Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Announcing Early Women Filmmakers Set on Blu-ray/DVD

Flicker Alley, LLC


FLICKER ALLEY & BLACKHAWK FILMS® PRESENT 
EARLY WOMEN FILMMAKERS:

AN INTERNATIONAL ANTHOLOGY

Flicker Alley and Blackhawk Films® proudly present 25 newly restored films by early cinema's groundbreaking women filmmakers in a definitive

Blu-ray/DVD dual-format collection.

Release Date: May 9, 2017
Flicker Alley and Blackhawk Films® are proud to present Early Women Filmmakers: An International Anthology, a landmark Blu-ray/DVD collection of newly restored films by early cinema's groundbreaking women directors. This extensive set of 25 films from 14 international directors showcases the innovative technical and stylistic contributions of women, a vital missing piece in the canon of cinematic history.




Early Women Filmmakers: An International Anthology

Deluxe Blu-ray/DVD Dual-Format Edition

M.S.R.P. $69.95
SPECIAL PRE-ORDER SALE PRICE: $49.95


Early Women Filmmakers: An International Anthology / 1902-1943 / 652 minutes
More women worked in film during its first two decades than at any time since. Unfortunately, many early women filmmakers have been largely written out of film history, their contributions undervalued. This necessary and timely collection highlights the work of 14 of early cinema's most innovative and influential women directors, re-writing and celebrating their rightful place in film history.

International in scope, this groundbreaking collection features over 10 hours of material, comprised of 25 films spanning 1902-1943, including many rare titles not widely available until now, from shorts to feature films, live-action to animation, commercial narratives to experimental works. Directors include Alice Guy Blaché, Lois Weber, Mabel Normand, Madeline Brandeis, Germaine Dulac, Olga Preobrazhenskaia, Marie-Louise Iribe, Lotte Reiniger, Claire Parker, Mrs. Wallace Reid (Dorothy Davenport), Leni Riefenstahl, Mary Ellen Bute, Dorothy Arzner, and Maya Deren.

These women were technically and stylistically innovative, pushing the boundaries of narrative, aesthetics, and genre. Going back to the beginning of cinema, this collection makes visible the tremendous directorial contributions women made all around the world. Beautifully restored in high definition, Early Women Filmmakers features new scores by Sergei Dreznin, Frederick Hodges, Tamar Muskal, Judith Rosenberg, and Rodney Sauer and the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra.

This anthology is dedicated to the memory of David Shepard (1940-2017), without whom these films - along with countless others - would simply not have been made available in such beautifully-restored editions. The collection represents one of David's final produced works, completed in collaboration with several film archives, including the French National Center for Cinematography and the Moving Image (CNC), the Film Studies Center at the University of Chicago, and the Library of Congress.
Bonus Materials Include:
  • Booklet Essay: By film historian and Women Film Pioneers Project Manager Kate Saccone.
  • Audio Commentary: For Lois Weber's The Blot by author, professor, and expert on women and early film culture Shelley Stamp, courtesy of Milestone Film and Video.
 

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Louise Brooks on the cover of Amateur Photographer magazine

A Louise Brooks look-alike adorns the current issue of Amateur Photographer, a UK magazine.

The cover story focuses on recreating the iconic black-and-white Eugene Richee photograph of Brooks holding a long, single strand of pearls.

This single image is, without doubt, the best known image of the actress and in its own right, one of the most famous images of a silent film star.

Which ever amateur photographer took this picture, it looks like they did a pretty good job. More information at www.amateurphotographer.co.uk/

Amateur Photographer magazine is the world's best-selling, longest-running consumer weekly photographic magazine, first published in October 1884. Since then, AP (as it is affectionately known to its readers) has been the bible for both amateur and professional photo-enthusiasts around the world. It has helped generations of photographers to improve their skills. It's packed with News, Reviews, Techniques, Stunning Reader and Professional images, together with camera collector features and comments. Secondhand equipment is promoted in every issue - it's a photography magazine not to be missed! 

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Tomorrow: It's the Old Army Game with Louise Brooks shows in Kansas

The 2017 Kansas Silent Film Festival starts tomorrow! And among the special guests are Dr. Harriet Fields, who will be talking about her grandfather W. C. Fields, when the festival shows the 1926 W. C. Fields / Louise Brooks film, It's the Old Army Game. More information about the event can be found HERE.

