Charlie Was My Co-Pilot

by Gary Meyer

Robert Youngston’s When Comedy Was King  (1960) played the Uptown Theatre in Napa and featured the antics of Charlie Chaplin, among others.  I didn’t know one could laugh so hard.  That’s when I realized there was a history to the movies.  Starved for more, I couldn’t believe my pre-teen eyes when Silents Please appeared on TV with 25-minute versions of the great silent movies.  Another TV show, Fractured Flickers (1963) used clips from mostly silent movies with a new narration for comic effect created by Jay Ward (Rocky and Bullwinkle).  It ran for one season and while purists have criticized it, the show provided developing cineastes images we hungered to see.  Continue reading

Revisiting Walter Kerr’s THE SILENT CLOWNS

by Lincoln Spector

This Saturday night, November 14, the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum will screen the remarkable Raymond Griffith vehicle and Civil War comedy, Hands Up! An almost-always dapper and unflappable gentleman, Griffith could get into the most bizarre situations and get out of them again with seeming ease. And if memory serves (I haven’t seen the film in decades), Hands Up! is a minor gem. Continue reading

Charlie Chaplin Days

By Gary Meyer

The pure joy audiences experienced last weekend at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival will be extended this weekend in the small East Bay town of Niles where the annual Charlie Chaplin Days will take place all day Saturday and Sunday, June 6-7 with film screenings, art exhibits, contests and a Chaplin Look-A-Like Competition to celebrate the 100 Anniversary of the comic creating great comedy here. Continue reading

Chaplin’s Mutual Comedies: A 5-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Collection of 12 Restored Films From the Blackhawk Films Collection, Presented by Flicker Alley

by Michael Covino

In the newly restored comedies that Charlie Chaplin made for Mutual Films in 1916 and 1917, Chaplin has rarely looked better—in fact, probably not since 1916 and ‘17. The Mutual two-reelers followed his stints at Keystone, where in 1914 Chaplin introduced the baggy-trousered, mustachioed Tramp with the bowler and the cane,  and then at Essanay, where he made his first great comedic short, The Tramp . Continue reading

Niles: The Town that Gave Hollywood a Run for its Money

by Michael Covino

For a few bright heady years–-1913 to 1915–-the small East Bay town of Niles, about 20 miles south of Oakland, looked like it might offer Hollywood competition as the budding movie capital of the West. A sleepy agricultural town, it was awakened in 1869 when the transcontinental railroad arrived, surveyors having determined that scenic Niles Canyon afforded the best route through the East Bay Hills and into the San Francisco Bay Area.  Continue reading