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Critic’s Choice: New docs on old movies reveal film history

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An image from the documentary “The Champion: A Story of America’s First Film Town.”
(Milestone Film & Video)
Film Critic

New films about old movies are a particular passion of mine, and two new documentaries on DVD are welcome additions to the genre.

“The Champion: A Story of America’s First Film Town,” released by Milestone, tells the oldest of these stories, engagingly detailing how Fort Lee, N.J., of all places, became a pre-Hollywood center of moviemaking starting in 1910. The DVD package also has five early silents made in Fort Lee, including the first American film version of “Robin Hood.”

Situated closer to home is “The Lost City of Cecil B. DeMille,” detailing a pair of fascinating and intertwined stories. First, how legendary director DeMille came to both build and bury an enormous City of the Pharaoh set in the Guadalupe sand dunes north of Santa Barbara; and then how filmmakers Peter Brosnan and Bruce Cardoza spent decades trying to find it.

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kenneth.turan@latimes.com

@KennethTuran


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