I will preface everything that follows by staying this: the programming at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival was, in a word, extraordinary. A balance of genres, countries of origin, and artistic styles meant that each day remained stimulating and unexpected (we at SFQ will be reviewing the specific titles in the forthcoming issue of the magazine). As much as it sounds like a cliché, there truly was something for everyone.
2018 marks the 50th anniversary of the publication of Kevin Brownlow‘s The Parade’s Gone By…, the first of many books he would write on his way to becoming the preeminent name in silent films. With Brownlow’s 80th birthday celebration at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival just a few days away, I felt it was worth revisiting a book which, in my opinion, has done more to advance the study of silent film than any other.
by Silent Film Quarterly contributor Lewis Walker
In 1920 Roscoe Arbuckle made his first feature film for Paramount. Making the move from two-reel comedies to feature length pictures preceded any of his contemporaries—Chaplin and Lloyd did it in 1921 and Keaton in 1923—but for Roscoe this was more than elongating his twenty odd minute films. He also made the switch from comedy to drama, and in particular the western. Cinemuseum has recently released Arbuckle’s The Round-Up on Blu-ray for the first time ever, and hopefully offers the start of a re-evaluation of Roscoe’s career.
Recently, the International Buster Keaton Society announced a “Buster Keaton Weekend” in Los Angeles, which will be held from June 15 to 17. The schedule of events is a dream come true for fans of silent comedy, with movie screenings, a visit to Keaton’s grave, and walking tours of filming locations all on the agenda.
Silent Film Quarterly plans on spending the entire weekend with the Damfinos, but we’re so excited for the event that in the meantime we spoke to Keaton Society Vice President Alek Lev. Lev’s impressive resume runs the gamut from acting and directing to serving as a sign language interpreter for three US presidents. He is also the co-host of Talking Buster Keaton, one of the best classic film-related podcasts.
From the way Alek describes it, this certainly sounds like an event you will not want to miss if you’re a fan of Buster. Stay tuned for more coverage of the Buster Keaton Weekend both here and in the magazine!
The 2018 San Francisco Silent Film Fest is quickly approaching, and Silent Film Quarterly editor Charles Epting is thrilled to be attending for the first time. Over the next few weeks we will be running several preview blog posts out of sheer eagerness and anticipation.
I have gone through the schedule of the festival and (subjectively) ranked all 20 feature films in order of how excited I am to see them. I will come clean and admit that it was impossible to keep personal biases out of mind in some instances (looking at you, People On Sunday), but I have tried to be as fair and diplomatic as possible. I am certain that some movies will be unexpected treats, and others will be comparative letdowns. I will of course provide post-festival coverage both here and in the magazine, and we can see how my rankings hold up.
So without further ado, my way-too-early ranking of the SFSFF’s 2018 offerings…
Note: This review originally appeared in the Winter 2017-18 Issue of Silent Film Quarterly.
I was introduced to A Trip to the Moon in a somewhat unconventional manner. In 1996, the Smashing Pumpkins released a music video for their song “Tonight, Tonight” clearly inspired by the work of Méliès. The first time I saw the video, I was captivated—the period costumes, the vaguely Victorian instruments the band plays, and the phantasmagorical story of a couple transported to the moon on a zeppelin. I was not surprised to learn that lead singer Billy Corgan, a pop-culture enthusiast who constantly incorporates references into his work, was emulating the style of a pioneer filmmaker (an earlier concept for the music video featured a Busby Berkeley-style production). In fact, it was after listening to the first Smashing Pumpkins album—titled Gish—that I became aware of the work of Lillian (who Corgan recalled was a favorite actress of his grandmother). It was clear to me that Billy Corgan had a fondness for silent cinema, and as a fan of his I felt compelled to explore the works of Georges Méliès.
After several years of inactivity here at SilentFilmQuarterly.com, I’m excited to announce that our website will once again be updated on a regular basis, both with updates on future issues and excerpts from the magazine. Issue 9 is currently at the printer, while Issue 10 is about 90% complete (and Issue 11 is already coming together nicely!). These next couple of issues will feature some of my favorite content yet: interviews with the wonderful author Sherri Snyder (her Barbara La Marr book is available here), Roger Miller of the Alloy Orchestra, and much more.
If you are interested in purchasing the first eight issues of the magazine, they are now available from our Etsy Store. We are also looking into producing hardcover omnibus editions of the first two years; stay tuned for more information!
There are more announcements coming soon–thank you to everyone who has supported the magazine through its first two and a half years, and I can guarantee there are some exciting things on the horizon!
-Charles Epting, editor
Silent Film Quarterly is barely six months old. I know the exact date that the idea came to me from a text message to my girlfriend. “Remind me to tell you about my new idea I’m working on,” it read. I couldn’t have conveyed it in my message, but something about the concept I had come up with—a print magazine dedicated exclusively to silent film—really struck a chord with me.
From there, things progressed rapidly. I designed the cover of the first issue during those first couple of days, in addition to mapping out the format of the magazine. I also reached out to some of my close friends and associates in the community to make sure I’d have support and—most importantly—content. The response was immediately overwhelming.
There are several people I have to thank personally for being amongst the first to contribute to the embryonic magazine. The first completed piece I received came from Cory Gross, whose history and analysis of 1925’s The Lost World still ranks amongst my favorite articles to have appeared in the magazine. I also asked Annette D’Agostino Lloyd, a dear friend of mine, for permission to republish one of her Harold Lloyd articles; she informed me that rather than having her old work republished, she’d rather contribute an original piece. As someone who holds the Harold Lloyd Encyclopedia in the highest regard, this was nothing short of an honor.
Even before the first issue was released, Silent Film Quarterly seemed to spread like wildfire. Social media helped to spread the word of the magazine, and subscriptions began pouring in from around the world. I am proud to say that there are currently subscribers in more than 40 states and 25 countries—numbers that I believe are strong evidence for the continued appreciation of silent films around the globe. I have a backlog of material into the middle of next year, all of which I am genuinely excited to share with everyone.
These first few months of Silent Film Quarterly have been nothing short of spectacular. From visiting the Niles-Essanay Silent Film Museum (where they sell the magazine in their gift shop) to speaking with famed silent film composer Carl Davis, the first half-year of Silent Film Quarterly has been truly unforgettable.
Next year will, I hope, elevate the magazine to even greater heights. Already a Kickstarter campaign to reproduce 1916 silent film playing cards is sitting at 250% funded, without two-and-a-half weeks still to go. Additionally, in the next few weeks I will be making an announcement about Silent Film Quarterly Press, a new arm of the brand that will be focused on reproducing important, out-of-print texts from the silent era.
As 2015 comes to a close, I want to thank everyone who has supported Silent Film Quarterly in any way. Whether you’ve subscribed, written an article, or simply visited the website or Facebook page, you’ve contributed to this magazine’s sudden success. I never anticipated such a fervent response in the first few months; it is my hope that 2016 will see the magazine grow and evolve even more than it already has.
Here’s to the next four issues…
Editor in chief
Issue 3 is now available for preorder under the “Purchase Single Issues” drop down menu! Additionally, all annual subscriptions from this point forward will automatically begin with Issue 3 (although a limited supply of Issue 2 is still available for individual purchase).
Issue 1 is once again available for purchase, this time through Amazon.com. It is being printed on an on-demand basis and being distributed through Lulu. The format is slight different than the first edition; rather than a magazine, it is now being printed as a paperback book (although all of the content remains completely unchanged). Additionally, all future issues will be sold via Amazon once the initial print run is sold out.
You can order Issue 1 here!