Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Silly Symphonies / Chicago this Saturday

This Saturday, December 2nd at the Castro Theatre here in San Francisco, the good people at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival are showing the original filmed version of the great Broadway hit CHICAGO, starring Phyllis Haver as tough-as-nails Roxie Hart; and a rarer-than-rare 35mm presentation of a bunch of Walt Disney's pioneering SILLY SYMPHONIES - great cartoons, and great examples of how a silent-era filmmaker met sound head-on in a dazzling display of music, creativity and imagination. I am very excited. I will be there!

SILLY SYMPHONIES (one show only at 1:30)

Straight from the Disney archives, a program of SILLY SYMPHONIES, the famous cartoon series set to a madcap mix of classical, popular and folk music. Disney and his team of talented animators make skeletons, frogs, devils and trees dance in time to music with delightful originality – thus trailblazing the transition to sound. The host and expert guide to this tribute will be Russell Merritt, silent film historian and co-author of two invaluable studies of early Disney animation: Walt in Wonderland and Walt Disney's Silly Symphonies: A Companion to the Classic Cartoon Series. The shorts to be shown are:

THE SKELETON DANCE (1929, Walt Disney)
HELL'S BELLS (1929, Ub Iwerks)
NIGHT (1930, Walt Disney)
THE CHINA PLATE (1931, Wilfred Jackson)
EGYPTIAN MELODIES (1931, Wilfred Jackson)
THE UGLY DUCKLING (1931, Wilfred Jackson)
FLOWERS AND TREES (1932, Burt Gillett)
MUSIC LAND (1935, Wilfred Jackson)
Following these special screenings . . . 

DUCKS, DEVILS, DOWNBEATS AND DISNEY: An Animated Conversation On Animation
Right after the films, Russell Merritt will moderate a lively talk with Disney scholars and animation experts, including: Leslie Iwerks (granddaughter of the legendary animator Ub Iwerks), Neal Gabler (author of Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination), Jere Guldin (UCLA Film & Television Archive, Preservationist) and J.B. Kaufman (co-author of Walt Disney's Silly Symphonies: A Companion to the Classic Cartoon Series).

CHICAGO (one show only at 7:30)

There may be other versions – Bob Fosse’s 1975 Broadway musical, and the 2002 adaptation that took the Academy Award for Best Picture – but you haven’t seen CHICAGO until you’ve seen the original! Based on the true story of two women who dealt with their no-good lovers by gunning them down in cold blood, CHICAGO features an explosive, riotous performance by Phyllis Haver, who throws everything she’s got – and more! – into the role of two-timing, morality-free jazz baby Roxie Hart. Fast-paced, hard-boiled and sin-soaked, the 1927 CHICAGO is  the real thing: a straight-up portrait of Roaring Twenties madness, straight out of the Twenties! Presented in the long-lost roadshow version, now completely restored by the UCLA Film & Television Archive, with pulse-pounding live accompaniment supplied by the BAKER–MEHLING HOT FOUR, purveyors of authentic 1920s jazz!
I will be at the book table in the lobby before and after each program hosting book signings with Neal Gabler, Russell Merritt, John Bengtson (author of Silent Traces: Discovering Early Hollywood Through the Films of Charlie Chaplin) and Jack Tillmany (Theatres of Oakland). Visit the San Francisco Silent Film Festival website at for further information or to purchase tickets.

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