Thursday, July 22, 2021

Starting Tomorrow: Broncho Billy Festival 2021



This weekend, July 23-25, the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum presents an online version of its annual Broncho Billy & Friends Silent Film Festival.



Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog plugs the museum's programs regularly. We're happy to do so again.


The 2021 edition is titled Theatres & Theaters: Nickelodeons to Movie Palaces and begins on July 23 with movies about and Russell Merritt's presentation on nickelodeons. The official press release elaborates:

Tens of thousands of films have been shot in locations all around the planet, thousands of movie stars have been celebrated, careers of many professionals have risen and fallen over the past 130+ years, the equivalence of empire's entire fortunes have been made and lost all in order to tell a story and entertain people and, of course, to make the almighty buck. This weekend we wanted to pay respect to the movie-going experience - from the basic to the fantastic. So sit back in your armchair and enjoy our second Broncho Billy & Friends Silent Film Festival online.



Live Zoom: San Francisco in the Nickelodeon Age.

5:00pm PT / 8:00pm ET - Link will be available July 23rd at 12:01am, while the Zoom will start at time posted.

From the start, San Francisco had its own way of selling movies, finding its audiences, and promoting its live acts. In tonight’s illustrated talk, Russell Merritt shows how the city’s nickelodeon scene arose Phoenix-like from the 1906 earthquake to create its remarkable film scene. Here is a fun presentation by Mr. Merritt earlier this year about the early days of movies



Joining Mr. Merritt in conversation about how the San Francisco nickelodeon morphed and grew into a golden age of movie palaces and classic neighborhood theaters: piano wizard, silent film accompanist, film historian and expert on the works of George & Ira Gershwin and Irving Berlin, Frederick Hodges



Next up: a 1916 Keystone production featuring Mack "Ambrose" Swain, frequent co-star of Charlie Chaplin.



In A Movie Star, the ever-blustery and befuddled Ambrose watches himself on the nickelodeon screen while the audience eagerly watches his every move. 
The piano player, a one-man-band played by Keystone regular Harry McCoy, contributes some nice bits to the proceedings. Thanks to The Blackhawk Collection, this Keystone Comedy will be available until 8/20/2021.


Film Presentation: When The Movies Came From Niles
Here's an excellent 1964 KPIX documentary, written and produced by Ray Hubbard and narrated by Don Brice, Gilbert M. Anderson and Bill Cato about the early film career of Gilbert M. "Broncho Billy" Anderson (b. Max Aronson 1880-1971) and the Essanay Film Company in Niles, a prolific producer of westerns, comedies and other features between 1912-16.


It includes extensive scenes of silent films produced at the studio (including those of Charlie Chaplin), recollections of life on the studio lot in Niles, reflections on Anderson's contribution to the western movie genre and footage of the first movie comedy star accepting an honorary Oscar for his work in 1958.



Post Presentation:
New information has surfaced on Essanay Film Co. history since When The Movies Came From Niles was produced in 1964. NESFM board member Michael Bonham catches you up on the latest developments.



SATURDAY JULY 24th DRIVE-INS to PALACES
Links will be available on July 24th at 12:01am.

Live Zoom: 10:00am PT / 1:00pm ET
Keeping the Movie-Going Experience Alive



Representatives from cinemas in the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond will weigh in with their thoughts about what it took to bring in audiences when it was a new thing and the pivot needed in the aftermath of a pandemic.



Émile Reynaud launched the idea of bringing people together to experience projected images with his Théâtre Optique in 1892. It caught on and cinema has survived challenges from the last world-wide pandemic, radio, television, and numerous forms of home video.We will discuss the kind of passion, creativity, programming, and showmanship that are needed as we embark on the next chapter of the movie going experience.




Panelists: Adam Bergeron (CinemaSF: Balboa and Vogue Theaters, San Francisco), Emelyn Stuart (Stuart Cinema, Brooklyn), Lex Sloan (Roxie, San Francisco), Suki Van Arsdale (San Francisco Silent Film Festival, Elmwood Theatre, Berkeley) and Moderator- Gary Meyer. While the link will be available July 24th at 12:01am, the Zoom will start at time posted.

Film: Broncho Billy's Adventure (1911, Western Division, Essanay Film Company)

Fairfax, California, is the location used for this film, one of the earliest Broncho Billy films starring G. M. Anderson. Anderson includes his usual mix of comedy and drama as his character gets caught in the middle of a family dispute between hotel owner Arthur Mackley and his daughter Edna Fisher when she welcomes her boyfriend Fred Church, a cowboy her father dislikes.

The Temptress (1911, Essanay Film Company, Chicago)
Detective Curtis Cooksey investigates the disappearance of a young man, whisked away by the scheming title character whose ultra-devious designs include poisoning him. Lottie Briscoe stars.


