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Newsgroups: rec.arts.movies,rec.video.releases From: moriarty@tc.fluke.COM (Jeff Meyer) Subject: Summary of American Moving Image Archivists screening, 12/8/93 Message-ID: 1993Jan24.071916.10547@tc.fluke.COM Summary: Summary of restored and discovered films shown at AMIA Screening Keywords: AMIA, film restoration and archival Organization: The John Fluke Mfg. Co. /a.k.a. The Gizmonics Institute/ Date: Sun, 24 Jan 1993 07:19:16 GMT Lines: 224

Sometimes, you just happen to be in the right place at the right time, and are alerted to it by the right person. A very good friend I was visiting in Palo Alto last December pointed out that David Packard's Stanford theatre (the nicest movie theater on the face of the earth in appearance, restoration and choice of viewing matter, as far as I'm concerned; it's one of the two things I would move up from the Bay area to Seattle if I could) was hosting the American Moving Image Archivists members' clips from current subjects they were working on. The AMIA is made up of professionals who root out, restore and/or archive rare and significant films or television programs (on video or kinescope recordings); one of the members that will be best-known to film and video enthusiasts is the UCLA Film and Television Archive.

Anyway, the AMIA was having it's annual convention, and after their dinner, David Packard had offered them the use of the Stanford for showing the "crown jewels" of their current projects to each other. However, he had stipulated that members of the public could attend (for free!!), and printed it up in the Stanford program. My friend, knowing of my mania for film history and restoration techniques (I collect laserdiscs; 'nuff said), generously offered to accompany me there for the evening. We arrived to the theater to discover that maybe 10 other Stanford film buffs had decided to attend. We had the pleasure of sitting and reading the AMIA program for the evening for 20 minutes while listening to one of the Stanford's talented organists played various tunes on the Mighty Wurlitzer Organ, until the AMIA members (dressed in tuxes and evening gowns) appeared. We felt a little guilty to have copped the best seats in the house from the paying members – but not too much. BTW, the Stanford is one of the last places on earth that has kept the art of a dramatic curtain-up for film. It is a pleasure to experience.

Here's a rundown of the most interesting (to me) things we saw that evening; those interested in film preservation and restoration (as well as those in the video community wondering what new restored prints of films may appear on video) will be interested, I think. Each member's clip was limited to about 8 to 10 minutes, I believe.

* The two opening shorts (from the San Francisco State University Library

  and the UCLA Film and Television Archive, respectively) were
  travelogues, the first from 1939 San Francisco, the second one of MGM's
  publicity records of the grand opening of GRAND HOTEL from 1932.  The
  restoration on the latter was particularly impressive; however, outside
  of seeing various famous actors and actresses in a less "handled" manner
  than publicity shorts that came later, these were less interesting than
  what followed.  (I had hoped to see a clip of something more interesting
  from UCLA.)

* A company called Wolfson Media Center in Miami came up with a

  highly-amusing clip from a Miami news program from 1962 called FYI.  The
  film was made in 1962, two months after the Cuban Missile Crisis, and was
  made up of on-the-street interviews with New Yorkers, asking them if
  they planned to change their plans to vacation in Miami after the
  problems with Cuba.  The reporter was rather flowery in his speech, and
  the audience enjoyed it greatly; I was impressed to see how some of
  the smaller AMIA members, with less material to choose from, had an eye
  for something that, if not massively significant to film restoration,
  was entertaining to those attending the screening.

* Hollywood Vaults, Inc., is a public storage facility for storing film

  and tape in secure, safe vaults.  One of their clients is the estate of
  Abbott and Costello, who gave permission to show a wonderful sketch
  performed live on the Colgate Comedy Hour in 1952, and saved on
  kinescope.  It is titled "The Diamond Necklace", and while one of the
  classic vaudeville acts, is accentuated by a sound man who had some
  trouble sticking to his cues -- which provides a good deal of
  unintentional humor, and has Bud and Lou almost losing it live, on
  nationwide television.

