This was the first talkie for Charles Farrell and Janet Gaynor, who starred in numerous romantic silent films together. Sunnyside Up was also one of the first film musicals. The feather light story was meant to be a cheerful escape to audiences who were hoping to leave their troubles outside the theater doors. Janet Gaynor plays a young musical comedy actress living with her roommate above a grocery store in Brooklyn. She soon meets a wealthy Long Island playboy (Charles Farrell) who is having second thoughts about his flirtatious fianc?. After seeing Gaynor sing and dance at a local block party, he hatches a plan for her to come to Long Island and perform in a charity revue…and to make his fianc? jealous. Romantic complications ensue when she falls in love with him.
The film features charming and memorable songs by Broadway team of Buddy DeSylva, Lew Brown and Ray Henderson including “Sunnyside Up”, “If I Had a Talking Picture of You,” and “(I’m a Dreamer) Aren’t We All.” There is also a fantastic dance sequence that can best be described as pre-code on crack. In the sequence a bunch of chorus girls perform a number called “Turn up the Heat”. They begin the number wearing winter parkas and dancing around tiny igloos. They soon strip off the parkas to reveal bikinis as the igloos melt into the stage. They start laying on the stage writhing around as large palm trees slowly rise up complete with inflating bananas. Nothing subtle there!! The number was deliciously fun and entertaining. Janet Gaynor doesn’t have a strong singing voice and can’t compare to say Judy Garland, but that hardly matters here. She still manages to do a great job and is super charming. She and Charles Farrell have fantastic screen chemistry.
Sunnyside Up brimmed with energy and if I had only one word to describe it, I would say “delightful”. To my knowledge, this film isn’t available on VHS or DVD, so I’m glad I got the chance to see it!
Out of Circulation Cartoons
I was so curious about this program, that my attendance felt mandatory. Several years ago a former theatre owner here in L.A. tried to screen The Birth of a Nation. He received death threats and bomb threats and cancelled the event. In my opinion, the problem was that he was simply planning to show the film—-and nothing more. That is not a wise approach. When showing material that is racist, offensive and upsetting the crucial thing is to put it into proper historical context. TCM asked African American historian Donald Bogle to host the evening. They screened about eight short films and Mr. Bogle gave a detailed talk and analysis before each set of shorts. He explained the reasons for the racial stereotypes, what they meant and how they were perceived. I found his presentation to be intelligent and enlightening. There were many African American attendees in the audience, so people obviously wanted to learn more about these films and their content. All of the shorts were pulled in 1968 and haven’t been seen since. They featured work by legendary animation directors including Tex Avery, Bob Clampett, Friz Freleng, Chuck Jones and Rudolf Isling. The cartoons included: Titles include: Coal Black and de Sebben Dwarfs (1943), Clean Pastures (1937), Goldilocks and the Jivin’ Bears (1944), Hittin’ the Trail to Hallelujah Land (1931); Isle of Pingo Pongo (1938); Sunday Go To Meetin’ Time (1936), Tin Pan Alley Cats (1943), and Uncle Tom’s Bungalow (1933).
These cartoons were an interesting glimpse into the past and an educational comparison at how far we have come ever since. Donald Bogle has written numerous books including “Toms, Coons, Mulattoes, Mammies & Bucks: An Interpretive History of Blacks in American Films”, “Bright Boulevards, Bold Dreams: The Story of Black Hollywood”, “Brown Sugar: Over 100 Years of America’s Black Female Superstars”, “Primetime Blues: African Americans on Network Television” and “Dorothy Dandridge: A Biography”. After hearing him speak, I am very eager to read his books and learn more about African Americans in film history.
The Story of Temple Drake
Based on the controversial novel “Sanctuary” by William Faulkner, Temple Drake has long been a notorious film that was nearly impossible to see. I have known a few people who owned really bad copies of it, but I couldn’t bring myself to see it that way. There are some glimpses of it in the documentary Girl 27, but they are brief. Released in 1933 shortly before the strict enforcement of the production code, Temple Drake was pulled and censor Joseph Breen said it would never be re-released. I’ve heard for years that the Miriam Hopkins is reported to be one of the greatest “lost” performances in Hollywood History. I was eager to see it and discover why.
