Thursday, May 12, 2022

Report on The Street of Forgotten Men at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival


Not only was it great to see the newly restored Louise Brooks film, The Street of Forgotten Men, on the big screen at the Castro Theater, it was also swell to see old friends and make a few new ones at this year's San Francisco Silent Film Festival. This festival was the first in three years due to the Covid pandemic; it also marked my first visit to San Francisco in just as long a time. Much has changed. Much remained the same. It was great to be back. I have populated this blog with a few snapshots from the occasion.

Von and I at the Castro

As I have been blogging of late, the San Francisco Silent Film Festival has recently restored this little seen Herbert Brenon film, for which film preservationist Robert Byrne created a filmic bridge in place of the missing second reel. He did a great job - which made the missing part to the story easy to follow. That missing material includes the death of two significant characters, including a dog (Lassie) in the care of Easy Money Charley (played by Percy Marmont). What's more, when the dog is killed by Bridgeport White-Eye (played by John Harrington), I heard a few sighs in the audience - which suggests Byrne effectively "painted" the scene. Congratulations to Rob Byrne and his team, and a big thanks to Ira Resnick, who made it possible. It was great to see Ira at the Festival.

Courtesy of Donna Hill

Also doing a great job was Jennifer Miko, who worked on the film imagery. The film looked great on the big screen - crisp and clean despite its problematic history - especially the cinematography of legendary cameraman Harold Rosson. The crowd oohed and awed at Rosson's live action street scenes on 5th Avenue, and were wowed at other times, like the shot of the dancing silhouettes at the garden party. Jennifer also gave an informative and well considered introduction which acknowledged my small contribution to the restoration project. I was also pleased when Jennifer recommended everyone read my essay on the film in the hefty program. (I had two pieces in this year's program. The other was an interview profile with the members of the Anvil Orchestra - formerly the Alloy Orchestra.) It was also nice to hear my name from the stage! I was especially pleased to meet and speak with Jennifer before and after the film; I suspect she is a bit of a Louise Brooks' fan, as she asked me for one of my Louise Brooks Society pin-back buttons. I obliged.

Jennifer Miko and Thomas Gladysz

All in all, The Street of Forgotten Men was very well received. Everyone I spoke with liked it, and the large crowd (hundreds of people on a Tuesday afternoon) reacted positively throughout. There was a smattering of applause when Louise Brooks first came on the screen, and when the film completed, there was boisterous applause and even a few hoots and hollers. Here are a few (sadly fuzzy) shots from the slide show which preceded the film.

Louise Brooks (far left)

I was also pleased to make the acquaintance of the esteemed film historians Richard and Diane Koszarski (thank you Ira Resnick for the introduction). They generously signed copies of some of the books they authored which I had brought with me from Sacramento, including a couple of which I used in researching and writing my essay on The Street of Forgotten Men. (Richard Koszarski's Hollywood on the Hudson: Film and Television in New York from Griffith to Sarnoff and The Astoria Studio and Its Fabulous Films were essential, as is Hollywood Directors 1914-1940 and An Evening's Entertaiment: The Age of the Silent Feature Picture, 1915-1928.) We had a very pleasant chat, talking about books, Dover Publications, Stanley Applebaum, Astoria Studios, Herbert Brenon, Erich von Stroheim (Koszarski authored an early biography, The Man You Love to Hate) and more, including Louise Brooks. Kozsarski interviewed the actress (regarding the Astoria Studios) in the late 1970s, and he told me something I don't think I had known about Brooks - that she was a big fan of Robin Williams and Mork and Mindy. Who da thunk? What a great pleasure it was to meet Richard and Diane Koszarski.

Richard and Diane Koszarski & Thomas Gladysz

Though I was only there for an afternoon, it was great to be attend this year's San Francisco Silent Film Festival - my 25th time and the Festival's 25th anniversary! It was also swell to see old friends like Ira Resnick, Donna Hill, Mary Malory, Jordan Young, Karie Bible and others. I missed some others I would have liked to have said hello to, but when you are a Sacramento Cinderella (just as Mary Brian was a Bowery Cinderella), you sometimes miss out. I am so glad my wife, Christy Pascoe, attended with me. She is also acknowledged in the restoration credits on The Street of Forgotten Men - as she is on the preservation print of Now We're in the Air, another Louise Brooks film we helped on. Thank you for all of your help my love.

