I just returned from Cinecon 43 in Hollywood. The annual event features as many as 11 or 12 screenings of classic films per day over Labor Day weekend. The films include recent restorations from archives around the world, rare collectors' prints, or newly struck prints of rarely seen films from the vaults of the nearby Hollywood studios.
Some of this year's highlights include:
Trail of the Vigilantes (1940) : A close-cousin to the comedy-laced western Destry Rides Again, Trail stars Franchot Tone as a city slicker who travels west to help a small town free itself from the corrupt hand of ruthless business man Warren William. It was directed by Allan Dwan, who claimed that the film was originally intended as a straight-forward western, and features great supporting performances by Broderick Crawford, Andy Devine, and Mischa Auer.
Her Wild Oat (1927): A print of Her Wild Oat, a film that was assumed to be lost, was recently discovered almost by accident in an archive in Prague. The film stars Colleen Moore, one of the most popular actresses in the 1920s; her famous ruler-straight bangs inspired scores of women to copy her haircut. OAT is a charming romantic comedy, just the type of film for which Moore is best known. Some may remember our eight-film Colleen Moore retrospective in the late-1990s.
Girls Can Play (1937): One of the best woman's softball /murder mystery films ever made, Girls stars Jacqueline Wells as a struggling actress who reluctantly joins a local professional team to make ends meet –and then discovers that the owner of the team is connected to the mob. The film also features a very young Rita Hayworth as the team's catcher. Only in Hollywood.
How's About It? (1943) : A fairly run-of-the-mill swing music comedy, How's About It? features performances by the likes of Buddy Rich, the Andrews Sisters, and young tap star (and later accomplished TV director) Bobby Scheerer. The handling of the Andrews Sisters was fascinating to me. For those who aren't into the songs of the WWII era, Patty was the really pretty sister, Maxine was the pretty sister, and Luverneâ€¦well, she had a nice personality. The director did just about everything possible to alway make sure that Patty was always front and center and that Luverne had her back to the camera or was stationed behind a pole, a door, or another actor. In one scene, Luverne (back to camera) is about to lead the sisters out of an office. The next shot shows the sisters leaving the office with Patty in front. In another scene, Shemp Howard (yes, that Shemp) unsuccessfully tries to steal a kiss from Patty and Maxine but when Luverne says she's game Shemp asks if he can start over. Brutal.
Beggars of Life (1928) : Screened in a newly restored print, Beggars stars Louise Brooks and Richard Arlen as a pair of hoboes on the run from the law after Brooks kills her abusive foster father. They eventually meet up with hobo camp run by Wallace Beery, who tries to maintain order and protect Brooks from the clutches of other seedy men in camp. Directed by Wild William Wellman (and introduced by his son this weekend). – Dave Filipi, Film/Video Curator