* Southwest Film / Video Archives has discovered a print of Alfred

  Hitchcock's directing debut, THE PLEASURE GARDEN (they mention that a
  prior film, a 2-reeler, was never finished.)  It is a silent production
  of a morality play, about two showgirls.  As one would expect from a
  first production, little about it hints at the director's future, but
  the opening credits are extremely striking.  According to records, the
  only other print in the world of this film is in the British Film
  Institute (along with "unidentified material" in the Belgian Film
  Archives.) 

* WGBH Education Foundation provided a host of early 60's video programs

  on public station WGBH; WGBH is currently evaluating what to do with a
  large amount of videotaped shows from their early years, which are
  nearing the end of their shelf life.  Some fast clips from their
  archives that were shown: early Julia Childs "French Chef" episodes (I
  cannot watch these with a straight face after seeing Dan Ackroyd do
  Julia Childs on SNL years ago); a monologue (to the camera) by Jean
  Shepard; an interview from 1963 with James Baldwin; a speech by JFK at
  Amherst College in 1963; a special in 1964 on Robert Frost; "What's
  Happening, Mr. Silver", a 60's counter-culture program done by various
  lights of that generation, with tons of psychedelic montages and
  round-table discussions between noted revolutionaries (I could swear one
  was Abbie Hoffman, but I'm not sure) -- it all was rather embarrassingly
  dated; a conversation with Muhammad Ali in 1968; and James Brown performing
  at the Boston Garden, the day after Martin Luther King Jr. was killed.
  Very interesting stuff, to be sure.

* The Museum of Modern Art showed the ending of ON THE WATERFRONT, from a

  new restored print initiated by the Sony-Columbia preservation program.
  The negative it was restored from had extensive sound damage.  The sound
  and picture quality of the restored print we saw was absolutely
  top-drawer. 

* Eastman Kodak had brought in test films of their new digital film-making

  process; it opened with voice-overs by James Cameron and Harlan
  Ellinshaw describing how this would open up film-making into amazing new
  vistas.  Unfortunately, Kodak under-estimated how much time they had to
  show their process at the screening, and showed the comparison of color
  between normal 35mm film and digital film-making (point: no difference
  to my eye), but ran out of time before showing the special effects
  capabilities of their digital process, which is really the reason d'etre
  of the whole shebang.
  

* The Chicago Historical Society had come across an amusing kinescope of

  Kukla, Fran & Ollie describing how a kinescope works.  Much spoofing of
  technical film and video terms, and the techies in the audience had a
  great time.  Much fun for us rubes, as well.

* The Japanese American National Museum had transferred a video program

  (shown in the museum on multiple laser discs) of home movies taken by
  first-generation Japanese Americans of their life in San Francisco and
  Tacoma, Washington during the late 1920's and early 1930s.  A bit long,
  but fascinating stuff, particularly as one does not see much "home movie"
  footage from the late 20's these days.

* The National Archives of Canada had two subjects, both amusing and

  educational: the first was a short news clip describing their trip to
  Australia where the CBC had discoved the last remaining evidence of a
  device described as the (I believe) "Blatnerphone" -- one of the
  earliest examples of recording audio on magnetic tape.  A spool of the
  tape which had recorded CBC broadcasts during World War II had been
  found there, and they were anxious to find out what was on it.
  Apparently Lorne Greene was a newsreader for the BBC during WWII, and
  there has never been any recorded record of his reports during the war.
  However, the news clip never explained if Greene's voice was found or
  not.
  The second was a clip from a 1920 silent film called "Something New"; it
  was a typical silent western from the period, except for one thing: the
  film had almost entirely been financed by the Maxwell car company.
  Thus, the standard plot of such a melodrama (heroine gets kidnapped by
  outlaw villain, who has despicable plans for her, while hero rides to
  the rescue) is altered by one thing; instead of searching for the
  outlaws' hideout (situated in a boulder-strewn no-man's-land) on
  horseback, the stalwart young lad sallys forth in -- yes, you guessed it
  -- a Maxwell automobile.  I will admit that the car seems pretty durable
  (the actor takes it into place I wouldn't go in a Land Rover), but it's
  a bit difficult to generate suspense when the hero seems to be
  riding to the rescue at a speed of about 40 feet every 10 minutes.  The
  hero's dog, sitting in the back seat of the Maxwell, looks seasick even
  in black-and-white.  Halfway through the show, David Packard motioned
  to the organist to accompany it, and he did a wonderful job of it,
  considering he'd never seen the film.  Everyone in the crowd was rolling
  -- an excellent choice.  [My favorite line: as the villain tries to
  convince the heroine to compromise her virtue, she valiantly turns up
  her nose, and the caption card reads "Never!  I'm an American!"  Next
  time, cast Madonna.]

