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Cinecon 51 refocuses on film, with Stooges, Arbuckle, Laurel and Hardy rarities

Cinecon 51 refocuses on film, with Stooges, Arbuckle, Laurel and Hardy rarities
"'Myrt and Marge' is the last Three Stooges film that is not readily available," says Cinecon Vice President Stan Taffel. (Alex Film Society)

A seldom-seen Three Stooges comedy, one of the few surviving Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle feature comedies and a new print of an Oscar-winning Laurel and Hardy short are among the hot tickets at this year's Cinecon Classic Film Festival.

The 51st edition of the vintage movie celebration kicks off Sept. 3 at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood and continues through Labor Day. Although the program also includes a movie memorabilia show for serious collectors at the Loews Hollywood Hotel, noticeably missing this year is the Cinecon banquet honoring the personalities of yesterday.

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"This year is kind of an experiment," said film historian and Cinecon President Robert Birchard, adding that the banquet is challenging to stage. "We deliberately decided to concentrate on the films to see what kind of reaction we get to that kind of programming."

Cinecon Vice President Stan Taffel, a film and TV archivist-historian, noted the event is "first and foremost a film festival." This year, he said, Cinecon has an "enormous" number of films.

One highlight is the Sept. 5 evening screening of "Myrt and Marge," a 1933 film based on the popular CBS radio soap opera. The movie featured Ted Healy and the Three Stooges — Moe Howard, Curly Howard and Larry Fine, billed as Howard, Fine and Howard.

"'Myrt and Marge,'" Taffel said, is "the last of the Three Stooges films that is not readily available. It's a brand-new restoration put together by our friends at Universal. We are the very first people who will be screening it."

And it's a film that hasn't made it to DVD, he said.

"It's about two women in show business," Birchard said. "It's a great vehicle for Ted Healy and the Stooges. They are seen throughout the film. Because it's such an early sound film, they don't add sound effects when the Stooges poke and slap each other!"

Bill Cassara, author of the 2014 biography "Nobody's Stooge: Ted Healy," will be introducing the film at the festival.

Also set for Sept. 5 are two Laurel and Hardy comedies: the 1932 Oscar-winning short "The Music Box" and their 1943 feature "Jitterbugs."

'"The Music Box' we are running is a brand-new print UCLA made," Taffel said. "It's from the original nitrate camera negative. So [audiences] are going to see 'The Music Box' like they have never seen it before."

Cinecon has shown Harold Lloyd's 1927 feature classic "The Kid Brother" before, but the comic legend's granddaughter Sue Lloyd has in her personal collection "a 35mm print of the film that was taken from Harold Lloyd's personal 35mm nitrate," Taffel said. Sue Lloyd, who has screened a lot of her grandfather's films at Cinecon, is pulling the print out of her personal storage for the festival.

Five years ago at Cinecon, filmmaker and film historian Paul E. Gierucki screened his restoration of "A Thief Catcher," an early Charlie Chaplin film in which he appears in a non-Tramp role. Gierucki discovered it at an antiques show in Michigan. This year, he's returning with three Arbuckle restorations.

Gierucki, head of restorations for the production company CineMuseum, is premiering the digital restorations of two shorts that the rotund comic made with Buster Keaton — 1918's "The Bellboy" and 1920's "The Garage" — as well as the digital restoration of the 1920 Arbuckle feature comedy "The Round-Up." (All three will appear on an upcoming DVD set "The Arbuckle Anthology.")

"There is actually only one surviving print that has been stored at the Library of Congress," Gierucki said of "The Round-Up." The Library of Congress preserved the materials, but this marks the first digital restoration.

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"We have been collaborating for the past few months with Paramount Pictures," Gierucki said. "They own the materials. The wonderful people at the Paramount archive wanted to help us, and they bent over backward and provided us with access to the material."

The result, Gierucki said, is stunning.

"Besides looking beautiful, it's a fantastic film," he said. "Arbuckle was in transition at that point. A lot of people say [his features] weren't particularly good. I beg to differ. He was moving away from slapstick and looking to move toward some more dramatic roles hoping to carve a spot for himself similar to what Doug Fairbanks was doing."

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Cinecon 51

Where: Egyptian Theatre, 6712 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood

When: Sept. 3 through 7

Highlights: "The Call of the Wild," 1923 adaptation of Jack London's tale produced by Hal Roach; "Synthetic Sin," a recently discovered 1929 Colleen Moore comedy; "M'Liss," a 1918 Mary Pickford drama; "So This Is Harris!," a risqué, Oscar-winning 1933 musical-comedy short with Phil Harris; "Pier 13," a 1940 B-movie mystery starring Cinecon fave Lynn Bari; "And the Angels Sing," a 1944 musical-comedy starring Betty Hutton, Fred MacMurray and Dorothy Lamour and featuring the hit "His Rocking Horse Ran Away"

Admission: $30 for a day pass, $120 for the entire festival

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