It’s June. For most of the Northern Hemisphere, that means warm, sunny days. But in the Bay Area, it means cold, fog, and silent movie anticipation.
This year as in every year, late June and early July bring us two weekend-long silent film festivals. This year, personal issues will keep me away from the San Francisco Silent Film festival, so I’ll just have to devote more time to Broncho Billy.
The 12th Annual Broncho Billy Silent Film Festival runs June 26, 27, and 28, and this year’s themse: Independent Film Companies on the Rise. The teens and twenties were the first golden age of independent film. In fact, the more successful independent filmmakers of the teens, who rebelled against the Motion Picture Patent Company (the subject of last year’s festival), became the major studios that independents have fought against ever since.
The festival includes series devoted to Jesse Lasky (who’s independent company would become Paramount) and the Independent Motion Picture (IMP) studio would grow into Universal. Other series revolve around the Thomas H. Ince and Thanhouser companies, plus a series of Bay Area silents. All programs will have live piano accompaniment.
Two weeks later, the 14th Annual San Francisco Silent Film Festival runs July 10-12 at the Castro. The only film I’ve seen here is The Wind, a post-Griffith Lillian Gish vehicle set in a desolate, extremely windy part of the old west. Gish plays a surprisingly flirtatious character—unusual for an actress who later complained about always playing virgins. Dennis James will accompany The Wind on the Castro’s Wurlitzer organ.
Other films that I’ve heard of include a late Fairbanks silent, The Gaucho, King Vidor’s swashbuckler, Bardelys the Magnificent, and the movie that put Josef von Sternberg on the map, Underworld. Other films that sound intriguing include Aelita, Queen of Mars and Erotikon.