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Screening at Cinecon 52

Revised July 6, 2016

Cinecon is highly regarded among film fans for screening the rare and unusual films of the silent and early sound era—films that seldom get seen on a big screen. Cinecon combs the major film archives and Hollywood studio vaults to select often forgotten gems that deserve a fresh look and reappraisal. At Cinecon there is something for everyone—comedy, drama, musicals, Westerns. We show the latest restorations—and some one-of-a-kind rarities.

All films will be shown at Grauman's Egyptian Theater at 6712 Hollywood Boulevard, most in 35mm. Silent films feature live musical accompaniment. For a full list of films with screening times please check out our schedule page.

Here are some of the titles to be screened at Cinecon 52. More films will be added as they are cleared. For the most current film information visit our facebook page.     Film notes by Tobin Larson.

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KING OF JAZZ (1930, Universal)
In 1924 bandleader Paul Whiteman (known to the press as “the King of Jazz”) commissioned Broadway composer George Gershwin to write a “serious” piece of music: RHAPSODY IN BLUE which Whiteman then premiered at the first Jazz concert ever at Carnegie Hall. Six years later in 1930, with musical films top box office, Universal decided to create the “ultimate” musical movie featuring Whiteman and his orchestra. It was a lavish and lush production filmed in two-color Technicolor and featuring a review of top musical acts with a “something for everyone” approach and featuring a production of RHAPSODY IN BLUE (which, since it’s “two-color,” isn’t really blue). The studio spent a whopping 2 million dollars and expected big returns. Unfortunately they released it just as the Depression set in and just as audiences were fed up with the deluge of musicals that had been popular since the coming of movie sound. Although the movie received good reviews it “bombed” at the box office. It was soon forgotten by audiences and disappeared from the repertory. It hasn’t been seen by many people over the last 70 years. Now Universal has done a new restoration on it and Cinecon has it! Don’t miss this one!

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Stan Laurel & Oliver Hardy: The Restored Shorts
One of the shorts we will be screening is THAT'S THAT, the 1937 unreleased "gag" film edited as a present to Stan from the crew.

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SO THIS IS PARIS (1927, Warner Bros.)
This classic French-style bedroom farce was directed by the great Ernst Lubitsch and many moments of the “Lubitsch touch” abound. In Paris, the city of lights and love, Monte Blue is a dull but jealous husband. His wife, Patsy Ruth Miller, is looking to add more romance to her life. It all climaxes with a wild dance party featuring that then revolutionary dance, The Charleston. Look for Myrna Loy in a bit part as a maid.

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NONE SHALL ESCAPE (1944, Columbia)
This is Cinecon favorite MARSHA HUNT’S favorite of all her films. Andre De Toth directed this taut drama. Made more than a year before the end of hostilities in Europe, this is the filmmakers imagining of what war crimes trials would be like after the Second World War has ended. It was released nearly 2 years before the actual Nuremberg Trials. A Nazi officer (Alexander Knox) is on trial as a war criminal. The story of his life and his crimes is told in flashbacks. The first Hollywood film to deal with Nazi atrocities against the Jews, this film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Story. Marsha Hunt gives an outstanding performance as the officer’s one-time fiancée . And with Henry Travers.

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GIRL SHY (1924, Pathe)
When I was first introducing my wife to silent cinema I started by showing her this Harold Lloyd feature because I knew she would enjoy it. GIRL SHY is a very modern film. The comedy is based on character rather than slapstick or stunts (but there is this race to the church near the end…). It could be a blueprint for the best modern Romantic Comedies. Harold is a small town boy who is too shy to talk to girls. He stutters so badly that he can’t get a word out. And yet he has written a book of instructions for young men on how to woo women. On the train to the big city to see his publisher he meets his perfect woman, played by the beautiful Jobyna Ralston…

Special thanks go out to Suzanne Lloyd for arranging for Cinecon to show her Grandfather’s film as a tribute to Sue’s long-time friend Bob Birchard. GIRL SHY was Bob’s favorite film.

