts from that year recreating what a night at the cinema might have looked like. An eclectic program, featuring footage of the Austro-Hungarian royal family shortly after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, a clip of a representative from the Shackleton Antarctica expedition inspecting the dogs that were to go on the trip, and an early Charlie Chaplin short set in, of all things, a movie theater. My favorite of the program was an uproariously low-budget short film called “Lieutenant Pimple and the Stolen Submarine.” Decades before Plan 9 From Outer Space, this short made the best of its low budget, complete with painted sea creatures and deliciously bad special effects. I have no doubt that if it were released today, it would become an instant cult classic.

“Lieutenant Pimple and the Stolen Submarine” (1914)

Following a lengthy dinner break came what was arguably the cornerstone of the festival, a showing of Buster Keaton’s comedy masterpiece The General. Though this film is shown often at silent film events and festivals, it never fails to draw a crowd and at 7:00, the Castro Theater was filled with devoted Buster Keaton fans waiting to see his most famed work. My mother, who became a budding silent film fan after I brought her to see Wings at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival several years ago, accompanied me to this screening and, I am proud to say, has now seen her first Buster Keaton film.

The General, Buster Keaton’s most famous feature-length film, tells the story of a train engineer in Georgia who is rejected from the army but ends up making quite an impact on the war anyway, in a way that only Buster Keaton can. Accompanied by the Alloy Orchestra, we saw Keaton and his co-star Marion Mack perform clever gags and alarmingly advanced stunts, as well as what is considered to be the most expensive stunt performed in the history of silent film (a train toppling over a burning bridge). One of the things that strikes me most about The General is the characterization of Keaton’s female lead. She is a truly feminist character, often the brains behind solving the film’s complications, unafraid to get herself dirty or scale the side of the train. It is a refreshing look at the “damsel in distress,” as this damsel could clearly take care of herself.

Buster Keaton and Marion Mack in THE GENERAL (1926)

The next film was The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, but my mom needed to get home and like a good daughter, I went with her. But yet again, the San Francisco Silent Film Festival met and exceeded my expectations, living up to my oft-repeated assertion that the San Francisco Silent Film Festival is the best festival of its kind on the West Coast.

The main festival is in late May of 2015, and Backlots will be there as always. Stay tuned!

Live From the San Francisco Silent Film Festival Day 4: SEVEN YEARS BAD LUCK (1921), DRAGNET GIRL (1933), THE GIRL IN TAILS (1926), THE SIGN OF FOUR (1923), HARBOR DRIFT (1929), THE NAVIGATOR (1924)

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The San Francisco Silent Film Festival came to a close yesterday, and what a day it was. This was perhaps the strongest day of the festival, with some wonderful comedic fare to lighten the rather serious tone of the festival overall this year.

First up was Max Linder’s comedy Seven Years Bad Luck, in which Linder is destined for seven years of bad luck after breaking a mirror. It is quite a funny movie, and is considered to be one of Linder’s best. It was preceded by another very funny short called Max Wants a Divorce, in which the main character hatches an elaborate scheme to collect his inheritance money (to be given to him only on the condition that he remain a bachelor) after his marriage. Linder was a very skilled filmmaker, and these two shorts show his talent impeccably.

SEVEN YEARS BAD LUCK (1921).

The movie was introduced by Serge Bromberg of Lobster Films in Paris, and he provided a bit of a tragic backstory to the film. Max Linder was beset by severe emotional problems as a result of his service in World War I, and in 1925 Linder and his wife were found dead in Paris , the result of a suicide pact they had made several years before. In addition, Linder’s co-star in Max Wants a Divorce was a woman by the name of Martha Mansfield, who also suffered a tragic death when her costume caught fire while she was on the set of a film. These horrible tragedies are ironic given how funny the movies are, and knowing the fates of the leading actors gave a bittersweet quality to the comedies.

Next up was a very interesting film by the Japanese director Yasujiro Ozu, one of the pre-eminent names in Japanese cinema. Ozu’s films are normally marked by thoughtful examinations of the human condition, with calm, tranquil camerawork and character-driven narratives. This film was completely different. Introduced by Eddie Muller, Dragnet Girl was an American-style proto-noir gangster film, that Muller noted “could easily have featured James Cagney and Joan Blondell as the leads.” It was so American in tone that all the signs were in English, and newspaper articles about Jack Dempsey, who had never been to Japan, decorated the walls. A very unusual film from Ozu, and a reminder of just how much American films influenced foreign markets. It was quite enjoyable, a suspenseful thriller that brought out the best of Japanese filmmaking paired with the most popular American genre of the era.

