Palace of Silents: The Silent Movie Theatre in Los Angeles (2010)
On Fairfax Avenue in Los Angeles there is a 150-seat movie theater that for over 68 years has doggedly dedicated itself to the exhibition of silent films. Built in 1942 by maverick film preservationist John Hampton, the theater championed silent film at the very moment when the Hollywood studios across town were busily destroying their nitrate inventories. With hard chairs, phonograph-record accompaniments, and mostly original vintage prints, the dingy mom-and-pop operation was nonetheless a palace to the fanatical few who became its loyal audience. Through the theater's tumultuous years, its owners and employees have struggled to keep a cherished art form alive, often paying a heavy price in the personal tragedies that have stemmed from this struggle: obscurity, financial ruin, and even murder. Through interviews, archival footage and detailed research, Palace of Silents reveals the touching, twisted, and bloody history of one independent theater's successful attempt to stubbornly buck every cinematic trend in the hometown of American cinema.
When You Wore a Tulip and I Wore a Big Red Rose (1983)
In the early 1980s, documentary filmmaker Stephen Schaller was instrumental in the rediscovery and restoration of The Lumberjack (1914), the oldest surviving film made in Wisconsin, and produced by a group of itinerant filmmakers who traveled from town to town making "local talent" pictures. Schaller's lovely and sometimes deeply emotional, 63-minute journal/essay film offers a look at the making of the Wausau, Wisconsin classic, including interviews with the one surviving cast member and the relatives of others who appeared in the movie. His investigation includes moving remembrances of the people and town of Wausau, and even reveals the on-set accidental death of one of The Lumberjack's cameramen. More than just local history, When You Wore a Tulip is also of interest to anyone who cares about film history and preservation.
Bonus materials for We're in the Movies include an original essay by film historian David Shepard, as well as 5 early examples of the cinematic tradition of itinerant filmmaking. The Lumberjack (1914) is the oldest film shot in Wisconsin that still exists in its original, complete form. The short, silent one-reeler tells a romantic story set against the backdrop of the city's lumber mills. Our Southern Mountaineers (1918), In the Moonshine Country (1918), and Mountain Life are a trio of shorts that document the lives of some inhabitants living in the eastern mountains of Tennessee and in the 'moonshine country' of northern Georgia and Kentucky. Also included are Huntingdon's Hero (1934), a local talent film made in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania, and a newly-restored, 2012 selection for the National Film Registry, Melton Barker's The Kidnappers Foil (1937), which features a local troupe of children from Corsicana, Texas enacting Barker's basic story of child abduction and escape. All are sourced from original nitrate or preserved 35mm stock, and feature the versatile musical accompaniment of The Ragtime Skedaddlers. The local talent films are presented by courtesy of the Wisconsin Center for Theatre and Film Research, the Academy Film Archive, and the Tennessee Archive of Moving Images and Sound.