At dinner with friends Mary Mallory, Donna Hill, Jordan Young

Christy and one of her favorites, Von

The end

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

The Street of Forgotten Men Restoration Credits - Thanks Tim Moore

In just a bit, I will be heading out the door on my way to San Francisco and the San Francisco Silent Film Festival (about a two hour drive), where I will attend the premiere of the new restoration of Louise Brooks' first film, The Street of Forgotten Men, on the BIG screen of the historic Castro Theatre. I am  looking forward to it. 

I have seen the film before, but never on the big screen. The first time was some twenty ago at the Library of Congress where I hand-cranked a projector inside a cubicle. I had made an appointment, and a staffer  brought me a print of the film. What a unique, intimate experience - me in my own "little theater," acting as projectionist, and sole audience member. At the time, it was thrilling to have seen something relatively few film buffs had seen. I recall I watched the film twice. Once, the first time, was for pleasure. The second time I stopped and started the film a number of times in order to take notes and study different frames & scenes - not knowing if I would ever have the chance to see the film again.

Fast forward a number of years. Back in 2017,  I helped film preservationist Robert Byrne with the preservation of the surviving fragment of the once lost Louise Brooks film, Now We're in the Air (1927). After that project wrapped-up, I mentioned to Rob what I thought was another worthwhile project, The Street of Forgotten Men. Though not lost, the film was little seen, and deserving. The film was also still under copyright. A few years had to pass before it fell into the public domain, which was in 2022. 

Sometime late last year, Rob Byrne asked if I wanted to help with the restoration of The Street of Forgotten Men. I said YES. My screen credit on the restoration print reads "Research" (see below) - but what I did was a little bit of everything which included helping acquire the scenario of the film (thanks to longtime Louise Brooks Society member Tim Moore), providing stills and bits of information, a few suggestions, and more. I also watched the film at least another six times on my desktop computer (an experience not dissimilar to my first viewing in a cubicle) during the months long restoration process.

As some may know, the Library of Congress holds the only known surviving print of the 7 reel film. But what they have are 6 of the 7 reels. What is missing is reel two. From the scenario (thank you again Tim Moore) we know what happens in the story (which includes the deaths of two significant characters). However, we don't know what it looks like. Rob was able to reconstruct the missing reel based on and utilizing descriptive passages and dialogue from the scenario which were matched up with whatever stills  could be acquired from collectors and archives all around the world. The results are impressive.

Though I have mentioned him twice already, I want to again thank Tim Moore for his assistance in helping secure scans of the film's scenario. Your help was crucial. Tim, as well as the Louise Brooks Society, are also thanked in the restoration credits. As are longtime friends Nancy Kaufman and Kay Shackleton.

The San Francisco Silent Film Festival screening will be introduced by Jennifer Miko, who did the image restoration. The new print looks great on my computer, and should look just as swell on the big screen. I expect to be posting more on today's screening in the next few days.

For those interested, I wrote the essay on The Street of Forgotten Men which can be found in the program book distributed at the Festival. And here is an earlier piece, "Restored Silent Film ‘The Street of Forgotten Men’ Debuts Louise Brooks," which I penned for Pop Matters. 

And here is another piece I wrote for SF Patch on the film's 1925 reception in San Francisco. On to The Street of Forgotten Men !

Sunday, May 8, 2022

San Francisco's The Street of Forgotten Men

Someone once said, "all history is local." If true, then that applies to the movies, and film history. It also follows that film criticism is more than what reviewers in New York or Los Angeles might say about a particular film. How a movie is received in Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia or San Francisco also matters. 

On May 10th, the San Francisco Silent Film Festival will screen its new restoration of Herbert Brenon's  The Street of Forgotten Men. This special screening marks a return to The City for this once well regarded silent film which was first shown in San Francisco nearly 100 years ago. More information about that special screening can be found HERE.

The Street of Forgotten Men revolves around a group of pretend handicapped beggars, and stars Percy Marmont, Mary Brian, and Neil Hamilton. Also appearing in the film is Louise Brooks, who made her screen debut in an uncredited bit part in this sentimental and strange melodrama.