5:00pm PT 8:00pm ET
Live Zoom: join filmmaker April Wright for Q & A on her two documentaries on various aspects of the cinematic experience.

SUNDAY JUNE 25: ARTISTRY AND SHOWMANSHIP

Billy McGrath on Broadway (1913, Essanay Film Company, Chicago)
Links will be available July 25 at 12:01am

Alkali Ike Bests Broncho Billy (1912, Western Division, Essanay Film Company)


Special Film Presentation: Alhambra: Sacramento's Palace of Fantasy

Remember the Alhambra? The legendary Sacramento movie theater was the focus of a major battle in the city of Sacramento and the preservationists lost. Opened in 1927, the Alhambra Theatre was the preeminent movie house in town for years. It was demolished in 1973 to make way for a Safeway, but its memory lives on in a documentary screening this weekend. Directed and researched by Matías Bombal and co-produced and edited by Chad E. Williams, “Alhambra: Sacramento’s Palace of Fantasy” pieces together the historical puzzle of Sacramento's pride and later, shame. Link will be available July 25 at 12:01am.

The American Movie Palace: A look at its decorative evolution - Gary Parks


In this presentation, we will be looking at the aesthetic evolution of the facades and public spaces in movie theatres, showing their decorative evolution out of the nickelodeon era, into the movie palaces of large and mid-sized cities. We will focus on several key theatres across the United States which figure prominently in this evolution, and then—when spotlighting theatres of the movie palace era’s later years—we will include several in, or close to, the Bay Area.



Live Zoom: 5:00pm PT 8:00pm ET

Follow-up Q & A with Gary Parks
Gary will be available to answer any questions you may have.

6:30pm PT 9:30pm ET

Live Zoom: Follow-Up Q & A with Matias Bombal


The man who knows all about pageantry and showmanship will share some insights and be available for questions.



In addition to the program for the 2021 Broncho Billy & Friends Silent Film Festival, there are excellent supplementary videos regarding film history and the story of filmmaking on the museum's You Tube channel.









Sunday, July 18, 2021

Our Favorite YouTube Channels and Lonnie Mack



First and foremost, a few notes about this sputtering “all of the above” blog, which covers screenings/events, silent movies, animation, film noir, psychotronic Z-movies, sometimes music (mostly modern jazz, swing, blues, r&b and rock - am not knowledgeable enough to post about other genres). We're sputtering but, remarkably, still going at 1183 posts.



Once we started singing that ditty Along Came Coronavirus, invariably off-key, the masterminds behind this blog pretty much posted exclusively about online events, but almost never about psychotronic cinema (with the exception of KFJC Psychotronix Film Fest offshoots at the Orinda Theatre). There have been more silent movie events on Zoom that we can cover, but not much on the 1950's sci-fi and low-budget flicks we love.



That is due to the fact that, of all the celluloid genres mentioned here, the wonders of Del Tenney, Edward D. Wood, Jr. and Irv Berwick MUST be seen in a theatrical setting with an audience. Zoom events simply will not suffice.



Only like watching Z-flicks on TV or MacBook as part of a Mystery Science Theater 3000, RiffTrax and Cinema Insomnia binge. These well-intentioned kernels of entertainment, which are not bad movies, just misunderstood, demand not just an audience but an enthusiastic and preferably loud one. All of these shows have YouTube channels.



Bride Of The Monster and Manos: The Hands Of Fate demand a rowdy SRO crowd, all of whom own copies of Michael Weldon's Old Testament of B, C, D and Z-films, multiple Mystery Science Theatre 3000, Cinema Insomnia and Cinematic Titanic DVDs and have seen Patton Oswalt of The Comedians Of Comedy AND Dana Gould do standup comedy at least twice.













Speaking of Dana Gould and Plan 9 from Outer Space . . .



Have posted numerous times about film noir and the Noir City film festival, so, while we miss a night watching hard-boiled noir thrillers on the big screen tremendously, it has been great to watch the Noir City SF YouTube channel through 2020-2021 lockdown.



Every Thursday, Eddie Muller a.k.a. The Czar Of Noir and the Film Noir Foundation's Anne Hockens talk noir and neo-noir movies, as well as noir fiction and answer viewer questions. Here’s the July 15, 2021 edition of Ask Eddie - enjoy.



We strongly recommend following this with a trip to the Ask Eddie Broadcast Archives for past episodes. Eddie, Anne and their cats make it a fun watch.



