Cinecon film festival unearths some old treasures

Anna May Wong, left, Akim Tamiroff and Gail Patrick Courtesy in "Dangerous to Know" from 1938.
(NBC Universal)

The classic film festival Cinecon prides itself on presenting vintage movies that have been forgotten over the decades.

And the 48th annual edition, which runs Thursday through Monday at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood, has some delicious flicks just waiting to be rediscovered. Among the highlights:

“Always a Bridesmaid” (1943) is a low-budget musical, starring the Andrews Sisters, Patric Knowles and Charles Butterworth, about a Lonely Hearts Club that is a front for a con game.

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“Hello, Everybody” (1933) is a musical-drama with radio sensation Kate Smith as a plain farmgirl who loves to sing. Randolph Scott plays the man she loves, but he is smitten with her sister.

“Ladies’ Night in a Turkish Bath” (1928) stars Jack Mulhall, James Finlayson and Dorothy Mackaill. The comedy is about two men who seek solace in a Turkish bath after escaping arrest in a speak-easy police raid.

“Love Under Fire,” (1937) is a screwball comedy thriller with Loretta Young and Don Ameche set against the Spanish Civil War.

“Dangerous to Know” (1938) is a “B” noir starring Akim Tamiroff as a racketeer, Anna May Wong as his mistress and Gail Patrick as the woman he falls in love with but can’t control.


“Everybody has heard of ‘Gone With the Wind’ and ‘Casablanca,’ but there are a lot of other good movies that have been made and usually forgotten,” said Cinecon President Robert S. Birchard.

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To be sure, the festival does have a few well-known titles, including 1937’s Laurel and Hardy classic “Way Out West,” Harold Lloyd’s 1924 “Hot Water” and Cary Grant’s last film, 1966’s “Walk, Don’t Run,” which also stars Cinecon special guest Samantha Eggar.

But Birchard said programming the festival is an act of faith because the board usually has seen less than half the films screening in any given year.


“We are going by instinct and hope that the cumulative effects will be entertaining and worthwhile,” said Birchard.

Cinecon also has developed a strong working relationship with major archives, including the Academy Film Archive, UCLA Film and Television Archive and Library of Congress, and studios such as 20th Century Fox, Sony and NBCUniversal.

“When the studios are screening their new restorations, we get invited and get to pick and choose as the projects get completed at the studios,” he said.

Stan Taffel, who is vice president of Cinecon, is especially excited about some of the short films screening, including “Billy and His Pal,” which was one of the U.S. films found in the New Zealand Archives two years ago.


“Billy” was directed by Gaston Méliès — the brother of Georges — at the Star Film Ranch in San Antonio around 1911. Only five of the 70 short films produced at the ranch still exist. Cinecon member Frank Thompson donated the money for its restoration.

Another gem is the 1924 Mack Sennett short “The Hollywood Kid,” which is part of a Sennett centennial tribute Monday afternoon presented by film historian and preservationist Paul Gierucki.

“It really shows a very detailed look behind the scenes of Mack Sennett’s studios,” said Taffel. “You even see Mack Sennett in the film.”

Tributes to celebrity guests that include screenings, Q&As; and a banquet, which this year is Sunday evening at the Loews Hollywood Hotel, are festival mainstays. Honoree Carleton Carpenter, the 86-year-old actor-singer-dancer-composer-writer, was under contract to MGM in the early 1950s but left the studio to return to Broadway.


Carpenter is best known for singing the hit “Aba Daba Honeymoon” with Debbie Reynolds in 1950’s “Two Weeks With Love.” Cinecon will also show 1952’s “Fearless Fagan,” a true tale about a circus clown who takes his pet lion to boot camp. It is Carpenter’s first starring role.

“Fearless Fagan” was the first film directed by Stanley Donen after “Singin’ in the Rain.” “I loved him,” said Carpenter. And he recalled he generally had a good time working with his four-legged costar.

“They put heavy cardboard under my uniform and my sleeves so he could jump up and put his teeth in me,” said Carpenter. “But any time I was walking away from him, he would come up and nip me on the behind.”

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