Mar 18, 2011 Russ Tarby Uncategorized
Every year as the spring equinox rolls around, the Syracuse Cinephile Society rolls its projectors over to the Holiday Inn on Electronics Park in Salina where nearly 500 vintage film fans from all over the world turn out for its annual Cinefest.
While the classic movie buffs get their fill of forgotten film stars such as Zasu Pitts, DeWolf Hopper and Gilda Gray, Syracuse hoteliers and restaurateurs fill their cash registers with boffo bucks.
Famished film fans
Cinefest attendees regularly patronize Liverpool-area restaurants such as The Retreat, the Gardenview Diner and Santangelo’s. A few “in the know” globetrotters even stand in line at Heid’s for franks and coneys.
And since the Holiday Inn is already filled up with 350 or so pre-registered Cinefesters, the other 150 or so who turn out this Thursday will sack out at other area motels on Electronic Parkway or Buckley Road and 7th North Street.
The Syracuse Convention and Visitors Bureau applies a formula used by the International Association of Convention and Visitors Bureaus which estimates that those who attend such events spend an average of $231 per day in the area. If that’s anywhere near accurate, the Cinefest should generate more than $450,000.
Next time some party pooper tries to tell you that the arts aren’t worthy of government and corporate support, drop that persuasive factoid into the conversation.
Silents and talkies
Founded in 1980 by the late Phil Serling, Cinefest is now into its third decade here. Cinefest 31 – which runs from 9 a.m. Thursday March 17 through 5 p.m. Sunday March 20 – will screen silent films such as “Music in the Air” starring Gloria Swanson and “What Price Glory” starring Victor McLaglen. Many of the silents will be accompanied by pianists just as they were in pre-sound theaters.
Besides the dialogue-less oldies, Cinefest 31 will screen early talkies like 1941’s “Hellzapoppin'” with Martha Raye, 1931’s “Alice in Wonderland” with Ruth Gilbert and 1932’s “The Phantom President” with George M. Cohan.
Several of the scheduled flicks give viewers a chance to see big stars early in their careers. For instance, “Music in the Air” is a 1927 silent starring Gloria Swanson, “The Wolf Song” is a 1929 talkie featuring a young Gary Cooper, and “The Fall Guy” stars Oliver Hardy before he partnered full-time with Stan Laurel.
“What truly makes Cinefest unique among film festivals,” says Cinephile spokesman Gerry Orelando, “is that the vintage films being presented are rare titles which can’t be found on television or commercially-released DVDs. Many of our films are one-of-a-kind prints which haven’t been publicly seen in decades.”
Scandalous ‘Temple Drake’
On Saturday March 19, the film fanatics will bus down to Eastwood’s Palace Theater for a showing of six 35mm films including 1933’s “The Story of Temple Drake” starring Miriam Hopkins and 1923’s “Jazzmania” starring Mae Murray. Despite its title, “Jazzmania” has almost nothing to do with jazz – after all, it’s silent! – but it does feature some of the most provocative attire worn by an actress in film up to that time.
If you had to pick only one of Cinefest 31’s four-dozen films and shorts to see, you’d be wise to choose the scandalous “Temple Drake” at 1 p.m. Saturday at the Palace. The Pre-Code film focuses on a flirtatious Southern belle whose outrageous behavior gets her in Dutch with a band of bootleggers. Based on William Faulkner’s novel “Sanctuary,” the movie directed by Stephen Roberts features one of Miriam Hopkins’ most memorable roles as it builds to a breathless climax.
Admission to the Palace program – which begins at 8:30 a.m. and lasts until late-afternoon – costs $25. Registration for all four days of Cinefest 31 costs $75, or $25 per day; 468-6147; syracusecinefest.com.
Maltin hawks memorabilia
Back at the Holiday Inn, movie memorabilia vendors will fill four dealer rooms to sell film-related items from the 1920s through the 1980s, including books, DVDs, posters and lobby cards, photo stills and 16mm films. Admission to the dealers’ rooms only on Saturday costs $5, which will be applied to any item purchased.
The festival concludes Sunday, March 20 with a few final screenings including 1936’s “The Great Barrier” with Lilli Palmer and a memorabilia auction conducted by “Entertainment Tonight” critic Leonard Maltin at 10:30 a.m.
For a complete schedule of screenings, visit syracusecinefest.com.