Tag Archives: cinecon

Research in France, Classic Movie Events and Upcoming TCM Programming

I am back in the United States after a wonderful August researching Marion Davies in France. The research is going well, and I did have some downtime to enjoy the country with a good friend, including several days in beautiful, rugged Corsica and tranquil northern Provence. I came back in late August, and am happy to be returning to blogging!

There are several classic movie events going on right now that I would like to touch on, and I would also like to give an update on what will be happening on TCM soon, an important special programming note for the month of October.

Cinecon, the oldest classic film festival in the country, wraps up today in Hollywood. This was its 51st year of showing rare movies from the archives, alongside a magnificent memorabilia dealer room that is worth the price of admission in itself.  Cinecon prides itself in the obscure and the unknown, so if you go to this festival, do not expect to celebrate your old standby classic stars. Instead, you will hear hearty cheers for such names as Ted Healy, Will Ryan, and Lynn Bari, names dear to those who often attend Cinecon every September. It takes place at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood over Labor Day weekend, and boasts a huge number of returnees each year–Cinecon is a true mecca for fans of the obscure.

While not specifically a classic film festival in itself, the Telluride Film Festival is happening this weekend in Telluride, CO. This is one of the preeminent film festivals in the United States, and this year is host to several classic film-related showings. Today is a showing of the new Swedish documentary Ingrid Bergman: In Her Own Words, screened at the Cannes Film Festival this year and making waves at film festivals internationally. Through letters, diaries, and interviews with her loved ones, the movie tells the story of one of the most captivating women in Hollywood (and one of the most controversial at the time of her stardom) on the 100th anniversary of the year of her birth. The festival is also screening Hitchcock/Truffaut, an interview with filmmakers regarding how François Truffaut’s 1966 book Cinema According to Hitchcock has had an impact on their individual styles.

In addition, I am sad to have missed most of TCM’s Summer Under the Stars programming during the month of August, but my friend Kristen at Journeys in Classic Film hosted a blogathon during the entire month of August that chronicled each day of Summer Under the Stars. Check out the blogathon entries and see how the month played out on TCM. Next month, however, I am looking forward to TCM’s look at the women who shaped the movies. Hosted by Ileana Douglas and co-hosted by such luminaries as writer Cari Beauchamp (the author of Without Lying Down: Frances Marion and the Power of Early Hollywood) and director Alison Anders (director on Sex and the City and the movie Gas Food Lodging), the month will be filled with classic and contemporary movies made by women working behind the camera. It promises to be a fascinating look at an integral part of Hollywood that gets little attention, even today. The series begins October 1.

Two cinematic legends: star and producer Mary Pickford with her great friend, screenwriter Frances Marion.

Have a wonderful Labor Day, and see you next time!



By Lara Gabrielle Fowler

Hello readers, I have had a very full day at Cinecon and am back with the latest returns! I have decided that this year I will do things a bit differently. Normally when I cover festivals, I give a brief rundown of the experience and a bit about each movie I watched. This year, since I am seeing close to 10 movies a day at Cinecon, I will pick one movie from the day that made an impact on me and discuss and dissect it on the blog. I feel that with 10 movies each day, trying to cover all of them would be respecting none of them, and I would rather pick one each day and give it the attention it deserves.

The movie I chose today is one with which I am very familiar and was excited to see on the program. I first saw Down Argentine Way when I was still a young teenager, and it has always been a delight to watch. Sporting a combination of a young Betty Grable, the lively and seductive Carmen Miranda, and the spectacular dance routines of the Nicholas Brothers, Down Argentine Way is a relatively undiscovered treasure that merits a viewing.

The film begins with Carmen Miranda, still unknown to American audiences, singing “South American Way” in her trademark Brazilian garb, full of charisma and spark. Though already a major star in her native Brazil, Down Argentine Way marks Carmen Miranda’s American film debut, introducing her to American audiences and securing her meteoric rise to international fame. Carmen Miranda soon became a major star for 20th Century Fox and quickly became one of the most widely imitated stars of the day.

Carmen Miranda singing “Mamae eu quero” in Down Argentine Way.

Lucille Ball doing the number on “I Love Lucy.”

Another star on the rise in the film is Betty Grable, also making her first feature under contract at 20th Century Fox. Grable would go on to be a huge box-office draw, her lithe figure and especially legendary legs leading her to become a pin-up girl and a major booster to American morale during World War II.

With Don Ameche in Down Argentine Way.

Grable’s famous pin-up shot.