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DAUGHTER OF SHANGHAI (1937, Paramount)
In a story that almost parallels the current EU refugee crisis, gangsters smuggle Chinese immigrants into the U.S. by airplane. When the authorities get a little too close the immigrants are ejected into the ocean below. When her father is murdered by the smugglers, the fabulous Anna May Wong goes undercover to put a stop to the smuggling racket. This film is fascinating for a number of reasons: Buster Crabbe and J. Carrol Naiish play the villains. More importantly, this was a unique instance where Asian performers played the Asian leads in a Hollywood production of this time period, showing the clout Ms. Wong had at the time. With Philip Ahn as Hollywood’s first Asian Federal Agent.

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PLAY SAFE (1927, Monty Banks Enterprises/Pathe)
If you’ve seen Robert Youngson’s silent movie compilation THE DAYS OF THRILLS AND LAUGHTER you’ll recall that that film’s climax involves Italian comedian Monty Banks in a hair-raising yet humorous chase where he leaps from a speeding car onto a fast-moving train and back again. Those scenes are from Monty Banks’ most well-known two-reel comedy-thriller, CHASING CHOO-CHOOS. That two-reel short was actually cut down from the five reel feature, PLAY SAFE and for decades it was the only way it could be seen. Now we’re able to see the whole thing. PLAY SAFE may have been forgotten, but it shouldn’t have been. And we’ve got the proof here. Don’t miss the chance to check it out for yourself.

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LOOKING FOR TROUBLE (1934, 2Oth Century Fox)
A crackling, fast paced comedy with some crime mixed in. Spencer Tracy is a phone company night time troubleshooter with his new partner, practical joking Jack Oakie, in tow. Their activities bring them face to face with secret underworld businesses where they discover wire taps and illegal activities that may be linked to Spence’s on again, off again, girlfriend (Constance Cummings).

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WHO DONE IT? (1942, Universal)
There’s a crossover between fans of movies of the ‘30’s and ‘40’s and fans of radio broadcasts of the same time period. This Abbot and Costello comedy may be the ultimate movie to satisfy both. Bud and Lou are wannabe radio mystery scriptwriters. While they attend a live broadcast of their favorite mystery show, the President of the station is bumped off. Bud and Lou decide that solving the murder will help advance their careers. Unfortunately, the real detectives on the case peg them as the prime suspects. Radio fans: there’s a terrific scene in the station’s sound-effects room that shows how a lot of effects were done.

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A MILLION BID (1927, Warner Bros.)
In this silent melodrama, when her millionaire husband is killed in a boating accident Agnes (Dolores Costello), returns home where she marries her first true love, now a brilliant brain surgeon. She settles down to a life of motherhood and happiness. Then her other husband shows up, still alive but with no memory. What he needs is a delicate brain operation… Whew! And that’s just part of the story!

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NAVY WIFE (1935, Fox)
A quirky Fox film, directed by Allan Dwan. Nurse Vicky (Claire Trevor) doesn’t believe in marriage because of her parent’s divorce. Dr. Quentin Harden (Ralph Bellamy) is a widower with a polio-stricken daughter. Vicky and the doctor get married, but break up because the doctor can’t forget his first wife. Then Vicky hears about a new treatment that may allow her stepdaughter to walk again. And then there’s the spy ring and the motorcycle-crazed sailors that also figure into the story. I told you it was quirky.

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THE JUNGLE MYSTERY (1932 Universal)
A 12-part pre-code serial that will run periodically though out the whole 5-days of the festival. Do you have the grit and stamina to search out and see every episode? Here’s the chance to test yourself. If you decide to accept this challenge you may find yourself in as difficult straits as the dashing Tom Tyler is. Along with his friend Noah Berry Jr., they search through the darkest jungle to find a cache of hidden ivory tusks while dealing with a savage native tribe. Until very recently this was considered a lost serial. It was restored by Universal in 2015 and now Cinecon has it!

