This year’s Capitolfest got a publicity boost when the Capitol
hosted the 35mm program at last March’s Cinefest 30, presented by the
Syracuse Cinephile Society. “No question about it,” says Capitol
executive director Art Pierce about the Cinefest influence. “People who
were here for Cinefest that had never been here before said they were
definitely coming to Capitolfest and signed up.” Of course, the
1,788-seat bijou, with its variable-speed projectors that present
crystal-clear images from a vantage point 160 feet away onto a
20-by-40-foot screen, is surely its biggest selling point.
Pierce also estimates that his annual August movie blowout, which he
programs, continues with a 15 percent to 20 percent increase in
attendance each year. He ticks off a batch of states where cineastes
are coming—“lots of Pennsylvanias and Ohios, some from New England”—and
also cites that “a guy from England who is a two-strip Technicolor fan
is coming all this way just to see Under the Texas Moon,” a 1930 Warner Brothers musical.
Pierce works on each Capitolfest throughout the year, and even has
some programming ideas for the 2011 incarnation. He also gets some
assistance on possible titles from industry pros like film
preservationist James Cozart from Rochester’s George Eastman House.
When the Library of Congress got wind that Pierce planned a salute to
actress Jean Arthur, they cajoled him to run the 1925 western The Galloping Dude,
a movie that, alas, now only has three of its original five reels. “The
second reel has all the action and the fifth reel has the climax,”
Pierce says with a laugh regarding the missing stuff, yet agreed that
the movie maniacs who visit Capitolfest probably wouldn’t mind. After
all, where else are you going to see a fragmented flick like this?
The Capitolfest’s silent selections will feature turns on the 1928
original installation theater organ by Avery Tunningley, who performs
throughout the three programs on Saturday, plus Dr. Philip C. Carli and
Bernie Anderson on Sunday. And as if to demonstrate that this Rome
cinema confab is thousands of miles away from Hollywood Boulevard, an
al fresco cookout will take place on Saturday from 1:30 to 2:40 p.m.
Much like last year’s successful inaugural barbecue, a grill will be
set up in front of the Capitol, with hot dogs, hamburgers, sausages,
chicken and vegetarian options available to eat either inside the
theater or atop sidewalk tables. The feast is priced at $8.50, and
it’ll be one of the few opportunities to witness movie buffs in broad
Capitolfest offers five different 35mm programs spread across two
days, starting with a morning slate on Saturday, Aug. 14, from 9:30
a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Kicking off the day will be the U.S. premiere of the
restored Warner Brothers-Vitaphone Varieties short Hilda, with
the justly forgotten Billy “Swede” Hall and his vaudeville-era drag
routine. Comedies about newlyweds then fill the screen. The Virtuous Husband
(9:45 a.m.), Universal’s 1931 farce, presents Elliott Nugent and Jean
Arthur as young marrieds who heed marital advice from an unusual
source: the groom’s dead mother, who wrote a newspaper column
dispensing wisdom for the lovelorn. (Perhaps not surprisingly, the
movie is based on a play titled Apron Springs.) The 1929 partial talkie Modern Love
(11:25 a.m.) features Capitolfest fave Charley Chase (a Hal Roach
employee on loanout to Universal) paired with Kathryn Crawford in a
comedy of covert canoodling. Unseen for decades until its recent
restoration by Universal, Modern Love is one of Chase’s few feature-length flicks, and his first sound effort, too.
Then Avery Tunningley steps up to the organ to provide accompaniment for the 1925 independent silent feature The Drug Store Cowboy
(12:35 p.m.). Franklyn Farnum goes west to crash into cowboy westerns,
with Jean Arthur as a movie star and Gary Cooper in his pre-Wings salad days as a blacksmith.
Saturday’s afternoon session, 2:40 to 6:30 p.m., begins with Drug Store Cowboy stars Farnum and Arthur in the aforementioned obscure 1925 horse opera The Galloping Dude.
Tunningley returns to the keyboard for this silent. At 3:10 p.m. is the
much-anticipated screening of the restored 1930 all-star musical revue Paramount on Parade,
with the studio’s many contract players (including Gary Cooper, Richard
Arlen, Clara Bow, Jean Arthur, Maurice Chevalier and others) performing
bits of business. For years seen only in a 77-minute syndicated print
that was cut down from the original 102-minute length (the
black-and-white TV print simply removed all the color elements, but
frustratingly left in all the introductions to those scenes!), the UCLA
film archivists has restored sections and also filled in gaps with
stills, soundtrack recordings and even some Technicolor sequences.
(Cinefest guru Gerry Orlando, a huge fan of early-talkie musicals, will
chat about the movie beforehand.) The afternoon wraps with another
Paramount obscurity, the 1931 comedy Forbidden Adventure (5:10
p.m.) with Edna May Oliver as a stage mama and Paramount child actors
Mitzi Green and Jackie Searl stealing their scenes.
