Monday, July 20, 2009

Jason goes to the Niles Film Museum for a night of doggy movies

I've been going to the Niles Film Museum for Saturday night silent movies for about a year now. Well, last Saturday I finally upped my involvement and spent the day volunteering there. For now, I just work in the gift shop from 12-4 (when I have the day free. So the next two weeks I'll be gone at the SF Jewish Film Festival). Soon I plan to work my way up to docent. First step--read David Kiehn's book on the history of the Essanay Film Company in Niles (you can follow the link to Amazon.com, but it's better to buy it at the Museum, where you can get David to sign it).

But, of course, I still go there to watch movies. And last weekend was the Niles dog show, and the Niles Film Museum celebrated with a night of doggy movies! Yay doggies!

TEDDY AT THE THROTTLE (1917): A Keystone comedy starring Gloria Swanson as Gloria Dawn. Her sweetheart Bobbie Knight stands to inherit quite a bit of money, and his scheming guardian has his eye on controlling/stealing his fortune. Oddly, the will has a clause that Bobbie must get married. And there's an addendum that complicates that marriage further. Ultimately, the villain actually ties Gloria to the railroad tracks. But Teddy the dog saves the day, stops the train, and catches the bad guy. If there's anything better than a dog, it's a hero dog!

DOG SHY (1926): Charley Chase stars as a man who's terribly afraid of dogs. Hiding in a phone booth, he accidentally takes a call from a lady in distress who's being forced to marry a nobleman she doesn't love. Charley, always the romantic (up until he's married) steps in to help, and stumbles into work as the family butler. There's a hilarious scene where he's ordered to give The Duke a bath (The Duke is the family dog's name...Charley doesn't know that). Then a bit of midnight hi-jinks, as everybody likes to use a howl as their signal. Hilarious.

By the way, Charley Chase is an excellent, hilarious, and often overlooked comedian. Sony owns the rights to all his work at Columbia Pictures. A while ago, they did some market research and determined that a box set of his comedy shorts wouldn't sell well enough. Please go here and sign this petition to convince them to change their mind (it doesn't obligate you to buy any DVD, it just expresses you might be interested).

Back to the movies.

FROM HAND TO MOUTH (1919): Harold Lloyd starving to death. He teams up with a homeless little girl and her dog to try to get a bite to eat. A wealthy heiress (Mildred Davis, who later became Lloyd's wife) notices their plight, and helps them out. Of course, she's in a bit of trouble herself, as if she doesn't sign her inheritance papers (another theme of the night) by midnight, she'll lose her inheritance. Snub Pollard plays the leader of a gang who kidnaps her (at the behest of a crooked lawyer) to insure just that happens. But Lloyd saves the day by inciting cops to chase him until the entire force converges on the hideout. And, like always, Lloyd gets the girl.

DOG HEAVEN (1927): An Our Gang short, it opens with Petey the pup putting his neck into a noose. Another dog stops him, and he tells his story. He was Joe's dog since he was a little baby. Joe grew to be a big, pudgy kid, but always loved Petey. That is, until The Girl got in the way. Now Joe doesn't want to play or go fishing, he just spends time with The Girl. Which would be fine, if it weren't for the fact that The Girl hates Petey. At first she says Petey scares her little kitty-cat. Later, a different dog pushes The Girl off a bridge into a lake. Petey saves her, and Joe arrives just as he's dragging her out. She wakes to think that Joe saved her and that Petey was the pusher. So Joe sends him away, saying he's a bad, bad dog. The other dog (the one that Petey's telling his story to) agrees that that's pretty terrible, and offers to help him with the rope. The end.

...

Not! Actually, Joe learns the truth and arrives just in time to save Petey and they become friends for ever and ever. Really the end.
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