Cinefest 29 was winding down last March with its annual Sunday-morning bidding war for Tinseltown tchotkes, celluloid-related paraphernalia and other random goodies sure to delight the most dedicated of movie maniacs. As usual, the auctioneer was knocking ’em dead with his impromptu patter.
“There’s 15 minutes missing from this print of Rashomon,” movie historian and critic Leonard Maltin informed the packed room at Liverpool’s Holiday Inn, “so you’re only missing one point of view!” The laughing audience, filled with attendees who make the pilgrimage every spring to take in the Syracuse Cinephile Society’s four-day cinema circus of vintage oldies, of course got the joke concerning the multiple character perspectives offered by director Akira Kurosawa’s Japanese classic. Maltin, reading from a card that described the print as betraying “a slight aroma,” then ad-libbed, “We’ll also throw in some Lysol.”
Maltin seemed to have a one-liner to accompany every item. For a box of film projector bulbs donated by Cinephile projectionist Bob Hodge, Maltin announced, “Every year you meet a few dimbulbs in Syracuse but these are new!” Regarding a never-used lobby standee for the 1986 turkey Howard the Duck, Maltin deadpanned, “We don’t want to open the box and impugn its integrity.” Maltin did experience some tough sledding when he tried to unload DVDs of recent multiplex fodder like Dickie Roberts: Child Star, but since the money earned by the auction’s donated bric-a-bracs benefit Cinefest, even a bad David Spade movie can be used for a good cause.
And if something valuable was up for grabs, the competition for that treasure was cordial yet fierce. “Sometimes I bid, too,” Maltin admitted, “because I’m a collector.”
Maltin will be back for the 2010 edition of Cinefest, as he has for most of the film convention’s three-decade run. From Thursday, March 25, through Sunday, March 28, the movie extravaganza founded in 1980 by the late Syracuse Cinephile Society honcho Phil Serling will again take over Liverpool’s Holiday Inn, 441 Electronics Parkway, with screenings aplenty of 16mm films in the hotel’s convention center, plus posters, stills, books and more for sale at the dealers’ rooms.
To commemorate its 30th anniversary, Cinefest will also shuttle its film-fervent flock to Rome’s 1928-era 1,700-seat Capitol Theatre, 220 W. Dominick St., for a Saturday showcase of rare 35mm prints. “We’ve been looking forward to it for a long time,” affirms Capitol executive director Art Pierce, who assures that the former Kallet bijou’s Moller pipe organ will be in apple-pie order; he’ll also be showing off the renovated outside ticket booth, unseen since 2003.
And, by the way, the Holiday Inn’s bedrooms have already sold out for that weekend, proof positive that there are still more riches to be mined from those little-seen golden oldies—something Serling, a larger-than-life teddy bear of a guy, discovered more than 40 years ago.
Pasta and prints: A typical Monday-night screening at the Spaghetti Warehouse, with Syracuse Cinephile Society staffers including Lois Eggers dimming the lights (left), gregarious emcee Gerry Orlando (center) and Lois’ husband Andy Eggers (right) in charge of the movie reels. MICHAEL DAVIS PHOTOS
Birth of a Notion
Serling was a lot of things—gregarious cop, occasional actor, boxing promoter—but dyed-in-the-wool movie buff is his ultimate legacy. As dedicated Cinephiler John Weber recalled in his essay printed in Moving Pictures and Classic Images: Memories of 40 Years in the Vintage Film Hobby, compiled by Society for Cinephiles founder Samuel K. Rubin (McFarland, 2004), “The origins of the Syracuse Cinephile Society are rather obscure but it seems that in 1967 Phil Serling rented a 16mm projector and film and screened it in the back room of the Regent Bar and Restaurant. Phil did not know how to run a projector at that time, and luckily a member of the audience had some experience or else Syracuse Cinephile might have died right there.”
The next year, as Weber recollected, sprocket-man Serling screened the 1927 classic Seventh Heaven starring Janet Gaynor at the Syracuse Boys Club, then followed with 35mm showings of Freaks and the Marx Brothers’ A Night at the Opera at the old Regent Theatre, in the space now occupied by the Syracuse Stage complex. The appreciative audiences convinced Serling that there was more than just nostalgia value to be offered by these Hollywood tales and thus began the Syracuse Cinephile Society, as well as his nomadic quest to secure any restaurant or tavern that would let his projectors in for a show.