As far as animated cartoons go, we are thrilled that Steve Stanchfield and Jerry Beck post amazing stuff on Cartoon Research and their YouTube channels all the time, and love the outstanding Cartoon Logic podcasts Bob Jacques and Thad Komorowski have been doing, but quite disappointed that the Anthony’s Animation Talk commentaries have been banished from You Tube. Hope this is not a permanent state of affairs. His audioboom channel is still online and Anthony’s interview with voice artist, author, impressionist and Jay Ward Productions expert Keith Scott in particular is a beaut.



Fortunately, commentaries by Looney Tunes Critic and Anthony’s Animation Talk guest Trevor Thompson a.k.a. Ferris Wheelhouse remain. Trevor promotes his YouTube channel as “not your grandfather’s commentaries”, and, as this animation buff is at least 30 years older than both Anthony and Trevor, the at times in your face attitude of the latter’s videos can rub this cartoon nut the wrong way. Don't recall specifically WHICH posts bugged me, in all honesty. Since I enjoy the no-holds-barred satire of Bill Hicks, Richard Pryor, George Carlin and other standup philosophers, this reaction remains a bit mystifying.



So disregard the tone, say “dag nab it” and “you kids get off my lawn” three times, then check the Looney Tunes Critic's informative and entertaining commentaries out. You may agree with the analysis, you may disagree. Who cares? Watch and enjoy!



As card-carrying guitar geeks at Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog, we talk guitarists frequently and note that today, July 18, is the birthday of Gibson Flying V virtuoso Lonnie Mack (1941-2016), one of the key links between Delta blues and rock n'roll.



Lonnie is one of the answers to the question of who is on the short list of American guitarists who, like Buddy Guy and Otis Rush, were not just listened to but studied note-for-note by British rockers.





Electric bass ace, Parliament-Funkadelic/Bootsy's Rubber Band stalwart and funkateer Bootsy Collins elaborates on the sound, songs and records of Lonnie Mack.



Closing today's post: a very entertaining analysis of a 1986 performance by guitar slingers Stevie Ray Vaughn & Lonnie Mack by Fil from Wings Of Pegasus. The ever-cheerful, knowledgeable and insightful British rock guitarist ranks near the top of the list of Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog's favorite YouTube posters; his commentaries covering far-flung musicians in varied genres - and not just guitar players - are a pleasure to watch. Watching Lonnie and Stevie tear it up, Fil is fantastic as usual. We wish him much success in his musical endeavors.



All this blues-influenced music is making me hungry! Time for a KFC bowl. Luckily, a cardiologist is free with each order.

Saturday, July 10, 2021

Blu-ray Welcomes The Little Rascals a.k.a. Our Gang


A principal purpose of this blog often is to plug new Blu-ray/DVD releases of very old movies, so, as a companion piece to last weekend's post, we plug yet another Blu-ray/DVD release of very old movies. We're fine with this - somebody needs to keep classic movies alive and introduce them to new generations - and Undercrank Productions, our cohorts of long ago at Kit Parker Films and silent comedy expert Dave Glass are among those who have been doing that with panache and style.



Four years ago on this day, this blog paid tribute to the great, timeless comedy of Hal Roach's Rascals a.k.a. Our Gang. The most successful series of "Famous Kid Comedies" by far was created by producer Hal Roach, studio director general Charley Chase, series writer/director and former fireman Robert McGowan and writer Tom McNamara back in 1922.



That said, it is fitting that today's Blu-ray plug-o-rama involves two outstanding Our Gang compilations by Classic Flix.



This Hal Roach Studio fan has the very good Cabin Fever VHS compilations of sound era Our Gangs, hosted by Leonard Maltin, and is delighted to see new restorations of these great classic comedies on Blu-ray. The 1929-1930 titles showcase one of the series' all-time best casts, combining new Our Gang stars with holdovers from the silent era - and, of course, the one, the only Pete The Pup.



Both Blu-ray sets cover what, for this classic movie buff, constitutes the peak of Our Gang: the early sound era, smack dab in the middle of The Great Depression.



Just how we missed The Little Rascals: The ClassicFlix Restorations, Volume 1 [Blu-ray], sourced from the Hal Roach Studio archival 35mm prints, we have no clue! It has been out since June 1.



What's particularly cool about this volume is the participation of Hal Roach Studio stalwarts Edgar "Slow Burn" Kennedy and Max Davidson, who have a field day and play off the gang beautifully.


Volume 1 features the first 11 Our Gang sound shorts, from the 1929-1930 season, mastered from original Hal Roach Studio film elements.


The earliest Our Gang talkies feature the formidable talents of Jackie Cooper, Allen “Farina” Hoskins, Mary Ann Jackson, Bobby “Wheezer" Hutchins, Joe Cobb, Jean Darling, Harry Spear and Norman “Chubby" Chaney.




OUR GANG 2-REELERS ON The Little Rascals: The ClassicFlix Restorations, Volume 1 [Blu-ray]
    1929
  • Small Talk
  • Railroadin'
  • Lazy Days
  • Boxing Gloves
  • Bouncing Bsbies
  • Moan & Groan, Inc.

