Film-buff fannies, take note: Cinefest,
the yearly motion-picture marathon featuring little-seen-these-days
Hollywood wonders, is set to unspool Thursday, March 13, through
Sunday, March 16. Founded in 1980 by the late movie maniac Phil
Serling, most of this year’s Cinefest again holds court at Liverpool’s
Holiday Inn, 441 Electronics Parkway, with screenings aplenty of 16mm
films in the hotel’s convention center. Also back for another year is
Eastwood’s Palace Theatre, 2384 James St.; locals already know what the
Palace is all about, while out-of-town Cinefesters should appreciate
the lovingly restored vaudeville-era bijou as it showcases rare 35mm
prints on Saturday morning, March 15.
Wild cards: Frank Morgan, Rudolph Cameron and Charlie Ruggles in the 1930 comedy Queen High, running Saturday at the Palace as part of Cinefest 28.
Cinefest 28 will feature author and film historian Ed Hulse, who will autograph copies of Filming the West of Zane Grey
(Lone Pine Film History Museum; $34.95) on Saturday afternoon; two Grey
movie adaptations will also be presented during the festival. Returning
once more with piano accompaniments on the silents will be Gabriel
Thibaudeau and Philip C. Carli, along with new-to-Cinefest pianist
Makia Matsumara. Representatives from the Library of Congress and
Rochester’s George Eastman House will also be on hand, and film
critic-historian Leonard Maltin will cap his weekend of savoring
old-school cinema by co-hosting the annual auction of movie memorabilia
on Sunday at 10:30 a.m.
Thursday kicks off with the 1939 Paramount crime yarn Back Door to Heaven
(9 a.m.), a social drama from director William K. Howard (one source
claims Howard was buddies with John Dillinger!) about a struggling
parolee (Wallace Ford) who can’t seem to stay out of the clink;
16-year-old Jimmy Lydon, later to play Henry Aldrich, impresses as the
soon-to-be convict in the prologue. Character actor James Gleason
serves as producer, director and star of the 1932 short Off His Base (10:20 a.m.), which is followed by the 1945 cheapie Club Havana (11:45 a.m.), directed by cult auteur Edgar G. Ulmer.
Following a lunch break will be a batch
of old coming attractions (12:45 p.m.), then Brian Aherne plays a
cuckolded hubby and Annette Benson the cheating spouse who hatches a
dastardly plot in 1928’s silent Shooting Stars (1:50 p.m.). D.W. Griffith penned the plot for the 1916 silent Let Katie Do It (3:25 p.m.), a melodrama involving gold mines, Mexican villains and spunky children. Then Al Jolson stars in 1928’s The Singing Fool
(4:25 p.m.), a part-talkie, part-silent flick from Warner Brothers, the
studio that raked in the bucks with Jolie one year earlier in The Jazz Singer.
Melodrama miss: Norma Talmadge (right, with Johnny Fox) as The Lady (1925), unspooling in a 35mm print at the Palace on Saturday.
Two shorts open the evening, 1931’s The Anonymous Letter (8:10 p.m.) and the 1925 silent one-reeler Vagabonding in the Pacific (8:20 p.m.), much of it a home movie with John Barrymore on a high-seas vacation. In what feels like an anticipation of The Other Boleyn Girl, sisters Pauline Frederick and Laura La Plante vie for the same man (Malcolm McGregor) in Universal’s plush 1925 soaper Smouldering Fires (8:40 p.m.). Famed Japanese director Yasujiro Ozu guides the 1933 comedy-drama Passing Fancy
(10 p.m.), concerning the rocky relationship between a widowed father
(Takeshi Sakamoto) and his son (Den Obinata) when a woman (Nobuko
Fushimi) enters the picture. Topping the night is a 60-minute Universal
programmer from 1941, as Rudy Vallee, Lon Chaney Jr. and Shemp Howard
ponder a world with Too Many Blondes (11:45 p.m.).
The morning slate for Friday, March 14, commences with the 1932 Paramount drama Wayward
(9 a.m.), as newlyweds Richard Arlen and Nancy Carroll contend with a
meanie mother-in-law (Pauline Frederick). The 1926 silent Pampered Youth (10:20 a.m.) features 14-year-old Ben Alexander, decades before his work on TV’s Dragnet, in an abbreviated adaptation of Booth Tarkington’s The Magnificent Ambersons. It will be followed by 1928’s comedy short Daydreams
(10:45 a.m.), pairing Elsa Lanchester and Charles Laughton in an H.G.
Wells plot. And Constance Bennett and Owen Moore embark on a marriage
of convenience in 1926’s silent farce Married? (11:10 a.m.).
Afternoon flicks include 1929’s Woman to Woman (1 p.m.), a soapy silent with Betty Compson in a remake of the actress’ 1923 British hit; the 1925 Paramount silent western Wild Horse Mesa
(4:10 p.m.), with Jack Holt squaring off against badass Noah Beery in
this adaptation of a Zane Grey horse opera (the movie was remade 22
years later as a B-western with Holt’s son Tim); and 20th Century Fox
star Alice Faye visits rival studio Universal for the 1937 musical You’re a Sweetheart (4:20 p.m.).
