The San Francisco Silent Film Festival is presenting a special one day event on December 1, 2007 at the historic Castro Theatre (www.castrotheatre.com) in San Francisco. The day includes a program of Vitaphone shorts, as well as the screening of D. W. Griffiths' epic about man's inhumanity to man, Intolerance and the dizzyingly romantic drama Flesh and the Devil starring Greta Garbo and John Gilbert. Tickets are available on line at www.silentfilm.org (3-show pass available for $38).
The event begins at 11:00 am with Vitaphone Vaudeville (not available on DVD), a program of nine short sound films featuring classic vaudeville acts of the 1920s, including the legendary Burns and Allen in Lamb Chops and The Foy Family in Chips Off the Old Block. Spencer Tray's film debut in the six minute drama, The Hard Guy will also be screened. The Vitaphone system, used to make The Jazz Singer in 1922 which revolutionized the film industry, employed the use of discs to provide synchronized sound for films. Robert Gitt, Preservation Officer at the UCLA Film & Television Archive, instrumental in the campaign to find and safeguard these shorts will host this presentation. (Admission $11).
Next, at 2pm, will be D. W. Griffiths' historical and philosophical epic Intolerance (1916). In this film, Griffith tells four stories, set in four different eras, Christ's Judea, medieval France, ancient Babylon and then contemporary America (1914), which parallel each other highlighting man's intolerance and cruelty towards his fellow man and the attempt of humans to overcome this cruelty through different types of love. Photoplay Productions are providing a 35mm tinted print, making its American debut, and a host, their own Patrick Stanbury. Dennis James, the organist for Seattle's Paramount Theater's silent film series, will accompany the film on the Castro's legendary Wurlitzer. This print runs 180 minutes including a 15 minute intermission. (Admission $13) Note to Buster Keaton fans, the great stone face parodies the film's ground breaking narrative structure and the themes it illustrates in his hilarious Three Ages (available on DVD from Kino Video).
A party at the theatre featuring live music, cocktails and hors d'ouevres will precede the concluding feature, Flesh and the Devil (1926). The Library of Congress loaned a 35mm print for the screening and Christel Schmidt, co-editor of Silent Movies: The Birth of Film and The Triumph of Movie Culture will host. Dennis James will also accompany this film. This classic stars John Gilbert and Greta Garbo who fell infamously and passionately in love with each other during the production of the film. Garbo plays the dangerous and beautiful woman that destroys the friendship between John Gilbert and Lars Hanson. On a personal note, this was the film that made me fall in love with silent film. (Feature admission $13) (Party admission $10, not included in the pass).
Mathew Kennedy, author of Joan Blondell: A Life Between Takes and Anthony Slide, author of Now Playing: Hand-Painted Posters Art from the 1910s Through the 1950s and will be appearing at the festival courtesy of The Booksmith who, as they do at the annual Silent Film Festival, will have books about film (silent and otherwise) available for purchase throughout the day at the theater.
For more information on the festival and to purchase tickets for the event go to www.silentfilm.org