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.
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).