Set and shot in New York City, The Street of Forgotten Men premiered at New York's Rivoli Theater on July 20, 1925. A few weeks later, the film made its Bay Area debut at the Granada Theatre (1066 Market Street, at Jones) in San Francisco, where it opened on August 8 and played for a week. It was a successful, and much ballywho'd run.

The Street of Forgotten Men kicked-off the what was known locally as the "Greater Movie Season," an annual event reportedly unique to San Francisco which encouraged the public to attend and enjoy the movies. This city-wide promotional campaign was supported by not only the movie studios - but also city officials, the press, and various civic organizations. Along with screenings of the season's best new films, there was also a parade and other activities. The “Greater Movie Season meant something in this town,” Variety noted later a few weeks later. “Twenty stars came up from Hollywood,” and there was a “big parade with floats from the various studios, corps of usherettes, bands, police escorts, and civic and public officials.” Notably, the horses, chariots and characters from Ben Hur also took part in the parade.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, “The Tens of Thousands of San Franciscans who lined Market Street yesterday morning and who crowded into the Civic center to welcome the visiting Motion Picture Stars who came from Los Angeles to help inaugurate Greater Movie Week, also paid tribute to Fay Lanphier, 'Miss California,' who left yesterday to compete at Atlantic City for the title of 'Miss America.' The movie stars gave Miss Lanphier a rousing send-off and wished her 'Luck'." The crowd was estimated at more than 30,000. Among the Hollywood celebrities in attendance were Renee Adore, Lew Cody, Corinne Griffith, Claire Windsor, Marie Prevost, Ben Turpin, Syd Chaplin, Paulette Duval, Ernest Torrence, Jean Hersholt, Ronald Colman, and Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. A portable broadcast station was also set up - suggesting the parade was broadcast on the radio.

Despite it's sometimes dour theme, and despite the competition, The Street of Forgotten Men did well at the box office. According to Variety, the film “came in hitting on all six.” The trade journal added that a good promotional campaign provided for a strong opening, and business held up during its week-long run in San Francisco. Variety reported the film took in $21,800 during its seven days at the Granada, ranking it second in The City. Supporting the film was an Al. St. John comedy short, Red Pepper, and on the stage were Ralph Pollock and the Granada Synco-Symphonists, Ukulele Lew, and other entertainers.

The Street of Forgotten Men beat out Douglas Fairbanks in Don Q, Son of Zorro at the Imperial, and D.W. Griffith's Sally of the Sawdust at the St. Francis (among other offerings), but fell just a bit short of Fine Clothes, a First National film also featuring Percy Marmont at the Warfield. Fine Clothes topped The Street of Forgotten Men – but only by $700.00. The latter’s success, Variety suggested, was due largely to the opening act at the Warfield, Fred Waring and His Pennsylvanians. That stellar musical group, one of the most popular acts of the day, “dragged ‘em to the box office.”

The Street of Forgotten Men was widely praised in the local press. Writing in the San Francisco Bulletin, A. F. Gillaspey noted, “For fine dramatic detail, for unusualness, for giving us a glimpse into a world we never see and into the other sides of characters we simply pass in pity on the streets, The Street of Forgotten Men is a photoplay revelation.” That review was echoed by other local critics. Dudley Burrows, writing in the San Francisco Call and Post, thought “The Street of Forgotten Men is more legitimately dramatic, and less frankly melodramatic than The Unholy Three,” a similarly themed film. Curran D. Swint of the San Francisco News stated, “Here we have an underworld drama, stark and naked in its picturing of the beggars and fakers who prey on the public in the name of charity.” 

George C. Warren of the San Francisco Chronicle praised the film's director. “The Street of Forgotten Men, to which Herbert Brenon has lent the magic of his skill at direction, [and] his ability to poeticize even the most sordid theme.” Idwal Jones of the San Francisco Examiner praised the film's star. “Marmont can make any picture pleasing, and does well in this unaccustomed role. The extreme of realism abounds in scenes wherein the fakers transform themselves into cripples and go out and impose upon the charitable.”

The Street of Forgotten Men returned to San Francisco for a handful second-run showings over the next twelve months. Other showings in The City include screenings at the New Fillmore (Oct. 12-14, 1925) and New Mission (Oct. 12-14, 1925), Coliseum (Nov. 2-4, 1925), New State (Mar. 7, 1926), and Majestic (Aug. 31, 1926).