DRAGNET GIRL (1933).

The Girl in Tails was something quite unusual. Made in Sweden in 1926, it is one of the most distinctly feminist movies I have seen from that era, and even pushes the boundaries for what is accepted today. The story deals with a young girl who wants to go to a ball, but has nothing to wear. Her father has just bought her brother a new coat and tails, but refuses to buy his daughter a new dress, saying she has enough and if she had been a boy, she would have gotten a new tuxedo, too. Deeming this unfair, she gets back at her father by showing up at the ball dressed in a tuxedo–much to the horror of those around her. She is chastised by everyone except for her former schoolteacher, who tells her that she is correct for reacting when she is treated unfairly simply because she is a girl. The movie deals with the aftershocks to her act in the small, conservative town where she lives–with the ending message being that acceptance is important. Its tone was rather shocking, as a movie from 1926 is not expected to be thinking in terms of women’s rights. But this one was, and it was an absolute delight. Artistic director Anita Monga said that this was one of her favorites that was shown at the Pordenone Silent Film Festival in Pordenone, Italy last year, and just had to bring it to San Francisco. I’m glad she did.

THE GIRL IN TAILS (1926).

The Sign of Four was the only movie in the festival this year that I did not particularly care for. It was a Sherlock Holmes story, and to me not a very thrilling one. I was distracted during the movie, and it did not grab me as it did others. A gentleman I talked to after the movie described it to me as a “guy movie,” a term I generally don’t like because of the gender role reinforcement that it carries. But I see what he means, and indeed, nobody in the group of women I was sitting with liked the movie–while the group of men sitting below us felt it was one of the best films of the festival. If I could live yesterday over again, I would have left before Sign of Four and come back for Harbor Drift, the next film on the program. But alas, I left for a dinner break during Harbor Drift, and did not get to experience what was by all accounts the best event of the festival. It was another German melodrama, but everyone I talked to said it was an immensely well-made film, and counted it as one of, if not their number 1, favorite. A mistake on my part, and I will know for next year that dinner should be had between films, lest a gem be missed.

The final film of the night, and of the festival, was the Buster Keaton classic The Navigator. As is standard for Keaton films, the theater was filled to the brim with enthusiastic fans and silent film novices. There was nary an empty seat to be seen, and with good reason. The film is incredibly funny. It deals with a young man and his fiancee (he hopes) on a boat off the coast of an island inhabited by cannibals, and they have to do what they can to avoid them. One of the funniest moments of the movie is when Buster’s fiancee-to-be throws a painting of the boat’s former captain (the painting is clearly Donald Crisp, the co-director of the movie) out the window, but it latches onto Buster’s porthole and Donald Crisp’s face peers in at Buster. It is a brilliant film, and Keaton described it as one of his two favorites, alongside The General.

And that’s a wrap for this year, folks! Thank you so much for reading, and I’ll be back at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival next year for more coverage!

LIVE FROM THE TCM CLASSIC FILM FESTIVAL DAY 4 (Closing Day): “Gilda,” Women of Early Hollywood, “It Happened One Night,” “The General,” Closing Night Party

By Lara Gabrielle Fowler

Well readers, the 2013 TCM Classic Film Festival has come to a close. It has been a busy and very exciting 4 days, and your author is at once exhilarated, exhausted, and ready for next year!

In my humble opinion, this 4th day held the best lineup of the festival. Gilda was first on the agenda at the Egyptian Theatre, and though I had seen it on the big screen once before I was all too eager to see it again. The movie tells a story that is complex and hard to follow, but in all truth, the movie is not about the story. The audience is too busy watching Rita Hayworth to have any time for following a plot anyway. It is the ultimate noir, almost a caricature of the genre, and it really seems as though everything  that happens when Rita Hayworth is offscreen is just filler. Rita is the heart and soul of the movie, and because of her, the film is considered to be one of the great noir films of all time. Instead of trying to describe Rita in this movie with words, I will give you some clips so that if you haven’t seen this film, you will see what Gilda is all about.

