It was with some trepidation and a heavy heart that we made our way to the 47th Annual Cinevent in Columbus, Ohio this last Memorial Day Weekend, the Festival had been rocked with tragedy and problems this year, first from losing their Hotel/Venue, the Ramada Mid-West Conference resort due to it’s sudden closure just months before the show, then by the sad passing of Cinevent’s co-founder and president Steve Haynes just weeks before the event. A new Renaissance Hotel had been procured at amazingly short notice to replace the crumbling Ramada, which of course brought rumblings and whinings from various internet folk regarding a raise in room price and new potential inconveniences to very old routines, there were even apparently attempts by some formerly involved in the Fest to take the event away and move it elsewhere, an attempt that smelled far more of self-interest rather than any care for the future of Cinevent, and which was fortunately rebuffed rather quickly.
So we arrived in Columbus not even knowing if Cinevent would continue past this year, a sad thought indeed because Cinevent has always been the most relaxed, friendly, and generally entertaining of all the Cinephile Conventions, a great program coupled with a great dealers room in a very nice town at a perfect time of year, and Steve Haynes and a group of volunteers who worked hard to make it run smoothly and nicely, and, in an era where Film Festivals are going the way of the Dinosaur, it seemed to be the most stable and secure of these shows in terms of survival. The upheavals of this year had made the future uncertain.
However, how nice it was once we arrived to find most of our fears were allayed, the new Renaissance Hotel in downtown Columbus could not have been better, a wonderful high-class hotel with a staff that bended over backwards to satisfy (and, at $106 a night plus $15 (discounted from $25 for Cinevent attendees) parking fees is a STEAL for this level of hotel, and the new screening and dealers rooms such a major improvement from the old that it was a breath of fresh air (literally) to be out of the Ramada’s old basement. During his very touching memorial tribute, Michael Haynes (Steve’s son) announced that Cinevent would continue, and he and the fellow Cinevent staffers: Stewart McKissick, Lance Carwile, Mark Turner, Bob Bloom, Bob Hodges, et.all all kept things on the same even keel. It was a lovely weekend.
As I have posted my program notes on LUXURY LINER, THE WHISTLE, THE NINTH GUEST, and WIDE OPEN, I won’t go into those as part of the descriptions of the program here, I will only add that I was proud that my print of THE WHISTLE was chosen as the film to be run for Steve Haynes memorial, Steve was a big fan of William S. Hart and had been programming Hart titles for years, so it was fitting for the tribute. This years program opened with the odd little Monogram film, JOHNNY DOESN’T LIVE HERE ANY MORE (1944) starring Simone Simon and directed by German expressionist Joe May of all folks, another bizarre little comedy set around the housing shortage in Washington DC during WW2. MOON OVER LAS VEGAS (1941) was the obligatory Universal musical, these are always pleasant time killers. SHOOTING STARS (1927) was Anthony Asquith’s directorial debut and an interesting British silent murder mystery set in a movie studio, Asquith is working rather hard to show off in terms of fancy camerawork, but it doesn’t always get in the way of the clever story, and we get a look at a very young Brian Aherne.
Hmmmmm, c’mon, LOVING YOU (1957) with Elvis Presley, this really belongs in a Cinevent show? Ah well, there were extenuating circumstances as to its inclusion in the program in a lovely IB Tech print, and what the hey, we got a nice long dinner break out of it. THE SENATOR WAS INDISCREET (1947) is the only film George S. Kaufman ever directed, from a Charles MacArthur script, and with William Powell playing a befuddled presidential candidate whose personal diary causes him some potential detours on the road to the White House, it remains a gentle but funny satire on American Politics. UNDERCOVER DOCTOR (1939) was the third entry in Paramount’s J. Edgar Hoover “Persons in Hiding” series, and had too many of our favorite scene-stealers ( J, Carroll Naish, Lloyd Nolan, Broderick Crawford, Raymond Hatton) to give it a pass, but most concerned underplayed this story about a Doctor working under the table for the Mob, enjoyable nevertheless. Nice to see DRUMS OF JEOPARDY (1931) in a nice print, with Warner Oland as “Boris Karlov” menacing June Collyer and Lloyd Hughes with maniacal glee.