FREE ADMISSION for all showings
 
Fri. Feb. 24, 2017, 7:30-10:00 p.m.
@ White Concert Hall, Washburn University
Overture and Opening Titles, music by Ben Model, guest performer
Welcome and Intros by Denise Morrison, Film Historian

The Noon Whistle
18 min.
(1923)
with Stan Laurel
Music by Marvin Faulwell, organ, and Bob Keckeisen, percussion
Crazy Like a Fox
25 min.
(1926)
with Charlie Chase, Oliver Hardy
Music by Jeff Rapsis on piano

Feature introduced by Denise Morrison with Dr. Harriet Fields
It's the Old Army Game
77 min.
(1926)
with W.C. Fields / Louise Brooks
Music score by Ben Model, guest performer

Sat. Feb. 25, 2017, 9:00 a.m.-Noon
@ White Concert Hall, Washburn University
Overture & Short Opening Titles by Jeff Rapsis
Welcome
and Intros by Denise Morrison
, Film Historian
Film Documentary
60 min.
A special presentation by KSFF
Koko's Cartoon Factory
8 min.
(1925)
Animation by Max Fleischer
Music by
Marvin Faulwel
Adventures of Helen—
Episode 1: The Wild Engine
20 min.
(1919)
with Helen Holmes
Music by
Marvin Faulwell

The Adventures of Prince Achmed
65 min.
(1926)
Cartoon Feature tinted in Color
Music score by Jeff Rapsis


Lunch Break (on your own), resuming at 1:00 p.m.

Sat. Feb. 25, 2017, 1:30-5:15 p.m.
@ White Concert Hall, Washburn University
Overature & Short Opening Titles by Marvin Faulwell
Welcome and Intros by Denise Morrison, Film Historian

The Boat
21 min.
(1921)
with Buster Keaton
Music by Marvin Faulwell
Barbed Wire
67 min.
(1927)
with Pola NegriMusic by Marvin Faulwell
Intermission


Short Overature by Jeff Rapsis
Intros by Denise Morrison, Film Historian

The Cardinal's Conspiracy
11 min.
(1909)
directed by D.W. Griffith
Music by Jeff Rapsis
When Knighthood Was in Flower
120 min.
(1922)
with Marion Davies*
Music by Ben Model, guest performer
(*not set yet. This will be a newly-available title and Ben Model is spearheading its restoration)

Dinner



Special Dinner Event, Our Ninth Annual
CINEMA-DINNER
,
Seating begins @ 5:15 p.m.
Dinner: 5:15-7:00 p.m.
Music by TBA

Speaker will be Dr. Harriet Fields, granddaughter of W.C. Fields
— This event is by reservation only. Dinner is $35. Contact us to reserve your space


Sat. Feb. 25, 2017, 7:30-10:00 p.m.
@ White Concert Hall, Washburn University

Overture
and Opening Titles by Marvin Faulwell, organ, and Bob Keckeisen, percussion

Welcome and Intros by Denise Morrison, Film Historian
Be Reasonable!
20 min.
(1921)
with Mack Sennett / Billy Bevin
—Music by Jeff Rapsis
Maid in Morocco
20 min.
(1925)
with Lupino Lane
—Music by Ben Model

Feature introduced by Dr. Harriet Fields
So's Your Old Man
67 min.
(1926)
with W.C. Fields
Music by Marvin Faulwell, organ, and Bob Keckeisen, percussion

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

New opera with Louise Brooks inspired character debuts in Chicago

The Invention of Morel, a new 90 minute opera with a Louise Brooks inspired character, has received its world premiere at the Studebaker Theater in Chicago, Illinois under the auspices of the city's Chicago Opera Theater. Additional information on the production can be found here.

The Invention of Morel is a music theater adaptation of the 1940 novella by Adolfo Bioy Casares. The score is by Stewart Copeland (the co-founder and drummer for the Police), with stage direction by the English actor-writer Jonathan Moore. Copeland and Moore collaborated on the libretto. The opera was commissioned by the Long Beach Opera and Chicago Opera Theater. (Excerpts from The Invention of Morel were performed as part of the New Opera Showcase, presented by OPERA America and NOVUS NY orchestra on January 18, 2016, at Trinity Wall Street.)

