The Egyptian Theater is the home of the American Cinematheque, but a few times a year the space is used for other film festivals. Over Labor Day weekend, I was able to attend some of Cinecon, which hosted it’s 49th event at the Egyptian. Cinecon is an intense, five-day festival that features rarely screened classic films, mostly from the silent period, but there were plenty of sound films as well.
To put it in perspective, at this past year’s TCM Classic Film Festival, I saw 10 films over the three days. I saw 8 in one day of Cinecon, and I skipped two films. There’s a good chance that anyone attending the full festival will see over 50 movies during the weekend. Granted, many are shorts, but a four-hour block can feel a lot longer when there’s a mix of shorts and features versus two features back-to-back. There is a lunch and dinner break every day, so that gives festival participants time to stretch their legs and get a bite to eat, which is nice.
My favorite movie of the day was Suddenly It’s Spring, a Mitchell Leisen film starring Fred MacMurray and Paulette Goddard from 1947. Goddard and MacMurray play a husband and wife lawyer team who have been separated while Goddard’s character served in the WACs. She’s a marital relations expert, helping to keep servicemen and women together with their non-military spouses. The kicker is that she and her own husband have been separated, and he wants a divorce as soon as possible so he can marry his mistress. It’s a comedy of re-marriage, but with the usual Leisen light touch and MacMurray and Goddard are both great. This film screened at the TCM Classic Film Festival as well this past spring, and I was happy to have a chance to see it this time around as many had mentioned how delightful it is.
Other highlights for me that Saturday were seeing Jane Withers in person after a screening of The Holy Terror, which starred Withers and a young Tony Martin (billed as Anthony Martin). There was also an interesting Gene Raymond/Francis Drake film called Transient Lady, which was a odd courtroom drama about a lawyer defending an innocent man in a murder trial, and the lynch mob mentality. Set in the South, it definitely was not subtle, there were ridiculous stereotypes, and honestly was all over the place, but there were elements of the film that were thought-provoking.
All the silent films were accompanied live by several different piano players, so that was a treat as well. My favorite of the silent films I saw was The Good Bad Man with Douglas Fairbanks. He plays an outlaw called Passin’ Through who is called to put aside his thieving ways to help a town under the oppression of a bandit and his gang. Of course this villain also has ties to Passin’ Through’s past. It was my first time seeing Fairbanks since I honestly don’t watch a ton of silent films, and I was drawn in by his charm. He really has a lot of charisma on screen.
Overall I’d say I enjoyed my one day at Cinecon, but I don’t know if I’d be able to do the full weekend. For the price (the full pass was just over $100 and the day pass was $30), it really is a great deal when you consider how much you get to see. Granted, you start to realize that some of these movies haven’t been seen for a while because they’re not great films. But there is definitely a high chance you’ll see at least a few really solid films each day, and there are plenty of surprises that you wouldn’t get to see at a more mainstream festival. Also, there’s the dealer’s room set up in the Loew’s Hollywood Hotel. If you love movie memorabilia, it’s a really dangerous place to be because it’s packed with dealers selling photos, lobby cards, posters and all sorts of classic movie-related treasures.
So if you’re wanting to get off the beaten path of film festivals a little bit, Cinecon is definitely worth the money. Many of the festival goers are repeat visitors, so it’s also a great way to see friends every year. While I may not get a full weekend pass next year, I’ll definitely be making a trip back to catch a day or two of films.