Capitolfest, the annual summertime blast of rare flicks from the silent and early sound eras, marks its 10th birthday this weekend at Rome’s Capitol Theatre, 220 W. Dominick St. And what better way to celebrate than with a wedding? Well, sort of, although even the most extreme of film fanatics will concede that it’s a stretch to label this a betrothal.
The pair—the silent footage and the sound disc—first met during the 2010 Capitolfest’s screening of the 1930 all-star musical revue Paramount on Parade. The UCLA Film and Television Archive had restored parts of the movie, although there were some missing chunks of the soundtrack to accompany footage from comic singer Harry Green’s “Isador the Toreador” number. At the time Capitol executive director Art Pierce was wondering aloud with projectionist Bob Hodge about what snippet of music organist Avery Tunningley could perform for this silent sequence. Pierce thought that the toreador number from the opera Carmen, which singer Green parodies, would be an appropriate choice.
Hodge agreed, and with good reason: “I’ve got the disc,” he chirped, meaning the 33 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. Hodge’s disc was then shipped to UCLA so archivists could properly marry that sequence’s long-lost sound and image. The happy union takes place on Saturday, Aug. 11, 4:40 p.m., so now Hodge can add “wedding deejay” to his Capitolfest duties.
Otherwise, it’s business as usual for Capitolfest 10, with 14 features, 15 short subjects, clips, trailers and even vintage commercials, and with one exception, all will be shown in 35mm prints. This year’s fest pays homage to the career of Warner Oland, and it must have been difficult to track down the actor’s elusive screen rarities while not attempting to book what Oland is best known for: his classic incarnation of Charlie Chan. Yet there’s more stargazing with two Jean Arthur features, a pair of oldies starring Charles “Buddy” Rogers, a Tom Mix talkie and dog-day diversions with pooches named Lightnin’ and Rin Tin Tin.
Pierce reports a 20 percent increase in attendance compared to last year’s edition, with folks checking in from Toronto, New York City, Maine, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Ohio, New Jersey and California. And since even movie buffs can’t live on popcorn alone, there will also be a Saturday, Aug. 11, lunch starting at 1:15 p.m. with treats available from the nearby Brenda’s Natural Foods, 216 W. Dominick St. (337-0437), with pre-ordered salads, wraps, burgers and more on the menu.
Capitolfest 10’s three-day, seven-program festival commences with roughly eight hours of flicks on Friday, Aug. 10, with the day’s silent attractions featuring accompaniment by Tunningley on the Capitol’s 1928 Moller theater organ. The fest gets a head start, however, at noon with a video presentation of The Chinaman from Bjurholm, a Swedish TV documentary profile of Warner Oland. Since it is in Swedish, cultural journalist Anders Sjogren, who will bring the documentary to Rome, will provide an ongoing translation.
Then the first session, 1 to 5 p.m., begins with a pair of short subjects: the 1927 Vitaphone musical Hawaiian Nights, featuring hula girls and vaudeville melodies from the Mid-Pacific Hawaiians, and a 1931 edition of Intimate Interviews with actress Lois Wilson getting gently grilled by Dorothy West. The 1932 Universal horse opera The Rider of Death Valley (1:30 p.m.) then offers actress Wilson and big-league cowpoke Tom Mix, in his second sound feature, in a gritty saga filmed in the Mohave Desert.
In a rare departure from the 35mm entries, the Capitol fires up their recently installed 16mm projector for The Marriage Clause (3:10 p.m.), a 20-minute cutdown of the now-lost 1926 drama directed by Lois Weber, with Warner Oland in a supporting role. Then it’s back to 35mm for two more silents, the 1911 Vitagraph antique short A Queen for a Day (3:30 p.m.) with forgotten comic John Bunny, and the 1928 flapper flick Bare Knees (4 p.m.) with Virginia Lee Corbin.
Friday’s evening program, 7 to 10:30 p.m., starts with Tunningley back on the keyboards for another fragment from Warner Oland’s career: a five-minute excerpt from the 1929 Columbia entry The Faker. The fast-moving 1928 silent feature The Night Flyer (7:10 p.m.) casts William “Hopalong Cassidy” Boyd as a loutish locomotive fireman. The Fleischer brothers’ animation unit kicks in the 1931 promotional musical short In My Merry Oldsmobile (8:35 p.m.), followed by the 1927 Vitaphone short Blossom Seeley and Benny Fields (8:40 p.m.), which preserves the married vaudevillians’ classic shtick.
Capitolfest 10 honoree Oland dominates the 1927 Warner Brothers feature Old San Francisco (8:55 p.m.), a Chinatown-based melodrama (written by Darryl F. Zanuck before he became a movie mogul) with co-stars Dolores Costello, Anna May Wong and a big-time earthquake. While this once-popular artifact has earned occasional showings on the Turner Classic Movies network, the chance to savor it on the Capitol’s big screen is an offer that film aficionados won’t likely refuse. Old San Francisco will also be presented with its original Vitaphone soundtrack, with music and sound effects to accompany the film’s title cards.
Kicking off the morning lineup on Saturday, 9:30 a.m. to 1:15 p.m., will be Wild Flowers, a 1930 automobile promotional short for Studebaker’s 41-foot-long Model 80 Four Season roadster. Jazz fans (are you listening, Frank Malfitano?) will want to see a rare screen appearance by Jean Goldkette and his Orchestra as they perform four numbers along with the singing Three Shades of Blue.
