Archive for the ‘preservation’ category
That was the question once asked by writer Ted Elrick, his answer coming in the form the essay Classic is in the Eye—and Mind—of the Beholder (as published in DGA News Magazine, Feb. 1992). Elrick gave the daunting task of defining that elusive quality which differentiates a good movie from a classic film to over 100 people working in the entertainment industry. Many of them were veterans of the classic silver screen themselves– still with us when the story went to print back in 1992.
Below are a few of the highlights from this most insightful piece, written at the height of the industry’s first major rally in Washington on the issue of film preservation, and I hope it provides much food for thought…and discussion. Read more ►
Next year, an entirely new kind of silent film festival is coming to Hollywood. The Laugh and Live Film Festival, presented by Los Angeles-based film historian Sparrow Morgan, will be the first festival of its kind: focusing on reviving, not just interest in silent film, but the very medium of silent film itself.
The Pictorial is, quite frankly, STOKED.
Sparrow Morgan is a Los Angeles-based film historian who has founded the festival in honor of Douglas Fairbanks Sr.– a man who was an early champion of the medium of film itself, as a founding member of the Academy of Arts and Sciences and a founding faculty member of the UCLA film school. It is a fitting full-circle tribute, naming a festival dedicated to the revitalization of silent film in honor of a man so vital to the medium itself. Morgan is also responsible for founding of the Hollywood Forever Cemetery’s Fairbanks Memorial: a yearly celebration of silent film and the history of Hollywood, taking place on the Fairbanks Lawn at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, coinciding with the birthday of Douglas Fairbanks Sr, on May 23.
The festival’s first press release was recently released and it is with the highest of excitement that we post it here:
Los Angeles based film historian Sparrow Morgan is proud to
announce The Laugh and Live Festival, the first and only event showcasing contemporary silent films.
Scheduled for May 2012, time, date, and details on speci!c events will be forthcoming.
Founded in honor of Douglas Fairbanks Sr, for whose charming book of advice the festival is named, The Laugh and Live Festival aims to increase the participants’ and audience’s understanding and appreciation of
silent film not only as an historical art form, but challenges them to consider silent film as a viable modern format.
“Interest in silent film has been increasing in recent years, but most of the viewing public still consider it an acquired taste, something one needs a film degree to understand, which couldn’t be further from the truth,” says Morgan. “Silent film, especially the early one-reel nickelodeon serials, were made with the express purpose of entertaining a wide audience. It was all about the action, the drama, and the excitement, not unlike modern day soap operas. The art came later.”
It is in this spirit that The Laugh and Live Festival will be offering a lecture track devoted to the entertainment and enrichment of the general public, as well as workshops and lectures for aspiring filmmakers hosted by historians and filmmakers alike.
The crown jewel of the Laugh and Live Festival will be its screenings of contemporary short-format silent films by student and non-professional filmmakers.
I spent the majority of today in 1932.
Well, as close as I’ll ever get to it, anyway.
On this exceptionally bright, magical March afternoon, the not-so-distant past collided head on with the present.
The authors of Harlow in Hollywood: The Blonde Bombshell in the Glamour Capital held a book signing on Club View Drive in Beverly Hills- the former residence of Jean Harlow. The gracious current owners of the home, Mr. and Mrs. Chandler, hosted a lovely afternoon luncheon whose guests included Leonard Maltin, Holly Madison, members of the Harlow family (the Carpenter side), veteran Hollywood actress Pauline Wagner (Fay Wray‘s King Kong double!) and Hollywood historians Lisa Burks, Darrell Rooney and Mark Vieira. Read more ►
The Self-Styled Siren is one the absolute undisputed best blogs on classic film. And this past week, it has played host to a most noble endeavor: For the Love of Film Noir Blogathon. Everyone from the New York Times to Leonard Maltin has been, in at least some form, involved in promoting awareness of the need to preserve these ever so precious pieces of smoky black and white celluloid. A true army of bloggers joined forces to promote the cause and the results have been fascinating to say the very least!
Hop on over to the Self Styled Siren to read… to remember … to raise awareness … to really make a difference!
Confession: I love Los Angeles. It’s not my favorite city in the world– that crown rests in the heart of my old home across the Pond– but I’ve pretty much reconciled to the fact that I do love Los Angeles.
Problem is, I hate L.A.
Yes. There is a difference.
For me, Los Angeles is the tangible city: its sun kissed sloping hillsides and stretching curves of blue coast; its whimsical architecture that blends neoclassicism, deco and Moorish sensibilities with carefree abandon; the farm town framework disguised under a bustling metropolis; those knockabout formative years with the industry that would one day come to consume it …. I love all of it.
However, a key factor in the definition of a city’s character is the people who live in it. They are the ones who choose what to make of the tangible city, and what not to make of it. And modern Los Angeles has amassed a considerable part of its population that does not seem to be remotely interested in that tangible city– but rather, the image it projects.
