As regular readers of this blog have probably guessed, I dwell in splendid isolation in a Hollywood mansion. Occasionally I kidnap a passing blogger to help me refine a post or two, but normally the only people I see are my pet leopard and Georg Wilhelm the butler. So it makes a nice change to be leave the house and talk about silent cinema in the presence of the beautiful people of London. I am doing that twice in the near future – so read all about it.
The fabulous Phoenix Cinema in Finchley is hosting a silent cinema festival on the weekend of 15-17th July, which promises to be very special. On the Saturday they are showing Steamboat Bill Jr, in a special kids screening,with Neil Brand, and also Why Be Good? with the wonderful Colleen Moore and a “live flapper performance”. On the Sunday, Ian Christie introduces a selection of archive films of north London with music by John Sweeney, followed by a screening of the cockney silent East is East, with Lillian Henley at the piano and Gerry Turvey introducing. On Friday 15th July, Stephen Horne is accompanying one of the greatest films of all time, the magical Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans, and I will be on introduction duty. Expect much inarticulate swooning from me, and sumptuous music from Mr Horne.
Then in August, I will be at Somerset House for the Film4 Summer Screen series. Those discerning people are showing some of my home movies, sorry I mean Sunset Boulevard (1950), starring Gloria Swanson as Norma Desmond, a well-balanced and amiable movie star planning a comeback in the talkies. On 7 August, as part of the Behind the Screen season to accompany the screenings, I will be taking part in a discussion with the brilliant Isabel Stevens of Sight & Sound magazine about the film, Ms Swanson, and women in early Hollywood. It will be fun, informative and you get a free drink too.
UPDATE: In further talkie-related news I will also be hosting the Behind the Screen talk for Funny Face, the gorgeous 1957 fashion-biz musical starring Audrey Hepburn and Fred Astaire. I’ll be discussing the film with former Vogue journalist Polly Devlin, who worked with Diana Vreeland and Richard Avdeon, the inspiration for characters in the film. The talk, and the screening, take place on 14 August, also at Somerset House. Here’s an article I wrote about Funny Face for the Guardian a couple of years back. I’ve just reread it and decided it’s not that bad!
- Meanwhile, if you want to know what I made of the silent films at Bologna’s Il Cinema Ritrovato last week, you can read my report for the Guardian here.