The opera features "wonderfully alluring" Valerie Vinzant as Faustine, and Andrew Wilkowske as the Fugitive. Baritone Lee Gregory is the Narrator (the id of the Fugitive), and tenor Nathan Granner is Morel. Kimberly E. Jones played Dora, Barbara Landis is the Duchess, Scott Brunscheen is Alec/Ombrellieri, and David Govertsen is Stoever. The set designer is Alan Muraoka, lighting designer is David Martin Jacques, the video designer is Adam Flemming, and Jenny Mannis is costume designer.

courtesy of Chicago Opera Theater



The full opera debuted in Chicago on February 18th. In it's reviews, the Chicago Sun-Times described the work as "the alternately unnerving nightmare and beautiful fever dream of a man on the run who sees no hope for his future until he conjures a relationship with an enigmatic woman," adding  "Invention of Morel deftly balances period charm with a contemporary sense of artificial reality." The Chicago Tribune said it was "a brilliant piece of musical surrealism, 4 stars."

Casares' La invención de Morel is widely considered the first literary work of magical realism (predating the kindred fiction of Jorge Luis Borges, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and others). It features a character named Faustine who was inspired by the author's affection for Louise Brooks. Casares said as much in interviews in later years. Those facts are seemingly not lost on the designers of the opera, who have modeled their Faustine characters after Brooks' appearance, especially her signature bob.


courtesy of Chicago Opera Theater



Though not as well known as it should be, The Invention of Morel has had a unique, lingering resonance. throughout the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Casares’ book was made into a French movie called L’invention de Morel (1967), and an Italian movie called L’invenzione di Morel (1974). It is also believed to have inspired the Alain Resnais’ film Last Year At Marienbad (1961), which was adopted for the screen by the French novelist Alain Robbe-Grillet. Brooks herself ended up on the cover of a recent edition of Casares’ book, which in turn was given a shout-out on television series Lost (2004 – 2010).

Notably, this is not the first time a contemporary opera singer has been modeled after Brooks, (a one-time Chicago resident). Witness William Kentridge's recent staging of Alban Berg's opera, Lulu, where the appearance of the Lulu character was meant to evoke the actress. The source material for both operas, of course, bear a relationship to Brooks as well, as Brooks starred as Lulu in a 1929 film adaption of Frank Wedekind’s earlier play, Pandora's Box. [The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra staging of William Kentridge’s production of Lulu was recently released on DVD / Blu-ray on the Nonesuch label.]

The Chicago Tribune noted: “As the Fugitive (forcefully sung and acted by baritone Andrew Wilkowske) falls desperately in love with a mysterious beauty who's one of Morel's guests, the symbolically named Faustine (a character inspired by the 1920s film star Louise Brooks), we see the Narrator (the excellent baritone Lee Gregory) pouring his confusion and fears into a diary. He tries to catch her attention and persuade her to return his longing, but she remains as remote as the rest.”


courtesy of Chicago Opera Theater
About the opera, the Chicago Opera Theater wrote, "This world premiere opera is based on "La invención de Morel," a 1940 novel by the influential Argentine author, Adolfo Bioy Casares. The story for this opera does not live within the classic constructs of time and space, but instead explores powerful driving forces of human emotion: love, desire, and sacrifice. . . .  An escaped fugitive arrives on an isolated, strange island. While exploring his surroundings, he observes a group of tourists and quickly realizes something is not quite right in this paradise. Intrigued yet wary of these eccentric visitors, he begins to fall in love with one--a strikingly beautiful woman. He discovers these visitors are here at the invitation of Morel, a mad scientific genius, for the unveiling of his latest mysterious invention. When his heart pulls him helplessly toward this beautiful woman he must ask himself how much he is willing to sacrifice to be with her."