Serling was bitten by the old-movie bug much earlier, however. According to a profile in the Nov. 21, 1990, edition of the Syracuse New Times, the 19-year-old Serling snapped up copies of three W.C. Fields short subjects: The Fatal Glass of Beer, The Dentist and The Pharmacist. “That started everything for my collecting,” Serling said. “I went to my first convention, not knowing you could buy these wonderful films and take them home with you. Once I started buying, I was hooked.” It’s a good thing Serling had a day job, as a deputy with the Onondaga County Sheriff’s Department, to maintain his jones.
Like a battered print of an old Tim Holt western getting shuttled from the Cameo to the Franklin to the Happy Hour neighborhood houses, the Cinephile screenings held court at lots of local nightspots, some of which now could be answers to Salt City trivia questions: Stampalia’s Restaurant, the Firebarn Tavern across from City Hall, Deny-O’s Restaurant on East Fayette, the Liederkranz Club on Butternut. When the downtown Civic Center opened in January 1976, the Cinephiles became one of the key tenants of the entertainment complex for the next 13 years, with most showings at the Carrier Theater, and when that was booked, the BeVard Community Room.
Halloween-themed bookings drew large audiences, capped by the annual midnight screening of the public domain Night of the Living Dead. Serling also ran a longer cut of Sam Peckinpah’s 1969 western The Wild Bunch in spring 1980, again filling up the Carrier. And he occasionally offered special Cinephile-members-only screenings of oddities, such as Leni Riefenstahl climbing ev’ry mountain in The White Hell of Pitz Palu, now a renewed item of interest thanks to Quentin Tarantino’s copious references to the 1929 German drama in last summer’s Inglourious Basterds.
Meanwhile, it was at one of those film conventions where Serling would prowl the dealers’ tables, 1977’s Cinecon 13, presented by the Society for Cinephiles in Minneapolis, that he had a brainstorm. According to the Sept. 19, 1977, issue of Boxoffice magazine, during the annual business meeting of the Cinephiles, Serling simply proposed that the next one take place in the Salt City and “since he was unopposed it was unanimously accepted.”
That 1978 convention was held at the Hotel Syracuse during the Labor Day weekend, with 16mm treats at the hotel and 35mm fare such as Betty Bronson in the 1925 hit Peter Pan at the nearby Landmark Theatre. The Syracuse Cinecon drew more than 400 attendees, as attested by a Boxoffice article from Sept. 18, 1978, plus Serling was also unanimously named president of the National Society for Cinephiles, succeeding noted film historian Herb Graff. Serling then spearheaded the notion of the Syracuse Cinephile Society hosting its very own Cinefest in 1980, also at the Hotel Syracuse, and he never looked back.
Cinefest sights: Legendary film producer Richard Gordon (left) always makes time in March for a Syracuse visit, which this year adds a Rome detour for 35mm showings at the Capitol Theatre on March 27 (below).
It’s a Wonderful Life
Although it was one thing to program weekly Monday-night bills for the Cinephile shows, a time when it was easier to secure prints from 16mm companies (Serling could always visit his own basement archive/screening room at his Fayetteville home to fish out a copy), getting the early, hard-to-find gems for Cinefest wasn’t easy. “We had to prove ourselves initially,” longtime Cinephile projectionist Andy Eggers recalled in a 2002 Syracuse New Times article, when he addressed Serling’s struggles to convince collectors to loan their prized footage to Cinefest. “After all, a scratch is forever, and people were reluctant. It was all legwork early on, too; some detective work on Phil’s part turned up ‘lost’ films. I think we’re now a reasonably known quantity. Collectors know we’ll give them back their movies in good shape.” (Gene Autry used to send prints of his enjoyable B-westerns from his own private collection.)
The Cinephile Society also experienced some setbacks along the way, perhaps none more infamous than its promotion of a William Shatner appearance at the Civic Center in November 1976. Shatner was supposed to bring along some Star Trek outtakes—until Paramount Pictures, which owned the rights to the sci-fi series, confiscated the clips before the show. And hell hath no fury like angry Trekkies: “I offered to give back ticket money to anyone who wanted it back,” Serling ruefully recalled in 1990. “So instead of making a lot of money, the Cinephiles lost a lot.” Then came the Reagan-era double-whammy of cable movie channels and the prerecorded videotape boom, with both factors cutting into the attendance for the Monday screenings.