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BEFORE HOLLYWOOD, IT WAS FORT LEE, NEW JERESEY!
Although not many people remember it, during the first two decades of the twentieth century, Fort Lee, New Jersey was the capital of movie-making in the United States. Here’s a chance for the Cinecon audience to delve into this fascinating era.   Tom Meyers of the Fort Lee Film Commission will be at Cinecon this year to introduce these rare and early films:

GHOST TOWN: THE STORY OF FORT LEE (1935)
A documentary made by local film maker Theodore Huff. It explores the downfall of the Fort Lee film industry, and was one of the first docs to deal with film history in a serious way.

ROBIN HOOD (1912)
The earliest surviving Robin Hood film, and made by the first permanent movie studio in Fort Lee. With color tinting.

THE DANGER GAME (1918)
A comic melodrama, produced by Samuel Goldwyn and starring Madge Kennedy. It was thought lost until a color-tinted print was discovered by a Spanish archive.

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SITTING PRETTY (1933, Paramount)
Whatta cast! Cinecon favorites Jack Oakie, Jack Haley, Ginger Rogers and Thelma Todd all appear in this musical confection about a pair of untalented song writers who head to Hollywood to seek fame and fortune. Hey, they may be untalented, but they manage to come up with the classic tune “Did You Ever See a Dream Walking?” which made its debut in this picture..

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SKY HIGH (1922, Fox)
Thrilling stunts and epic scenery are the highlights of this contemporary western. The film was advertised as having the first aerial views of the Grand Canyon. Tom Mix stars as a border patrol agent on the trail of a gang smuggling Chinese immigrants into the U.S. (It must be something going around. See THE DAUGHTER OF SHANGHAI). Co-starring one of Tom’s regular leading ladies, Eva Novak, as his love interest.

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ANIMAL CRACKERS (1930, Paramount)
So, you say you’ve already seen the Marx Brothers in ANIMAL CRACKERS? Maybe you’ve even seen it many times. Well, chances are you’ve never seen it like this. Cinecon has a sparkling new restoration made by our friends at Universal. It’s the British cut of the film and contains footage that was cut by the American censors. Based on the Broadway hit musical, the story takes place at the Long Island estate of Mrs. Rittenhouse(Margaret Dumont). Two big events are planned for this high society weekend party. The first is the visit of Captain Spaulding (Groucho) - who has just returned from exploring darkest Africa - with his secretary (Zeppo). The second event is the unveiling of a priceless painting by Beaugard. Guests include musicians Revelli (Chico) and his partner (Harpo), the mysterious “Professor.” Mayhem ensues when the painting is stolen. Even if you’ve seen it before, you haven’t seen it like this. And on the big Cinecon screen, too! Keep an ear out for my favorite Groucho throw-away line that no one else ever seems to notice: “And it was all made with the white of an egg.”

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IN AGAIN, OUT AGAIN (1917, Paramount)   (pictured: Fairbanks with Anita Loos & John Emerson)
Directed by regular Douglas Fairbanks director John Emerson, and written by Emerson’s future wife Anita Loos, this silent comedy/political satire, was the first film produced by Artcraft, Fairbanks’ production company. When a hopelessly romantic young man (Douglas Fairbanks) is tossed into jail for drunkenness he falls instantly in love with the jail keeper’s daughter. After he’s released he tries everything to get thrown back in. Then he’s mistaken for an anarchist…

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TIN PAN ALLEY (1940, 2Oth Century Fox)
With a soundtrack full of popular tunes of the early 20th century, Alfred Newman won his first Academy Award as Music Director for this feature. In 1915 New York City, Harrigan and Calhoun (John Payne and Jack Oakie) are struggling song writers with Harrigan having to fight boxing matches to pay the bills. Then the Blaine Sisters (Alice Faye and Betty Grable) start singing their songs and they become instant hit makers. But when the song writers give the premier of their biggest hit to Broadway darling Nora Bayes rather than the Blaines, the women leave for London where they become the toast of the town. Meanwhile, back home, the boys hit the skids. Then the First World War breaks out. Featuring a great group of character actors, including Billy Gilbert, the Nicholas Brothers, Allen Jenkins, John Loder, Elisha Cook Jr., Billy Bevan

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THE LAST WARNING (1929, Universal)
Wow. Released two years before DRACULA and FRANKENSTEIN, this silent could be considered the great-grand uncle of the Universal Horror Cycle. The last film directed by Paul Leni (THE CAT AND THE CANARY), the brilliant German expressionist designer and director, the film tells a story of hauntings and murder in a creepy abandoned Broadway theater. With Laura La Plante and Montagu Love. If you’re a Universal horror fan (and who isn’t?) you’ll want to catch this one for sure!

