Sunday, March 29, 2009

Nazimova Slept Here

Or not. What I do know, is that Alla Nazimova has a connection to my hometown that I never knew!

This weekend, a friend and I went to The University of Akron's Hower House for an antiques fair. The home, a gorgeous Victorian Italianate home (complete with tower and mansard roof -- my dream house) was built by John Henry Hower, who owned one of the city's early mower and reaper works.

The Howers, being very prominent citizens, were quite Victorian in that they were well-travelled, literate, and cultured. They were hosts to not only the city's elite but appear to have cultivated theatrical connections, as well, as evidenced by the framed signatures in the ballroom.

Yes, the third floor contains the obligatory mansion ballroom, complete with separate picture gallery, lounge, and kitchen. Prominently displayed in the ballroom were small pieces of paper, nicely framed into three sets, of what I would guess to be about 100 signatures of actors and other prominent folks.

A few I recognized: Otis Skinner, Lew Fields...and Alla Nazimova, whose card was signed and dated 1909. Very surprising, to say the least!

I wonder if she stayed in the mansion as a guest, or in one of the hotels. I also wonder if she was appearing in a Cleveland or Akron production, or was "just passing through." I will have to do some research on that.

In the meantime, here a few links on Alla (but mostly her famed "Garden of Allah:"

I'll add these links to At the Movies sometime this week.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Warner Bros. Vaults

Exciting news: Warner Bros. has cracked open their vaults and have released many never-before-released silents now available on DVD.

Their Web site is a little wonky; if you click the link above it's supposed to take you to the "Films By Decade/20's" section, but some of the films on that page are NOT from the 20s. So, I would suggest rooting around a bit to see if you can find more than what they list.

Exciting for me: Many of Garbo's early silents are now available, including Love, The Temptress, The Single Standard, and Wild Orchids.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

New Project from David Chase

Here's something interesting: According to the ArtsBeat blog on, Sopranos creator David Chase will be creating a new mini-series for HBO centered on the early days of the movie industry.

Called "Ribbon of Dreams," according to the blog the series:
"...would follow two characters through the birth and development of the American motion picture industry. The two protagonists, a mechanical engineer and a cowboy, will begin working for D.W. Griffith, and encounter the likes of John Wayne, Bette Davis and Billy Wilder as they rise through the business."

I am never usually fond of historical fictionalizations (see, "Chaplin"), but who knows? Maybe it will interest more people in the silent era. (And I did love The Sopranos.)

Sunday, March 15, 2009

NYT Review of Faust

The New York Times has a wonderful review of Kino's recently restored deluxe edition of Faust.

Again, kudos to the Critic's Choice columnists for never failing to include silents!

postscript: It's been a while since I've posted, but I've recently started a new job which has kept me very occupied. Look for postings to resume on a more regular basis this month!