Second Time Around

Silent Film Festival
This Sunday, as it commemorates its 75th birthday, the Castro Theater turns over its big screen to the second edition of the Silent Film Festival, last year's screening of Ben Hur et al. having gone so well. This weekend we are offered four films, any one of which would make any self-respecting film buff's day.

Mary Pickford's personal print of The Poor Little Rich Girl (1917; 11:30 a.m.) is the rarest item being screened. Pickford was very chary about letting her films circulate when she was alive, although now more screenings and even videos are promised us. “The girl with the curls” is just a name in a book to most people, just one reason why The Poor Little Rich Girl should be essential viewing: It helped fix her image at age 12 for the rest of her life. A master of silent film chiaroscuro, Maurice Tourneur, directed. Of the other three films, Monta Bell's Upstage (1926; 2:15 p.m.) is a smooth vehicle for a very different star, elegant Norma Shearer. Harold Lloyd's brand of perpetual-motion slapstick is well-showcased in Doctor Jack (Fred Newmeyer, 1922; 4:45 p.m.) as he endeavors to cure a “sick little well girl,” Mildred Davis, latterly Lloyd's wife. The long day closes with Erich von Stroheim's one successful big studio production, The Merry Widow (1925; 8 p.m.), just the right mix of Viennese decadence as served up by von Stroheim, and MGM schmaltz as provided by Irving Thalberg. John Gilbert and the impossibly bee-stung Mae Murray star. All films will have live piano or Mighty Wurlitzer accompaniment, and be introduced by special guests. For The Poor Little Rich Girl, Mary Pickford Foundation chief Keith Lawrence; for Upstage, the Chron's Mick LaSalle and author Mark Vieira, who just wrote a book on Hollywood glamour photographer George Hurrell; for Doctor Jack, theater historian Steve Levin, who'll give a talk about the grand Castro; and for The Merry Widow, organist extraordinaire Dennis James, who'll play with the film as well.

— Gregg Rickman

The Silent Film Festival screens at the Castro, 429 Castro (at Market), all day on Sunday, July 13. Tickets are $8 per film, $10 for The Merry Widow. Call 621-6120.

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