Jared Case is the Head of Collection Information and Access for the Motion Picture Department and one of the most popular instructors at the L. Jeffrey Selznick School of Film Preservation. He graduated from the school himself in 2002 and has been with George Eastman House ever since. He is a film noir aficionado and can be found at film festivals, mystery conventions and noir conferences around the country.
About the film The frame enlargement reproduced above was taken from the nitrate print to be presented in this program. If you are able to identify its title from the image, you are more than welcome to spread the news ahead of the screening.
All of the other films featured in the official schedule of the Nitrate Picture Show were announced on the morning of the festival’s opening day. We are now asking you to take a further leap of faith and come to this show without knowing what the film is.
In the months preceding this weekend, our technicians and curators inspected all sorts of films, ranging from undisputed classics to relatively obscure items. Our pleasure in looking at them didn’t derive much from the reputation of their creators, or from their stylistic achievements; we were, quite simply, in awe at how beautiful they looked after so many years. We would like to share some of this joy with you, regardless of the film’s critical pedigree.
The second reason for inviting you to a blind date with nitrate is the element of surprise. Each of us, at least once in our lives, has gone to the movies without knowing anything about the title we would see. This condition of blissful ignorance was, to some extent, part of the game. Not infrequently, the will to embrace the unknown is rewarded with a revelation, whether of a major work or an undiscovered gem. The sense of surprise achieved through this humble gesture has given these films a special place in our itinerary as moviegoers. It is a precious gift that deserves to be honored.
This mystery film is no more and no less important than the others in this festival. Don’t expect a previously lost masterwork—nor, for that matter, a mere curiosity item for hardcore cinephiles. It is cinema, embodied in a nitrate print.
For decades we have been a source of archival film prints to be projected at (respected, well-trained) repertory theaters and film festivals around the world. As more and more screens turn to digital-only projection, these film prints become the main attraction of rare events as our museum artifacts are exhibited in only the best of film projection venues.
2013 has been no exception – below is a highlight of some of the films we’ll be providing to other exhibition spaces this month:
On June 5, The Cinefamily will be continuing its monthly series “The Silent Treatment” with a preservation from George Eastman House. BARBED WIRE (1927) is a World War I romance with Pola Negri as the French farm girl and Clive Brook as the German P.O.W. Pola Negri was one of the great beauties of the silent cinema. Born in Poland, she worked in German film until she and her director, Ernst Lubitsch, were brought to Hollywood.
She continued to make films in America during the silent era and reportedly had relationships with Valentino and Chaplin, but her thick accent did not translate well to the talkies, especially not the siren roles she had been cast in for over a decade. “The Silent Treatment” is curated by Selznick graduate Brandee Cox and you can find more information about it here.
Our friends at the Museum of Modern Art are organizing a film series titled “Allan Dwan and the Rise and Decline of the Hollywood Studios.” It is impossible to mount a complete retrospective of this overlooked director (over a 50-year career he directed more than 400 films), but MoMA has put together a great series that runs over a month from June 5 to July 8. We are providing three prints for the series: DAVID HARUM (June 9 and 10), FRONTIER MARSHAL (June 15 and 18), and STAGE STRUCK (June 18 and 19). Both DAVID HARUM and STAGE STRUCK are 35mm preservations from nitrate held at George Eastman House, and STAGE STRUCK includes a two-color Technicolor sequence where Gloria Swanson dreams of herself as a famous actress. Imagine! Allan Dwan was dubbed “The Last Pioneer” by Peter Bogdanovich and you can see all the details of MoMA’s series here.
British Film Institute
There has been a lot of interest in the British Film Institute’s preservation of nine silent Alfred Hitchcock films (“The Hitchcock 9”). The last of these, BLACKMAIL (1929), was also the first of Hitch’s (and Britain’s) sound films, as it was created both with and without a soundtrack during Britain’s changeover period. Even at this early point, Hitch was doing genius work with sound, as evidenced by this very subjective scene:
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is dedicating a night to both versions as a double feature and has asked us to provide the sound version. The screening will take place June 18 at the Goldwyn Theater on Wilshire (which I was lucky enough to visit in April) and the website for the event is here.
Il Cinema Ritrovato
Il Cinema Ritrovato (The Rediscovered Cinema) film festival has been taking place in Bologna, Italy for over 25 years now, and we have often provided prints for their screenings. This year, attendees will get a special treat as they watch a double feature of Cecil B. DeMille’s CARMEN (1915) and Charlie Chaplin’s A BURLESQUE ON CARMEN (1915) in the Piazza Maggiore, a 13th-Century public square in the heart of the city. Not only will the attendees be able to see the films in this gorgeous venue (again, a place I’ve been lucky enough to see), but the musical accompaniment for these silent films will be provided live by the Orchestra del Teatro Comunale di Bologna. They should plan for a wonderful evening and a beautiful print of CARMEN that faithfully recreates the tinting found on the original nitrate print donated to George Eastman House by Cecil B. DeMille himself. More information on Il Cinema Ritrovato here.