Don Ameche plays Ricardo Quintana, a young man from an Argentinian horse racing family who falls in love with Glenda Crawford (Grable), an American who wants to purchase one of his racehorses. Complicating matters is that Ricardo’s father has a vendetta against a man named Crawford, Glenda’s uncle, so Ricardo tells his father that Glenda’s last name is actually Cunningham so that they may continue their relationship. Ricardo’s father takes a liking to Glenda, but when he finds out that her last name is actually Crawford, trouble ensues. After a miscommunication and ultimate resolution regarding Ricardo’s racehorse and his chances of winning a championship, all is resolved and the film ends on a happy note. Truthfully, I couldn’t really tell you how Ricardo’s father forgot his vendetta so quickly and easily after a decades-long feud with the Crawford family. But in 1940’s musicals, dwelling on minor plot points will often just result in more confusion. These movies are designed to be taken lightly!

Probably the highlight of the movie for me was the inclusion of a very elaborate dance sequence by the Nicholas Brothers (Harold and Fayard). At the screening today, we were lucky enough to have the son of Fayard Nicholas there to introduce the film. He told a lovely story of how Darryl Zanuck stood up for the Nicholas Brothers at the “whites only” entrance to the 20th Century Fox commissary, and greatly respected them for their talent. And talented they are. Just take a look at this number they performed in the movie.

This type of acrobatic dancing and especially the move with the sliding splits is characteristic of the Nicholas Brothers. They performed, often uncredited, in many musical movies during Hollywood’s Golden Age, securing huge amounts of respect within the industry.

The Nicholas Brothers performing the “Jumpin’ Jive” in Stormy Weather. Fred Astaire once referred to this sequence as the greatest dance number ever filmed.

If you haven’t seen Down Argentine Way, I would highly recommend it. It’s a fun story, and packs a terrific punch of star power.

See you tomorrow for more Cinecon coverage!

Cinecon Coverage Starts Today!

It’s here, readers! Cinecon 49 starts today at 2:00. Please stay tuned for live tweets and frequent updates throughout the festival, in addition to nightly rundowns on the blog. Here is the schedule of the festival, taken from the Cinecon website:

Thursday August 29
2:00 IT’S A FRAME UP (2013) 30 min
2:30 THE DOME DOCTOR (1925) 25 min Larry Semon
3:00 PUDDIN’ HEAD (1940) 80 min Judy Canova
4:35 DOWN ARGENTINE WAY (1940) 89 min Betty Grable & Don Ameche
6:05 Dinner Break
7:40 RED PEPPER (1925) 20 min Al St. John
7:57 IT’S GREAT TO BE ALIVE (1933) 3 min Trailer
8:00 THE LAST MAN ON EARTH (1924) 78 min Earle Foxe & Grace Cunard
9:30 WAY OUT WEST (1920) 25 min Hank Mann & Vernon Dent
10:00 SILK HOSE HIGH PRESSURE (1915) 40 min Billie Ritchie & Alice Howell
10:50 TERROR ABOARD (1933) 69 min Charles Ruggles & Shirley Grey
Friday August 30
9:00 JUST A GOOD GUY (1924) 20 min Arthur Stone & Fay Wray
9:20 DR. JACK (1922) 60 min Harold Lloyd
10:30 HOLLYWOOD’S SILENT ECHOES with John Bengtson 45 min
Click on the link above to get a copy of Mr. Bengtson’s self-guided tour of silent era Hollywood film locations. During lunch John will lead a quick walking tour from the theater to the historic 1600 block of Cahuenga nearby.
11:35 A TOUGH WINTER (1930) 20 min [English language version] Our Gang
11:55 A TOUGH WINTER (1930) 10 min [French version] Our Gang
12:05 DON’T GET NERVOUS 10 min Billy Gilbert & Fay McKenzie
12:15 Lunch Break
2:00 FLUTTERING HEARTS (1927) 20 min Charley Chase & Martha Sleeper
2:30 To Be Determined 112 min
4:30 KICK ME AGAIN (1925) 12 min Charles Puffy
4:55 RAMROD (1948) 95 min Joel McCrea & Veronica Lake
6:30 Dinner Break
8:00 THE SCHOOL TEACHER AND THE WAIF (1912) 15 min Mary Pickford
8:15 THE PRIDE OF THE CLAN (1917) 80 min Mary Pickford
9:50 LET’S GO NATIVE (1930) 75 min Jeanette MacDonald & Jack Oakie
11:15 ONE MILE FROM HEAVEN (1937) 60 min Claire Trevor & Sally Blaine
Saturday August 31
12:00 A FRESH START (1920) 15 min Jimmie Adams
12:15 THE HOLY TERROR (1937) 67 min Jane Withers
1:30 A BLONDE’S REVENGE (1926) 20 min Ben Turpin & Vernon Dent
1:50 THE GOOD BAD MAN (1916) 65 min Douglas Fairbanks & Bessie Love
3:00 TRANSIENT LADY (1935) 72 min Frances Drake & Gene Raymond
4:25 MARE NOSTRUM (1926) 102 min Alice Terry
6:05 Dinner Break
8:00 THEIR FIRST EXECUTION (1913) 14 min Ford Sterling
8:15 SUDDENLY IT’S SPRING (1947) 87 min Fred MacMurray & Paulette Goddard
9:55 HOLD ‘EM YALE (1928) 78 min Rod La Rocque
11:15 To Be Determined
Sunday September 1
9:00 TURKISH HOWLS (1927) 20 min Al Cooke & Kit Guard
9:20 EVE’S LEAVES (1926) 75 min Leatrice Joy & William Boyd
10:50 SUTTER’S GOLD (1936) 95 min Edward Arnold & Lee Tracy
12:30 Lunch Break
2:00 A THRILLING ROMANCE (1926) 20 min Wanda Wiley & Earl McCarthy
2:20 OH, MARY, BE CAREFUL (1921) 70 min Madge Kennedy
3:45 APRIL LOVE (1957) 99 min In person, honoree Shirley Jones (Q&A after)
7:30 BOTTOMS UP (1934) 85 min Spencer Tracy & Thelma Todd
9:00 THE BEST THINGS IN LIFE ARE FREE (1956) 104 min Ernest Borgnine
10:50 IT COULD HAPPEN TO YOU (1939) 72 min Stuart Erwin & Gloria Stuart
Monday September 2
9:00 WET AND WARMER (1920) 25 min Billie Ritchey
9:25 CASTLES FOR TWO (1917) 60 min Marie Doro
10:45 THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES (1929) 71 min Clive Brook
12:00 Lunch Break
1:15 To Be Determined
3:00 CHINA (1943) 78 min Loretta Young & Alan Ladd
4:30 FIFTY ROADS TO TOWN (1937) 91 min Don Ameche & Ann Sothern
6:00 HI, GOOD LOOKIN’ (1944) 60 min Ozzie Nelson & Harriet Hilliard

I am turning on live tweets now. See you in a few hours!

Cinecon Day 2: Symbolism and Metaphor in “Dangerous to Know” (1938), and Other Noteworthy Festival Events.

Anna May Wong and Akim Tamiroff in “Dangerous to Know” (1938).

The theme of this, the second day of Cinecon, seems to be a motif of masterfully crafted symbolism. I noticed the skill in the subtlety of metaphor first in Dangerous to Know, a surprisingly touching crime film starring Anna May Wong and Akim Tamiroff in the main roles. The movie is slow to start, and the plot is rather unclear, but about half an hour before the end of the film, the plot picked up so quickly that I was on the edge of my chair waiting to see what would happen.

The film is rare and, as far as I know, not commercially available, so I don’t feel too badly giving away plot points, but just in case you want to be warned, SPOILER ALERT.

Throughout the movie, the character of Lan Ying (played by Anna May Wong) is referred to as the “hostess” of noted gangster Steven Recka, but glances and innuendo from various characters makes it very clear that she is his girlfriend. Under the Hays Code, interracial dating was taboo, so any reference to love between them had to be relegated to innuendo, which in this case, makes the film much more ethereal and mysterious, adding to the already mysterious aura of Anna May Wong.

After a long spree of killing and kidnapping, Steven is unexpectedly called for drinks by Lan Ying, who pours drinks for herself and for him while maintaining a very calm, soft voice. When Steven tells her he thinks she’s acting strangely, she turns on a record, which happens to be a recording of “Thanks For the Memories.” With tears in her eyes, she drinks. Steven does not.