In the film Temple Drake is a wealthy, wild southern society girl who is known for her promiscuity. A young lawyer (played by William Gargan) proposes to her, but she refuses. One night she is kidnapped by a group of bootleggers and raped by a gangster named “Trigger” (Jack La Rue). She runs away with him, leading to dire results. It is easy to see how this could have inflamed audiences at the time, but in my opinion they are missing the point entirely. The Story of Temple Drake is actually a very moral story, as in the end the heroine redeems herself at great personal cost. It is a story of redemption and self sacrifice that is emotionally resonant to this day. This is completely lost on the censors and objectors at the time. I’m very curious to read the book and find out how it differs.
The print of this film was stunning and I believe it was struck directly from the nitrate negative. Cinematographer Karl Struss did some fantastic work capturing a south filled with light, shadows and gothic desperation. I have only seen a few Miriam Hopkins films before and she is an incredible talent and it seems an underrated, underutilized one at that. She should have been a much bigger star. Her performance is spot on and never feels false. She has an electrifying energy that fills the screen and beautifully inhabits the role. Jack La Rue also turns in great work here as the violent gangster. The rape scene is frightening and the look on his face is a big reason why. He is menace personified. Overall the film is a powerful story and it is a terrible shame it has been kept locked away in a vault for decades. I’m hoping that it will eventually be out on DVD or screened more often at film festivals or repertory houses. This is lost gem deserves to be seen and appreciated!
The Turner Classic Movies Film Festival runs April 22nd - 25th and is a movie buff’s dream come true. The festival seems to be extremely well organized and convenient with all venues within a stone’s throw of each other in Hollywood utilizing the historic sites of the Chinese Theatre, the Egyptian Theatre and the Roosevelt Hotel.
The only conflict I have here is which film to see since there are usually 4 events going on at the same time. I wish I could clone myself!! Due to work, I am not able to attend as much as I’d like to—but I’m trying to catch the rare films that are harder to find elsewhere!
On Saturday, I attended “A Conversation with Norman Lloyd” hosted by Bruce Goldstein, who runs the NY Film Forum This event took place at Club TCM in the Roosevelt Hotel. TCM transformed the ballroom (site of the 1st Academy Awards ceremony by the way) into a lavish nightclub resembling Rick’s in Casablanca. There were lavish drapes, mood lighting, velvet couches, large black and white photos, movie posters and an open bar.
Norman Lloyd took center stage and all eyes were on him as the conversation began. He has lived an extraordinary life, to put it mildly. He began on the New York stage in the 1930s and played “Cinna the Poet” in the legendary Orson Welles production of Julius Cesar in 1938. After arriving in Hollywood, he landed a plum part in Alfred Hitchcock’s Saboteur (1942). He went on to star in for Hitchcock again in Spellbound (1945). He was directed by his friend and frequent tennis partner Charlie Chaplin in Limelight (1952) and by Jean Renior in The Southerner (1945). He also worked with directors Joseph Losey (M, 1951), Jacques Tourneur (The Flame and the Arrow, 1950), Anthony Mann (Reign of Terror, 1949) and Lewis Milestone (No Minor Vices, 1948). After being blacklisted in the 1950s, he made a comeback and managed to regain his footing in Hollywood. This was orchestrated by Hitchcock, who told the studio he wanted Mr. Lloyd to work with him on “Alfred Hitchcock Presents”. He has also worked with an impressive list of contemporary directors including Peter Weir (Dead Poet’s Society, 1989), Martin Scorsese (The Age of Innocence, 1993) and Curtis Hanson (In Her Shoes, 2005).
Mr. Lloyd has also worked extensively in television as a producer and actor. His resume is really incredible. So is his voice. While sitting in the audience, I found myself captivated by his every word. He could read the phone book and find a way to make it riveting!!! It is also very impressive that he is 95 years old and plays tennis twice weekly. He shows no signs of slowing down. It was a great pleasure to listen to him talk about Hollywood, Broadway and his life in general. He seems to have such a positive attitude and an incredible passion for life—I couldn’t help but be inspired.
This is the 12th year of the NOIR CITY series at the Egyptian Theatre. I am thrilled to report that opening night was a huge hit! There were long lines and a packed house. I wish it could be like this at the Egyptian every night!!! Noir experts Eddie Muller, Alan K. Rhode and Kim Morgan were all on hand. The first film shown was CRY DANGER (1951) starring Dick Powell as an ex-con seeking to find the men who framed him and put him in prison. In the process, he encounters gun shots, shady ladies and the usual double cross. It was a very well written and tightly wound script by Bill Bowers, whose surviving relatives were in the audience. Co-stars Rhonda Fleming and Richard Erdman were both on hand for a discussion with Eddie Muller after the film. They were both very coherent and had high praise for both Powell and first time director Robert Parrish. My most favorite quote of the night was when Rhonda Fleming said, “I didn’t know much about ‘film noir’ at the time, but now, looking back… these films were HOT!” She looked and sounded great.