The Saturday-night program, 8:10 to 11:45 p.m., commences with the 1929 Vitaphone two-reeler Poor Aubrey, with Franklin Pangborn recreating a vaudeville sketch written by playwright George Kelly. Womanhandled
(8:30 p.m.), a 1926 Paramount silent comedy, offers he-man Richard Dix
as a Manhattan dandy who heads West; Tunningley again graces the
keyboards for this screening. The 1932 RKO short Fish Feathers
(10:10 p.m.) provides plenty of slow-burn antics from the perpetually
flustered Edgar Kennedy. And Universal’s 1932 pre-Production Code
antique Scandal for Sale (10:30 p.m.) concerns the dark sides
of newspaper circulation and journalistic ethics, with a top cast
headed by Charles Bickford, Pat O’Brien and Glenda Farrell.
Sunday’s morning segment, 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., starts with the restoration premiere of the 1929 Vitaphone short Harry Fox and His Six American Beauties;
hoofer Fox, incidentally, is credited with creating the Fox trot dance.
Capitolfest’s other major musical restoration is the 1930 Warner
Brothers feature Under a Texas Moon (9:50 p.m.), now back to
its original two-strip Technicolor palette; directed by Michael Curtiz
and starring then-popular entertainer Frank Fay (both reportedly
disliking each other so much during the production), this western
hodgepodge also features screen sirens Raquel Torres and Myrna Loy.
The 1927 silent short Federated Screen Snapshots No. 12
(11:35 a.m.) provides visual drive-bys with Roaring ’20s celebs like
Babe Ruth. It’s followed by the 1927 silent Universal feature Alias the Deacon
(11:55 a.m.), director Edward Sloman’s comedy-drama with Jean Hersholt
as a traveling gambler who enjoys hustling crooks. Both silents will be
scored by organ master Bernie Anderson.
Selected shorts dominate the final program, running 2:15 to 6 p.m.
on Sunday, with organist Philip C. Carli handling the silents. Tom
Dugan appears in the 1930 Vitaphone one-reeler She Who Gets Slapped,
another restoration premiere, then Jean Arthur returns with comic actor
Jack Oakie as a superstitious boob and William “Stage” Boyd (not the Hopalong Cassidy thespian) as a racketeer in Paramount’s 1931 comedy The Gang Buster
(2:30 p.m.). More arcane stuff screens at 3:30 p.m. when film collector
Jack Theakston presents his annual grab bag of clips, trailers and
shorts, such as a Bela Lugosi interview from 1931. The 1929 silent
short The Leader (4:40 p.m.) comes from Germany‘s UFA Studios,
and not even programmer Pierce knows what it’s about. And the fest
winds down with the 4:50 p.m. showing of the 1926 Paramount silent You Never Know Women,
with Florence Vidor and Clive Brook as traveling acrobats, and comic
relief provided by El Brendel and his pet goose. Louis Despres, curator
of the El Brendel website, will be in attendance; his site claims that
this movie was considered lost for decades until a print was tracked
down at the Library of Congress in 2001.
As a prelude to the weekend’s 35mm schedule, Capitolfest offers
another evening of 16mm silent selections on Friday, Aug. 13, 7 to
10:30 p.m., at the Rome Elks Club, behind the Capitol on 126 W. Liberty
St. The program, which will have Tunningley performing on the club’s
1933 organ, includes 1929’s King of the Rodeo (7 p.m.), a Hoot
Gibson western programmer from Universal; Reginald Denny stars as a
boxer in Universal’s 1922 Leather Pushers two-reeler Round Two (8:05 p.m.); 23-skidooers dominate 1927’s The Relay (8:25 p.m.), the seventh installment of “The Collegians” comedy series from Universal; the 1924 French cartoon Frogland (9:05 p.m.); and Edward Sloman’s 1925 Universal drama His People
(9:15 p.m.), a tale of immigrants in Manhattan that in 2006 received a
live jazz accompaniment from James Carney during the Syracuse
International Film Festival. Reservations are strongly recommended,
however, since the club only has room for about 100.
The festival’s three-day weekend pass fetches $45 for adults, $25
for children 12 and under, while a Saturday-Sunday pass is $40 for
elders, $22 for young’uns. Single-day passes run $23 adults, $12 kids,
while separate sessions are $13 adults, $5 children. The mint-condition
prints hail from the Library of Congress, the UCLA Film and Television
Archive, George Eastman House and the vaults of Warner Brothers and
And for those interested in a Capitolfest 8 sneak preview, visit the
Capitol on Monday, Aug. 9, 7 p.m., for an extensive tour of the movie
house, with glimpses of the projection booth and the dressing rooms,
and even see some 35mm short subjects. This open house is free. For
information, call 337-6453 or visit www.romecapitol.com.