Steven then heads over to play the organ, a favorite hobby of his. As he plays, we see Lan Ying, situated behind his back, pull out a knife and start toward him. As she gets closer, she notices the tranquil look on his face as he plays. She puts her hand on his shoulder, and turns the knife toward herself. In a moment of supreme irony, she stabs herself in the stomach, committing suicide just at the moment a detective, who has been following Steven all through the movie, walks in the door. Naturally, he assumes that Lan Ying is just the latest in Steven’s string of murders, and carts him away to trial. As he goes, he gives funeral directions to the servants for Lan Ying. “She loved the Bach Largo,” he says, and instructs them to play that at the funeral. It is at once a sad and vindictive scene, as we have come to see Steven as a feeling person, but a criminal nonetheless and we are saddened to see him carted off for the suicide of his girlfriend, but happy that justice is being carried out for a murderer.

The first thing I would like to point out is that hara kiri (the act of suicide by way of stabbing oneself in the stomach) is hardly a new motif in the arts. In fact, the suicide of Lan Ying hearkened back to an exponentially more famous character, Cho-Cho-San from Puccini’s opera Madame Butterfly, who committed suicide in the same way. It is hardly speculation that the creators of this film fashioned this moment from Madame Butterfly, and certainly the Asian influence of both characters most likely inspired this aspect of the storyline. In pre-racially aware Hollywood, it was not uncommon to see stereotypes created of minorities from any and every source available, and in this case Anna May Wong, a third-generation California native from Los Angeles, was relegated to the demure Asian “Butterfly” stereotype that continues to permeate certain films to this day.

Anna May Wong in a typical role for her career.

After the movie, I had a discussion with the pianist who had played the score for the film, who happens to be an expert on organs. He informed me, much to my fascination, that the particular type of organ that the character of Steven plays at the end of the film, is designed for use at funerals. Thus, there is a subtle foreshadowing, reserved only for those who know music well, of what is to become of Lan Ying only moments later.

The film itself is filled with music. We know from the very beginning that Steven is a talented and and passionate musician, who always wished his life had ended up in such a way that he could pursue music as a profession instead of turning to a life of crime. It is thus further significant that the “Butterfly” character be implied through the suicide of Lan Ying, as the musical theme continues through the plot line even in covert ways.

Maria Callas’ recording of the role of Cho-Cho-San in “Madame Butterfly.”

When this movie started, I was prepared not to like it, and truth be told the first hour left a lot to be desired. But the ending turned it completely around for me, and when I reflect on the film hours later, I remember it as a fascinating and enjoyable hour and a half.

I leave you with some other highlights of the day:

  • Jane Withers and Marsha Hunt showed up for the screening of Gentle Julia, and after the film was over, I was saddened to see that the entire audience was flocking to Jane Withers and Marsha Hunt, who was wonderful in the film and just as beautiful today at 95 as she was at age 17 in the film, was essentially left without acknowledgment. I wanted to show her how much I appreciated her, so I approached her and expressed my thanks for her attendance, and remarked on her extraordinary beauty. We ended up talking for a good 10 minutes about the film, her memories, and her career. I am extraordinarily grateful for that and impressed with her lovely personality and sweet, modest nature. She told me that she and Jane were initially asked to have an interview, but they ran out of time.

  • One screening, Dollars and Sense, was one of the sweetest, most feel-good movies I have ever seen. It concerned a young baker who did nothing but good, and a woman comes in one day and is so taken by his generosity that she wants to work with him at the bakery. One day, he gave away so much bread that the stress of it made him ill. The woman nurses him back to health and with the help of a benefactor, helps recover his business from the debt of the bread and pays all his hospital bills. In return, the benefactor requests that she come to his apartment to “repay” him. He sends a note to David, implying an affair with the girl he had come to fall in love with. The purpose was to anger David and make him come to his apartment. Reading the note, this tireless do-gooder finally does get angry, and marches up to the benefactor’s apartment demanding an explanation. The benefactor replies that the woman is to be married. David exclaims “To you??” And the benefactor answers “No…to you.” He had arranged a marriage between Hazel and David. It was just the most lovely story, almost like a fairy tale, and so refreshing to see a character who seemed to be the antagonist turn out to be the hero of the whole story.

More tomorrow!

Backlots Will Be at Cinecon 48!

I have just received confirmation from Bob Birchard, the president of Cinecon, that I have been officially approved for Cinecon press credentials over Labor Day weekend! This is the oldest of the movie-related festivals, and I am honored to be able to cover it. The festival also features a HUGE memorabilia market, and showcases rare movies from the silent and early sound days.

Click on the banner above to go to their website! It’s a simple site that is easy to use, and you will find links to what it’s all about if you would like to attend. This will be my first year, but everyone I know who has gone says it’s absolutely phenomenal.

So stay tuned over Labor Day weekend for my festival coverage, which promises to be very vibrant as there will be a lot to write about!