In my opinion Richard Erdman really stole the film as the sarcastic, alcoholic sidekick to Powell. I was also thrilled to see the scenes of Bunker Hill and City Hall in the film! A majority of the film took place on location at the “Clover Trailer Park” filled with mostly run down airstream trailers at what appeared to be the very top of Bunker Hill. Some of the views from there were fantastic! I love how films can provide a view into worlds that no longer exist. This film was recently restored by the UCLA Film Archive and the print was beautiful. To me, the preservationists are the real unsung heroes of the film world. Saving films doesn’t come cheap so Rhonda Fleming actually put up some of the money to fund the lab work. I really encourage everyone to support the Film Noir Foundation. They are on a mission to save these films and to keep them from being forgotten. If you can, please join and support their efforts.
Alas some of my friends were turned away as the event was sold out. I really hope the UCLA Film & TV Archive screens this at the Billy Wilder Theatre soon.
The second film of the night was TIGHT SPOT also written by Bill Bowers. It starred Ginger Rogers as a tough as nails dame asked to testify against the mob by an attorney played by Edward G. Robinson. The dialogue and action was excellent and the film once again had great pacing. As petty as this may sound, the problem I had with this film was really all in Ginger’s haircut. It looked like something a little boy would wear. Her hair fathered in the back and had super short bangs in the front. It made her look horrible, which is hard to do since she is a beautiful woman. My friend pointed out that she plays a hardened prisoner in the film and the haircut made sense for her character. This may be true, but we’re talking about the Golden Age of Hollywood here. This is an era where a snowbound, frostbitten Loretta Young looked like she had just walked off the fashion runway. This is an era of extreme glamor regardless of the circumstances. I wanted to see Ginger looking glamorous in spite of being a prisoner. At the very least I wanted to see her have a decent haircut!!!! Edward G. Robinson was great (as always) as the crusading D.A. who gets her to testify. He has one of the greatest voices that I’ve ever heard. Most of the stars of this era did.
Eddie Muller mentioned that he is on a crusade to get recognition for screenwriter Bill Bowers. I’d say by the reaction to this double feature, he is off to an excellent start!
I was speaking one day to an elderly man who used the phrase, “You can’t miss something you never had.” With all due respect to him, I beg to differ. I miss plenty of things in life I’ve never had. In particular I miss lots of films I’ve never seen. I was combing through an inventory of missing silents and pondering the losses. I wish a miracle would happen and ALL of them could be found and preserved. I zeroed in on the following films that I dearly miss and would give anything to have experienced:
THE ETERNAL CITY (1923)
This WWI silent drama starred Barbara La Marr was filmed on location in Rome and New York City. According to reports, King Victor Emmanuel III and Benito Mussolini appeared in the film leading their troops. Even if this film wasn’t a masterpiece, it would still be interesting to watch for the sake of historical value. Based on the limited footage I have seen, Barbara La Marr was a stunning vamp. She began as a screenwriter until Mary Pickford saw her and encouraged her to pursue acting. La Marr won co-star status with Douglas Fairbanks in THE NUT and THE THREE MUSKETEERS before going on to headline numerous romantic dramas. Sadly, many of her films are either lost, incomplete or very hard to find. Fortunately the film SOULS FOR SALE (1923) was feared lost but has turned up and is now being offered for purchase by the Warner Archive. I wish I could see more of her films. It is very hard to analyze and appreciate the career of an actor when so many of their films are unavailable. With La Marr, there is so much mystery surrounding her life, career and untimely death that I just wish I had more pieces of the puzzle. Actress Sherri Snyder has developed a one woman show about La Marr and is heavily steeped in researching her life. I’m hopeful that as time goes on, this forgotten star will finally be rediscovered.
THE GREAT GATSBY (1926)
F. Scott Fitzgerald’s definitive chronicle of “The Jazz Age” got the big screen treatment for the first time in 1926. Subsequent adaptations in 1949 and 1974 have been disappointing at best. It would have been amazing to see this put on film in the exact same era in which it was set. It was the best possible time to have captured that energy, vivacity, longing and spirit of what the era was all about. A few years back the Valentino and Swanson film BEYOND THE ROCKS (1922) was discovered after being thought lost for almost 80 years. It was news that film lovers live for. When the restoration was complete, the Academy held a screening. Before the film began they showed a trailer for THE GREAT GATSBY and AMERICAN VENUS (with Louise Brooks) both of which remain lost. I was fascinated by the GATSBY trailer, but it was painful to only see so little. I wanted to stand up and shout, “MORE MORE MORE!” The trailer is one of the 50 films in the 3-disk boxed DVD set called More Treasures from American Film Archives, 1894-1931 (2004), compiled by the National Film Preservation Foundation. It was preserved by the Library of Congress and has a running time of one minute.