Chicago Opera Theater's world-premiere production of Stewart Copeland's "The Invention of Morel," conducted by Andreas Mitisek, continues through February 26 at the Studebaker Theater, 410 S. Michigan Ave., in Chicago, Illinois. Tickets are $39-$125; more information at 312-704-8414 and www.cot.org. Here is a short animated piece summarizing the story.


a variant on this piece was published in the Huffington Post

Monday, February 20, 2017

Film critic Richard Schickel dies at age 84

The film critic Richard Schickel has passed away at the age of 84. I met him once, when I hosted an event with him, some five years ago. He was the film critic for LIFE and TIME magazines, and was the prolific author of some 37 books on the movies and movie stars. I have autographed copies of about a dozen of them. I especially enjoyed his biography of D.W. Griffith, which won the British Film Institute Book Prize.

His books on Douglas Fairbanks, Harold Lloyd, James Cagney, Gary Cooper, Humphrey Bogart, Alfred Hitchcock and Elia Kazan are well worth checking out, as are his various documentaries.

Schickel wrote and/or directed more than 30 documentaries, mostly for television. Schickel started his movie making career in 1971 by writing the BBC documentary The Movie Crazy Years. Soon thereafter,  he wrote and directed a series of PBS documentaries under the title The Men Who Made Movies -- individual installements were on Golden Age directors William Wellman, Vincente  Minnelli, Raoul Walsh, King Vidor, Howard Hawks, George Cukor, Frank Capra and Alfred Hitchcock. The series became a book, which I also have. Schickel also edited 2006’s The Essential Chaplin: Perspectives on the Life and Art of the Great Comedian, which I have and would recommend.

On his Facebook wall, film historian Frank Thompson wrote a moving tribute to Schickel and the debt he and everyone who loves film and film history has to the late critic.

Schickel both wrote and directed his documentaries, mostly. They include The World of Willa Cather, a documentary about the Nebraska novelist, in 1977; the Walter Matthau-hosted CBS piece Funny Business, highlighting the best in movie comedy, in 1978; The Horror Show, a history of horror movies hosted by Anthony Perkins (1979, CBS); James Cagney: That Yankee Doodle Dandy (1982, PBS); 1987’s Minnelli on Minnelli: Liza Remembers Vincente; Cary Grant: A Celebration (1988, ABC); Gary Cooper: American Life, American Legend (1989, TNT);  Myrna Loy: So Nice to Come Home To (1990, TNT); the Sally Field-hosted Barbara Stanwyck: Fire and Desire (1991); Hollywood on Hollywood (1993, AMC); the Emmy-nominated Elia Kazan: A Director’s Journey (1994, AMC); The Harryhausen Chronicles (1998, AMC); the Emmy-nominated Shooting War: World War II Combat Cameramen (2000, ABC);  Woody Allen: A Life in Film (2002, TCM); Charlie: The Life and Art of Charles Chaplin (2003); Scorsese on Scorsese (2004, TCM); Watch the Skies!: Science Fiction, the 1950s and Us (2005, TCM); and the three-part series You Must Remember This: The Warner Bros. Story, which aired in 2008 as part of PBS’ American Masters.


Schickel received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1964. He received the National Board of Review’s William K. Everson Film History Award in 2004, and the Maurice Bessy Award for film criticism in 2001. He was also honored by the  Los Angles Film Critics Association and the National Society of Film Critics.

When I met him, I asked Schickel about Louise Brooks. He told me that he liked her, thought her tough, and similarly admired William Wellman, Brooks' director in Beggars of Life.

Richard Schickel has died. His film history remains: his love of the movies is still alive.


Friday, February 17, 2017

Just Found Footage of Louise Brooks Favorite Author Marcel Proust

It's well known that the French writer Marcel Proust (who authored Remembrances of Things Past, or In Search of Lost Time) was Louise Brooks favorite. In 1982, in an article in the New York Times Book Review titled “Books that gave me pleasure,” the actress is quoted: “I have been reading Proust all my life, and I’m still reading him.”

In the screen capture pictured below, the elusive author can be seen wearing a grey coat and a dark bowler hat.


Now comes word that a Canadian professor claims to have found the only existing moving picture of the French writer. According to various news sources including the Guardian (UK), "The black-and-white footage of a wedding cortege filmed in 1904 shows a brief glimpse of a man in his 30s with a neat moustache, wearing a bowler hat and pearl-grey formal suit, descending a flight of stairs on his own. Most of the other guests are in couples."



