Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Jason goes to Niles to celebrate a 95th Birthday and a 100th Birthday

Niles was proud to celebrate the 95th Birthday of our good friend Diana Serra Carey (aka Baby Peggy, the last surviving silent film star) but I'm about a week and a half behind on this blog, so Happy 95 years, 1.5 weeks, Diana! (Actually, her real Birthday was October 29th, so it's even more than that.) She showed up at the museum during the day to talk to all her fans (and the place was actually pretty packed with them) and sign her books and the DVD of Vera Iwebor's excellent documentary about her, BABY PEGGY: THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM. I got mine signed, woo hoo!

She didn't stick around for the evening movies, which was also the 100th Anniversary of the first show at the original theater that was built in 1913. Then it was the Bell Theater, licensed to the Edison Company, which is why we call it the Edison Theater today.

VERSUS SLEDGE HAMMERS (1915): We kicked off the celebration by actually using a vintage hand-cranked projector to show this movie that was shot in Niles. Here's what I said when I first saw it back in 2008:
Snakeville comedy also shot in Niles. Sophie has inherited a million dollars. The Count hears of it, and decides to seduce her and marry her for her money. But her sweetheart Pete, the local blacksmith, won't give her up without a fight. Who do you think will win, in this battle of pompous aristocracy versus sledge hammers?
And here's what I said when I saw it again in 2010:
A Niles Essanay production, and one of the few surviving Snakeville comedies. Margeret Joslin is Sophie Clutts, the only eligible woman in Snakeville, AZ, and sweetheart of Mustang Pete (real-life husband Harry Todd). Tall, svelteVictor Potel is a count visiting from out of town who has his eye on Sophie, and so the battle begins. Googly-eyed Ben Turpin plays the Count's valet, who does helpful stuff like light his hat on fire (I guess you had to be there).
Ha! I have nothing to add, other than to notice how my writing evolved over time.

BRONCHO BILLY AND THE BANDIT'S SECRET (2013): Now we celebrated 100 years of movies by playing a brand new movie...made with 100 year old technology. And while we were promised this would be the final, final version...actually we only got half of it back from the film lab. Turns out film labs are closing faster than we can get this finished. Anyway, here's what I said just a few months ago when I saw it the first time:
Now this is the treat of the [Broncho Billy Silent Film] festival. A brand new silent film (formerly known as THE CANYON) produced by the museum, directed by our historian/projectionist David Kiehn using authentic ~100 year old cameras and genuine black-and-white 35 mm film. It was even edited by actually cutting and splicing film. This was actually a work print, the brightness hasn't been balanced on all the scenes (although they didn't really do that back in the day, so it's kind of more authentic this way) and they need a few more intertitles, but this was the mostly finished version (since everything is done in the camera, there are no special effects to add.) 
The story starts--much as G. M. Anderson did before he was Broncho Billy--with a great train robbery. Broncho Billy (our own Bruce Cates) is on the train but instead of running away he pays careful attention to the robbers. Enough that he--along with his crew at the Essanay Studio--can assist the sheriff in catching the bad guys. Lots of adventure, and when it's all over Anderson has a great idea for a movie and it all ends with a proud Anderson and an embarrassed sheriff watching the movie-within-a-movie (that is actually an actual Broncho Billy movie.)
Ha! Well, the brightness balance was better, of course. And the word I've heard is we'll finally get the final-final version and show it in January (fingers crossed.) And I can't believe I ended with the phrase "...actually an actual..." Do I even know English? Anyway, this was still a treat.

Then a brief intermission, and the feature film celebrating Baby Peggy.

CAPTAIN JANUARY (1924): I first saw this film 5 years ago, at Diana's 90th Birthday party. Here's what I said then:
Peggy plays the title character, the ward of the old lighthouse keeper Daddy Judkins. She washed up from a storm 5 years ago, and has been the light of his life (and an able and strong helper) ever since. Busybodies in town think that's no way for a girl to grow up, and want to take her away to an orphanage. They fight them, with the help of the town preacher, who is a decent, honorable, and honest man. But when a yacht runs aground and a passenger recognizes Peggy as her niece, she's taken away to live in a Boston mansion. Both her and Judkins are heartbroken, so she sneaks away to come back to him. A beautiful, charming tearjerker.
Not much to add there, except for two things. First, although it was a tearjerker at times, it does have a happy ending. Second, this is also a bonus feature included on the BABY PEGGY: THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM DVD I mentioned above.

Hey, I did all my reviews just by quoting my old reviews. That was pretty easy.

Total Running Time: 102 minutes
My Total Minutes: 342,467

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