Below is a video I found on YouTube in which Netherlands Filmmuseum curator Giovanna Fossati explains the process of restoring BEYOND THE ROCKS.
FOUR DEVILS (1928)
Directed by the German great F.W. Murnau, FOUR DEVILS was only his second American film after SUNRISE. Set in the world of the circus, this film reunited him with SUNRISE star Janet Gaynor. In 2003 Janet Bergstrom directed a documentary called “Murnau’s 4 Devils: Traces of a Lost Film” that comes as a bonus feature on the SUNRISE Special Edition DVD. There is also a coffee table book about this film in the “Murnau, Borzage & Fox” DVD box set. I’ve heard rumors that the studio cut the film considerably and inserted sound sequences as this film was coming out during the transition to talkies. Regardless of the quality, I would still be curious to see this. The loss of this film is all the more tragic considering Murnau only made two more films before his life was cut short by a car accident. He only lived to direct 21 films and only 4 of them in America. There should have been many more. He was such an incredible artist.
WAGES OF SIN (1928)
When I was in film school, it seemed the only directors we ever studied were white males. I always found it frustrating that there wasn’t a more diverse pool of filmmaking talent to study. A few years back I attended the San Francisco Silent Film Festival and learned all about Oscar Micheaux. He was a groundbreaking African American filmmaker whose work often tackled social issues. He worked outside the studio system and became a pioneer in the independent film world. While he excelled at drama, he also directed films in a variety of genres including musicals, comedy, westerns and gangster films. His film are so significant because they defy the racist stereotypes of the time and present a unique, more fully developed portrait of African American talent. Numerous Micheaux films have been considered lost.
I can only hope that these films will be found. They are all significant for a variety of reasons and would add so much to the film legacy of their creators.
When I heard about the blogathon, “For the Love of Film: The Film Preservation Blogathon,’’ I had to join in. This is my first post. This blogathon runs now through Sunday and is hosted by Farran Smith Nehme (The Self-Styled Siren) and Marilyn Ferdinand (Ferdy on Film). Their aim is to raise awareness and donations for the The National Film Preservation Foundation. This non-profit organization gives money to film archives who are struggling to preserve films before it is too late. The saying “Nitrate won’t wait” certainly applies here. For complete lists of other participating bloggers, log on to The Self-Styled Siren or Ferdy on Film for more information.
Donate $ to the National Film Preservation Foundation!
I was once discussing film with someone when they told me that a certain B-movie was “not worth saving”. In my mind ALL films are worth saving. They are the modern day equivalent of broken pieces of pottery or hieroglyphics. They chronicle our culture, emotions and are snapshots of eras that are now frozen in time. Films are important to our artistic and historic knowledge as well as our education.
One night many years ago at the UCLA Film & TV Archive I was watching a Clara Bow silent film called EMPTY HEARTS (1924). It contained a small yet powerful performance by Bow early in her career. At the climax of the story, the film began to bubble up on screen and become distorted. It wasn’t the result of faulty projection, but rather a sign of a film that had been rotting before it could be fully saved. A man in the audience screamed, “NOOOOOOOOOO” at the top of his lungs. While others in the audience laughed, I felt like doing the exact same thing.
Clara Bow is one of my favorite stars of the silent era and it saddens me to think how many of her films are no longer with us today. Here is a list of her missing films that I got from www.clarabow.net. What pains me the most is that 4 films from the very peak of her career in 1928 are missing including:
RED HAIR -This film featured a Technicolor segment of her famed red bob! Fortunately a fragment was discovered so we can at least get a tantalizing glimpse of what audiences saw in 1928. RED HAIR was directed by Clarence G. Badger, who directed Bow’s signature film IT.
LADIES OF THE MOB (1928) - This crime drama was directed by William A. Wellman who also directed Bow in WINGS, the first Best Picture Academy Award winner.