The nighttime lineup features the 1930 Warner Brothers musical talkie Show Girl in Hollywood (8 p.m.), with Alice White returning as chorine Dixie Dugan from 1928’s Show Girl. Two silents include the 1928 Max Davidson comedy short Feed ’Em and Weep (9:30 p.m.) and Belle Bennett has the lead in 1925’s four-hanky Stella Dallas
(9:50 p.m.), a classic tearjerker with Ronald Colman, Lois Moran and
Douglas Fairbanks Jr. Wrapping the night is Gloria Stuart (63 years
later she would steal the show in Titanic) in the 1934 Universal programmer I’ll Tell the World (11:45 p.m.), with Lee Tracy as a newshound who stumbles onto something big.
Talkie heads: Lillian Gish (center, sandwiched by Rod La Rocque and Paul L. Stein) in 1930’s One Romantic Night, at Liverpool’s Holiday Inn on Saturday.
Saturday’s Palace screenings of 35mm flicks start at 9 a.m. Norma Talmadge understandably takes the lead for 1925’s The Lady. The 1930 Paramount musical-comedy Queen High
is a creaky yet charming antique, with fun performances from Charlie
Ruggles and Frank Morgan, plus Ginger Rogers conspicuously on the
fringes. The 1915 The Stolen Voice casts Robert Warwick as an opera star who loses his ability to warble (good thing it’s a silent movie).
Rounding out the program are plenty of shorts, such as Etienne Girardot heading 1914’s The Violin of M’Sieur, Rod LaRocque checking in for the 1920 two-reeler A Philistine in Bohemia
and a number of early shorts filmed in the Kodacolor process from the
Eastman House. A trio of Warner Bros./Vitaphone short subjects include Idle Chatter (1929), with Lou Holtz preserving for celluloid posterity his vaudeville-era musical-comedy shtick; music with Gus Arnheim and His Orchestra (1928); and real-life cowpoke Tex McLeod twirling his lariat in 1928’s A Rope and a Story.
Back at the Holiday Inn, a quartet of
long-ago silent shorts begin the afternoon at 3 p.m.: namby-pamby
Johnny Arthur (he played Darla’s pantywaist dad in the Our Gang shorts)
stars in director Fatty Arbuckle’s 1926 Home Cured; Edna Marian plays a farmer’s daughter in the 1925 filmmaking spoof Uncle Tom’s Gal; Hal Roach star Eddie Boland headlines 1921’s Running Wild;
and an unspecified Billy Gilbert specialty will also be screened.
George O’Brien, Maureen O’Sullivan and Douglas Fairbanks Jr. headline
1933’s Robbers’ Roost (3:55 p.m.), a Zane Grey oater from Fox, and Charles Bickford dominates a trainload of familiar characters as they head South to Karanga (5:05 p.m.), a 1940 Universal B-movie.
The evening’s moving pictures include the immortal Lillian Gish in her first talkie, 1930’s One Romantic Night
(8 p.m.), which, alas, proved a box-office letdown for United Artists
and led to Gish’s temporary exit from the Hollywood soundstages. The
Gish film is followed by a selection of silent trailers (9:20 p.m.);
the short Life in Hollywood (9:30 p.m.); Colleen Moore sparkles in the 1926 Warner Brothers/First National silent comedy Irene (9:40 p.m.); and the 1931 Warner Brothers drama Bought (11:15 p.m.) stars Constance Bennett, Ben Lyon and a young thespian billed as “Raymond Milland.”
Before the Sunday auction commences, actor Milland returns in Paramount’s 1936 adventure The Jungle Princess
(9 a.m.), with Dorothy Lamour beginning the first of several sarong
programmers. (Maybe next year Cinefest can track down the stars’ 1938
quasi-follow-up Her Jungle Love in glorious Technicolor!) After the auction will be the silent comedy The Extraordinary Adventures of Mr. West in the Land of the Bolsheviks (noon), from Russia with love, circa 1924, and Rex Bell in the 1931 short Disappearing Enemies (1:30 p.m.), about newlyweds contending with squabbling relatives.
Hard-to-see programmers fill out the
afternoon, with Leon Errol as a kleptomaniac who steals the show from
co-stars Richard Arlen and Mary Brian in Paramount’s 1930 comedy Only Saps Work (1:50 p.m.). The 1936 Warner Brothers yarn Jailbreak
(3:05 p.m.) deals with a mug (Richard Purcell), a miss (June Travis)
and a mostly blustery cop (Barton MacLane). And Cinefest concludes with
titanic talent Stuart in 1934’s Gift of Gab (4:10 p.m.), a Universal comedy-musical about the radio biz, with appearances by Andy Devine, Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff.
Admission for all four days is $70, with
daily ducats fetching $25. A $25 fee will also be charged for the
Palace’s Saturday screenings. The dealers’ room, chockablock with all
kinds of stills, posters, videos and books, is available to festival
attendees, and will also be open to the public on Saturday, 10 a.m. to
5 p.m., with a $5 admission. For Cinefest information, call 468-6147
only from 7 to 9 p.m.; for Holiday Inn details, call 457-1122.