Previewing the 2019 Festival of Preservation
January 28, 2019
Every other year, the UCLA Film and Television Archive presents the Festival of Preservation, and every other year, I eagerly wait for UCLA to unveil the lineup.
In years past, the Festival of Preservation has spread over the month of March. I always love UCLA’s programs, but with Noir City Hollywood and the TCM Classic Film Festival occurring right after (or sometimes overlapping!), March and April end up being nonstop movie-going months, which is tiring on top of a full-time job.
That said, this year I was both surprised and relieved to read that the event would take place over a weekend in February… until I saw the schedule, and my relief morphed into slight apprehension. I’m all for getting into the festival spirit, which is what UCLA is going for, but I'm not sure the Billy Wilder Theater is the best venue for a marathon event. That has nothing to do with the theater’s technical merits, but rather the fact that you can’t eat or drink inside! Honestly, I don’t think I could survive more than three hours without something to munch on in the dark.
My pass from the 2017 Festival of Preservation.
Another surprise was the festival dates. I figured there would be a Friday opening night event followed by two full days of films, but instead, the celebration starts bright and early 9am Friday morning. Unfortunately, I can’t take off work, so I’ll have to miss several titles I wanted to see. (Luckily, there’s a good chance some of these newly preserved movies will screen again in the future.) Furthermore, the Festival of Preservation is slated for President’s Day weekend, but it runs Friday-Sunday, not Saturday-Monday. I understand plenty of people have to work Monday, but wouldn’t that have been a more likely choice than Friday? Given these dates, I thought UCLA would take advantage of the holiday weekend like Cinecon does with Labor Day.
OK, minor rant over. Even though I’m passing on a few flicks due to work, I’m looking forward to the movies, shorts, TV, newsreels, and local programming coming next month! Without further ado, here’s my 2019 UCLA Festival of Preservation preview:
I’m still bummed to sit out Friday morning and afternoon, because I’m genuinely interested in everything. The only title I’d voluntarily skip on Friday is 1950’s The Man Who Cheated Himself, since I’ve seen it recently at Noir City. Also, it starts at 11:20pm, way past my bedtime.
My Lips Betray (1933)
What better way to kickstart the fest than with a Fox pre-Code? There’s usually at least one rarity of this kind scheduled, and apparently My Lips Betray (what a title, by the way!) features a scene with a Mickey Mouse cartoon on TV... in 1933. I'm hoping this will hit the big screen again soon!
Voice in the Wind (1944)
I’ve never heard of this wartime refugee drama, perhaps because it was independently produced. But it sounds timely, and I’m always down for a Francis Lederer film.
Selling L.A. Television: Local Kinescopes and Film Fragments, 1953-1965
UCLA labels this program: “A surprise grab bag of local L.A. TV’s best.” And that's the best way to watch local television, isn’t it? As the description elaborates, most of LA’s early TV history has been lost because it was recorded live. It would be fascinating to see what survived—and what was deemed important enough to do so.
The Crooked Way (1949)
Amnesia is a great plot device in film noir, because that cinematic blank slate has the capability to turn the “what the…?” up to extreme. Plus, John Payne starring, John Alton behind the camera, and censors calling it too violent? Yes, all around.
El fantasma del convento (1934)
A stranded couple take refuge in a creepy location—cue classic suspense titles like The Old Dark House and The Most Dangerous Game (both 1932)—but this picture’s monastery setting sounds exponentially more terrifying. Plus, said monastery supposedly “is haunted by the spirit of a monk who sold his soul to the devil in exchange for his best friend’s wife...” Must. See. (But I won’t, at least right now.)
The Mortal Storm (1940)
This should be my first film of the 2019 Festival of Preservation, a title I’ve long heard about but have never seen. I so enjoyed Jimmy Stewart and Margaret Sullavan’s warm chemistry in The Shop Around the Corner, released the same year, and I’m looking forward to their pairing here, which is bound to be tonally different than their romantic holiday classic. I’m also excited for the short subject, 1935’s Wings Over Mt. Everest (boasting “the highest recording on film ever achieved” in 1935, at 32,000 feet), which will inevitably be the closest I ever get to the famous mountain.