Hayworth’s performance is rendered even more stunning when one examines who she was offscreen. By all accounts sweet, quiet, and timid, Rita Hayworth was the antithesis of the character of Gilda. She only gave a handful of interviews in her life due to paralyzing shyness, and Louella Parsons (who had met Rita as a teenager just starting her career) noted that she could barely look strangers in the eye. Here she is sultry, sexy, steamy, and an all-around tiger with every man she meets. Suffice it to say, I am of the opinion that Rita Hayworth was robbed of an Oscar nomination for this role.

Our next event happened in Club TCM, a discussion with Cari Beauchamp about women writers in early Hollywood, focusing specifically on Frances Marion. Beauchamp has produced a documentary on Frances Marion, and offered fascinating insight into who she was as a woman, as a writer, and as a member of a fledgling industry. Marion was extremely prolific–one surprising trivia bit Beauchamp related was that out of the 9 pictures nominated for Best Picture at the 1st Academy Awards, Frances Marion had written 7 of them. She eventually left the industry as it became increasingly production- and output-oriented, and she decided to pursue other tasks in which she did not have to compete. She became an accomplished sculptor and painter in her later years.

I must say that I find Cari Beauchamp to be one of the most fun, enthusiastic, and accessible film historians I have ever come across. She is a renowned scholar, and has written highly respected biographies and documentaries, yet her presentations are always down-to-earth and casual, with plenty of humor and no shortage of one-liners. As an example of a classic Cari Beauchamp utterance, she referred to the papers of Fred Thomson (Frances Marion’s husband), noting: “His stuff on de Mille is freaking hilarious.” She is very popular among us young classic film bloggers, enthusiasts, and devotees!

Next up was It Happened One Night, introduced by Cari Beauchamp once again. She pointed out a number of the continuity errors in the movie, ones which I had never noticed in my literally dozens of times seeing this movie. For example, in the famous “Man on the Flying Trapeze” number, the inside of the bus is rocking back and forth while the outside stays still. At one point, Claudette Colbert’s handkerchief disappears and reappears a number of times. The road Clark Gable drives on sometimes has a line, sometimes does not. Regardless of these errors, this movie remains the cream of the screwball comedy crop–one of the very first, and one of the very best.

The next movie was one I was very excited to see–not only is The General (1926) Buster Keaton’s best known film and arguably (or not arguably) his best, but the movie was to be shown at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, giving it the majestic treatment it deserves. The movie is about a young engineer in Georgia during the Civil War who wants to enlist in the army but is rejected because he would be more use to the South as an engineer. However, when he sits on the wheel of a train to think, the train starts and he is carried to an army base. Buster Keaton antics ensue, and he ends up foiling deserters, hearing enemy plots, and derailing trains from the North. It is Buster Keaton on a grand scale, and his antics are more polished and refined in this movie than they are in his shorts or even his other feature films. I am used to a Buster Keaton whose comedy is mostly slapstick, but this film highlights his ability to create subtle humor through facial expressions. One scene in particular stands out for me–when Buster sees yet another obstacle in his path, he expresses his incredulity through blinks of his eyes. It gives the audience a clear view of what he is feeling, yet Buster never for a minute lets go of his famous deadpan face.

Keaton was also known for dangerous stunts that he performed himself. Here are some stunts from the movie that demonstrate what he was capable of.

The General marked the final event of the TCM Classic Film Festival. A closing night party tied off the festivities, during which we said goodbye to friends and acquaintances that we met here, and even made plans to meet up again before the next festival. I always have fun at the TCM Classic Film Festival, and I can’t wait for next year!

Thank you, dear readers, for following along during these 4 days that seem to have gone by so quickly. I hope you enjoyed this coverage, and I will be resuming regular blogging duties upon arrival back home, including catching up on the Carole Lombard Filmography Project.

See you soon!

Live from the San Francisco Silent Film Festival, Day 4 (Final Day)–“The Mark of Zorro,” “The Docks of New York,” “Erotikon,” “Stella Dallas,” “The Cameraman.”

Dear readers, the San Francisco Silent Film Festival has come to a close. Today’s films were all perfect picks for the closing day of a festival, and though I will miss all the live-tweeting and blogging that I have been doing for the past few days, I have had a great time and I look forward to seeing what the festival has in store for next year!

Here is a rundown of today’s events:

First film: THE MARK OF ZORRO

You may think you know Zorro, but you don’t know Zorro until you have seen this original 1920 version with Douglas Fairbanks as the eponymous hero. Produced by his own company, Fairbanks Pictures, the actor gave himself free rein to do whatever he wanted for the film–and that, for him, meant making any desired changes to the original story and, most significantly, doing all his own stunts. Under the studio system, there were often strict rules about stars doing their own stunts, and studios often wouldn’t let their stars get away with it for insurance purposes. Few stars can boast that they did all of the daredevil work themselves, and Douglas Fairbanks is one of them (Gene Kelly is another who did many of his own stunts).

