Thursday, February 25, 2010

Hotel Jacumba

Yesterday, I received a copy of Cinema Cinemas, a four DVD boxed set which I recently ordered from France. It collects episodes of a French TV series which constitutes "a sort of monument to hardcore cinephilia," as one American reviewer put it. The series lasted approximately a decade (from 1982 to 1991) and is made up of various documentary and essayistic segments.

There is all kinds of interesting and rare material included in the set. 

For example, there's the 45-second sound test Alfred Hitchcock made with actress Anny Ondra for Blackmail (1929), his first talkie. (There is other Hitchcock material as well.) And there's Jean Seberg’s 1957 screen test for Otto Preminger, an interview with James Dean made for a road safety commercial, Orson Welles speaking at a lunch with members of the French press, Federico Fellini shooting a scene from Satyricon, and filmed interviews with everyone from Frank Capra and Martin Scorsese to Robert Mitchum, Fay Dunaway, Aldo Ray, and Jane Russell. There are also features about the novelists John Fante and F. Scott Fitzgerald , the death of Rita Hayworth, and a piece on William Faulkner’s affair with Howard Hawks' script girl during the 1930's.

I ordered the set because it contains a rare sixteen minute short about Louise Brooks and the making of the 1928 William Wellman film, Beggars of Life. Its called Jacumba Hotel, and this short was made in 1985.

Alternately, in Jacumba Hotel, a woman reads aloud (in English) from Brooks’s essay “On Location With Billy Wellman” while a male voice (in French) gives a short account which helps set the scene. All the while film clips from Beggars of Life alternate with contemporary footage of the Jacumba Hotel (where cast stayed during the making of the film) with what remains of the rugged location where some scenes were shot. 

Fascinating stuff. All of it. [I got my copy of Cinema Cinemas from Amazon France.]


  1. sounds pretty cool!!

    i REALLY wanna see Beggars of Life!

  2. Beggars of Life is going to be shown at the Dryden Theatre in April.

    Re: Genina's Cyrano de Bergerac -- Accompanist Philip Carli said the movie was "a particular favorite of our first curator, Mr. James Card." They "showed it for the very last time Mr. Card visited the Eastman House", when "the award bearing his name" (?) was introduced. ... The understudy for Cyrano in the original stage production plays Cyrano in the movie. Pierre Magnier. He's also in La Règle du jeu.

    P.S. For some reason, thinking about James Card watching his last movie at the Dryden reminds me of Cinema Paradiso, as did your blog about screen kisses a little while ago. One could add Lulu to the reel of censored kisses.

  3. Ah, Cinema Cinemas. That was High quality on TV....


  4. For me, one of the most Great French television program on cinema

    My favorite scene is an interview of Angie Dickinson alias ... Angeline Brown !

  5. Great post! I have spent time in Jacumba and it is an amazing end-of-the-world place, populated by an odd assortment of drifters, bikers, Ukranian expats and others who want to get away from the rest of mankind. It is a wonderful corner of the planet to live in if you want to develop into a classic desert eccentric. Imagine if Louise had retired there.


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