Yet the little movie club that could just kept going, first with its 1989 move to the Celebrity Den on North Salina, followed by a stint at Weber’s Restaurant from 2003 to 2007, and finally its current—and hopefully final—stand at the Spaghetti Warehouse, 689 N. Clinton St. Cinephile vice president Gerry Orlando, who first started attending Monday screenings since 1978, has marveled over the recent hefty crowds, with an increase in younger audience members who are sitting tableside with the veteran viewers. He’s right: At a December showing of the 1941 Cesar Romero gangster comedy Tall, Dark and Handsome, the screening room was at full capacity—which is more amazing when you consider that the movie was broadcast only weeks earlier on TCM.
In contrast, Cinefest has relocated only a few times in its 30-year history: the downtown Hotel Syracuse from 1980 to 1984, the former Quality Inn (now United Inn) on Buckley Road from 1985 to 1995, and finally the Holiday Inn at the intersection of Electronics Parkway and Seventh North Street since 1996. Serling tirelessly promoted both the Cinephiles and Cinefest, with fans still recalling his 2001 appearance on Channel 5’s “Freaky Flix and Food” franchise, where his food-preparation specialty turned out to be—what else?—popcorn. Yet even his death in January 2002 at age 69, following an automobile mishap in Fayetteville, could not stop the legacies he created. (Incidentally, Serling bequeathed all of his collection to Rochester’s George Eastman House.) “Phil would want both the Cinefest and the society to continue,” Eggers said eight years ago, and to ironically coin a Star Trek-ism, both have lived long and prospered.
Orlando reports that this year’s out-of-town contingent hails from virtually everywhere, with many from California, Canada’s Toronto and Montreal, and even guests from France and Germany. Because the Holiday Inn is sold out, too, visitors are encouraged to stay at the nearby Knights Inn, 430 Electronics Parkway, as well as the Comfort Inn, 6701 Buckley Road, and other hotels in the immediate area. And because there has been such strong word-of-mouth among the dealer community who want to be at Cinefest 30, Orlando has added an unprecedented fourth room to accommodate their wares.
Longtime Cinefest dealer Doug Swarthout, who manages the Berry Hill Book Shop in Deansboro, and remembers having to schlep his tomes onto the Hotel Syracuse elevators during Cinefest 3, says that during a typical year “I’ll find things for collectors and save them until March when I bring it to them for Cinefest.” And Manhattan dealer Stephen Sally, who with his dad (also named Stephen) has always managed to fill up a separate room with classic posters and stills, says about his annual trek to Cinefest, “It’s the friendliest festival of all.”
Still, it’s not easy to orchestrate a four-day movie marathon. The Cinefest process begins around late October as Orlando and fellow Cinephile Rick “Shecky” Scheckman (a film coordinator on Late Show with David Letterman) put their heads together. “We go into it with a backlog of films that we’ve had our eyes on,” Orlando says, “but we didn’t have the time to schedule them in other Cinefests, plus private collectors who visit Cinefest steer us toward other prints. Then every year we ask the film archives what new acquisitions they have available. Then comes the heartbreak: They pull out some prints and learn that there is film deterioration or a missing soundtrack, and we can’t use them.”
Yet the hellzapoppin mix of silents and talkies, classics and clinkers and one-of-a-kind curiosities lends Cinefest its greatest distinction: You just never know what’s coming next. (Last year’s guesstimated head count at Cinefest 29 topped 500.) The Capitol’s Pierce, a Cinefest regular since the 1986 confab, says, “The people there are real movie people; it takes a few days to get back to reality.” And you never know who you might bump into, such as octogenarian movie producer Richard Gordon (Fiend Without a Face, Horror Hospital) rummaging around for goodies in the dealers’ rooms. Maltin also braves the March snowflakes to visit. “He likes what I do here in Syracuse with Cinefest,” Serling remarked in 1990. “It’s not glitzy like Hollywood. It’s a more basic, serious film convention.”