The Secret Service chasing counterfeiting mobsters = standard late 1940s film noir. Here’s hoping this will be as down and dirty as fellow Eagle-Lion B-pictures He Walked by Night (1948) and T-Men (1947).
So, the third of UCLA Gymnastics’ five home meets just so happens to take place during the second day of UCLA’s Festival of Preservation. At least they’re only a few minutes away from each other, but my dedication to the former takes me out of two screenings, Selections from TV’s “Stars of Jazz” and The Killing Floor (1985). You should be able to find me at the Wilder the rest of the time, though!
Playhouse 90: CBS Closed Circuit Presentation and “Days of Wine and Roses” (1956/1958)
The first, a “rare, newly-discovered network kinescope of a closed circuit press conference,” and the second, a TV adaptation of the same story the 1962 movie was based on, directed by John Frankenheimer. Yup, Playhouse 90 is always a good choice.
Preserved Silent Shorts and Fragments
These seldom seen surviving silent bits are a big reason I adore the Festival of Preservation; there aren't many other places I’d get to see items like this. And one is from a Myrna Loy silent called Beware of Married Men (1928)! Can I get in line for this screening now, UCLA?!
I thoroughly enjoyed UCLA’s Latin American retrospective last year and hope this Mexican Taming of the Shrew-esque melodrama is as good as most of those pictures were. It certainly sounds… intense.
Smouldering Fires (1925)
Any movie featuring a sign that reads: “Let no man be necessary to you” is one that I can get behind. I’m curious to see how this picture, which pre-Code Female (1933) was based on, portrays a resolute business woman who falls for one of her employees.
The Red House (1947)
Whoa, whoa. “Rural American Gothic” starring Judith Anderson and Edward G. Robinson as secretive siblings, “evil Something” in the woods, abandoned dwellings, and wicked teenage twins?! How have I not already seen this movie 100 times before?
It’s going to be a long day, but there’s so much variety on the docket—shorts, documentaries, animation—that I have a feeling I’ll be spending the final day of the UCLA Festival of Preservation entirely at the Billy Wilder! Or at least, I'll try.
It would take an early sound gangster picture to get me into the Wilder at 9am approximately 8.5 hours after Saturday's psychological thriller wrapped.
Restored Classic Animation
Lately I’ve taken a liking to classic animation—the style, the humor, and the creativity. This slate features some of the best of the best: George Pal, the Fleischer Brothers, and Terrytoons.
Laurel and Hardy: Fugues of Destruction
I’ve already seen the infamous rediscovered full version of The Battle of the Century (1927), which appears to be the centerpiece of this program, but I’ve been coming around to the comic antics of Laurel and Hardy, and I must say, they’re even better with an audience.
U.S. Presidents in the Hearst Newsreels
UCLA’s Hearst Movietone collection is impressive, and it’s always interesting watching Presidents and other famous figures in footage shot well over a century ago, when cinema was in its infancy. It’s amazing to think that this was the only way audiences could see their elected leader in action, as opposed to still images in magazines and newspapers.
The Savages (1967) and Operation Bootstrap (1968)
These two documentaries take a look at African American communities in LA as locals lived and worked during the mid-late 1960s. With a city so stereotyped for its involvement in the entertainment industry, I always find it refreshing and eye-opening to observe normal people go about their lives in the City of Angels.
A still from Gay USA.
Gay USA (1978)
This doc explores gay communities and pride parades—and those protesting them—in cities across the country over one day in 1977. UCLA’s notes comment that the picture “presents an almost jubilant period in gay history” before the AIDS crisis, which is a period that I personally haven’t seen much of.
The Hours and Times (1991)
This is another new-to-me title, but I’ve heard good things. The film, which “almost plays like a documentary,” paints a theoretical account of a few days John Lennon and Beatles manager Brian Epstein spent in Spain in 1963. Intrigue level: high.
A Boy and His Dog (1975)
A telepathic dog, who happens to speak, in post-apocalyptic 2024 A.D. (five years from now...) that is considered a cult classic?! Yeah, that sounds about right to close out 2.5 nonstop days of movie-watching.
What a marathon, huh? Though I know this schedule will absolutely exhaust me, I'm still looking forward to the Festival of Preservation as much as I always do. If you'll be attending, feel free to share what screenings you're most excited to see!