Two other Bay Area screenings are also of note. One took place in neighboring Oakland, when the film played at the American theater September 5 through the 11th. On opening day, two of the stars of The Street of Forgotten Men came to town and made a special in-person appearance to promote the film and participate in Oakland's celebration of its Diamond Jubilee.

The Oakland Tribune thought the film "a vivid document of life along the Bowery." The Oakland Post-Enquirer thought the film had an unusual plot, while the Oakland Morning Record noted the picture had been acclaimed by Eastern critics and was said to be even greater than Lon Chaney's The Miracle Man -  a comment echoed in other reviews and articles from around the region and the nation.

A few weeks later, the film opened in San Jose at the Liberty theater for a short, three day run (Sept. 23-26). The local newspaper, San Jose Mercury Herald, thought the film had " . . . a series of smashing scenes that reveal the genius of Herbert Brenon." It also took note of a local screening with special purpose. On September 25, the San Jose Mercury Herald wrote, “Because the film drives home a lesson that every man should take to heart, the management of the Liberty invited members of the Pastor’s union, heads of clubs and civic organizations and others prominent in community life to attend a pre-view of the picture Wednesday morning at 10’oclock. These men and women were in an excellent position to thoroughly appreciate the value of such a screen story. And without exception they endorsed the picture not only as pointing a moral, but also as a superb piece of art.”

The Street of Forgotten Men showed all around the San Francisco Bay Area - in Berkeley, Sausalito, Mill Valley, Palo Alto, and elsewhere throughout the next twelve months. Other showings took place at the Ramona in Walnut Creek (Aug. 15-16, 1925); New Stanford in Palo Alto (Aug. 23-24, 1925); Sequoia in Redwood City (Aug. 26-27, 1925); Strand in Los Gatos (Aug. 27-28, 1925); Princess in Sausalito (Aug. 27-28, 1925); Hub in Mill Valley (Aug. 30-31, 1925); Orpheus in San Rafael (Sept. 12, 1925); Tamalpais in San Anselmo (Sept. 12, 1925); Virginia in Vallejo (Sept. 14-15, 1925);  California in Berkeley (Sept. 23-26, 1925); Novelty in Martinez (Sept. 24, 1925); Garden in Burlingame (Sept. 27, 1925); California in Pittsburg (Sept. 27-28, 1925); Casino in Antioch (Sept. 29, 1925); Regent in San Mateo (Oct. 10, 1925); Majestic in Benicia (Oct. 20, 1925); Chimes in Oakland (Oct. 23-24, 1925); Glen in Mountain View (Nov. 3-4, 1925); Fremont in Oakland (Nov. 5-6, 1925); Strand in Berkeley (Nov. 9-10, 1925); Lorin in Berkeley (Nov. 19-20, 1925); Oaks in Berkeley (Nov. 21, 1925); Royal in South San Francisco (Nov. 30 – Dec. 1, 1925); Lincoln in Oakland (Nov. 30 - Dec. 1, 1925); Casino in Oakland (Dec. 10-11, 1925); Strand in Oakland (Dec. 14, 1925); Rialto in Oakland (Dec. 21-22, 1925); New Piedmont in Oakland (Dec. 22-25, 1925); Liberty in Oakland (Jan. 10, 1926); Palace in San Leandro (Jan. 11-12 and Jan. 19, 1926); Hayward Theatre in Hayward (Jan. 25-26, 1926); Granada in Oakland (Feb. 1-2, 1926); Palace in Alameda (Feb. 1-2, 1926); Richmond in Richmond (Mar. 8-9, 1926); Berkeley Theatre in Berkeley (Apr. 7-9, 1926); and Peoples in Oakland (July 11, 1926). 

Louise Brooks’ part in The Street of Forgotten Men is small. She is on screen less than five minutes. Brooks is not listed in the credits, and that may explain why few noticed her one short scene. In reviews of the film, no San Francisco or Bay Area critic – let alone any national critic – noted Brooks’ debut performance. The lone exception was the Los Angeles Times. Its anonymous reviewer commented, “And there was a little rowdy, obviously attached to the 'blind' man, who did some vital work during her few short scenes. She was not listed.” Those two sentences mark the actress’ first film review.