Saturday Morning opened as usual with Cinevent’s annual animation program, which I unfortunately usually miss due to sleeping in and this year was no different. See my notes on LUXURY LINER (1933) which ran after lunch, which seemed to be a hit with the crowd. It was nice to finally get to see the beautiful print of THUNDER IN THE VALLEY (1947) properly presented after Birchard botched a showing of this same print at Cinecon several years ago, first by tossing it off to a small room off the Dealers rather than showing it in the Egyptian Theater (because, of course, who would want to see a stunning IB Tech printdown of a rare title Fox most-likely no longer has Technicolor materials on when it is (sniff, nose and pinky in air) a 16mm print?) then blowing it even further by last-minute projecting said theatrical density print on a machine with a 500 watt bulb making it look like it was shot during a total eclipse and power failure. With correct wattage behind it, THUNDER IN THE VALLEY is a beautiful-looking film version of Alfred Ollivant’s classic dog novel BOB, SON OF BATTLE, with Southern Utah filling in for Scotland but still supplying some terrific scenery. A good cast of Brit’s like Edmund Gwenn and Reginald Owen playing old laddies, and how many opportunities are there to see James Finlayson in Technicolor?
Saturday Evening brought the annual Charley Chase show, with four silents, ONE OF THE FAMILY (1924), HELLO BABY (1925), MANY SCRAPPY RETURNS (1927) and A ONE-MAMA MAN (1927) on tap which also got plenty of laughs from the crowd. The first two were early one-reelers from the Chase starring canon, fun in themselves but only hints of things to come, the last two were prime silent Chases, the first also featuring Anita Garvin and Eugene Pallette as bickering spouses, and the last one of Chase’s funniest shorts with Vernon Dent moonlighting away from the Sennett studios as the rival for Eugenia Gilbert’s hand and Gale Henry as an eccentric woman who goes comatose every time a bell rings.
We were then treated to a mini-festival we coined the “Thelma Todd goes bad” double-feature, first, the 1933 Liberty Production TAKE THE STAND, being re-premiered in its last month of rarity before the Alpha DVD of it comes out, I could have waited for the DVD so I could utilize the fast-forward on a film that promises much, good cast of stalwarts like Jack LaRue, Gail Patrick, Berton Churchill, Leslie Fenton, Jason Robards Sr., and of course, the delectable Thelma in a mystery based on an Earl Derr Biggers story, but this was one of Director Phil Rosen’s ten-day wonders and he was shooting reel-long takes to get all that talk in the can and that’s basically all we got, reels and reels of talk, and Thelma didn’t even wear anything slinky.
The next feature made up for all previously lacking, this time we got Thelma bad and slinky as the main villain’s moll in the 1927 Universal feature THE SHIELD OF HONOR, she was having a high old time struttin’ her stuff in this non-stop thriller from silent action specialist Emory Johnson. Johnson could pack thrills into an FBO budget, but now working at Universal for Johnson was like tripling the money he had spent on his independent features, so SHIELD positively crackles with burning airplanes, exploding buildings, last-minute rescues, all in sparkling red tints from the Show-at-Home original shown. With Phil Carli also burning up the ivories, this was a barnstormer not to be missed, definitely one of the highlights of the Fest.
Sunday Morning started with two rare Paramount Zane Grey talkies, HERITAGE OF THE DESERT (1932) and MAN OF THE FOREST (1933), both early Henry Hathaway helmings and Randolph Scott starrers that were very pleasant ways to start the day. I preferred FOREST slightly over HERITAGE, but this was because of the cast, which included Harry Carey and Noah Beery Sr. in all his scenery-chewing glory, though both were enjoyable films. THE SQUEAKER (MURDER ON DIAMOND ROW) (1937) is a fun British Edgar Wallace thriller, with Edmund Lowe as a detective going after said Squeaker who is a master jewel thief and fence. Another beautiful Show-at-Home print of a fun Hoot Gibson western, THE PRARIE KING (1928) followed, and after dinner, it was fun to see Olsen and Johnson’s HELLZAPOPPIN (1941) with an appreciative crowd.
Monday morning, the only film we saw was SAN FRANCISCO DOCKS a 1941 Universal programmer with some odd casting decisions, Robert Armstrong as the Priest, Barry Fitzgerald as the Dock Worker? Well, they were calling for a tough priest, ready to rock and sock `em as well as save their souls, and Barry was just never the rock`em, sock `em type. With that we bade farewell to Cinevent 47, feeling much better about things than we came in, the best news being that Cinevent will continue, renewed in its new and wonderful venue, we will miss Steve Haynes, but the show he heroically ran along with the late Dave Snyder and John Stingley will remain, as tributes to their memory and all the hard work and enjoyment they gave us through the years. Here’s to them and to Cinevent 48!
RICHARD M ROBERTS
SOUND MOVIE MAIN is the spot to discuss non-comedy SOUND films. Go figure.
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