Here is a clip of Douglas Fairbanks doing a particularly impressive stunt sequence in the film:

The movie itself is immensely entertaining and amusing, and in my opinion it loses NOTHING to time. It’s just as fresh and relevant as it was in 1920, and it really feels like you are watching a movie that could have been made yesterday. I had a lot of fun with this one! To top off the thrilling experience of seeing it on the big screen, a number of members of the Fairbanks family were there for the screening, and one of them looked exactly like Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. in his later years, which was interesting to see.

Second film: THE DOCKS OF NEW YORK

My friend Marya over at Cinema Fanatic, whom I sat with throughout the festival, was particularly excited about this film. Directed by Josef von Sternberg, known primarily for his dark German films and his collaborations with Marlene Dietrich, The Docks of New York was a step away from what he was used to, and from how audiences perceived his work. It is a beautifully simple plotline about a young woman (based on dialogue later, it may be inferred that she is a prostitute) rescued from a suicide attempt by a ship worker named Bill–they fall in some semblance of love and marry quickly in a bar. The next day she is indicted for “stealing some clothes” (clothes used to warm her after her suicide attempt in the icy East River) and sentenced to 30 days. Bill takes the blame for her, is sentenced to 60 days, and the film ends with the woman telling him she’ll wait for him. Elegant and to the point. The speaker before the film compared it to a poem–a simple structure that simply provides a base for emotional output. As he said: “Who knew von Sternberg had a heart?”

Third film: EROTIKON

A funny farce about a woman courted by two suitors is Erotikon, a 1920 Swedish movie concerning an entymologist who seems to know more about bugs than women. The real merits of this film, for me, were aesthetic. The intertitles were really beautiful, written in lovely script with little drawings above the words relating to the current scene. The highlight of the screening for me was to hear the Swedish subtitles read aloud in English rather than seeing them projected on the screen–the man doing it was very funny, and his delivery of the lines often left me giggling well into the next scene.

Fourth film: STELLA DALLAS

If a person knows Stella Dallas at all, it is normally the famous 1937 version with Barbara Stanwyck that immediately comes to mind. However, this 1925 version of the story is the original, and no less heartbreaking than the famous one. The story goes that Stella Dallas, a rather uneducated woman with a young daughter, separated from her husband due to the distance of his work, is trying to give her daughter the best life she can. As the daughter grows, her friends begin to pick on Stella for being a “different” kind of person, and Stella begins to feel that she is not adequately providing for her daughter. Sending her daughter off to live with her wealthier father in New York and finally procuring a divorce so the father can marry a more “suitable” wife, Stella is a selfless woman with great insecurities. I don’t want to give away the ending, but suffice it to say that at the end, Stella is changed, and not necessarily for the better. This story reminded me a little bit of Mildred Pierce, but without the ingratitude that Veda carries, and it is a much softer, gentler story about a mother’s sacrifices.

Fifth film: THE CAMERAMAN

The final film of the festival was what has been called the last great Buster Keaton movie–1928’s The Cameraman. In it, Keaton plays the typical Buster Keaton character–an awkward, clumsy who also possesses a heart of gold and a sweet nature. In this movie, Buster tries to break into the photography business, mostly because a girl he likes works in the office, and he ends up causing mayhem everywhere. Buster Keaton has a very paradoxical aspect about him–in being clumsy, he is agile. I suppose in order to act clumsy, you have to be agile in order to make it work, but his stunts are those of an unusually coordinated person. I adore Buster Keaton, I think he is one of the most endearing characters onscreen, and his legend is well-deserved.

The showing was sold out, and to close the festival, the sponsor, Fandor, handed out Buster Keaton masks and told everyone to hold their Buster Keaton mask over their face for a picture. The audience picture should be up on Fandor soon, so if you’d like, go check them out at fandor.com.

Another special treat from tonight was a special showing of A Trip to the Moon, right before The Cameraman. That movie, no matter how many times I see it, never fails to give me chills and inspire awe.

Here is the complete film of A Trip to the Moon:

That’s it for my festival updates! Regularly scheduled blogging on this site should resume tomorrow.

Thanks for reading, and I can’t wait for next year!