Paramount’s 1930 aerial drama Young Eagles (9:45 a.m.), guided by William Wellman (Wings), stars that film’s Charles “Buddy” Rogers as a World War I flyboy who soars with leading lady Jean Arthur and also zeroes in on German pilot Paul Lukas. Following at 11:25 a.m. is a 1931 trailer for Oland’s sadly lost series entry Charlie Chan Carries On (a 1937 blaze on the 20th Century Fox lot apparently wiped out much of the studio’s backlog). The 1935 Harry Langdon comedy short His Marriage Mix-Up (11:30 a.m.) is from his well-regarded days at Columbia. And Jean Arthur returns with Robert Armstrong and Lola Lane for Ex-Bad Boy (11:50 a.m.), a 1931 farce from Universal.
Saturday’s afternoon session, 2:30 to 6:30 p.m., begins with Surprise, Surprise, a 1937 Pillsbury commercial with the Three Stooges. The boys are pushing a “Moving Picture Machine” (actually, just cardboard strips featuring stills from their shorts) that is available as a giveaway with two boxes of Farina cereal. Running just three minutes, Surprise, Surprise also turned up last March at this year’s Cinefest confab, and for those who blinked and missed it there will get another shot at these nyuk-nyuksters.
Continuing an afternoon of alliteration is a pair of silents: the 1925 Hal Roach silent comedy short Somewhere in Somewhere.
(2:35 p.m.) with prolific performer Charles Murray (a mere 279
titles!), followed by Mary Astor, Lloyd Hughes and Thelma Todd in the
1928 First National romantic comedy Heart to Heart (2:55 p.m.). Tunningley graces the keyboard for these silents.
Next is the aforementioned restored Paramount on Parade excerpt (4:40 p.m.). Warner Oland and W.C. Fields are the celebrity duffers for Hip Action (4:50 p.m.), part of the “How to Break 90” series with golfer Bobby Jones, with ad-libs aplenty and inspired use of slow-motion photography. And Heads Up! (5:05 p.m.) is Paramount’s 1930 adaptation of a Rodgers and Hart Broadway musical about bootleggers, with Charles “Buddy” Rogers and Helen Kane as the romantic leads and character actor Victor Moore repeating his stage role.
During the Saturday night dinner break, there will be a special performance of Tin Pan Alley standards by traveling entertainer Bubbles LaRue, accompanied by Avery Tunningley at the Capitol organ. Bubbles will likely be on stage from about 7:40 to 8:20 p.m.
Then the evening’s program, 8:20 p.m. to midnight, commences with Dr. Philip C. Carli handling the organ honors for two silent entries. Warner Oland plays Wu Fang opposite imperiled screen heroine Pearl White in chapter 11 of the 1919 serial The Lightning Raider. That’s followed by Oland taking the lead role for 1927’s Good-Time Charley (8:40 p.m.), a sentimental backstage yarn from Warner Brothers with Oland playing a vaudeville dad and Helene Costello as his daughter under the direction of Michael Curtiz (Casablanca).
The 1931 Universal short A Burglar to the Rescue (10:20 p.m.) is also the first of six mini-mysteries produced as part of the studio’s “Shadow Detective” series. And murder most foul is promised with Paramount’s 1932 drama The Night of June 13th (10:40 p.m.) with Clive Brook, Frances Dee and Capitolfest fave Charlie Ruggles.
The morning segment on Sunday, Aug. 12, 9:30 a.m. to 1:15 p.m., starts with the 1939 short A Star is Shorn, featuring lower-tier Columbia contract players in a crashing-into-Hollywood brevity. Oland next co-stars in director Frank Lloyd’s 1932 A Passport to Hell (9:50 p.m.), a complicated melodrama set in West Africa from Fox that also features Elissa Landi, Paul Lukas and Donald Crisp.
The 1926 silent two-reeler Lightnin’ Wins (11:25 a.m.) has a dog named Lightnin’ plus Gary Cooper in his pre-Wings salad days. And the 1926 silent First National comedy The Brown Derby (11:30 a.m.) offers forgotten funnyman Johnny Hines cavorting in a script by Bert Wheeler. The restored Capitolfest print from the UCLA Film and Television Archive will include the original hand-colored tints and tones. Both silents will be scored by organ master Bernie Anderson.
The final Sunday program, running 2:15 to 6:15 p.m., kicks off with star Ralph Ince as a ruthless tycoon in the 1929 Columbia drama Wall Street, which actually began filming when the stock exchange was crashing. At 3:50 p.m. film collector Jack Theakston presents his annual grab bag of clips, trailers and more. The fest winds down with the 1923 Hal Roach silent short Bowled Over (4:45 p.m.), with James Parrott, Charley Chase’s kid brother, handling the slapstick. The capper is the 1926 Warner Brothers action yarn The Night Cry (5 p.m.), starring none other than Rin Tin Tin as a sheep dog falsely accused of killing his flock. The organ accompaniment by Dr. Philip C. Carli should enhance the thrills of this canine cavalcade.
The festival’s three-day weekend pass fetches $55 for adults, $33 for
children 12 and under, while a Saturday-Sunday pass is $45 for elders,
$23 for small fry. Single-day passes run $26 adults, $14 kids, while
separate sessions are $14 adults, $8 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, Sony
Pictures and Universal. For information, call 337-6453 or visit