Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Passing around the hat (#3 in a continuing series)

Back in October of last year, I had a post up on the blog concerning a project at, in which Sam Nelson—son of Ricky and grandson of Ozzie & Harriet—was raising funds to restore all 435 episodes of his nana and papa’s classic TV sitcom (The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet) to DVD.  Like most of your public television pleas for money, the project had several tiers at which you could pledge…and I’m pleased that my contribution netted me some nice goodies, one of which was a T-shirt with the sitcom’s logo imprinted on it that my mother wears often, much to the amusement of the staff at Publix.

As someone who’s made classic film, TV, old-time radio and other nostalgic forms of entertainment a passion during my brief stay on this planet, I’m always enthusiastic about kicking in some money in kitties (and I don’t mean in the feline sense) if and when I have two nickels to rub together.  (The joke around our house goes: “Money is no object…mostly because we don’t have any.”)  But a search of the couch cushions here at Rancho Yesteryear recently turned up some spare coinage that allowed me to donate to another Kickstarter project that will be of interest to both silent comedy fans and students of film preservation.

Ben Model is a name that I’ve mentioned a time or two on the blog; he’s a film historian and filmmaker, as well as one of the USA’s leading silent film accompanists.  A small list of his credits would include…well, if you own a copy of Shout! Factory’s Ernie Kovacs Collection you’ve seen his name on it (he was the curator of that box set), he also curates/produces the Museum of Modern Art’s annual Cruel and Unusual Comedy retrospective and for the past fourteen years has produced (as co-founder) NYC’s Silent Clowns Film Festival.  He asked me for a solid some time back when he came across a review I did for the 1970 Robert Youngson compilation film 4 Clowns (he needed a copy of it), and in return he sent me a DVD of the 1920 Lon Chaney film The Penalty, complete with his own personally composed score.  Not to put too a fine point on it…he’s good people in my book.

As a film historian, Ben has also amassed a rather impressive collection of silent films on 16mm…and in many instances, these prints are all that’s remaining of the originals.  He’s initiated a Kickstarter project to produce a DVD for classic film buffs that will, as he nicely puts it, “get these films out of cans and onto peoples' screens so they can be enjoyed and studied.”  The movies will feature HD transfers and new musical scores, and will also be put on YouTube for future generations of film fans to enjoy.

The project—titled “Accidentally Preserved”—has set a goal of raising $3,600 to produce a DVD that will contain 8-9 of these rare and/or lost silent classics…and with two weeks left to go, he’s $3,065 in as of this writing.  Ben recently e-mailed the backers to let them know that three of the films on the DVD will be one-reel “Cameo” comedies (the title that the Educational Pictures studio used for their one-reelers; their two-reelers were known as the “Mermaid” comedies) featuring the talents of Cliff Bowes, Wallace Lane (brother of Lupino Lane) and future Columbia second banana Monty (Monte) Collins.  Ben’s “reasonably certain” that these films constitute the only surviving copies of these treasures from the past.

As always—every little bit helps…and there’s several tiers for people to donate.  If this project is successful (and with your help, it’s practically a shoo-in) there’s a darn good chance that future volumes would also be produced—and Ben’s connections with other silent film collectors would insure that the material for these discs consist of true cinematic treasures.  If you can contribute, I urge you to do so—and when you do, be sure to mention my name. (It won’t do you any good, of course, but it helps to spread my name around.)

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