So let’s leave it to the late Phil Serling to have the last word on Cinefest: “My friends and I have dedicated our lives to sitting in dark rooms and watching images. Now how sane does that sound?”
Convention city: Taking it from the top, Bob Hodge threads up a projector to show a 16mm buried treasure; film historian Leonard Maltin scours a dealers’ room in search of the cartoon book Of Mice and Magic; Jack Benny and his funny pals in College Holiday (1936), screening March 28; and Colleen Moore endures the advances of a young Mickey Rooney in the 1927 silent Orchids and Ermine, running March 26 at Cinefest 30.
The Show of Shows
Thursday, March 25, kicks off with Paul Muni, in his film debut following his salad days on the Yiddish stage, giving an Oscar-nominated tour de force as a conscientious killer in the 1929 Fox partial talkie The Valiant (9 a.m.), then segues into the 1916 silent rarity Life’s Harmony (10:05 a.m.), co-directed by George Lorimer Johnston and the film’s main actor, Frank Borzage, who went on to become a cultish auteur noted for key works in sentimental cinema. Another obscure silent follows, 1917’s comedy The Wild Girl (10:55 a.m.), starring mega-popular (and controversial) vaudeville star Eva Tanguay as a gypsy gal on the loose.
Following a lunch break will be another batch of old coming attractions (1 p.m.) presented by host Ray Faiola, this year focusing on the flicks scored by Max Steiner. The 1966 film-buff hoot Captain Celluloid Vs. the Film Pirates (2 p.m.) stars movie historian William K. Everson (a guest at many early Cinefests) in his first and last screen appearance in a spoof of cliffhanger serials, in which the negative to director Erich von Stroheim’s uncut Greed is discovered and the Master Duper (Alan G. Barbour, another film historian) attempts to make illegal copies.
The afternoon also includes housewife Marion Gleason guiding the Rochester Community Players for the 1927 home movie Fly Low Jack and the Game (2:45 p.m.), produced by the Eastman Kodak Company and billed as “a thrilling story of adventure and romance made into a movie—by amateurs—for other amateurs to enjoy,” obviously so the nation’s budding movie societies who screened this narrative short subject would run out and buy more Kodak film cameras. Broderick Crawford wears some Tight Shoes (3:20 p.m.), a speedy 1941 Universal comedy based on a Damon Runyon story, co-starring John Howard and Shemp Howard (no relation). Also in the afternoon: 1923’s Little Church Around the Corner (4:35 p.m.), starring Claire Windsor in a silent drama set in a mining town, which proved to be a big hit for a fledgling studio, namely Warner Brothers, that needed one; and a tribute to the abstract, clay-animated works of recently deceased director Art Clokey (5:40 p.m.), including the TV pilot for the dependable bendable Gumby character and a rare special-effects clip involving Dinah Shore.
The evening’s flicks start with the 1920 Paramount silent charmer Conrad In Quest of His Youth (8 p.m.), with William C. de Mille, Cecil B.’s older brother, guiding the sentimental comic fable of a middle-age chap (Thomas Meighan) who yearns for the good old days. Incidentally, Conrad at age 17 is played by A. Edward Sutherland, a future director of W.C. Fields flicks. The title of the 1927 MGM comedy short The Sting of Stings (9:05 p.m.) surely kids Cecil DeMille’s The King of Kings; otherwise, it’s a fun silent involving the always riotous Charley Chase, his new car and a gaggle of reform school brats at a carnival. Stings is also one of the few two-reelers to survive during Chase’s two-year run at MGM; sadly, more than a dozen are considered lost.
Miracle of the Wolves (Le Miracle des Loups) (9:30 p.m.) is director Raymond Bernard’s 1924 French blockbuster, a tale of knights (including recording star Vanni Marcoux), romance and lupine attacks during the reign of King Louis XI (Charles Dullin). Since this is the complete 132-minute French version, not the 1930 re-edit that chopped off an hour, Gail MacFarquhar, a student at the L. Jeffrey Selznick School of Film Preservation at Rochester’s Eastman House, will provide the verbal translations of the French intertitles.
