I See A Dark Theater's Cinecon 55 Preview
August 19, 2019
Labor Day weekend is almost upon us, and in the classic movie world, that signals one thing: Cinecon! For the last two years, out of town weddings have prohibited my full attendance at the fest, but this year I am FREE! (Well, save for work on Friday.)
Cinecon 55 will present 46 programs, with many of the films projected on 35mm. I’ve only heard of about 5 of those selections, which is roughly 10%. I love that I don’t know a majority of the pictures playing when I first pore over the Cinecon schedule; that means more movies to discover! Not to mention, three stars will receive the Cinecon Legacy Award: Barbara Rush, Ann Robinson and Gigi Perreau. I’ve had the opportunity to attend Q&As with all three guests before, and I’m looking forward to hearing them share more wonderful memories from the Golden Age of Hollywood.
Compared to the TCM Classic Film Festival, Cinecon trains their focus on rare and forgotten pictures from the 1900s through the 1950s, and they rarely play titles against each other. Even though I’m not capable of staying awake for the movie marathons Cinecon presents—most days they run from 9am through midnight, with a few minutes between screenings and full meal breaks—I always try to make as many programs as possible, and this year will be no different. (I also had the opportunity to speak to Cinecon President Stan Taffel a few weeks back. To read that interview, click here.)
So, without further ado, below is a preview of the films I hope to catch (or won’t be able to, because: work) at Cinecon 2019. It’s basically a rundown of the entire slate, minus some Westerns and musicals. One day, I will get over my bias of those genres. One day.
Bare Knees (1928)
Cinecon’s opening night movies are can't-miss events; the last few years (at least) have featured silent films with unbelievable live accompaniment. Bare Knees has that, it’s got flappers, and apparently there’s a fire on a roller coaster?! It’s worth the admission to witness that scene alone.
Yeah, this eerie still from Trick for Trick sells the movie for me.
Trick for Trick (1933)
Pre-Code, mystery, comedy, confusing, zany. SAY NO MORE. (But also, special effects by famed production designer/art director William Cameron Menzies, magic and a seance.)
Danger – Love at Work (1937)
Otto Preminger screwball comedy: four words I never thought I’d hear in the same description. So obviously this is a yes. Also, Ann Sothern, Edward Everett Horton, Mary Boland and a long list of supporting character actors that the Cinecon crowd is bound to go crazy over.
The Golden Chance (1915)
I’ve seen this on the big screen before and wow. For a 1915 film (one of 14 movies director Cecil B. DeMille made that YEAR), the cinematic technique and skill were insanely impressive. Not to mention this story is full of Drama with a capital 'D'. I’d love to watch it again, but unfortunately I’ll be at work, and there’s no golden chance for me to leave early...
The Flying Ace (1926)
It truly upsets me to have to miss this film. All African-American cast. Female pilot. Shot in Florida. The only movie from director Richard E. Norman that survives. Oh, and this takes place in an alternate world with no white people and no prejudice! Is this available elsewhere to watch? Please?
Get Hep to Love (1942)
Though I like modern day teen pics, a “jitterbugging ‘40’s teen flick” generally would not capture my attention. But Cora Sue Collins in person certainly does. The few times I’ve heard Collins speak, she’s told fantastic stories, so enjoy, Cinecon audience! I'll still be toiling away at work...
The Glass Wall (1953)
How does a film noir with Gloria Grahame exist that I’ve never heard of?! This is a must-see, not just for her by also on-location shots of New York and an in-person appearance from the great Ann Robinson, who is always the epitome of charm. I'll have to catch the film another time, but can someone please record what Robinson has to say, especially since she’s called this one of her favorite roles? Or live stream it while I drive over to the Egyptian after work. Either one will do.
Show Girl (1928)
I feel like I’ve seen Show Girl—or at the very least heard a lot about it. It’s probably the latter, because the picture was considered lost, with only the Vitaphone sound discs surviving, until 2015. This Alice White-starrer sounds like it swings from wide comedy to heavy drama, and I’m there for ALL of it.
1930s Swedish posters are the best. This one is for Wharf Angel.
Wharf Angel (1934)
Pre-Code alert! A William Cameron Menzies-directed drama that takes place in a sleazy Barbary Coast tavern populated with a “certain type of woman,” one named Toy, and a man on the run for a murder he didn’t commit? And a mustache-less Preston Foster?! Gosh, I love the pre-Code period SO MUCH.
Dr. Renault’s Secret (1942)
“For half a century this movie was nearly impossible to see,” translated means we all owe it to this film to attend and celebrate the fact that we can watch it on the big screen. Oh, and it’s also a B-movie sketchy doctor mystery, which are generally bonkers, so = must see.
Burglar by Proxy (1919)
See: above poster. Zany silent comedies make it easier for me to stay awake, and the fact that a neighborhood is “literally crawling with burglars” and the main character is taken in “as one of their own until they become disappointed by his ‘shoddy workmanship’” sounds like a riot. Also, this film is a century old this year, so I feel like we need to celebrate that milestone for movies that made it this far and are still being screened for audiences.
The O’Kalems in Ireland (2010)
I didn’t know filmmaking in Ireland stretched back over 100 years. So this doc sounds like it would be quite the education—and I’m always up for film history lessons!