Sunday, May 1, 2022

Diary of a Lost Girl with Louise Brooks shows in the UK three times in May

The sensational 1929 Louise Brooks film, Diary of a Lost Girl, will be shown three times this month in the United Kingdom. And what's more, each of these screenings will feature live musical accompaniment by the musical group, Wurlitza. (Thanks Meredith.)

The three screenings are set to take place on 

Friday 6th May 2022 at the The Burrell Theatre, Truro in Cornwall. More info HERE.

Friday 13th May 2022 at the Plymouth University Arts Institute, Plymouth in Devon. More info HERE.

Saturday 14th May 2022 at the Noss Mayo Village Hallin Devon. More info HERE.

Wurlitz posted this statement: "We're delighted to be returning to Truro, this time to The Burrell Theatre. The performance starts at 7.30 and we very much hope to see some of you for what may be our last performance in Cornwall of Diary of a Lost Girl for some considerable time.

If you haven't seen it, Diary of a Lost Girl is a wonderful silent film; action packed and full of drama that shocks and surprises. The cinematography is just stunning, with beautiful Louise Brooks at her most mesmerising. It's a story of love in unusual places, as well as capturing some of the most extraordinary scenes ever seen in silent cinema. Heavily censored at the time, we are lucky to be able to see the film as Pabst intended it to be seen, with all its black humour and vibrant storytelling.

Our soundtrack includes music by Leonard Cohen, Chopin, The Magic Numbers, Passenger, Eric Satie, The Wire, Portishead and XTC. The album of Diary of A Lost Girl is on Spotify - either follow the link, or search for Wurlitza

We are also performing Diary of a Lost Girl at Plymouth University Arts Institute on the 13th May, and on the 14th May at Noss Mayo Village Hall.

After this we will be working on Charlie Chaplin's The Kid, which will be debuted at Little Big Festival in Ashburton in August."

Saturday, April 30, 2022

Films at the 2022 San Francisco Silent Film Festival

This year's San Francisco Silent Film Festival features a stellar line-up of films. Along with the debut of the restoration of Louise Brooks' first film, The Street of Forgotten Men (1925), there are a number of other new restorations, some old classics, and a selection of films from around. There are films from Japan, India and the Soviet Union, as well as promising examples of Brazilian experimentalism, French melodrama, Danish science-fiction, and German horror. 

The SFSFF is the largest festival devoted to silent film in the Americas. This year’s event includes 19 recent film restorations. Notably, nine of those restorations will make their North American premiere at the May event. More information about the San Francisco Silent Film Festival as well as this year's event can be found HERE.

Most notably, the festival will screen Arrest Warrant (1926), an Ukrainian film directed by Heorhii Tasin. This briskly paced gem tells the story of Nadia (played by Vira Vareckaja), who’s revolutionary husband flees the city in the midst of civil war, leaving her behind with a cache of secret documents. Expressionist effects, at times riveting and then distressing, highlight Nadia’s psychological torture at the hands of the authorities. It is a must-see film, poignant, and timely. 

Along with other fans of Louise Brooks, I have long been a fan of Clara Bow - the original "IT girl." This year's Festival includes the SFSFF restoration of The Primrose Path, one of 14 features Clara Bow made in 1925. Who doesn't want to see another Clara Bow film? She lights up the screen.

I have also been a long time fan of director / actor Erich von Stroheim, "the man you love to hate." I adore his classic silents The Merry Widow (1925) and The Wedding March (1928), both of which have been shown at the festival in the past. In fact, they are two of my favorite silent films. This year, Erich von Stroheim’s study of decadence, Foolish Wives (1922), opens the festival. It has been newly restored by the SFSFF and New York’s MoMA, and will be accompanied by Timothy Brock’s SFSFF  commissioned score. The following day, the festival will show the Austrian Film Museum’s restoration of von Stroheim’s Blind Husbands (1919), a film the celebrated director also stars in and wrote.

What follows is the SFSFF's complete line-up of films.

Thursday, April 28, 2022

The Street of Forgotten Men in Tulsa black and white

Not a negative review, but a negative photocopy from Tulsa, Oklahoma in August, 1925.

Powered By Blogger