Sunday, July 7, 2013

Jason goes to the Broncho Billy Film Festival--Sunday

So I skipped Saturday to drink all afternoon and then see my Quakes make an amazing comeback in the California Clasico at Stanford Stadium. So I was dragging a little bit, and mightily hungover, but I was back at Niles for the third and final day of their big weekend, the Broncho Billy Silent Film Festival.

First, a walking tour of historic buildings in Niles (and shooting locations for BRONCHO BILLY AND THE BANDIT'S SECRET.) Then it was back to the Edison Theater at the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum for a pair of movies and a panel discussion

The first film was actually a documentary and a talkie! STUNT LOVE (2011) tells the story of one of the original Hollywood couples. Helen Holmes, the great stunt actress, and her husband and director J. P. McGowan. They didn't just collaborate on one of the most popular series of the silent era (Hazards of Helen,) but they were trailblazers who pioneered stunt work that future generations still admire (like Zoe Bell,  who shows up in the movie.)

Then we were treated to a STUNT COMPILATION REEL from Blackhawk Films. Lots of cool old silent film footage of jumps, riding, and train dodges. Very cool.

Then we had a panel discussion with Sprague Anderson, Diana Serra Cary (aka Baby Peggy), and Bob Birchard talking about the history of the stunt business. Of course, in Baby Peggy's time they didn't call it "stunts" they just called it "work," even when "work" meant finding your way out of a burning set when the "unfired" door did in fact catch on fire. A true professional, she found her way out without ruining the shot...and then the scene was left on the cutting room floor. Everybody had stories of stunt performers they knew (or knew of) and it may be a little morbid, but nearly every story involved someone dying in an accident. Very interesting.

Then a little break, and we finished with the final program of the festival.

First up, we enjoyed an encore presentation of the film produced by the museum, BRONCHO BILLY AND THE BANDIT'S SECRET (2013.) Still fun on a second viewing. Can't wait to see the final version with all the titles, credits, and balanced light levels.

CANINE SHERLOCK HOLMES (1912): Then we had a special unplanned treat. This comic short was added to the program. A very clever dog finds the robber's hideout and alerts the police.

SHERLOCK JR. (1924): And finally, we ended with this Buster Keaton classic. Keaton plays a projectionist (remember, the theme of the festival is movies about movies) but he dreams of--and is studying for--becoming a detective. He has a chance to put his skills to use when his girlfriend's father's pocketwatch is stolen. But his skills aren't that great--instead he gets framed. So he goes back--loveless--to his theater where he starts the movie, falls asleep, and walks right into the movie-within-the-movie. Pretty impressive special effects gags, as the scenes change but he stays the same. Eventually he (in the movie) becomes the famous detective Sherlock Jr. and solves the mystery. Very funny stuff.

And that was how the Broncho Billy Silent Film Festival, 2013 edition, ended. And I finally got home and slept off my hangover.

Total Running Time: 143 minutes
My Total Minutes: 333,108


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