Sunday, July 21, 2013

The Last Edition (1925)

WHO: Emory Johnson, a key figure in Frisco Bay filmmaking of the silent era, directed this.

WHAT: I haven't seen The Last Edition yet. Almost nobody has in the past eighty-something years. But it's a newspaper-themed drama set and shot (for the most part) in San Francisco, and thus of extremely high interest to anyone who wants a look at how this city appeared on film in the days before the Golden Gate and Bay Bridges were more than glints in its residents' eye. It also is of great interest to journalists, simply for its look inside the San Francisco Chronicle building. As historian David Kiehn writes in his exclusive essay on Johnson in the San Francisco Silent Film Festival program book (available at no cost to every attendee of the festival this weekend),
Most newspaper-themed films before and since The Last Edition have concentrated on crusading or investigative reporters pursuing the big story, but few have shown the physical process of getting out a newspaper in such detail. The film was especially popular with news reporters who knew fact from fiction.
WHERE/WHEN: Today only at the Castro Theatre at 3:30, presented by the San Francisco Silent Film Festival.

WHY: The Last Edition has just been restored by a team led by SF Silent Film Festival Board President Rob Byrne, and is making its world "re-premiere" today. It's almost certainly going to be the hottest ticket of the last day of the festival today, so it may be a good idea to arrive early if you don't have tickets bought in advance. If you're still not convinced you want to see it, perusing the information and images on the restoration website, from which the above image shot at 5th and Mission Streets by the Old Mint was borrowed.

Though traditionally Sunday has been the strongest day of each annual Silent Film Festival, today's set has its work cut out for it to match Fridays and yesterday's lineups. With a comedy shorts program, a new restoration of a Swedish classic never before shown here in as complete a version, a German film about a labor uprising, and one of the most thrilling comedy finales ever filmed, all screening today along with The Last Edition, Sunday's going to put up a heckuva fight anyway.

HOW: The Last Edition screens in a newly-struck 35mm print, with piano accompaniment by Stephen Horne.


  1. There was so much hype because of San Francisco scenes in this, it was somewhat of a a letdown. The story was fine, but the local scenes were so few and short, if you blinked you missed them. And many of these 1 to 3 second outdoor shots were in Los Angeles.
    The newspaper production footage was interesting. A companion to similar scenes the first night, in Prix De Beaute.

    Stephen Horne was fantastic on piano & other instruments.

  2. Can you tell us why the Castro's wonderful theatre organ is not being used at the SIlent Film Festival.. This used to be a big part of it for me. The Festival is "silent" on this.

  3. I talked to Anita Monga a bit about this last month. Basically, it seems the organ is in need of some kind of major repair and/or restoration, a circumstance essentially out of the festival's hands (though I note it was used Wednesday night before the Jim Jarmusch film screening- admittedly a lower-pressure situation than a silent accompaniment). Günter Buchwald did utilize it for most of his score for The Half-Breed, although he did bring out his violin as well- and at least once had them both sounding at once. He had his moments, but it was no replacement for a top-tier organist like Clark Wilson (who hasn't performed in San Francisco in years), Christian Elliot (who did a wonderful job with Faust at the SFSFF Winter event), or Dennis James (my personal favorite theatre organ performer, but not everyone's).

    As for The Last Edition, it was a shame that there was the projection issue in the middle reel, as it seems to have caused us to miss out on seeing at least one of the more San Francisco-showcasing chase sequences. The website has quite a few shots I don't recall seeing yesterday. (Whereas all the site's Los Angeles frames all came from reels we got to see in full, I think.