To watch the entire clip, visit this link. Though just a fragment, this is very exciting news. Who knows what other lost fragmentary footage might be found? (A Louise Brooks fan can hope, can't they?)

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Closing Time: Paintings by Max Ferguson with Louise Brooks

Check out this nifty video tribute to the paintings of Max Ferguson (a fan of Louise Brooks). The actress is featured early on; and she is not the only movie legend spotted in this tribute. Can you spot the other. (Clue: he included an image of Brooks in one of his recent films.) Bonus points to those who can name the musical accompanist depicted in the painting which includes LB. And by-the-way, the music accompanying the video is "Closing Time" by Tom Waits.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Happy Valentine's Day from the Louise Brooks Society

I am not sure when this Valentine's Day card dates from, but I might guess it is the late 1920s or early 1930s. What caught my eye is the reference to "A gal in every port" and the inclusion of a bobbed female in the lower middle. This figure could be meant to be an Asian, or it could be meant to loosely resemble Louise Brooks, star of A Girl in Every Port (1928). Who knows, except Cupid?


Friday, February 10, 2017

Celebrating Black History Month: the career of Edgar Blue Washington

There were few African-American actors in the films of Louise Brooks. Such were the times, and such were the stories. African-Americans, in bit parts, can be found in The Street of Forgotten Men (1925), American Venus (1926), Canary Murder Case (1929), and King of Gamblers (1937). Perhaps there were one or two others in one or two of Brooks' lost films.



Certainly, the most prominent part played by an African-American was the role of Black Mose in Beggars of Life. Black Mose was played by Edgar "Blue" Washington (1898 – 1970). Unusually so, Washington received sixth billing, and his name appeared on the screen alongside stars Wallace Beery, Louise Brooks, Richard Arlen, Robert Perry and Roscoe Karns. Throughout his long film career, Washington appeared mostly in bit parts. Beggars of Life marked a high point.



Washington was an actor (sometimes credited as Edgar Washington and sometimes Blue Washington) as well as a one-time Los Angeles prizefighter and Negro League baseball player. He appeared in 74 films between 1919 and 1961. In between acting jobs, he was also an officer in the Los Angeles Police Department. The nickname "Blue" came from director Frank Capra, a friend.

Washington was born in Los Angeles. Before getting into acting, he played for various teams in the Negro League. He was a pitcher for the Chicago American Giants starting in 1916. And in 1920, he was invited to join the newly formed Kansas City Monarchs, where he started at first base and batted .275 in 24 official league games. After a few months of barnstorming, Washington left the Monarchs. In December of 1920, after he had started acting, Washington rejoined the Los Angeles White Sox for a few games; he was also believed to have later played for Alexander’s Giants in the integrated California Winter League.

Harold Lloyd helped Washington break into films, and this pioneering African-American actor appeared in the legendary comedian’s Haunted Spooks (1920) and Welcome Danger (1929). Sporadic work followed throughout the 1920s, as Washington appeared in movies alongside early stars Ricardo Cortez, William Haines, Richard Barthelmess, Ken Maynard, and Tim McCoy.



Beggars of Life director William Wellman worked once gain with Washington in The Light That Failed (1939). The actor also appeared in a few films helmed by John Ford, including The Whole Town's Talking (1935) and The Prisoner of Shark Island (1936). Other notable movies in which Washington had at least a small part include the Charley Bower’s short There It Is (1928), King Vidor's all-black Hallelujah (1929), Rio Rita (1929), Mary Pickford's Kiki (1931), King Kong (1933), Roman Scandals (1933), Annie Oakley (1935), Cecil B. DeMille's The Plainsman (1936), and Gone with the Wind (1939).

He was in three installments in the Charlie Chan series, and appears as Clarence the comic sidekick in the John Wayne B-Western Haunted Gold (1933).


Despite the fair amount of screen time Washington enjoyed in this rather poor, 57 minute film, he is only named in this trailer.


Washington also had small roles in The Cohens and the Kellys in Africa (1930), Drums of the Congo (1942), Bomba, the Jungle Boy (1949), and other lesser fair. Unfortunately, many of these and earlier roles traded on racial stereotypes. His last part, as a limping attendant in a billiards hall, was in the classic Paul Newman film, The Hustler (1961).

