SF SILENT FILM FESTIVAL – One Day Only, Saturday December 12th

Featuring Lon Chaney, Buster Keaton, Romauld Joubé, and at least 400 elephants
Special guests announced

By Seán Martinfield
Sentinel Editor and Publisher
Photo by Lynn Imanaka

The San Francisco Silent Film Festival is pleased to announce several special guests to attend the fifth annual Winter Event on Saturday, December 12th at the Castro Theatre. Melissa Cox, granddaughter of Buster Keaton, will grace the festival with her presence at the 7:00 pm presentation of Keaton’s magnificent Sherlock Jr., which will be playing with his brilliant short The Goat. Interviewing Ms. Cox on the Castro’s stage will be actor/director/writer Frank Buxton, who acted in a Summerstock production with Keaton. Buxton, whose resumé includes writing What’s Up, Tiger Lily? with Woody Allen, and writing and directing many episodes of  television’s The Odd Couple, has a distinct, hilarious take on comedy in Hollywood. Preservationist Robert Byrne, who worked this summer with the restoration team at Nederlands Filmmuseum in Amsterdam, will introduce the North American Premiere of the Filmmuseum’s beautiful restoration of Abel Gance’s J’Accuse. Not only is the festival the first place outside of Holland and Italy to screen the restoration, but this version—the complete, original cut of Gance’s seminal film—has never before been seen in this country.

J’ACCUSE (1919) – Romauld Joubé

New York Times bestselling author Mark Vaz will introduce Chang: A Drama of the Wilderness at the 11:30 am screening. Vaz wrote Living Dangerously: The Adventures of Merian C. Cooper, Creator of King Kong. Also invited, Ron Chaney, great-grandson of Lon Chaney.

LON CHANEY – West of Zanzibar, 1928


CHANG – A Drama of the Wilderness, 11:30 AM
Cast: Kru, Chantui, Nah, Ladah, and Bimbo
. Produced and Directed by Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack, USA, 1927. 
35mm print from Milestone Film & Video. Approximately 68 minutes.
Shot entirely in Siam (present-day Thailand), Schoedsack and Cooper’s thrilling adventure is clearly the prototype for their later masterpiece King Kong—and a spellbinding success in its own right. The publicity of the time touted a cast of 500 native hunters, 400 elephants, tigers, leopards, pythons, and other denizens of the wild! Chang is a simple story of one family’s survival on their small farm on the edge of the jungle—a way of life that often pits them against forces of nature. The film was nominated (along with Murnau’s Sunrise and Vidor’s The Crowd) for “Artistic Quality of Production” at the first ever Academy Awards. Donald Sosin will accompany Chang on the piano with an original score. Introduced by Mark Vaz.

CHANG – A Drama of the Wilderness (1927)

. North American Premiere.
Cast: Romauld Joubé, Séverin-Mars, Maryse Dauvray, Maxime Dejardins
Directed by Abel Gance, France, 1919
. 35mm Print from Netherlands Filmmuseum. Approximately 162 minutes
Abel Gance’s brilliant pacifist epic is set against the backdrop of the Great War, delineating the tragedy of that war’s waste and carnage. Gance returned to active service in 1918 to film actual battle scenes and his expressionistic camerawork and rapid-cut editing are revolutionary, but the heart and soul of J’accuse is the romantic triangle between poet Jean Diaz (Joubé), his beloved Edith (Dauvray), and her husband François Laurin (Séverin-Mars). Though a huge hit in France, the film was truncated for its American release to blunt its antiwar message, and it flopped. Gance’s original cut has been long unavailable until this major restoration made possible by Lobster Films Studios and Netherlands Filmmuseum. Robert Israel will perform his original orchestral score adapted to play on the Mighty Wurlitzer.

Cast: Buster Keaton, Kathryn McGuire, Joe Keaton, and Ward Crane. Directed by Buster Keaton, USA, 1924. 35mm Print from David Shepard, courtesy of Douris UK, Ltd. Approximately 45 minutes.
One of the great movies of all time about the movies—impeccably scripted, beautifully filmed, funny, moving—by one of the great geniuses of cinema, Buster Keaton. Keaton plays a cinema projectionist who dreams of being a famous detective. When he’s framed for petty theft by a rival for his sweetheart’s affection, Buster nods off on the job and his dream comes true—he projects himself onto the screen as “Sherlock Jr.”, the world’s greatest detective who’s on the trail of the stolen watch. A brilliant meditation on the nature of the cinema, Sherlock Jr. contains some of the most astonishing effects ever put on film.
Co-featured with: The Goat
Directed by Buster Keaton and Malcolm St. Clair, USA, 1921. 35mm Print from David Shepard, courtesy of Douris UK, Ltd. Approximately 25 minutes.
Dennis James will accompany these Keaton classics on the Mighty Wurlitzer, aided by foley artist Todd Manley with special sound effects.
Guests: Melissa Cox, granddaughter of Buster Keaton, and Frank Buxton.

SHERLOCK JR. (1924) – Buster Keaton and Kathryn McGuire

Cast: Lon Chaney, Lionel Barrymore, Mary Nolan, and Warner Baxter. Directed by Tod Browning, USA, 1928. 35mm Print from Warner Bros. Approximately 65 minutes.
Like The Unknown (2008′s Directors Pick), West of Zanzibar is an inspired partnership between director Tod Browning and actor Lon Chaney. Chaney has never been more affecting than in this fever-pitched nightmare of betrayal and revenge. Moving from the vaudeville stage to the jungles of the Congo, West of Zanzibar tells its story of darkness and redemption with great skill and beauty, investing each of its desperate characters with depth and humanity. Dennis James will accompany on the Mighty Wurlitzer.

Click here for ticket information: SF SILENT FILM FESTIVAL

LON CHANEY – West of Zanzibar, 1928

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Seán Martinfield
Sentinel Editor and Publisher
Seán Martinfield, who also serves as Fine Arts Critic, 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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