SAN FRANCISCO SILENT FILM FESTIVAL – Presents A Valentine’s All-Day Event

Buster Keaton, Mary Pickford, George O’Brien, and Janet Gaynor
meet The Cat and The Canary

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By Seán Martinfield
Sentinel Fine Arts Critic
Photo by Lynn Imanaka

The SAN FRANCISCO SILENT FILM FESTIVAL will present a special all-day event on Valentine’s Day, Saturday February 14th, at the Castro Theatre in San Francisco. Says Artistic Director Stephen Salmons, “In addition to the three-day festival we produce every July, we’ve been putting on a Winter event for four years now. Usually it takes place in early December, but this year we thought it would be fun to do something a little different, so we’ve put together a bouquet of silent films keyed specifically to Valentine’s Day. We’ve taken two films which look at love as the motivator for comic mayhem, added a drama of tremendous artistic vision that depicts love as a mythological force of nature, and topped it off with the quintessential date movie – a scream-filled horror comedy about people going nuts in a scary old house. It should be fun for the whole family.”

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BUSTER KEATON – Our Hospitality, 1923

At noon the Valentine’s Day Event will begin with Buster Keaton’s ingenious take on Romeo and Juliet, OUR HOSPITALITY (1923). Keaton turns the age-old drama of two lovers caught in the middle of a feud between families into a laugh-out-loud parody of Southern hospitality, circa 1830. Upon learning he’s inherited the ancestral mansion, Buster takes the first train home to reclaim his heritage. Soon he’s courting a sweetheart – and dodging her family’s bullets. The climax of the film involves a daredevil rescue attempt above a roaring waterfall, a stunt THT Keaton performed himself. “It’s one of the all-time great movie stunts,” Salmons said.

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IGOR ILINSKY & MARY PICKFORD – A Kiss From Mary Pickford, 1927

Next at 2:40pm is a madcap slapstick farce from Russia, A KISS FROM MARY PICKFORD (1927). The story involves a movie theater ticket-taker who’s in love with an aspiring actress, but she only has eyes for movie idols like Douglas Fairbanks. Deciding he can win her over by becoming a famous screen star himself, the ticket-taker lands a stunt man job at a movie studio. When Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford arrive on a promotional tour, the ticket-taker gets all the fame he could ever want – at his own peril. “Part of the fun is to watch how they cut actual newsreel footage of Fairbanks and Pickford in with the story,” Salmons said. “It’s trickery done with great glee.”

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GEORGE O’BRIEN & JANET GAYNOR – Sunrise, 1927

At 6:30pm the program will shift from comedy to drama with SUNRISE (1927), a timeless ode to the forces of love, desire, guilt and redemption, widely regarded as one of the supreme artistic achievements of the silent era. Director F. W. Murnau infuses his fable of a man, a temptress, and a wife with a lyrical, dreamlike intensity that makes for a heightened emotional experience of unforgettable power. “At the very first Academy Award ceremony, SUNRISE received the Oscar for Unique and Artistic Picture,” Salmons said. “It’s the only time that award has ever been given, and if you see the film, you’ll know why. There isn’t anything like it.”

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Martha Mattox & Laura La Plante – The Cat and The Canary, 1927

At 9:30pm the Valentine’s Day Event will conclude with THE CAT AND THE CANARY (1927), directed with macabre abandon by Paul Leni (The Man Who Laughs). At the stroke of midnight, the heirs to a fortune gather in an old dark house for the reading of a will. One of them will inherit the estate and take possession of the famous West diamonds – but only if they can survive the night without going insane. “This really is a prototype of the horror comedy film, still going strong today, and it’s guaranteed to make you laugh one minute and scream the next, “ Salmons said. “What could be better on Valentine’s Day than the original date movie?”

For complete program information, click here: SILENTS FOR VALENTINE’S DAY

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SF SILENT FILM FESTIVAL, Valentine’s Day – Philip Carli and Dennis James

Meet the musicians:
PHILIP CARLI, Pianist (Our Hospitality, A Kiss From Mary Pickford) – has performed at the Museum of Modern Art, the National Gallery, and the National Film Theatre in London. He is staff accompanist for George Eastman House, and performs annually at Le Giornate del Cinema Muto in Italy.
DENNIS JAMES, Organist (Sunrise, The Cat and The Canary) – During his 40-year career as a silent film accompanist, James toured extensively with Lillian Gish and Charles “Buddy” Rogers for revival screenings of their films. He presents Silent Movie Mondays at Seattle’s Paramount Theatre.

Visit Seán on YouTube:
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See Related: FINE ARTS CRITIC SEAN MARTINFIELD

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Seán Martinfield is a native San Franciscan. He is a Theatre Arts Graduate from San Francisco State University, a professional singer, and well-known private vocal coach to Bay Area actors and singers of all ages and persuasions. His clients have appeared in Broadway National Tours including Wicked, Aïda, Miss Saigon, Rent, Bye Bye Birdie, in theatres and cabarets throughout the Bay Area, and are regularly featured in major City events including Diva Fest, Gay Pride, and Halloween In The Castro. As an Internet consultant in vocal development and audition preparation he has published thousands of responses to those seeking his advice concerning singing techniques, professional and academic auditions, and careers in the Performing Arts. Mr. Martinfield’s Broadway clients have all profited from his vocal methodology, “The Belter’s Method”, which is being prepared for publication. If you want answers about your vocal technique, post him a question on AllExperts.com. If you would like to build up your vocal performance chops and participate in the Bay Area’s rich theatrical scene, e-mail him at: sean.martinfield@comcast.net.

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