This blog is indebted to Mark V. Perkins excellent biography on the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) website. Give it a read.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Louise Brooks and Wanda Hawley

Louise Brooks is a magnet of meaning.... I just came across this short video clip, in which Emeritus Film Studies Professor Claudia Gorbman of the University of Washington discusses silent film actresses Louise Brooks and Wanda Hawley. I am not sure if this video clip comes from a larger film, or not, but it is worth a viewing. Give it a play.


Monday, February 6, 2017

Diary of a Lost Girl with Louise Brooks shows March 5th in New York State

The sensational 1929 Louise Brooks film, Diary of a Lost Girl, will be shown at 3 pm on March 5th at the Rosendale Theater in Rosendale, New York. This Sunday afternoon screening will feature live piano accompaniment by Marta Waterman. More information about the event can be found HERE.

The historic Rosendale Theatre is a three-story, 260-seat movie theater and performance venue in Rosendale Village, a hamlet and former village in the town of Rosendale in Ulster County, New York. The building was opened as a casino in 1905, and began showing films in the 1920s. By the 1930s, a stage had been installed for live vaudeville and burlesque acts. In 1949, the venue was converted back into a movie theater. Today, the theater is run by the Rosendale Theatre Collective.


If you are wondering about Brooksian triangulation... the closest she came to Rosendale back in the day was Poughkeepsie, when she danced there as a member of the Denishawn Dance Company. Later in life, of course, Brooks lived in Rochester, New York.

Diary of a Lost Girl may well be making its debut in Rosendale. The 1929 film, directed by Georg W. Pabst (not Joseph Pabst), was the second Brooks made in Germany, following Pandora's Box. Controversial in its day, and poorly regarded, the film was not shown in the United States until the 1950s. Those screenings took place in Rochester, at the George Eastman House, under the eye of James Card, the museum's film curator. Diary of a Lost Girl made its theatrical debut in the early 1980s. More about the film and its eventful history can be found HERE.

A bit of trivia: In 1961, acclaimed director John Huston was beginning work on a biopic about Sigmund Freud. In an archive of correspondence about the film, Huston’s longtime assistant Ernie Anderson wrote to the director that Freud had no direct involvement with the making of Diary of a Lost Girl.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Beggars of Life with music by The Dodge Brothers in Manchester (UK) in May

The outstanding 1928 Louise Brooks film, Beggars of Life, will be shown at Stoller Hall in Manchester, England on Saturday, May 13th. This screening will feature live music and will be accompanied by The Dodge Brothers and the fabulous Neil Brand. More information about this event can be found HERE.



The Stoller Hall web page reads:

25% discount when you book full price tickets for both Beggars of Life and the Dodge Brothers at 9pm. That means you can see the brilliant Dodge Brothers for just £5.50 each!

The classic silent film with live music from the Dodge Brothers and Neil Brand.

Film and cinematic landscapes come together when The Dodge Brothers – Mike Hammond, Mark Kermode, Aly Hirji and Alex Hammond – join forces with premiere Silent Film pianist Neil Brand to accompany rare Silent features. Their accompaniment to the Louise Brooks/Wallace Beery 1928 film Beggars of Life was greeted with great acclaim. Performing this at The British Silent Cinema Festival, The Barbican & The BFI Southbank has prompted glowing reviews and the band became the first ever to accompany a silent film at Glastonbury Festival in 2014.




Wednesday, February 1, 2017

David Shepard (1940 - 2017)

David Shepard, a friend to many in the silent film community and a longtime champion of film preservation, has died. He was 76 years old. His ceaseless work on behalf of silent film deserves our ever lasting appreciation.

I saw David just last December, and we exchanged a few words.... Below is a snapshot I took a five or six years back. David, second from the right in a white short, is surrounded by colleagues Kevin Brownlow, Diana Serra Cary (silent film star Baby Peggy), and Leonard Maltin.



