The Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum in Fremont is starting the Fall off right with an eclectic and exciting line-up of films. There is a locally made classic based on a famous story by a one-time San Francisco author, a little seen Jazz Age satire, an early Western, and a non-Western starring an actor best known for his cowboy roles - as well as a selection of early Felix the Cat cartoons. And all with live musical accompaniment.
And that's not all.... There is also the regular Comedy Short Subject Night, a indie film from 2011 described as The Wizard of Oz for dogs, and a Laurel & Hardy Talkie Matinee. All together, it is another exceptional month of early cinema in the East Bay. Here's what's playing.
"Saturday Night at the Movies," with Judy Rosenberg at the piano
Saturday, September 1 at 7:30 pm
William S. Hart and Anna Q. Nilsson star in The Toll Gate (1920, William S. Hart Corp.), the first film produced by Hart’s own company. Directed by his frequent collaborator Lambert Hillyer, Hart plays an outlaw on the run from both lawman and his scheming partner’s henchmen. It is a story of betrayal, revenge and repentance. The feature will be preceded by two shorts, Futuritzy (1928, Pat Sullivan) featuring Felix the Cat, and Line’s Busy (1924, Cumberland Productions) with Billy West.
"Saturday Night at the Movies" with Frederick Hodges at the piano
Saturday, September 8 at 7:30 pm
The myth of D. W. Griffith’s decline as a director following the loss of his production company is disproven in The Battle of the Sexes (1928, Art Cinema Corp.), a comedy/drama of the jazz age featuring a gum-chewing frizzy-haired golddigger, a jazz hound, and a real estate tycoon. The film stars Jean Hersholt, Phyllis Haver, Belle Bennett, Sally O'Neil, and Don Alvarado. The Battle of the Sexes will be preceded by two shorts, Felix Gets the Can (1924, Sullivan) featuring Felix the Cat, and Vacation Waves (1928, Paramount) with Edward Everett Horton.
"Laurel & Hardy Talkie Matinee"
Sunday, September 9 at 4:00 pm
This month's Laurel & Hardy Talkie Matinee includes one of their classic features, A Chump at Oxford (1938), in which a Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy go to college as a reward for capturing a bank robber, and two comedic shorts, Mush and Milk (1933) with Our Gang, and Scram (1932) with Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy.
"Comedy Short Subject Night" with Greg Pane at the piano
Saturday, September 15 at 7:30 pm
Love to laugh? Then don't miss this monthly program featuring some of the most famous comedians of the silent film era. On the bill are The Immigrant (1917, Lone Star) with Charlie Chaplin and Edna Purviance, I Do (1921, Rolin) with Harold Lloyd, The Scarecrow (1920, Comique) with Buster Keaton, and The Finishing Touch (1928, Hal Roach) with Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy. Love to laugh? Then don't miss this monthly program!
"Saturday Night at the Movies" with Bruce Loeb at the piano
Saturday, September 22 at 7:30 pm
Based on the famous Bret Harte story, Salomy Jane (1914, California Motion Picture Corp.) tells a story of love, murder, and mistaken identity all of which whirls about its female heroine. The title role is played by Beatriz Michelena, a noted San Francisco singer, who began her film career with Salomy Jane and went on to star in eleven features for the San Rafael-based CMPC between 1914 and 1917. House Peters, William Nigh and an uncredited Jack Holt are also in the cast.
Despite having been made by a smaller regional studio, Salomy Jane is remarkable for its polished presentation and entertainment value, and could easily be mistaken for a production of the 1920s. Parts of the film were shot in the Bolinas Ridges in Marin County.
Salomy Jane was first shown at the Edison Theater, the current home of the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum, on August 30, 1915. This special 2012 screening 105 years later, featuring a 35mm print from the Library of Congress, is co-sponsored by the Anne T. Kent California Room, Marin County Free Library, with assistance from the California Film Institute. The feature will be preceded by two shorts, Felix Dopes It Out (1925, Sullivan) featuring Felix the Cat, and Cactus Nell (1917, Keystone) with Polly Moran and future Oscar winner Wallace Beery.
Sunday, September 23 at 7:30 pm
Described as The Wizard of Oz for dogs due to its fantastical sets and colorful costumes, Doggie Boogie (2011) tells the story of an aspiring vet (Jesse Draper) and her beloved dog who enter a dance contest hoping to save her uncle's dance studio from closure. This independent feel-good family film makes its Niles' debuts. A portion of the proceeds from this showing will benefit the Niles Dog Show.
"Saturday Night at the Movies" with Jon Mirsalis at the Kurzweil Keyboard
Saturday, September 29 at 7:30 pm
In the little seen Lazybones (1925, Fox Film), Buck Jones departs from his better known cowboy roles in this simple story of a young farmer who raises an abandoned baby. Besides the square jawed Jones, the cast also features lovely Madge Bellamy, quirky Zasu Pitts, and Jane Novak - Hart's one time fiancé and the sister of Eva Novak. Credit for a deft handling of material and the film's continuing appeal go to director Frank Borzage and writer Frances Marion. Lazybones will be preceded by two shorts, Felix in Love (1922, Sullivan) featuring Felix the Cat, and Gymnasium Jim (1922, Mack Sennett, later reissued as Love’s Intrigue) with Billy Bevan and Mildred June.
For more info: The Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum is located at 37417 Niles Blvd. in Fremont, California. For further information, call (510) 494-1411 or visit the Museum's website at www.nilesfilmmuseum.org/.
Thomas Gladysz is a Bay Area arts journalist and early film buff, and the Director of the Louise Brooks Society, an internet-based archive and international fan club devoted to the silent film star. Gladysz has contributed to books on the actress, organized exhibits at the San Francisco Public Library, appeared on local television and radio, and introduced Brooks' films all around Bay Area.
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