Cineconline 2021 in Words and Gifs
September 21, 2021
Cinecon wrapped up its second online edition earlier this month with a wonderful assortment of over 25 shorts, features, documentaries, and special presentations. As per usual, the Cinecon stewards ran a tight, down-to-the-minute ship that allowed for quick snack breaks in between old Hollywood gems and rarities. That environment, plus memories from festivals past and vintage concession spots, helped recreate the in-person experience as best as possible.
Of course, I didn’t end up watching everything I previewed because I tend to overdo it on my personal schedule. However, I’m pleased to report that I caught my must-see selections and a wide variety of other under-seen and under-appreciated treasures. With that, here’s a brief recap of my Cinecon 2021 experience.
Not Boris Karloff's weirdest scene in Dynamite Dan.
Dynamite Dan (1924)
I’ll admit, Boris Karloff was the intrigue here. His daughter Sara gave a brief introduction, and I was thinking, it must be crazy to see your parent onscreen almost a century ago!
This silent movie was basically about a boxer, one who takes up a part time job at an all-girls school, no less, crossed with a light crime drama in which money has been stolen and they have to track down the culprit. (Surprise! It’s Boris Karloff.)
Super drawn-out sections, such as the ladies doing calisthenics, competed with chaotic scenes, and the movie never quite came together for me. That said, I found it enjoyable to see some of Karloff’s expressions and some early, albeit brief, gymnastics on film.
Rendezvous with Annie (1946)
This was a hit for me. The odd pregnancy plot drew me in, but the film’s snappy pace, smart set up, and inane situations made for a very fun film. I’ve never seen Eddie Albert and Gail Patrick in starring roles, and both turned in great performances in this Republic picture that didn’t look or feel like one – other than, maybe, the manic story.
As someone who has done some crazy short travel trips, I appreciated the lengths Albert, in London, went to see his wife in New Jersey on a three-day leave. (He’s technically AWOL, so no one can know about it except those who help him get there.) The complications start there and end with his wife giving birth nine months later, the day he returns home after being discharged. Wondering why everyone is so flabbergasted that he’s joyous about the baby's birth, he finally realizes that no one knew he blew into town for a few hours, and consequently, his wife has had the town’s tongues wagging thinking she had an affair. To top it off, he finds out his newborn son stands to inherit $500,000 from a relative… but he needs to prove this is actually his son, and he's got just one week to do it! Super random, yes, but that sets in motion a mission to find the few people he ran into while home for a few hours, all of whom have good reasons not to tell the truth.
There’s a lot going on in this risqué fast-paced B movie, but surprisingly (for me), I kept it all straight. Truly, it was a ball.
Colleen Moore's niece Melinda said Moore was amazed at how they pulled off this iconic scene in Ella Cinders. I am, too.
Ella Cinders (1926)
The main event for me this evening was Colleen Moore. I’d long heard of this film but had never seen it. Her niece Melinda Morrison-Cox was also on hand to talk about her famous aunt, who she seemed quite close with.
Moore shined in the recognizable Cinderella story with a Hollywood twist: abused step-daughter wins a talent contest (that turns out to be a sham), sneaks her way onto a studio lot and in a picture, and becomes an actress. The Hollywood part is a little zany, but Moore’s effortless charm and effervescence light up the screen without fail.
Ella Cinders also reminded me how fantastic a comedienne Moore was. Her expressions, her movement, her entire physicality – she excelled in comedy but could also turn serious on a dime and balance both, as she does here perfectly.
Kinecon at Cinecon
I always put aside time to watch some of these rare TV kinescopes, because, well, they are incredibly under-valued historical jewels that most people don’t even know exist.
I caught Mitzi Gaynor (on her 90th birthday!) crooning with Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, and Dean Martin. One word: Icon. I enjoyed a 1951 skit from The Alan Young Show. But the highlight was that restored Milton Berle segment with Sammy Davis Jr. in which they performed a few quick humorous sketches, including one absolutely nailing impersonations of Martin and Lewis.
One of the many good dogs represented at Cinecon this year, in Buster's Mix-Up.
Buster’s Mix-Up (1926)
Buster and Mary Jane’s cutesy hijinks in this short were no match for those of Tige, played by Pete the Dog (apparently 3 years before he was born, per IMDb). From shielding his master from flying plates to punking Mary Jane’s new boy to saving a baby after pushing its carriage into the street, I couldn’t get enough of Tige. I could watch him all day!
The Mis-Fit (1924)
This short opens with a title card: “This picture will serve as a warning to single men. For married men it is too late.” Reminder that silent films could really pack a punch! Clyde Cook and his wife’s shenanigans did not disappoint in this film. That said, things got a bit repetitive after he joined the marines and his marching antics kind of brought the short’s pacing to a halt – until his wife popped back up again only to end up in the water. An oddity, sure, but an entertaining one.
This scene in Helen's Babies runs 10 times as long as this, proving how brilliant Edward Everett Horton and Baby Peggy were.
Helen’s Babies (1924)
This was the only picture screening at the fest that I’d seen before, back when it opened Cinecon 2018. It’s a simple tale: bachelor Edward Everett Horton is a best-selling author of parenting books, but it’s all a big lie, which becomes crystal clear when he’s tasked with watching his two young nieces/professional troublemakers, one of whom is Baby Peggy. Oh, and Clara Bow lives next door and basically has to throw herself at Horton to get his attention. Yes, it’s all a tad unbelievable but charming nonetheless.
Cinecon re-played the short tribute video they screened at the festival with Baby Peggy herself, Diana Serra Cary, in which she discussed working with Edward Everett Horton and Clara Bow, which was a treat. This program reminded me again that I really should seek out more of Baby Peggy’s surviving work. The charm and talent she possessed – not to mention her impressive comedic timing and the fact that she held her own with a genius like Horton – was stunning.
Not sure why, but this scene cracked me in up Love at First Flight.
Love at First Flight (1928)
This short starred Mack Sennett’s bathing beauties fighting over a hero flyer. I particularly enjoyed some of the humor in the airplane and select silly stunts. All in all, it provided the usual amusing comedic shenanigans with the vibrant addition of a butterfly dance in color.
Penrod and Sam (1923)
It’s been a while since I’ve seen The Little Rascals or Our Gang, but this cute movie brought back the raucous memories of childhood. Made by his father to induct a neighborhood boy into his In-Or-In Lodge, Penrod and his buddies get a bit too mischievous, and things spiral and backfire from there. Their antics and the obligatory adorable dog aside, it was refreshing to see young Black kids welcomed in the club almost a century ago, playing just the same alongside everyone else. Considering the time, there were some racial stereotypes, but it was sweet seeing kids just being kids.
Every year, there has to be at least one gorilla in a Cinecon film. This murderous one was found in King of the Kongo.
King of the Kongo (1929)
It’s always hard watching just one middle episode of a serial – in this case, episode nine – but what fascinated me about King of the Kongo was the fact that it was created as a half silent, half sound hybrid. (Also, there’s the above scene where a gorilla shoots Boris Karloff. 'Nuff said.) Since some of the sound is lost, most the voice acting was recreated, something I’ve only ever seen with the restoration of Cock of the Air (1932). Film historian Eric Grayson is doing a hell of a job with this reconstruction and restoration of the series, which he hopes to unveil at Cinecon next year.
And that was a wrap on Cinecon 2021. It was made very clear that next year’s festival will be in person, which I’m very much looking forward to it! If you attended the virtual celebration this year, which film would you rank as your favorite?
thanks for stopping by!
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