I can only claim to have been acquainted with David Shepard (1940 - 2017), having chatted with him numerous times, and having exchanged emails and seen him about at local film festivals for well more than a decade. I will miss him congenial presence. I also enjoyed reading and treasure my autographed copies of his books on movie legends King Vidor and Henry King. It was an honor to have my picture taken with Shepard last summer.


David's involvement with silent film extends to Louise Brooks, who's now lost 1927 film, The City Gone Wild, he almost saved. In his 1990 book, Behind the Mask of Innocence, Kevin Brownlow wrote about an incident in the 1970s. “David Shepard, then with the American Film Institute’s archive program, had a list of 35mm nitrate prints held in a vault Paramount had forgotten it had. He asked me which title I would select, out of all of them, to look at right away. I said The City Gone Wild. He called Paramount to bring it out of the vaults for our collection that afternoon. The projectionist went to pick it up. ‘O, there was some powder on that,’ said the vault keeper ‘We threw it away.’ … He tried to rescue it, even from its watery grave, but a salvage company had carted it off by the time he got there.” A few years ago, I spoke with David about this incident, and he confirmed its details and expressed his frustration.
 
Back in November, Shepard was honored at a special event at Dartmouth College. At the time, Mike Mashon, Head, Moving Image Section, Motion Picture Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division, Library of Congress, said “David is a giant in the field of film preservation, one of those rare talents who exemplifies the scholar’s rigorous research, the archivist’s attention to detail and the fan’s unabashed love and enthusiasm for movies.”


Born in 1940, David had a lifelong love of film, having devoted most of his life to film preservation. Through teaching and scholarship, through his company, Film Preservation Associates, through his ownership of the Blackhawk Films library, and through his film and video restoration efforts, David had long worked behind the scenes helping save early films. Just as importantly, David made these films available to the home video market, first through laserdisc and VHS formats, and more recently through high-quality DVD releases "where the clarity and beauty of these early motion pictures can really be fully appreciated."

Shepard has done as much as anyone to both preserve and promote our film heritage, especially the silent era. Shepard began restoring films when he joined the American Film Institute in 1968 as one of their first staff members. His company, Film Preservation Associates, is responsible for many high quality video versions of silent films. Some of these video releases came from the Blackhawk Films library (also owned by Shepard), and others from materials owned by private collectors and film archives around the world. David lovingly sheparded them into the world. Even this partial list of films restored by Shepard is astounding:

    20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1916)
    A Farewell to Arms (1932)
    The Birth of a Nation (1915)
    The Black Pirate (1926)
    The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)
    Carmen (1915)
    The Cat and the Canary (1927)
    City Lights (1931)
    Don Q Son of Zorro (1925)
    Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1920)
    Faust (1926)
    Foolish Wives (1922)
    The Gaucho (1927)
    The General (1926)
    Go West (1925)
    The Gold Rush (1925)
    The Great Train Robbery (1903)
    The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923)
    The Kid (1921)
    A King in New York (1957)
    The Last Laugh (1924)
    The Lost World (1925)
    The Love of Jeanne Ney (1927)
    Male and Female (1919)
    Man With a Movie Camera (1929)
    The Mark of Zorro (1920)
    Meet John Doe (1941)
    Modern Times (1936)
    Nanook of the North (1922)
    The Navigator (1924)
    Nosferatu (1922)
    Orphans of the Storm (1921)
    The Phantom of the Opera (1925)
    Robin Hood (1922)
    The Sheik (1921)
    Sherlock Jr. (1924)
    The Son of the Sheik (1926)
    Steamboat Bill (1928)
    Sunrise (1927)
    The Testament of Dr. Mabuse (1933)
    The Thief of Bagdad (1924)
    The Three Musketeers (1921)
    Tillie's Punctured Romance (1914)
    Tramp, Tramp, Tramp (1926)
    Les Vampires (1915)

There are others, of course. For this work and all that he had done, David was recognized by the San Francisco International Film Festival, Los Angeles Film Critics Association, Denver Silent Film Festival, International Documentary Association, and the National Society of Film Critics, and others. For more about David Shepard and all that he has done, check out these interviews (and watch one of his silent films).

Northwest Chicago Film Society: A Conversation with David Shepard

Digitally Obsessed: A Conversation with David Shepard

Silents are Golden: Interview with David Shepard

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