Capping the night is Life Returns (11:40 p.m.), a 1935 Universal curio with Onslow Stevens as a distraught doc attempting to revive his juvie son’s dead dog named Scooter (shades of Tim Burton’s Frankenweenie!). Based on the real-life lab experiments of Dr. Robert Cornish, who appears in this outing, this quasi-horror yarn was shelved by Universal (which sank $40,000 into the production) following a few screenings and eventually unloaded to Grand National after director Eugen Frenke sued Universal because he claimed the studio failed to give his film a proper release. Richard Quine, later a director of Jack Lemmon comedies, makes an early acting appearance in this banned-in-Britain item.
The morning slate for Friday, March 26, commences with the 1940 RKO short Information Please (9 a.m.), based on the popular NBC radio game show hosted by Clifton Fadiman, with acerbic raconteur Oscar Levant as a resident panelist. The bijou version ran from 1939 to 1942. Hats Off (9:10 a.m.) is a 1936 Grand National musical with Mae Clarke and John Payne working from an early script by eventual action specialist Sam Fuller. The Doll-House Mystery (10:20 a.m.) is a speedy 1915 short starring then 7-year-old “Baby” Carmen De Rue, followed by Human Hearts (10:55 a.m.), a 1922 Universal silent dubbed as a “rural melodrama,” with an Ozark hayseed (House Peters) getting hornswoggled by a con lady (Edith Haller).
Afternoon flicks begin with Chapter 9 of the 1916 serial Pearl of the Army (1 p.m.), a vivid sampling of the thrill-packed adventures with screen queen Pearl White. Director Frank Lloyd’s 1921 silent melodrama A Tale of Two Worlds (1:30 p.m.) begins with a Ming Dynasty-era scepter falling into the hands of an antiques dealer and his wife, who are promptly killed by Boxer rebels; the orphaned daughter (Leatrice Joy) is then raised in San Francisco’s Chinatown, where she is thought to be Chinese. Wallace Beery is a hiss-worthy villain, and Anna May Wong is reportedly on the sidelines, too.
Also in the afternoon is 1930’s Peacock Alley (2:35 p.m.), out-of-favor actress Mae Murray’s failed attempt at a screen comeback with this talkie that shares the same title (and little else) of her celebrated 1922 silent. Murray, who was an off-screen litigious diva, is supposedly the basis for Gloria Swanson’s character in Sunset Boulevard. (Peacock Alley actually turns up twice during this Cinefest weekend; see Saturday listings for the lowdown on some missing footage.) Claire Windsor again pops up for the 1925 MGM silent The White Desert (3:45 p.m.), a melodrama set in snowy Colorado and last seen by Cinefest audiences way back in 1988. And an Indiana lumber camp provides the setting for 1935’s Freckles (5 p.m.), with Tom Brown in the title role and kid actor Virginia Weidler stealing many scenes. It’s one of the few RKO films not owned by Time Warner, nor is it broadcast on Turner Classic Movies.
The nighttime lineup is preceded with the 7:45 p.m. cutting of the festival’s anniversary cakes that will be offered in the Cinefest break room, actually one of the hotel’s conference centers loaded with tables, snacks and sandwiches for purchase and bags of free popcorn. (The possible image of Cinefesters swarming en masse over the dessert could well resemble the locust invasion from The Good Earth.) Then the show commences with composer Johnny Green wielding the orchestra baton for the 1954 short MGM Jubilee Overture (8 p.m.), designed to showcase the glories of widescreen and stereophonic sound—neither of which can be found on this 16mm print!
Still, it’s a nice segue for Richard Barrios’ “A Song in the Dark” program (8:10 p.m.), with excerpts and deleted musical numbers from early sound musicals, from a pre-Jazz Singer Vitaphone short with opera star Ernestine Schumann-Heink to a splashy color sequence from MGM’s unreleased The March of Time (1930). By the way, Barrios will be on hand throughout the festival to autograph new copies of the extensively revised second edition of his 1995 book titled, naturally, A Song in the Dark: The Birth of the Musical Film (Oxford University Press).