In addition to these screenings, we will be contributing to museum exhibits by providing footage that will play throughout the day in museums wihtout film projection facilities. First, the Spessart Museum will be displaying the 1916 version of SNOW WHITE. Housed in a 14th-Century castle in the town of Lohr am Main, the museum is dedicated to the concept of “Mensch und Wald” (Man and Forest), as it sits in an area representative of the historical development of woodland in Germany. The museum is interested in this film because, according to its website, “In 1986…Dr. Karlheinz Bartels…was able to prove conclusively, on the basis of facts provided by fabular science that Snow White came from Lohr.” I’m not sure what “fabular science” entails, but the museum and the castle sound like a lot of fun. Read more about it here.
And much, much closer to home, the Strong National Museum of Play is featuring actual footage of Coney Island from film in the George Eastman House collection for its new exhibit “Boardwalk Arcade.” The footage will provide context for the recreation of turn-of-the-century boardwalk with games and attractions typical to the attractions up and down the East Coast. Opening weekend for the exhibit is July 6 and 7. Read about it here.
TCM's Robert Osborne, left, with Eastman House's Jared Case, who is in Hollywood this week at the TCM Classic Film Fest.
Film festivals and repertory theaters have long been the best way to revisit our cinematic heritage. Festivals like Cannes and Telluride, and venues like our own Dryden Theatre have histories that reach decades back. Our preservations play at these venues around the world. This weekend, one of our favorite preservations will play at the Turner Classic Movies Classic Film Festival in Hollywood.
Still somewhat new, the TCM Classic Film Fest gives the audience a chance to see famous Hollywood films in famous Hollywood theaters like Grauman’s Chinese, the Egyptian, and the Cinerama Dome. Over four days, the festival runs five screens simultaneously, not including special screenings. The festival also offers the chance to see Hollywood stars and technicians, film scholars and preservation archivists talk about the films.
The year, George Eastman House offered the festival Lonesome, a film from the dawn of the sound era. Originally shot as a silent film with a music and effects soundtrack, Universal decided that it needed some talking sequences to compete in the 1928 marketplace. Three were shot and edited into the film, which was how it was released, and how it survives today.
It’s important to us that we not only preserve the elements in our vaults, but also that we preserve the experience of watching film as it was meant to be seen. To this end, we made sure to duplicate the wonderful tinting and hand-coloring of the original nitrate print, as well as the groundbreaking soundtrack, onto new 35mm stock, so that it could be played just as it was nearly 90 years ago. We actively seek out venues that can project 35mm film in an archival manner, so that our films can be seen by as many people as possible. The TCM Classic Film Fest is just such a place.
Jared Case will introduce the festival's screening of Eastman House restoration of 1928 film "Lonesome."
At 11:30 a.m. Saturday, April 14, I will be proud to present the film Lonesome to the attendees in Hollywood. Then next week I’ll return to Rochester to continue my work at George Eastman House, the everyday job of supporting film preservation.
You, too, can support film preservation every day by seeking out venues like the Museum’s Dryden Theatre, or becoming a member of George Eastman House. We’re all in this together.
I will be tweeting some of my activities while I’m at the TCM Classic Film Fest. You can follow along on Twitter @eastmanhouse and on Facebook (George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film).
In this last of the blogs focusing on the films that are being broadcast on Turner Classic Movies ‘Tribute to George Eastman House’ (all day today!), I’m highlighting the films made in the middle of the Twentieth Century. George Eastman House’s collections are packed with great silent films, and films from the early studio era, but the selection is broader than that. These last four films hint at the important work from the ‘40s, ‘50s and ‘60s that still needs preservation.
THE MOON AND SIXPENCE (1942) is one of only six films directed by writer Albert Lewin. Loosely based on the life of Gaugin, it follows George Sanders as he deteriorates from family man to self-obsessed painter hiding out in the tropics. Our material is notable for its sepiatone footage, similar to the ‘Kansas’ scenes that bookend THE WIZARD OF OZ. This type of toning imitated the look of silent films and was used for hundreds of projects from the ‘30s to the ‘50s, but most of the surviving prints no longer have the tone, but are instead black-and-white reproductions. There is also a scene using Cinecolor, a short-lived two-color process. The restoration was done in 1993 with the assistance of Crystal Pictures, Inc.
PANDORA AND THE FLYING DUTCHMAN (1951)
PANDORA AND THE FLYING DUTCHMAN (1951) is another of the 6 films directed by Lewin, along with the well-known PORTRAIT OF DORIAN GRAY (1945). One of our highest-profile restorations in recent years, this Technicolor marvel weaves together the legends of Pandora’s Box and The Flying Dutchman into a tragic 20th-Century romance starring James Mason and Ava Gardner. Especially important to the film, and essential that we get right, is the blue of the sea, often reflected in Gardner’s wardrobe, beckoning the two lovers into each other’s arms. This restoration was completed in 2009 with the help of The Film Foundation.