THREE WEEKENDS (1928) - This film was based on a story by Elinor Glyn who proclaimed Clara as the “IT” girl. Also directed by Clarence G. Badger
ROUGH HOUSE ROSIE (1928) - This film is about a poor working girl who tries to crash into high society. It also features Clara Bow in a boxing scene. A trailer was recently discovered giving us a glimpse of what we have now lost. A few years ago the San Francisco Silent Film Festival showed the trailer and it was met with screams and cheers from the audience. The collective attitude was that ANY Clara is better than no Clara at all. I agree, but I still hold out hope that the complete film will turn up someday. So far the only bits of information we have on these films has come from posters, stills, fragments, scripts and various documents. Historians have a puzzle with the main piece missing.
Fortunately there have been some gains where Clara Bow films are concerned.
Her early talkie KICK IN (1931) has been newly restored. A saw it at Cinecon a few years ago and it was pristine!!!! The website Clarabow.net reports that several of her films have been newly restored.
You may be wondering what you can do to further the cause of film preservation. Start by making a donation in any amount to the National Film Preservation Foundation. Your donation is tax-deductible. Your money will help libraries, museums and archives to preserve films. This will also allow the films to be made available for screening and research. Click HERE to see a list of films that have been preserved by the NFPF.
Another way you can help is by simply supporting rare or newly restored films when they are screened. Here in Los Angeles we are fortunate to have the UCLA Film & TV Archive, The Academy, LACMA, The American Cinematheque, Cinecon, The Silent Movie Theatre, The New Beverly and many others. In San Francisco the have the Silent Film Festival, The Pacific Film Archive, the Niles Film Museum and the Castro Theatre just to name a few.
Make sure to frequent these places and do what you can to support your local film community.
I had a few people send me emails about some additional movie star museums that I should check out:
Walt Disney Family Museum
This one is located in the Prisidio area of San Francisco. I have several friends up there and have visisted the city a million times. I have no idea how this placed managed to escape my attention for so long! I must pay this museum a visit on my next trip! I love the fact that they even have a screening and lecture series.
Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz Museum
This museum is located in Jamestown, New York. I hear that Lucy’s ashes were originally interred here in Los Angeles, but moved to Jamestown in 2002 by a relative. On their website they mention that they will be having a 99th Anniversary birthday party for Lucy this summer. Looks like fun!
John Wayne Museum
I can’t imagine when my travels would ever take me to Winterset, Iowa but you never know. Based on the website, the John Wayne Museum looks great and the area is also the famed location behind the book and movie THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY. Plus I bet they have great little historic hotels and antiques stores there.
Jimmy Stewart Museum
Given Jimmy Stewart’s small town American appeal, this museum in Indiana, Pennsylvania (Jimmy’s hometown) looks like a loving tribute to him.
Fairmount Historical Museum (James Dean)
I heard that there used to be a separate museum dedicated entirely to James Dean, but it recently closed its doors. Now his life is featured as part of the Fairmount Indiana Historical Museum along with local hometown hero Jim Davis, the creator of Garfield.
Three Stooges Museum
Located in Ambler, PA, this appears to be the first and only museum of Three Stooges memorabilia with a collection of 100,000 pieces. Wow! Alas they only seem to be opened one day a month, so a trip here would take advance planning.
Bruce Lee Museum
This website appears a bit confusing as it show pictures of a museum, but doesn’t seem to have information about the locations, hours, etc. I found a story about another museum in the NY Times, so hopefully there will be more on this soon.
There more stars from small town America who don’t have museums, but should:
Louise Brooks and Vivian Vance (I Love Lucy) were both born in Cherryvale, Kansas.
Lana Turner was born in Wallace, Idaho.
Carole Lombard was born in Fort Wayne, Indiana. While she doesn’t have a museum, she apparently does have a Bed and Breakfast.
I just received the below email about the challenges of keeping silents going at the Silent Movie Theatre aka CineFamily. I am going to put my money where my mouth is and make sure to attend ALL of their upcoming silent screenings. I hope you can join me in this effort. They are showing some really rare films, which is exciting to see!
There’s been a lot of wondering and concern about the state of silent films in the Cinefamily program, so I wanted to send a missive both clarifying our past approach, and informing you about the future—a future that does include the continued tradition of showing silent films here. The Cinefamily is a non-profit whose goals are to explore *every* corner of cinema, and perhaps even a little beyond those corners, seeking to discover and share all kinds of film. We really do like it all, and want our program to be a big “tent” with great films from every genre, every place, and every decade. So it was not a conflict for us to continue the tradition of silent films here, a landscape rich with masterpieces and curios. The fact that we were welcomed into the Silent Movie Theatre, a wonderful home with such a rich history, was exciting—but we also knew might lead to confusion.