Barrios’ clip parade is followed by 1927’s silent flapper comedy Orchids and Ermine (9:45 p.m.), with Colleen Moore as a hotel telephone operator in husband-hunting mode. In this First National release, look for Mickey Rooney in a very conspicuous screen debut. Wrapping the night is RKO Radio Pictures’ bona fide classic The Lost Patrol (10:40 p.m.), director John Ford’s tale of desert survival with Victor MacLaglen, Boris Karloff and plenty of familiar kissers in the supporting cast. Despite the easy availability of this title via DVD and TCM broadcasts, Cinefest will screen what’s believed to be the last surviving 16mm print, which has some additional moments not found in those other versions.
On Saturday. March 27, Rome’s Capitol takes center stage for the screenings of 35mm movies, with Bob Hodge large and in charge of the carbon-arc projectors. The roster, which starts at 9:10 a.m., includes the truly obscure 1934 MGM two-reeler Gentlemen of Polish with the glorious vaudeville team of Al Shaw and Sam Lee, plus musical numbers that were evicted from the 1934 all-star showcase Hollywood Party. A very early Lon Chaney appearance is the drawing card for the 1916 Universal silent The Grasp of Greed, but he’s only glimpsed briefly in this H. Rider Haggard adaptation filled with melodramatic devices such as a shipwreck, plus a leading lady named Louise Lovely. George O’Brien as a boxer and Virginia Valli as his sweetie headline the 1927 Fox silent East Side, West Side, which is directed by the ultra-prolific Allan Dwan (a reported 450 flicks!), and crammed with New York City location shots as well as exciting action set pieces that include a sinking ocean liner and a subway cave-in.
Following a lunch break, the Capitol’s 35mm projectors forge onward with that aforementioned excerpt from Mae Murray’s 1930 Peacock Alley, a once-considered-lost musical sequence filmed in Technicolor that is missing from the Friday 16mm presentation. The 1931 two-reeler Thanks Again is an early entry in RKO’s Mr. Average Man short subjects starring Edgar Kennedy, this time with the slow-burn comic genius building an airplane. Columbia’s 1927 Pleasure Before Business is one of the few features to headline ethnic comedian Max Davidson, now experiencing a renaissance of belated critical appreciation 60 years after his death. Davidson’s starring role has him portraying the boss of a cigar factory (introduced as “a manufacturer of the best five-cent cigars ever sold for a quarter”) who alters his miserly ways big time after an inheritance.
The 1925 short The Iron Mule stars Al St. John, whose career stretched from Keystone comedies to sidekick support alongside B-western stalwarts like Lash La Rue. Buster Keaton makes a cameo in this two-reel train comedy directed by Fatty Arbuckle under the William Goodrich alias, a result of his studio blacklisting following the infamous Virginia Rappe manslaughter scandal. In keeping with the choo-choo theme, 1924’s silent Roaring Rails offers western great Harry Carey and 7-year-old Frankie Darro involved in a father figure-war orphan relationship in this melodrama with lots of locomotive and emotive fireworks.
Meanwhile, back at the Holiday Inn, a 16mm movie slate will be presented for those not heading to the Capitol. The selected features are more typical of a Monday night at the Syracuse Cinephile Society, which means there’s not a clinker in the bunch. Joe E. Brown and slapstick galore dominate the 1936 Warner Brothers programmer Earthworm Trailers (10 a.m.), followed by John Wayne in one of his last Three Mesquiteers ventures, 1939’s New Frontier (11:15 a.m.), to be screened under its reissue title Frontier Horizons; Phyllis Isley, later known as Jennifer Jones, makes her film debut in this low-budget horse opera. After lunch comes 1941’s Confessions of Boston Blackie (1 p.m.), part of the Columbia mystery series with Chester Morris; Abbott and Costello in the 1941 wartime laugh riot Buck Privates (2:15 p.m.); and Sidney Toler taking on the sleuthing chores for 1939’s Charlie Chan at Treasure Island (3:50 p.m.).
The evening’s moving pictures start with the much-anticipated annual screening of a William J. Burns detective short, 1930’s The Anthony Case (8 p.m.), a howler-filled mystery produced by Educational Pictures (“the spice of the program”). The 1950 Columbia short Innocently Guilty (8:10 p.m.) has funnyman Bert Wheeler in one of his last screen roles. And the 1917 silent The Girl Without a Soul (8:35 p.m.) stars long-ago actress Viola Dana in a dual role. Dana’s husband, John Collins, who directed this feature, succumbed to the influenza outbreak in 1918.