FEAR AND DESIRE (1953)
FEAR AND DESIRE (1953) was Stanley Kubrick’s first feature film, after he had worked as a photographer for Look Magazine in New York City and directed two documentary shorts for RKO. A low-budget, independent production, he cast New York actors and took them to the California hillsides to create an allegorical war drama that starred, among others, Paul Mazursky, who went on to direct such films as BOB& CAROL & TED & ALICE (1969), HARRY AND TONTO (1974) and DOWN AND OUT IN BEVERLY HILLS (1986). Legend has it that Kubrick was embarrassed by the film and sought out copies of it to suppress the title and remove it from his legacy. George Eastman House received their print from the original American distribution company and preserved the film in 1989.
The last film being shown on TCM is also the latest film in the tribute. In 1964, Philip Kaufman, who went on to write three Indiana Jones movies and direct such films as INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (1978), THE UNBEARABLE LIGHTNESS OF BEING (1988), RISING SUN (1993) and THE RIGHT STUFF (1983) – a personal favorite – started his career with the impressionistic feature GOLDSTEIN, which dreamily follows the separate adventures of a pregnant woman and an old man in Chicago. This avant-garde film was preserved from original material donated to George Eastman House by the director himself, one of several artists that entrust us with their life’s work. The preservation was finished just this year and has not been seen in theaters.
I want to thank you for taking the time to read my impressions of the salute and for watching the films on TCM (All day today!). I have the honor of appearing with Robert Osborne, starting at 8pm tonight to discuss four of our featured films: FEAR AND DESIRE, HUCKLEBERRY FINN, PANDORA AND THE FLYING DUTCHMAN, and ROARING RAILS. I hope that everyone reading this enjoys the salute as much as we at George Eastman House have enjoyed bringing it to you.
There are 15 films being presented by Turner Classic Movies on Wednesday, December 14. All of them come from the archives of the George Eastman House— a result of decades of acquisition, conservation and preservation. For this blog entry, I am highlighting the ‘30s films being shown that day.
PAYMENT DEFERRED (1932)
PAYMENT DEFERRED (1932) is one of my personal favorites in the TCM lineup. I consider it a proto-noir, in that the protagonist (the fabulous Charles Laughton) experiences the same type of dilemma, decision and destruction that characters such as Walter Neff of DOUBLE INDEMNITY (1944) and Christopher Cross of SCARLET STREET (1945) endured in the golden age of noir. The plot follows Laughton, a bank clerk, as he struggles to keep his family financially afloat. He has news about an impending shift in the money markets but has no capital to take advantage of it. A long-lost nephew (an early appearance by Ray Milland) shows up on his doorstep but has no interest in Laughton’s proposal. Before Milland leaves, Laughton plans and executes a cold-blooded murder, stealing Milland’s money and burying him in the back yard. Laughton makes a killing on his investment, but is haunted by the body in the garden. It has little of the stylistic effects that are the hallmarks of the noir look, but the themes are the same and Laughton’s performance is grand. Like many of the MGM films we have here, the originals came to us early in our professional life. A nitrate picture negative and a nitrate track negative were received in 1967 and our print was taken directly from these in the 1970s, as was a new Fine Grain Master. Airs at 6:15 pm.
In 2007 Fox produced the mammoth and impressive “Ford at Fox” DVD Box Set, boasting 24 of the director’s films in one beautiful package. One of the films in the set, THE WORLD MOVES ON (1934), came directly from our material. We received a nitrate positive from Fox in 1972 and performed our own preservation in 1989, creating new pic and track negs and a new print. For the new preservation, Fox decided to use the old track neg, but went back to the nitrate to create a new pic neg and, with those elements, a new print. The story starts in 1825 New Orleans and follows the lives and loves of the Girard family over several generations, through the first World War and the stock market collapse to the present day. The cast is led by Madeleine Carroll, Franchot Tone and Reginald Denny. Airs at 2:45 am.
The shortest film featured is a 1937 documentary entitled THE SPANISH EARTH and directed by Joris Ivens, a well-known Dutch director that was deeply influenced by Russian greats Eisenstein and Pudovkin. The company that sponsored this film, Contemporary Historians, was formed by group of American writers and intellectuals, including Ernest Hemingway, Lillian Hellman, John Dos Passos, Dorothy Parker and Archibald MacLeish. The film follows loyalist forces and the land-working people of Spain as they struggle to survive the onslaught of Franco’s army, and as released was narrated by Ernest Hemingway. Our print was a pre-release positive that still retained the narration by a 21-year-old Orson Welles. We got our original material, a nitrate positive print, back in 1958, and performed a standard preservation, creating new pic and track negs and a new print in 1985. Airs at 9:00 am
We’ve covered nearly 20 years of film history, from an early feature released in 1918 to a documentary released solidly within the sound era. The last four films will take us all the way into the mid-‘60s, rounding out a fascinating slate of preserved wonders.