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Cinecon’s 50th film fest back in Hollywood, LA’s Silent Movie docu film on video

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Before the advent of home video and TCM, a silent film enthusiast had few opportunities to see the likes of Chaplin, Keaton, Pickford or Chaney on a regular basis. Residents of So Cal had an oasis in the desert in the Silent Movie Theatre on Fairfax Avenue. Lucky me, my grandparents lived in the neighborhood in the late ‘60s; a visit included not only a night’s lodging but even the modest price of admission to the show: one dollar.

Iain Kennedy’s wonderful documentary “Palace of Silents” (available along with a feature on itinerant filmmaking in “We’re in the Movies,” a Blu-ray/DVD combo pack from www.flickeralley.com) likens the 150-seat theatre to a museum as well as a time machine. Rare photos and home movies adorn the film’s profile of maverick preservationist John Hampton, who built the Silent Movie and ran it from 1942-1979.

The doc incisively captures the theatre’s cat-with-nine-lives history. Improbably, it’s had three rebirths since its demise—most notably via Laurence Austin, an oddball with a dark side who refurbished the venue and served as proprietor until he was murdered on the premises in 1997. (It’s still functioning as a revival house today, with more eclectic programming).
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Cinecon, an annual festival beloved of vintage film aficionados, marks its 50th anniversary Labor Day weekend, Aug. 28-Sept. 1. As in recent years a cornucopia of rarely shown silents and early talkies will be screened, mostly in 35mm, at Grauman’s Egyptian Theater—where the first Hollywood premiere was held in 1922.

More than 30 films are slated, among them: “Paths to Paradise” (1925) with Cinecon favorite Raymond Griffith and its 1945 remake, “Hold That Blonde” with Eddie Bracken and Veronica Lake; “Travelin’ On” (1922) with William S. Hart; “Buck Benny Rides Again” (1940) with Jack Benny and radio cohorts Phil Harris and Rochester; John Ford’s “Kentucky Pride” (1925).

One of the highlights is sure to be a new restoration of “East is West” with Constance Talmadge, which apparently has not been screened in America since it was released in 1922. As always, the dealer’s room promises one of the best movie memorabilia marts anywhere, including authors of film-related books. For more information: Cinecon 50, 3727 W. Magnolia Blvd.#760 Burbank CA 91505; email: cineconinfo@earthlink.net.

Cinecon visitors will want to check out the special Hal Roach Studios 100th anniversary exhibit at the Hollywood Museum (housed in the Historic Max Factor Building), which continues through Labor Day. Lots of rare Laurel and Hardy, Harold Lloyd and Our Gang artifacts are on view. (Visit http://thehollywoodmuseum.com).

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