Sunday, June 5, 2016

Those were the days . . .

Robert Birchard's death late last month led me to recall the event I put on with him some years ago. I was working at a bookstore at the time, and the event was to promote his then new release Cecil B. DeMille's Hollywood, published by the University Press of Kentucky. It was an excellent event. Because Birchard's book is similarly excellent; I recommend it as perhaps the best on this important director.

(Here is an article I wrote on Birchard and his books back in 2010.)

As someone interested in film, I was fortunate to work with numerous film industry personalities, everyone from Ray Harryhausen to Gloria Stuart, Michael Palin, Whit Stillman, Peter Coyote and Wes Craven. As someone seriously interested in early film, I was also fortunate in being able to select the biographers and film historians I wished to work with. Robert Birchard was always on my list.

At the time, the store where I worked issued author cards, baseball card like objects issued to promote the events series. I personally produced nearly 1000 events, and as many authors cards were issued. One of them was for Robert Birchard. He was more than a little amused by the card, which features a caricature of the film historian. I always made it a habit to get a few cards signed for my collection. The image posted here is a copy of my autographed card. And below are a few more examples of my cards.

When I helped bring the Barry Paris biography of Louise Brooks back into print, the University of Minnesota Press "thanked me" by flying the author out to San Francisco for a special celebratory event. That was a thrill.

I was also especially proud of having put on the first (and only?) bookstore event with Frederica Sagor Maas, the then 99-years old former Hollywood screenwriter whose memoir, The Shocking Miss Pilgrim, was published by the University Press of Kentucky. I was drawn to the books because Maas penned the story for the 1927 Louise Brooks film Rolled Stockings, as well as scripts for Clara Bow and other silent era stars. Despite her obscurity these days, the event was a huge success, and we sold more than 100 books. In 2006, during the Louise Brooks centennial, I also put on an event with Peter Cowie, author of Louise Brooks: Lulu Forever. He traveled from his home in Europe for the event.

Over the years, I put on successful events with Diana Serra Cary (aka silent film star Baby Peggy), as well as a handful of distinguished biographers and film historians such as Arthur Lennig (for his Stroheim bio), Emily Leider (for her Valentino bio), Steven Bach (for his Leni Riefenstahl bio), Mick Lasalle (for his two books on pre-code actors), Suzanne Lloyd (for her book on her grandfather Harold Lloyd), Matthew Kennedy (for his Edmund Goulding book), Mark Cotta Vaz (author of Living Dangerously: The Adventures of Merian C. Cooper, Creator of King Kong) and many others, including Jeanine Basinger, David Stenn, John Baxter, Mark Vieira, and Donald Richie

The last event I put on was with David Thomson. It was my seventh event with David, and he and I and a few film friends all went out for drinks. 

Those were the days . . .

Back to Robert Birchard. His most recent book is Monty Banks 1920-1924 Filmography, published in May of last year through Amazon's CreateSpace. This inexpensive, 72 page, 8" x 11" book is a study of the once popular comedian with contributions from Rob Farr, Sam Gill, Robert James Kiss, Steve Massa, and Karl Thiede.

I just ordered a copy. And so, a publisher's description will have to suffice in leiu of a review: "Monty Banks may not be as well remembered as Charlie Chaplin, Harold Lloyd or Buster Keaton, but he was one of the bread and butter comics who made audiences roar in the Golden Age of Comedy. Here for the first time is a comprehensive filmography of Monty Banks' 1920-1924 starring two reelers, well illustrated with stills from the films and behind-the-scenes photos that bring the comedian and his times to life."

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