The San Francisco Silent Film Festival is a great festival and a lot of fun. I would encourage everyone to attend future festivals. Various reports, posts and blogs on this year's event can be found on the Google newsgroup, alt.movies.silent. Check it out and see what others thought of the goings-on and the films shown.
The highlight of the festival, for me, was the screening of the 1928 Louise Brooks film, Beggars of Life. A new 35mm print from the George Eastman House made it's West Coast premiere at this annual July event. Pictured below top left is the Castro Theater marquee promoting the Saturday films. It's cool to see a Brooks film "up in lights" - so to speak.
The guy with the glasses top right is me. I am standing next to William Wellman Jr., the son of the great director whose films include Beggars of Life as well as such landmark works as Wings, The Public Enemy, the original A Star is Born, Beau Geste, The Ox-Bow Incident, etc.... Wellman Jr. and I got to chat quite a bit over the course of the weekend. He is an accomplished actor and producer, as well as an historian and champion of his father's incredible body of work. Wellman Jr. told me about his father, and what his father told him about working with Louise Brooks. . . .
Also seen on the table in the bottom left images is a VHS copy of Wild Bill: Hollywood Maverick, the acclaimed 1996 documentary about his father which Wellman Jr. executive co-produced and appears in. My wife (in the green jacket) and I just watched this outstanding 90 minute film last night. We both thought it was excellent - and a great piece of Hollywood history. I would recommend it. I liked it so much that I added four Wellman films to our Netflix cue. (For the record, neither Louise Brooks nor Beggars of Life are depicted in this film, though the actress is referenced by one of the commentators.)
Wellman Jr. had a few VHS copies Wild Bill: Hollywood Maverick for sale. We bought one. I think interested individuals can find second-hand VHS copies on-line. The documentary has not yet been released on DVD. Also for sale at the Festival was a 10 page pamphlet produced by Rodney Sauer, Director of the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra. I had a chance to meet Rodney, and talk a little bit about their efforts. The Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra performed live musical accompaniment for a few films during the Festival, including Beggars of Life. Not surprisingly, Rodney is a Brooks fan. Their arrangement and score came in for very warm applause. More about this talented musical group can be found at their website.
What did I see at the Festival? Along with the above mentioned items, I saw the pleasing Student Price in Old Heidelberg (satrring Ramon Navarro and Norma Shearer - and with Mick LaSalle's thoughtful introduction), a panel on film preservation, a few film shorts, and the dark, brooding British film, A Cottage on Dartmoor. I was especially impressed with this noir-ish silent film, as was everyone else I spoke with. I missedMiss Lulu Bett - which is something I have seen on video and liked. I also unfortunately missed The Godless Girl (a Cecil B. DeMille film starring Marie Prevost and Lina Basquette), as it was time to break down our book table and go home. Fortunately, the film will be released on DVD in the Fall as part of the third groundbreaking set in the Treasures from American Archives series.