Next, Cinefest asks the probing question Are Parents People? (9:30 p.m.), a 1925 Paramount silent last seen at the 2000 Cinefest. Director Mal St. Clair’s comedy involves a teen flapper daughter (Betty Bronson, following her star vehicle Peter Pan) who tries to prevent her squabbling mom and dad (Florence Vidor and Adolphe Menjou) from splitting. (Shades of The Parent Trap!). Budding cinema devotee William K. Everson began his movie collection after he reportedly went without food for a week, subsisting only on bread and peanut butter so he could afford the 90 bucks for a print of this film.
Saturday’s nightcap offers 1944’s wartime flag-waver Winged Victory (10:25 p.m.), 20th Century Fox’s 130-minute collaboration with the U.S. Army Air Corps that fields an impressive cast (Jeanne Crain, Judy Holliday, Edmond O’Brien, Red Buttons, Karl Malden and more) under the direction of George Cukor. Complicated rights issues play a big part in why this once-popular title, based on Moss Hart’s Broadway smash, has been unavailable for showings in more than three decades.
Before the 10:30 a.m. auction commences on Sunday. March 28, Cinefest threads up Paramount’s 1936 musical-comedy College Holiday (9 a.m.), with Jack Benny, Martha Raye, George Burns and Gracie Allen. A screening last fall during the Cinephile’s Monday-night series was such a socko success that out-of-town Cinefest attendees requested that this title should be added to this weekend’s lineup.
After the auction will be the second annual noontime salute to Justin Herman, the Peabody Award-winning writer-director behind three comedy shorts from Paramount’s Topper and Pacemaker series: 1951’s The Littlest Expert on My Favorite President, 1952’s Pardon Us Penguins and The Rhumba Seat (1950). Cinefesters will get to see Herman’s own prints of these rarities. Stanley Lupino, papa to Ida, stars in the lightweight 1936 British musical comedy Cheer Up (12:35 p.m.), followed by the 1979 film industry documentary The History of the Motion Picture Camera (1:50 p.m.), and Paramount’s 1929 soap opera-ish soundie The Lady Lies (2:25 p.m.), with Walter Huston, Claudette Colbert and good ol’ Charlie Ruggles. And Cinefest concludes with another weekend appearance by George O’Brien in the 1931 Fox drama A Holy Terror (3:50 p.m.), co-starring a not-well-known-back-then Humphrey Bogart.
A Good Cast Is Worth Repeating
Returning once more with piano accompaniments on the silents will be Philip C. Carli, Makia Matsumara and Ben Model, with Model and Carli also handling the organ at the Capitol.
Aside from Richard Barrios, other authors who will be attending Cinefest include Annette D’Agostino Lloyd (no relation) with her biography Harold Lloyd: Magic in a Pair of Horn-Rimmed Glasses (BearManor Media, 2009); Edward Hulse and his tome on silent cliffhanger serials Distressed Damsels and Masked Marauders, Susie Coffin with Follow Your Stars on William Boyd’s Hopalong Cassidy western role, and Martin Grams Jr. and Terry Salomonson, authors of the just-released 816-page history of The Green Hornet (Simon and Schuster), which should tie in nicely from the Seth Rogen big-screen version due later this year in multiplexes.
And aside from the aforementioned work of Orlando, Scheckman, Hodge, Weber and Eggers, the rest of the Syracuse Cinephile Society that keep Cinefest running include: Andy Eggers’ wife Lois, George Read, Dick Kowell, Vu Pham, Sue Stinson, Mark and Mary Philp, Fritzie Kucinski, Robert Oliver, Barbara Omicinski, Terry and Margaret Hoover, Joan Kucinski and ex-The Trend drummer-vocalist Paul Doherty. At last year’s auction Leonard Maltin heartily thanked their contributions: “It’s hard to enjoy the party when you’re running the party.”
Admission for all four days is $75, with daily ducats fetching $25. A $25 fee will also be charged for the Capitol’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, March 27, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., with a $5 admission, which will be applied toward any dealer purchase. For Cinefest information, call 468-6147 or 409-4625 only from 7 to 9 p.m.; for Holiday Inn details, call 457-1122.