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REDHEADS ON PARADE (1935, Fox)
Okay, here’s a joke: A movie producer, an actor and a publicity agent, looking to make a comeback, walk into a beauty parlor… wait, that’s not a joke. It’s the plot of this musical directed by Norman Z. McLeod. They discover the owner is a gorgeous redhead. Her invention, a red hair dye, is bombing because of the popularity of Jean Harlow and her platinum blonde hair. They decide to make the redhead the star of their next movie. Here’s another joke: the movie’s about hair color but it’s in black and white. Starring John Boles, Dixie Lee and Jack Haley.

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RAMONA (1928, Inspiration Pictures)
This is the third filmed version of Helen Hunt Jackson’s 1884 novel - the first version was directed by D.W. Griffith - a novel so popular that the town of Ramona, California in San Diego County was named after it. Delores Del Rio and Warner Baxter star in this highly romanticized story of a Scotch-Native American orphan girl who falls in love with a Native-American sheepherder in 1840s Mexican-Spanish California and experiences discrimination because of their marriage. For decades this version of the story was thought to be lost until it was recently discovered in an archive in Prague.

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THE FIGHTING LEGION (1930, Universal)
A classic Saturday matinee western! When Dave Hayes (Ken Maynard) and his sidekick “Cloudy” rescue the Texas Ranger who is pursuing them, the ranger lets them go out of gratitude. Then, when the Ranger is shot in the back, Dave uses the ranger’s badge to impersonate him in an attempt to find his unknown assailant.

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THE SPOILERS (1930 Paramount)
29-year-old Gary Cooper stars in this, the third film (and first sound) version of Rex Beach’s gritty 1906 novel of prospectors during the Alaskan Gold Rush of 1898. It features a knock-down, drag-out fight that sprawls from inside a saloon and out into the unpaved streets of the mining town. During the filming of the brawl between Cooper and William “Stage” Boyd (Zolok in the notorious serial THE LOST CITY), Cooper was seriously injured.

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THIEVE’S HIGHWAY (1949, 2Oth Century Fox)
Set against the mob-controlled San Francisco produce markets, this is one of the great Film Noirs, ranking right up there with director Jules Dassin’s best: NIGHT AND THE CITY and BRUTE FORCE. With Richard Conte as war vet, turned produce truck driver, Nick Garcos, out to get revenge for his father, whose legs were amputated by gangsters. With the great Morris Carnovsky (my acting teacher at the National Theatre Institute – no kidding.) as his crippled father. And with (yet again) Jack Oakie as “Slob.”

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CITY OF CHANCE (1940, 20TH Century Fox)
This is one of a half-dozen films directed by Ricardo Cortez when his acting career began to slow down. In this amusing romantic/screwball comedy/film noir mashup, the beautiful and statuesque Lynn Bari plays a newspaper reporter who goes undercover in an illegal gambling den with the intention of shutting down the operation and getting her childhood sweetheart (Donald Woods) out of the gambling business. With C. Aubrey Smith as the brains behind the casino. An awful lot happens in this film’s brief 56 minutes!

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TWO PLUS FOURS (1930)
This musical comedy short was made shortly before Bing Crosby became a singing star. Here he appears as one of the Rhythm Boys singing group (Also seen in THE KING OF JAZZ). The film was directed by Ray McCarey, brother of Leo McCarey. A tailor can’t make the rent until the Rhythm Boys put on a concert to save his shop. Look for Cinecon favorite Spec O’Donnell in a small part.

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DIPLOMACY (1926, Paramount)
This film, a mystery/spy drama, was a collaboration between star Blanch Sweet and her husband, Director Marshall Neilan. There are strange and mysterious things going on in the Riviera. But wait… nothing is what it seems to be.

As always films are listed here pending final clearance and are subject to change.

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