Though we do many things here, we are keeping the tradition of showing silents at The Silent Movie Theatre alive with its own special time slot. For the past three years (two years since we opened, and one year previous while we were planning everything), we’ve dedicated one day a week to silents. The theatre had been exisiting for some time previously as a private rental house for weddings, parties, and private screenings, so this was actually an increase in silent screenings. Since last October, we did take some time off to assess the best course of action, but have no fear: the plan was to return stronger than ever.
We now have a guest programmer the first Wednesday of every month—The Silent Treatment—who will be showing rare archival prints, most of which are unavailable on DVD. While we may not show silents each and every Wednesday, we will show at least two or three a month, and we also plan on starting a matinee program in the spring, with more family-friendly classics by the big names in silent comedy—Chaplin, Keaton, etc. Our investment is real—we even bought new 18-frames-per-second motors (instead of the usual 24) for our projectors, so that we could show true 35mm restorations like The Flapper this Wednesday.
Keep in min: we don’t show silent films to make money, and in order to show as many as possible, we do need your support. The shows are more, not less, expensive than regular screenings, because we also have a live musician and a short program each time, both of which are above and beyond normal costs. Unlike previous owners, we inherited virtually no in-house library of films; while previous Silent Movie Theatre programmers could keep silents shows affordable by showing only public domain films they owned in-house prints of over and over again, every short and feature we show now costs us both rental and shipping fees. In addition, showing rare archival prints requires higher separate print loan fees (aside from rights clearances), insurance, and other sundry expenses.
If you want to help, in addition to attending the silents shows, you can also make tax-deductible donations to the Cinefamily—and if you want to leave a little note “earmarking” your support for silent films, that does send a message. You can paypal us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or mail a donation (with your name and address, so we can get you your receipt) to:
611 N. Fairfax Avenue
Los Angeles, CA, 90036
Oh, and lest I forget! We’re re-opening our silents program with a film I’ve been dying to show. The Flapper is the best flapper movie this side of It, and undeservedly forgotten actress Olive Thomas was the first Hollywood starlet to earn the appellation. Sexy, fun, and a classic example of the kind of rare screening we hope to show more of (a 35mm print from The Eastman House is a really big deal, guys!), you should all come out to the show. To make it more fun, it’s half-off the ticket price if you come in 1920s period costume, and feel free to join us at our “speakeasy” on the back porch (the password is: “swordfish”). So put on the ritz, rope a dope, bring your sugardaddy and come to the Cinefamily petting pantry to catch the latest flick. They’re the cat’s meow!
Best, and thank you for your time,
Hadrian Belove, Executive Director, The Cinefamily
Harlem, Georgia is a sleepy little southern town. If you blinked, you’d miss it. On January 18, 1892 Oliver Norvell Hardy was born in this town and his success in Hollywood gave the town an eternal claim to fame. They are clearly very proud of this and it shows. The town seemed full of sincere people and great southern hospitality.
I found information about the Laurel & Hardy Museum online shortly before my Christmas trip home to Georgia to see my parents. I pleaded with them to take me there for a little day trip and they agreed. I really love these little “Mom and Pop” type museums, as they are always run by such devoted, passionate people. When we first arrived in Harlem, I noticed “The Columbia Theatre”. The marquee looked beautiful and there was a large Laurel & Hardy mural on the side of the building. Unfortunately the interior of the theatre was complete gutted and empty. I later found out this is a work in progress. The town is trying to raise money and get grants to re-open the theatre with an eye to showing Laurel & Hardy films along with other silents and talkies from Hollywood’s Golden Age. I wish I was wealthy, as I would have written a check for that on the spot. This would really be a great thing for this town and would provide them with a nice cultural and social hub.
The museum itself was small but filled with all sorts of memorabilia, displays and information. They had all sorts of books, resources, historical documents and photographs. Fans from around the world have generously donated items to the museum throughout the years. The docent was a very nice lady named Linda who volunteers for the museum and has an incredible passion for Laurel & Hardy. She has even been to the Laurel & Hardy museum in England where Stan Laurel was born and also runs the local Harlem Fan club called “BerthMarks”. She guided us around the museum and was very helpful.
