Friday, June 24, 2016

The Golden Chance (1915)

Screen capture from Image DVD
WHO: Cecil B. DeMille directed, produced, edited and (with Jeanie Macpherson) co-wrote this film.

WHAT: This is one of my very favorite DeMille pictures, and I even selected it as object of study for a collaborative blogging project several years ago (that seems to have propagated an image to the wikipedia page for Japanese actor Yutake Abe, if nothing else more lasting). Later that year, my friend Laura Horak wrote an article about it and a pair of other Cecil B. DeMille films (as well as one directed by his brother William) released on DVD for The Moving Image journal. Here's an excerpt from her article:
The story follows Mary Denby (Cleo Ridgely), a "Cinderella of the Lower East Side," who escapes from grueling tenement life and her abusive husband, Steve (Horace B. Carpenter), for one magical night. The film is surprisingly explicit about the way money and sex are intertwined. Seeking work as a seamstress, Mary enters Mr. and Mrs. Hillary's "House of Enchantment," where they convince her to play the part of a socialite for a night, unaware that her real purpose is to charm a young millionaire, Roger Manning (Wallace Reid), into investing in Mr. Hillary's business venture. At first, Mary is happy to play her role in exchange for one night of luxurious clothes, shoes, and jewelry but, even after suspecting the nature of the exchange, desperate poverty forces her to accept the money. 
WHERE/WHEN: Screens tonight only at the Edison Theatre in Niles, CA, as part of the Broncho Billy Silent Film Festival.

WHY: The Broncho Billy Silent Film Festival, while perhaps not as glamorous or public-transit-accessible (or expensive!) as the San Francisco Silent Film Festival, deserves equal consideration from Frisco Bay silent film fans. Its film programming is in many ways just as strong- and for film purists stronger -, its musical accompaniments not as flashy but equally adept and professional, and its extra features, including a walking tour and a train ride, represent a world away from the hustle and bustle of Castro Street.

Additional screenings at this year's festival include rarities and proven favorites from the Essanay Studios which made Niles a movie hub for a few years a century ago, and a pair of films starring the Gish sisters, Nell Gwyn with forgotten Dorothy and a masterpiece (directed by Swedish import auteur Victor Seastrom) The Scarlet Letter with the legendary Lillian.

Of this year's festival screenings, I'm probably most interested in seeing Behind the Front, a Wallace Beery war film whose title seems to refer to the 1919 film that was the big discovery of the SF Silent Film Festival earlier this month for me and for quite a few other festgoers, Behind the Door. Beery played a villain in that, and stole the show out from under Louise Brooks in the festival opener Beggars of Life. I'm especially anxious to see it because it screens with Broncho Billy and the Bandit's Secret, a 35mm made-in-Niles production released just last year, but still unscreened in San Francisco (it's hard to find venues willing and able to show a modern-day 35mm silent short film). 

If you can't make it this weekend, the July Niles schedule has been announced and includes a Gary Cooper Western, a Clara Bow flapper film, a Lon Chaney circus tragedy, and much, much, much more. July schedules for the Stanford, the Castro, YBCA and BAMPFA are also online, so start planning your month if you haven't already!

HOW: Screens from a tinted 16mm print, along with 35mm prints of 2 Niles-produced shorts Broncho Billy's Wild Ride and Slippery Slim and the Impersonator, all with live keyboard accompaniment from Jon Mirsalis.

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