* The West Virginia State Archives, as you might expect, doesn't have

  anything of huge significance to the history of film; but they did show
  a number of interesting restored films of people camping in West
  Virginia during the 30's.  (Along with an amusing 1966 UFO story.)

* The International Museum of Photography at George Eastman House came up

  with two extremely interesting finds.  First, last August, a fellow
  walked into George Eastman House in Rochester and dropped off three
  reels of nitrate film from *1903*, all made by the Edison Film Company,
  and all in nearly perfect condition.  The two that were particularly
  exciting to hear about were a George Melies film "Une Indigestion / Up-
  To-Date Surgery", which we watched (lots of jump-cut special effects,
  just what you'd expect from Melies, but very charming); and an
  immaculate print of THE GREAT TRAIN ROBBERY, which we didn't get a
  chance to see.  Yowsah!
  The other find was a collection of samples from a French company named
  the Caumont Film Company, which developed, in 1913, an additive color
  process, Gaumont Chronochromes, and made a number of test films to sell
  the system.  I quote from the program: "Chronochromes have three black
  and white (YCM), wide-screen images (1:1.66) on a single strip of film
  which, through a system of filters and mirrors, were projected with a
  special Gaumont Chronochrome projector to produce a color image on the
  screen."  It appears to be an early twist on three-strip Technicolor;
  however, the results were very unusual in the clip we saw.  A woman in
  the latest fashion of the day was seated; she and her surroundings were
  a rather sepia-colored tone, but the hat on here head, and her blouse
  and skirt, were colored in very bright, almost neon colors.  It reminded
  me of a moving black-light poster.  George Eastman House says they have
  other Gaumont Chronochrome titles (approximately 30), and plan to
  restore them all.
  • Turner Entertainment finished up the official program for the evening,

with a sequence from THE WIZARD OF OZ where the clip cut between

  three-strip Technicolor, and Eastman Color.  I could almost always tell
  when they'd switched from Eastman Color to Technicolor, but had more
  trouble determining when they switched back to Eastman Color.
  Interesting. 
  • An unannounced item at the end (along with the Blatnerphone clip):

someone (I don't know who) is restoring Sam Pekinpah' MAJOR DUNDEE – a

  full restoration of the director's cut, putting in much of the scenes
  that were cut out before it got to the viewer.  However, the project is
  in the very early stages.  The clips we saw were gorgeous, though.

The AMIA conference opened with David Packard jokingly announcing that the only way he had allowed the AMIA to put that "damned video equipment" (the videotape projectors which projected the videotaped parts of the presentations on the big screen) was that he got to show a 35mm restored clip of the "Sheik of Araby" sequence from TIN PAN ALLEY – the one with The Nicholas Brothers do absolutely amazing tap-dancing, and Betty Grable and Alice Faye giving the boo-ba-doo treatment to Jack Oakie in the title role of the bit. Absolutely immaculate, and using black-and-white film to an almost luminescent effect. An excellent way to end a very interesting evening; Palo Alto is lucky to have the Stanford, and David Packard.

                         DAVE BARRY'S 1992 IN REVIEW -- February 7th
                            "President Bush, responding to allegations
                             that his use of the potent sleeping-pill
                             Halcion has caused him to act erratically,
                             angrily tells reporters that they are `big
                             Methodist spiders.'"

                                      Moriarty, aka Jeff Meyer

INTERNET: moriarty@tc.fluke.COM Manual UUCP: {uunet, uw-beaver, sun, microsoft}!fluke!moriarty CREDO: You gotta be Cruel to be Kind…

  • *» Keep circulating the tapes «**
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