Film fans will be in seventh heaven with this weekend’s Capitolfest 9 in Rome
A funny thing happened on the way to last summer’s Capitolfest, the annual blowout of BOOKS rarely screened movies at Rome’s Capitol Theatre, 220 W. Dominick St. A screening was scheduled for Paramount on Parade, a 1930 all-star musical revue that for decades was only available in abridged black-and-white ART TV prints that removed many of the feature’s original color sequences. The UCLA Film and Television Archive had restored parts of the movie, but it still remains a workin-progress, as evidenced TIMES by the fact TABLE that there were some missing portions of the soundtrack to accompany footage from comic singer Harry Green’s “Isador the Toreador” number. CLUB DATES Capitol executive director Art Pierce was wondering aloud with projectionist Bob Hodge about what snippet of music organist Avery Tunningley could perform as an aural fillip for this sequence, which would be presented silent. Pierce thought that the toreador number from the opera Carmen, which singer Green parodies, would be an appropriate choice.
“Yeah, that sounds familiar,” Hodge said. “How would you know?” Pierce asked. “I’ve got the disc,” Hodge answered, meaning the 33 1/3 Vitaphone transcription disc that actually accompanied talkie prints of Paramount on Parade to bijous during its Depression-era release, before the creation of sound-on-film techniques when soundtrack platters were precisely synched to a silent movie’s unspooling. While the restored footage of the num-ber could not be quite matched up with Hodge’s prized disc at the Capitol, the song was played after the screening as a lagniappe for the delighted Capitolfest audience. Hodge’s disc is now at UCLA so archivists can properly remarry that sequence’s long-lost sound and image.
“It’s a pretty good example of why these movies should be shown,” Pierce says, because supposed missing elements to filmdom’s forgotten relics can literally turn up anywhere—even amid a Capitol projectionist’s collection of cinema bric-abrac. That’s why the ninth edition of Capitolfest, running Friday, Aug. 12, through Sunday, Aug. 14, continues its spotlight on the previously unseen and unavailable works from decades gone by, demonstrating the continuing need for film preservation and proving that there’s far more to Hollywood’s history than the usual suspects of Casablanca and The Wizard of Oz.
Among the oldies will be 14 features and 19 short subjects, and they’ll be shown in 35mm prints, too. With the recent conversions of Rome-area multiplexes from film to digital projection, including the Zurich Cinema empire’s Westgate eight-screener in Rome and the nine-screen Oneida Movieplex, Pierce can rightfully claim that the Capitol’s indoor operation, which first opened in 1928, is the only game in town for 35mm movies.
Film fanatics from nearby Ohio, Pennsylvania and New England constitute much of the out-of-towner action, with newbies from Delaware visiting Rome this year, and even a fella from Norwich, England, flying in—and, boy, will his arms be tired. Capitolfest also lures the cinema cognoscenti, including Louis Despres, curator of a website devoted to the films of second banana El Brendel, Library of Congress restoration pro James Cozart, Abbott and Costello historian Bob Furmanek and representatives from Rochester’s George Eastman House. And because even movie buffs gotta eat, there will also be a lunch wagon stationed outside the theater at various times, as the caterers of American Potato will offer a menu of wieners, burgers, fries and plenty more.
There’s also one major change for the 2011 weekend: The “pre-glow” Friday evening screenings of 16mm silent prints at the Rome Elks Club, behind the Capitol on 126 W. Liberty St., has been discontinued, a victim of its own success. It seems that the venue, which could only hold about a hundred movie maniacs, was doing turnaway business. (This is a good time to mention that the Capitol has recently installed some 16mm projectors inside its bustling projection booth, thus adding more possibilities for obscurities that are currently available only in that format.)
Thus, Capitolfest 9’s all-35mm, threeday, seven-program festival commences with roughly eight hours of flicks on Friday, with all silents featuring organ accompaniment by Avery Tunningley. The inaugural session, 1 to 5 p.m., begins with the restoration premiere of 1934’s The Mascot, an animated French short that has been restored to its original 34-minute length (the previous incarnation ran 10 minutes shorter). The 1934 Universal programmer Bombay Mail (1:35 p.m.) offers Edmund Lowe, Hedda Hopper and more in a murder mystery set aboard an Indiabound locomotive. The 1929 Vitaphone short Ship Ahoy (3:10 p.m.) preserves the comic shtick of vaudevillian Arthur “Pat” West, while the 1944 Columbia two-reeler Bachelor Daze is a Slim Summerville farce. And the 1928 silent A Ship Comes In (3:45 p.m.) fields Rudolph Schildkraut and Oscar-nominated Louise Dresser in a tale of Hungarian immigrants coming to Ellis Island.
Following a two-hour dinner break (the Elks Club will provide supper selections for interested parties), the evening program, 7 to 10:45 p.m., starts with the 1930 Vitaphone short Let’s Elope with reallife vaudeville marrieds Betty and Jerry Brown. Aviator Charles Lindbergh can be glimpsed in a silent 1927 newsreel (7:10 p.m.) produced by Universal and William Randolph Hearst’s International News Service. The fast-moving 1924 silent feature Geared to Go (7:20 p.m.) presents forgotten screen action hero Reed Howes in a saga of rival taxicab companies.