In the back of the museum they had a screening room with several of their films on VHS and DVD…but the image was really bad. I have been so fortunate to see all of the Laurel & Hardy films on the big screen at various events. I had no idea that the home video offerings were that scant and that poor in quality. I promised the lady at the museum that I would do my best to locate cleaner copies. If ANY of you out there have nice, clean DVD recordings of any Laurel & Hardy films, please let me know. I want to donate it to the museum. Often times if someone’s first exposure to old movies is a bad one, then they will often assume that all old films looks that way. I’m always trying to dispel that notion. The museum hosts a huge Laurel & Hardy Festival every year and they also do many educational programs that teach children about film and local history. I was so pleased to hear that these films will keep being discovered by younger generations, thus assuring that the boy from Harlem GA will never be forgotten.
I’ve always been a Jean Harlow fan and I was thrilled to see they even had a little display at the museum featuring information about her appearances in Laurel & Hardy films. These films were a great springboard that helped to launch her legendary career.
I had such a great time at the museum and my enthusiasm ran wild . I even posed with several Laurel & Hardy statues. I had to!!!
On the way out of town I walked across the railroad tracks to a vacant lot filled with green grass and a plaque. It is the exact lot where Hardy was born.
The town as also painted their watertower in tribute to him as well.
So if you are a Laurel & Hardy fan, I highly recommend taking a trip to Harlem. I plan to keep tabs on how the theatre is progressing and hopefully I’ll get to come back and watch some films when it has been re-opened.
To see more of my pictures, click HERE for my flickr page.
As most of you know, last summer LACMA Michael Govan tried to discontinue the film program that has been a local staple for over 30 years. The entire cinephile community expressed outrage including several high profile directors. Martin Scorsese wrote an open letterto Michael Govan in the pages of the LA Times with the title heading, “I am disturbed.” Indeed. Scorsese is without question the most high profile of film exhibition and preservation advocate that we have. A torrent of outrage came forth from coast to coast and even rated stories in the NY Times and Wall Street Journal. Govan claimed that the film program could continue through June of 2010 after Ovation and the Hollywood Foreign Press coughed up generous donations. That said, the future of the film program at LACMA is still far from certain. Naturally I was very curious to see how the public conversation between Scorsese and Govan would proceed.
In spite of the cold, wind and pouring rain on Wednesday night the Bing Theatre at LACMA was packed. Scorsese received a standing ovation as he walked out on stage. Govan wisely did very little talking and simply asked Scorsese questions about the importance of film preservation and the connection between film and art. To be perfectly honest, the proceedings were far more polite than I had anticipated. I was really hoping for a smack-down where Scorsese would publicly put Govan in his place for neglecting to realize the importance of film. I also felt frustrated that there was no official statement made about how the LACMA film program will proceed in the future. To me it seemed like they were not acknowledging the proverbial elephant in the room.
I would really like to personally grill Govan myself on how much money he THINKS the film program has lost. It can’t possibly be as much as he claims. I’d also like to see an itemized budget and see where and how these donated funds are spent. In my humble opinion, I think Govan is back-peddling to save face due to bad PR and public outrage.
Scorsese emphasized the importance of having a venue to screen films in saying, “film doesn’t exist unless you project it. Of all the art forms, cinema depends on electricity.” He also stated how important it is for film “to be shown properly. And that’s why this room is important.” He talked about his days of living in Los Angeles in the 1970s and how watching films at LACMA was such an important part of his life. Scorsese also brought along several clips that illustrated the difference between the look of a film pre and post restoration. He discussed his work with The Film Foundation and The World Cinema Foundation. He also mentioned that New York and Paris both have very strong film programs in their museums and how that is really lacking here in Los Angeles, which is where the industry was born.
I enjoyed hearing Scorsese speak and always feel inspired by his passion and dedication. By the end of the evening, it was agreed that Scorsese would return for another talk in the future. I hope that by then the future of the film program is a little more secure….and if not I hope that Scorsese acts like Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver and shows Govan the error of his ways.
This past holiday season, I took a little roadtrip with my parents to Harlem, Georgia to visit the Laurel and Hardy Museum. I’ll post my photos in a few days. It was a fun experience and it got me to wondering what other film museums might be out there. After doing numerous google searches, I came up with the results listed below. I notice that stars who came from small towns tend to get museums as opposed to stars born in major hub cities like New York or Los Angeles. There is a sense or pride or “claim to fame” for many of these small towns. I know that the Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences is planning to build a film museum, but I hear that project has been slowed down considerably due to the current economic crisis. I really hope it does happen someday. Hollywood has such a rich and fascinating history and we need a large scale museum to showcase that. The good news is that the Academy has really impressive exhibitions that change year round. These exhibitions are always free and open to the public along with the Academy screenings throughout the year. Take a look at the list and let me know if there are any other museums out there that I’m missing!!!!