Oh, Men! Oh, Women! (1957)
Oh, stars! Oh, another offbeat story! Psychoanalysis is the subject here and given this is the late 1950s, you know the story is going to be a little trippy. Then there’s David Nivens, Ginger Rogers, Tony Randall in his film debut, and Barbara Rush (in person!). I'm very happy Oh, Men! Oh, Women! made the weekend lineup, that's for sure.
Night of Mystery (1937)
Nitrate alert! 1930s B-mystery is always a good choice, and though I’ve seen William Powell and Warren William as Philo Vance, I don’t recognize Grant Richards’ name, so it will be interesting to see a new face (for me) in that role.
Come Across (1929)
Another long-thought lost film. Another seedy New York nightclub. Another wealthy girl looking for adventure as an ‘entertainer.’ And apparently “not everything is as it seems...” Oh, tell me more!
Private Nurse (1941)
I mean, the title Private Nurse and star Sheldon Leonard basically have this film in the bag for me. The thing that does not: the late start time, 10:50pm! That will be a struggle... will the rarity of this movie and co-stars Brenda Joyce and Jane Darwell be enough to keep me awake? We shall see.
Quiet Please: Murder (1942)
First of all, this is the best movie title of all time, hands down. I actually saw Quiet Please: Murder at Noir City two years ago, but it was the B-side of the opening night double feature, and a glass of wine in between the pictures meant I was getting a little sleepy during this one. Library film noir + George Sanders + Gail Patrick + Nazis being defeated = I need to really stay awake this time.
Still from The Shamrock Handicap.
The Shamrock Handicap (1926)
I always think of John Ford as a 1940s-1950s director, so a Ford silent caught my eye. Also, it’s one that partly takes place in his cherished Ireland and stars the glorious Janet Gaynor, who is always a treat to watch.
Room Mates (1933)
Room Mates is one of the many shorts Cinecon sprinkles in the schedule—and no, it’s not a Peter Falk movie, as one may assume by the incorrect IMDb cover art. I have no idea what this short is about (other than assumed roommate mishaps), but given that it was directed by George Stevens, is from the pre-Code era, and co-stars Frank Albertson, I’m all in.
The Delicious Little Devil (1919)
Truth time: I’ve never seen a Rudolph Valentino movie before. So, I feel like I owe it to film history to see this, especially since the picture is 100 years old. Plus, this is a world premiere restoration and it’s a comedy, which is a big help to me when it comes to silent movies. Also, how can you not want to watch a film titled The Delicious Little Devil?!
Mills of the Gods (1934)
Switching gears, this is a post-Code 1934 drama (obviously, with that title) produced during the Depression. It certainly sounds like it draws upon the era for inspiration, in that a retired businesswoman (May Robson) fights to save her plant and its employees from financial ruin after the Stock Market crash. The subject matter seems rather heavy, but I’m always down to watch Robson and co-star Fay Wray.
For Heaven’s Sake (1950)
An unborn baby named Item (Gigi Perreau), angels, show people, a wealthy cowboy, the IRS, and an unreal cast (Joan Bennett, Robert Cummings, Edmund Gwenn, Clifton Webb, Joan Blondell) = what the ?!?!? I’ve never heard of this movie and it sounds nuts, which is one of my favorite genres. Plus, Perreau will be in attendance for a Q&A. The first time I heard her speak was quite recently, and she was fantastic, so I can’t wait to hear her memories of this film!
A Woman of the World (1925)
A comedic chronicle of a vamp in small-town America—the vamp being a European Countess with a “goth-style skull tattooed on her arm” played by Pola Negri, no less. Yeah, that description 110% sold me on this one.
What appears to be a Danish poster for Speed to Spare.
Speed to Spare (1937)
“Racing wheels shriek a hymn of hate!” one Speed to Spare tagline blared. Seems like a pleasant little B-film, doesn’t it? Racing pictures aren’t usually my jam, but again, this one is very rare (like almost everything else at this fest, I guess!), and it looks like it will be quite thrilling. I’d need it that way to keep my eyes open until midnight...
Children of the Whirlwind (1925)
Convicts, gangs, revenge, and the youngest I think I’ve ever witnessed Lionel Barrymore (and he's still in his late 40s here). I’m excited to see if this silent crime drama is as gritty as it sounds!
Hit Parade of 1941 (1940, that is not a mistake)
As has been established, I’m not a big musical fan. But I am very intrigued by a Republic entry in this genre, because low-budget and musical aren’t two words that usually go together. Plus, the cast (and their comedy chops) are particularly strong: Ann Miller, Patsy Kelly, Mary Boland and Sterling Holloway.
Crooked Streets (1920)
Ever since visiting Shanghai last year, I’ve been interested in movies set there. Though I’m 99.99% positive this wasn’t shot on location, I’m down for this silent spy drama that finds an innocent secretary unknowingly smuggling vases filled with opium. That sounds rather gripping, to say the least. And after a long weekend, I may just have to end Cinecon 2019 here… which I’d be totally fine with!
Are you attending Cinecon 55? If so, let me know what movies you're looking forward to!
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I See a Dark Theater is a website dedicated to classic movie-going—and loving—in the City of Angels. Whether it's coverage on screenings, special presentations, or Q&As around Los Angeles that you're looking for, or commentary on the wonderful and sometimes wacky world of classic cinema, you've come to the right place for a variety of pieces written with zeal, awe, and (occasionally) wit. Enjoy.