Pep of the Lazy J (8:35 p.m.), a 1926 silent western short with Edmund Cobb as a cowpoke, offers an early glimpse of actress Janet Gaynor, the thematic drawing card for Capitolfest 9. Next comes Gaynor’s Oscar-winning turn in Sunrise (9 p.m.), director F.W. Murnau’s silent classic involving a farming couple (Gaynor and George O’Brien) that experiences trouble from big-city types. While this all-timer has earned showings on the Turner Classic Movies network, the chance to savor its artistry on the big screen is an offer that film aficionados won’t likely refuse. Sun-rise will be presented with a Movietone soundtrack of music and sound effects, and introduced by Syracuse University’s John and Susan Harvith, co-authors of an acclaimed book on pioneering movie photographer Karl Struss.
Kicking off the morning lineup on Saturday, 9:30 a.m. to 1:15 p.m., will
be Spook to Me, a 1945 Columbia short with Andy Clyde. Claudette
Colbert and Ginger Rogers headline (get it?) Paramount’s newspaper
comedy Young Man of Manhattan (9:50 a.m.), which was never a part of any
syndicated TV package sale, and actually screened at the Capitol way
back on Dec. 23 and 24, 1930. A short subject that chronicles a studio
tour at 20th Century Fox circa 1936 follows at 11:25 a.m., with footage
of Capitolfest honoree Janet Gaynor. And the actress immediately returns
for Servants’ Entrance (11:45 a.m.), 1934-vintage romantic fluff that
pairs a rich gal (Gaynor) with a chauffeur (Lew Ayres), plus a
six-minute cartoon dream sequence from Walt Disney’s studio animators
Saturday’s afternoon session, 2:30 to 6:40 p.m., begins with a trailer for the 1926 lost Paramount feature The American Venus, a supposedly racy title, then moves into the 1928 Paramount short Call Again with the always amusing character actor Edward Everett Horton. Dr. Philip C. Carli graces the keyboard for the 1924 Paramount silent North of 36 (2:55 p.m.), with Jack Holt handling the reins for a rip-roaring cattle drive. The 1944 Columbia short Mopey Dope (4:40 p.m.) stars silent great Harry Langdon in one of his final efforts.
At 5 p.m. is the much-anticipated restoration of producer Florenz Ziegfeld’s 1929 Paramount all-star musical revue Glorify ing the American Girl. For years it was seen only in an 87-minute syndicated print that was trimmed from the original 96-minute length. The black-and-white TV print, now in the public domain, also removed all the Technicolor elements, which featured fleeting glimpses of near-nudity, but they have now been restored for (ahem) cinematic scrutiny. Syracuse Cinephile Society guru Gerry Orlando, a huge fan of earlytalkie musicals, will chat about the movie beforehand, which was first screened at the Capitol on April 25 and 26, 1930.
The Saturday program, 8:20 p.m. to midnight, commences with the rarely seen 1930 Columbia short Stage Door Pest, followed by the 1929 Vitaphone musical specialty Grace Johnston and her Indiana Five. Next comes Harold Teen (8:30 p.m.), a 1928 First National silent comedy, offering Arthur Lake (who later played Dagwood in the Blondie movie series) as the addled adolescent in this adaptation of the long-running comic strip, and a likely precursor to the Archie Andrews character. Tunningley again handles the keyboards for this screening, and has reportedly lavished much effort for his complete reconstruction of the original’s thematic cue sheet.
The 1934 Columbia musical short Love Detectives (10:20 p.m.) provides an early glimpse of Betty Grable. And Universal’s 1931 drama A House Divided (10:40 p.m.) concerns an odd love triangle between an aging fisherman (Walter Huston, whose son John co-wrote the script), his young wife (Helen Chandler) and the old guy’s handsome son (Kent Douglass), all under the direction of seasoned pro William Wyler.
The morning segment on Sunday, 9:30 a.m. to 12:50 p.m., starts with more vaudeville patter in the 1929 Pathe short 50 Miles from Broadway, with costars Harry B. Watson and Reg Merville.
Capitolfest perennial favorite Jack Oakie turns up in Close Harmony (9:50 a.m.), Paramount’s first all-talkie musical comedy, with Charles “Buddy” Rogers as a jazz bandleader who woos pretty hoofer Nancy Carroll. The Capitol ran it on Sept. 8 and 9, 1929. A 1927 silent edition of Columbia Screen Snapshots (11:20 a.m.) provides visual drive-bys with Roaring ’20s celebs like Babe Ruth. It’s followed by the 1926 silent Universal comedy What Happened to Jones? (11:30 a.m.), with Reginald Denny as a would-be groom in hot water. Both silents will be scored by organ master Bernie Anderson.
Two Columbia shorts kick off the final program, running 2 to 6 p.m. on Sunday: the 1937 color Scrappy cartoon Scary Crows and 1945’s Snooper Service, with El Brendel teaming with Harry Langdon. The latter short, released posthumously following Langdon’s 1944 death, was never issued in syndicated TV prints and likely has never been seen in 66 years. Next is the restoration premiere of Universal’s 1932 comedy The Unexpected Father (2:30 p.m.) with Slim Summerville and ZaSu Pitts, followed by more arcane stuff at 3:45 p.m. when film collector Jack Theakston presents his annual grab bag of clips, trailers and more, such as a 1920s-era short on railroad safety. And the fest winds down with the 4:50 p.m. showing of the 1926 Fox silent The Johnstown Flood, an early Hollywood disaster movie with Janet Gaynor and George O’Brien battling the special-effects mayhem. The organ accompaniment by Dr. Philip C. Carli should enhance the hyperactive visual thrills.
festival’s three-day weekend pass fetches $50 for adults, $24 for
children 12 and under, while a Saturday-Sunday pass is $40 for elders,
$19 for young’uns. Single-day passes run $23 adults, $12 kids, while
separate sessions are $13 adults, $7 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
Universal. For information, call 337-6453 or visit www.romecapitol.com.