A problem, because a city cannot be truly great unless its organic self is allowed to become a part of the flesh of the people who live there. Perhaps this great distinction is what leads many a visitor to Los Angeles to label it ‘fake’ – the absence of the organic city as an inherit part of its people is perhaps both obvious and inexpressible and therefore described as, simply, a “feeling” one gets.
Perhaps, however, this is something that has more to do with Father Time than anything else. Los Angeles is, after all, just a toddler. (History Alert: restless readers are hereby forewarned and apologies sincerely offered for any gross factual inaccuracies… the title of this post, after all, is random ponderings…) Sure, Los Angeles has Spanish roots that reach as far back as the 16th Century, but it has only been an incorporated city since 1850. At 160 years old, Los Angeles therefore trails her East Coast counterparts in both experience and maturity by some two hundred years—and by her European counterparts, upwards of a millennium. By way of perspective: when her shores were first spied by Spanish explorer Juan Cabrillo in 1542 (which he rightly dubbed Baya de los Fumos– that smoke-like morning fog still a natural fixture) , his Spanish home had long been a formidable world presence, and was soon to battle her mortal enemy, the powerful, proud England, in the naval battle of the millennium.
The wilds of Baya de los Fumos was not to be officially recognized as a civilized township for some 300 years.
And even then, from the very beginning, Los Angeles was a North American curiosity. It should not have been a metropolis, this arid chaparral. And yet, America had fought for it. The Mexican American War claimed California as its own, and with it the progressive reality of transcontinental railroads, the unsavory-but-necessary enterprise of irrigation, and the delicious reward of Oil.
Even so, this outpost of American civilization quite literally had to will itself into being– its purpose and place in the American tapestry very carefully curated by its boosters and backers. Well into the early 20th century, this city without a solid identity was being furiously fought for. The Los Angeles Times power players and the wealthy Maritime institutions fancied it a WASP wet-dream … a delusion not to materialize (at least, not permanently) thanks to a vibrant, unstoppable ethnic population and a sleepy little farm town hamlet to the west called Hollywood. This pepper tree-lined enclave suddenly became the center of Los Angeles’ foremost export:
Hollywood pre-1920 was a small-town USA community steeped in strict Conservative morals. Winding dirt roads and General Stores and church picnics with sweet lemonade and knitting bees. On the other side of the spectrum was the motion picture industry which had been birthed a million miles away, in the bowels of New York City and New Jersey, by immigrants– many of them Jewish. Los Angeles fought its newly forced upon identity as the entertainment center of the world, and even into the Sound-era, only Conservatives such as Cecil B DeMille were admitted into the city’s established circles.
The rest created their own.
It was from these Garden of Allah dens of devilish delight that the incoming thronging masses from the world over– Iowa to Istanbul– fabricated their own realities in a city of conflicted identity. The respectable Theodosia Goodman from Ohio became the vampiric Theda Bara and circus performer Archie Leach from Bristol became the debonair Cary Grant.
The city’s reputation was now beginning to precede it. Los Angeles was not the sleepy Spanish hamlet of Jacaranda and Pepper Trees; the wide-eyed Chicago of the Pacific with its Downtown sky-climbers; not even the Riviera of the West with its dramatic coastline so very similar to Cannes and Monte Carlo. Los Angeles was now synonymous with one word: showbiz. And Hollywood was its fated patron saint.
There is to this day, a very tangible dichotomy. Those who emigrate here desperately, searching for the smoke-and-mirrors dream of a selective reality, and those who simply live here
Novelists from Raymond Chandler to F Scott Fitzgerald and Hemingway belabored their frustrated romanticism of it. Aldous Huxley’s observations were rather more acidic. He wrote of it in 1926: “Thought is barred in this City of Dreadful Joy, and conversation is unknown.” And, of course, there’s Woody Allen famous summation of the City: “I cannot live in a city where the only cultural advantage is making a right turn on a red light.”
Funny as hell. And true too– if you’re judging on appearances.
The dichotomy here is tangible and one can find truth absolutely in both sides. Those who emigrate here desperately, searching for the smoke-and-mirrors dream of a selective reality, conduct a conspicuous manner of ‘living the life plast-astic’ so loud that onlookers can’t help but assume ‘that’s all there is’.
But… it’s not.
You just gotta do a bit of digging. The real Los Angeles belongs to boarded up crumbling black alleys, old Spanish estates, the foothill wilds and reaching Deco spires. Its a past that time has yet to blacken over completely. It’s still there, living and breathing and waiting to be discovered…
All you gotta do is know where to look.
Through the tireless, passionate efforts of nonprofits like The Los Angeles Conservancy, The Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation and the Los Angeles Cultural Heritage Commission, and their fight to protect and preserve, there is a bright hope that this tangible city will indeed remain just that.