Clark Gable Museum in Cadiz, Ohio
I’m not sure if I’ll ever find myself being in Ohio, but I’ll put this on my list.
Ava Gardner Museum in Smithville, North Carolina
I literally stumbled across this museum while I was on a roadtrip with my parents to Virginia. It is a small museum, but really packed with fascinating items about Ava Gardner’s life and career. As a vintage fashion collector, I was also thrilled to see several evening gowns on display that were gifts to Ava from Howard Hughes. Ava Gardner and her family are buried at the Sunset Memorial Park cemetery one mile from the museum. They also have an Ava Gardner Film Festival each year to celebrate her life and career.
Judy Garland Museum in Grand Rapids, Minnesota
I haven’t been, but it is on my list.
Laurel and Hardy Museum in Harlem, Georgia
This museum is in the birthplace of the great Oliver Hardy. More details will be posted soon!
Laurel and Hardy Museum in Cumbria, England
This museum is in the birthplace of Stan Laurel. I must add this to my list for my next trip to England.
Carmen Miranda Museum at Parque do Flamengo, in Rio de Janeiro
I know someone who went to this museum and said is was rather ramshackle and decrepit. That makes me all the more curious to see it.
Marlene Dietrich Collection at the Filmmuseum in Berlin, Germany
I’m dying to see this museum as I love Marlene and the era of German Expressionism. Someday!!
Greta Garbo Museum in Smaland Province, a section of Sweden
I haven’t been, but it is on my list.
Individual Film Museums:
Wizard of Oz Museum in Wamego, Kansas
I’m not sure when I’ll ever be in Kansas, but this may warrant a special trip.
Gone with the Wind Museum in Marietta, Georgia
This will be my next road trip when I’m with my parents again in Georgia.
Silent Film Related Museums:
Niles Essenay Silent Film Museum in Fremont, California
This film museum is a short jaunt from San Francicso and well worth the drive. They have docents who are passionate devotees of silent film and give excellent tours. The Niles Museum also has silent film screenings year round as well as a Broncho Billy Film Festival every summer. There are also little antique stores, a cafe, a biker bar and a vintage train in the immediate area as well. What more could you possibly ask for?
Hollywood Heritage Museum in Hollywood
If you are like me and live in Los Angeles, this is right in your backyard. This museum is affordable, has incredible docents and a series of lectures each month on the golden age of Hollywood. These lectures are only $5 for members and $10 for guests. Past lectures have included “Early Hollywood”, “Irving Thalberg and the Rise of MGM” and “Haunted Hollywood”. They also have books, DVDs, cards and numerous items for purchase. This museum/organization is also one of the strongest voices for historic preservation in Los Angeles. I strongly suggest paying a visit to the museum and showing your support.
Larger Film Museums:
National Museum of Cinema in Turin, Italy
I must must must return to Italy and see this!
Cin?math?que fran?aise in Paris, France
While the primary mission of the Cin?math?que is to show films, they also have three floors of stunning exhibition space. On my last trip to Paris I saw an exhibit to the great cinema pioneer Georges Melies, an exhibit on Hollywood and the history of Henri Langois and another exhibit about Dennis Hopper and the New Hollywood. There is also a gift shop in the building and three separate theatres to see films in usually seven days a week for most of the year. For any film fan, a visit to the Cin?math?que fran?aise is an absolute must!
Museum of Moving Image in Astoria, NY
I took a train to Queens and visited this museum in 2004, but I must admit it was disappointing. Astoria was a huge location for many silent films and where Paramount Pictures kept their East Coast Productions housed. Numerous stars such as Clara Bow, Louise Brooks and Gloria Swanson made films at the studio there. Read the book “Hollywood On the Hudson” by Richard Koszarski for more details on this. The museum’s costume selection consisted of Robert DeNiro costumes all from films after 1991. It mostly consisted of information about how films are made. There wasn’t really any trace of the silent era or of the in depth, detailed history I had hoped to find. Then again that was several years ago now. I might be tempted to visit again the next time I’m in New York to see if they have made any changes.
Hollywood Museum at the Max Factor Building in Hollywood, CA
I’m a bit mixed on this museum. I love the art deco design of the Max Factor building, but this museum tends to include WAY more modern film items for my taste. That said, they are the only large film museum we have at the moment.