  • 1930
  • Shivering Shakespeare

  • The First Seven Years
  • When the Wind Blows
  • Bear Shooters
  • A Tough Winter




A second set, The Little Rascals - The ClassicFlix Restorations, Volume 2 (Blu-ray) is available for pre-order and will be out later this month, on July 27.



The Little Rascals - The ClassicFlix Restorations, Volume 2 (Blu-ray) comprises 11 classic comedies, featuring Our Gangsters Jackie Cooper, Allen 'Farina' Hoskins, Mary Ann Jackson, Norman 'Chubby' Chaney, Dorothy 'Echo' DeBorba, Matthew 'Stymie' Beard, Donald Haines and Shirley Jean Rickert with key supporting players June Marlowe, Billy Gilbert, Mae Busch and Margaret Mann.



It is 225 minutes of peak Our Gang goodness, and the 1930-1931 season is among my two or three favorites in the series' 22 year history.




OUR GANG 2-REELERS ON The Little Rascals - The ClassicFlix Restorations, Volume 2 (Blu-ray):
  • Pups Is Pups
  • Teacher's Pet
  • School's Out
  • Helping Grandma


  • Love Business




  • Little Daddy




  • Bargain Day


  • Fly My Kite


  • Big Ears
  • Shiver My Timbers

  • Dogs Is Dogs




Even lazier than usual here at Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog, having just completed travel from the Hudson Valley to NYC to JFK airport to SFO airport, with adjustment to the accompanying time zone change and weariness from the 3 hour delay in departure (because LOTS of folks are traveling now), we quote the blurb from the ClassicFlix press releases:



"Hal Roach's Our Gang series is one of the longest running and most prolific in the field of short subjects with 220 one- and two-reel comedies released between 1922 and 1944. The secret to the longevity of the series, as well as its appeal to generations long after its conclusion, is mainly due to Roach’s choice to cast kids who came across as “natural” on the screen—scruffy underdogs that moviegoers could identify with or wish they could be—not glossy “showbiz professionals”.



After producing 88 silent Our Gang shorts, Roach transitioned to sound releasing 80 “talkies” in the series starting with Small Talk in 1929. It took time to fine-tune the adjustment from silent to sound, but soon the studio began firing on all cylinders producing classics like Shivering Shakespeare and The First Seven Years (both 1930).


In Hollywood, the Hal Roach Studio was unofficially known as the "Lot of Fun", employing such mirthmakers as Laurel & Hardy and Charley Chase. But many of the company's most popular comedy shorts starred an aggregation collectively known as "Our Gang", a series whose premise was captivatingly simple: showcase a motley group of scruffy but lovable kids whose antics were easily identifiable to moviegoing audiences.

The series, later re-titled "The Little Rascals" for TV syndication, got its start in 1922 during the silent era, and transitioned to sound by the end of the decade. Early "talkies" in the franchise like Teacher's Pet (1930), School's Out (1930) and Love Business (1931) would prove to be some of their finest -- all of which are included in this volume and continue to entertain subsequent generations of classic movie devotees."


We await these two Blu-ray sets eagerly! In closing, acknowledgements and tips of a top hat worn by Arthur Housman in Laurel & Hardy's Scram go to Dave Lord Heath's excellent Another Nice Mess: The Films Of Laurel & Hardy website, which features an expansive section on the silent and sound Our Gang comedies produced by Hal Roach Studios. Indeed, Another Nice Mess is a treasure trove on all things Hal Roach Studios and one of frequent our go-tos - along with Jerry Beck's outstanding Cartoon Research website - at Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog. By all means, if you use Another Nice Mess: The Films Of Laurel & Hardy for research and frame grabs, chip a donation in the website's direction. Also, Robert Demoss has created The Lucky Corner, an excellent website devoted to Our Gang.

Last but not least, there are the two evergreen tomes penned in the 1970's which are still the last word on the series, Leonard Maltin's The Great Movie Shorts: Those Wonderful One- and Two-Reelers of the Thirties and Forties (as well as the its trade paperback reissue as Selected Short Subjects) and The Little Rascals: The Life And Times Of Our Gang, which Leonard co-wrote with Richard W. Bann.



Still unequalled, let alone surpassed is The Little Rascals: The Life And Times Of Our Gang. Leonard Maltin and Richard W. Bann outdid themselves here.

All of us at Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog who have often laughed out loud watching Hal Roach's Rascals tip battered top hats worn by Arthur Housman, Raymond Griffith, Max Linder AND W.C. Fields to The Little Rascals: The Life And Times Of Our Gang, which did a beautiful job covering the series.