Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Shadows Fade: Last Night of TCM Fest Brings My Son John

All right, so if you recorded absolutely nothing else for this festival, My Son John, at 8 pm EST, is the one to take a look at. Leo McCarey's impassioned anti-communist film is half a great movie, and better than you think it will be, I'll wager. Even the second half, cobbled together from Strangers on a Train outtakes after Robert Walker's terrible death, has its moments.

And if the Siren's word isn't good enough for you, there's someone else recommending it too.

The late, great Robin Wood had a piercingly accurate take on this film's great and not-great moments, here in a Google Books excerpt.

Vince of Carole & Co. has posted a preview at his Carole & Co. blog

John McElwee's piece at Greenbriar Picture Shows is well worth revisiting.
And my comrade-in-programming Lou Lumenick has posted his own complete rundown at his New York Post blog.

And for the rest of the evening, TCM is winding up things with a barrage that goes well into the wee hours. The other films are:

I Was a Communist for the FBI at 10 pm. The Siren found this one a chore, but if you're a Frank Lovejoy fan it's a must.

A short called Four Minute Fever (1956), which wasn't on our shortlist and which I haven't seen, but I am eager to check it out.

The Manchurian Candidate, the greatest of all Cold War paranoia thrillers, at midnight.

The Bedford Incident; the Siren saw this as a youngter deeply infatuated with Sidney Poitier. She still is, actually. At 2:15 am.

Scarlet Dawn (1932), which the Siren is dying to catch for the underrated Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and Nancy Carroll, with whom she is criminally unfamiliar.

The Doughgirls (1944), at 5:15 am. I know nothing about this one, but all I need to know is Jack Carson and Eve Arden are in it.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

In Memoriam: Jean Simmons, 1929-2010

In the Sirens mind, there is a triangle of aristocratic mid-century actresses, one that goes Europe-America-Britain — Hepburn, Kelly, Simmons. Jean Simmons, who has died in California, age 80, is the apex. Alas for the Hollywood in my head, Simmons isn’t a household name like the other two. But her filmography is packed with layered and intelligent performances as well as darkly ambiguous characters the likes of which the other two ladies, great as they were, never dared.

Simmons began as a child actress, an excellent one. The Siren hasn’t seen much of her juvenile work but like everyone else she's seen Great Expectations, and Simmons was fine as the young Estella, wounding and luring young Pip. In Black Narcissus her body makeup was the one false note in the masterpiece, but as the sensual, predatory serving girl Simmons put it all into her movements and snake-charmer eyes. In Hamlet, James Agee said she was “the only person in the picture who gives every one of her lines the bloom of poetry and the immediacy of ordinary life.” She earned an Oscar nomination as Best Supporting Actress, and Hollywood was interested, but she was still under contract in Britain and continued to make films there.

She made the 1949 version of The Blue Lagoon and if the Siren’s memory is to be trusted, that one was no less silly than the remake, although Simmons worked valiantly. Much better was the beloved So Long at the Fair, a mystery-romance centered on the old legend of a disappearance at the Paris Exposition of 1889. There are many reasons to cherish this atmospheric, dreamy movie. For one thing, the sinister Parisians who take turns gaslighting poor Vicky (Simmons) fit neatly with the perception one can get of customer service in that city. But more credit goes to Simmons, who displayed her signature ability to yank a damsel-in-distress role out of mothballs and make the girl seem courageous, intelligent and worth saving.

Simmons had her own distress in the early years of adult success. There was her romance with Stewart Granger, who left his wife for her in 1950, causing anxiety for Simmons and her employers in those sterner times. She weathered the Granger publicity, then endured a long series of contract disputes that held up her career and occasionally forced her into parts she didn’t want. Rank, the studio that had the actress under contract, averted their eyes as Hollywood beckoned, casting Simmons in pictures that did well at the box office, if not always with critics. (But the Siren loves most of her work from this era, including Uncle Silas, The Clouded Yellow and Cage of Gold.) Finally, as Granger prepared to go to MGM, Simmons was permitted to go with him as Rank loaned her to RKO for Androcles and the Lion.

The Siren thinks she’s charming as Lavinia, but the movie must have been a bad memory for Simmons. The filming dragged on and on, she couldn’t take any of the offers pouring in, and then Rank sold her contract to RKO with just six months left to go. RKO, then being run into the ground by Howard Hughes, claimed she made an oral agreement to stay on. Simmons said she did no such thing, and indeed it seems unlikely as Hughes made his sexual interest in the newlywed vulgarly obvious. She was so miserable that in his memoirs Granger claimed the couple discussed the advisability of pushing Hughes off the cliff near their home. Instead, she agreed to do three more films and in a fortunate move for everyone, not least Simmons’ fans, she made Angel Face.

Robert Mitchum biographer Lee Server says Hughes hired Otto Preminger to direct the movie in hopes of making the leading lady’s life as difficult as possible: “I’m going to get even with that little bitch,” quoth the ever-gallant Hughes. Preminger was often brutal to his actors for the sheer hell of it. Given explicit encouragement by a studio boss he “absolutely, totally destroyed me,” Simmons said later. But she was no fragile Jean Seberg, thank goodness; when Hughes made one too many demands about her hairstyle she cut it all off and had to wear a wig during filming. A scene where Mitchum slapped Simmons resulted in the legendary moment when, after Preminger had done take after take, Simmons bearing each blow until her eyes watered from the pain, Mitchum turned around and slapped the director instead. But oh, the film they made. Simmons is magnificent, an evil, father-obsessed, psychopathic beauty to place beside and even eclipse Gene Tierney’s similar turn in Leave Her to Heaven. Simmons, so often cast as a schoolteacher or a missionary, takes her Black Narcissus sexiness and turns it full force on Mitchum’s chauffeur. Their erotic chemistry is as potent as any in film noir.

Hughes continued to be a putz, refusing to loan Simmons out for Roman Holiday. The RKO dispute landed in court and Simmons eventually won a qualified victory and the ability to work at other studios. At MGM she made Young Bess, a movie notable mostly for Charles Laughton’s return to his Henry VIII role (his scene with Simmons is the best in the movie) and for her fiery, willful Elizabeth, a girl you can easily see growing up to defeat an Armada. She made another film at RKO and then it was back to MGM to play The Actress, a role intended for Debbie Reynolds, who might have been pleasant, I suppose. Under George Cukor’s direction, Simmons turned it into the definitive portrait of stagestruck youth. Part of Simmons’ talent is that she never tries to signal the audience that she sees a character’s flaws — she plays foolishness straight up. She takes the girl beyond the acting bug into a place for all adolescent dreaming. It is one of Cukor’s best films and the Siren’s favorite Simmons role. But the movie did poorly, and David Shipman notes the ironic contrast with her next vehicle, in a verdict the Siren agrees with; “she was wan as the heroine of The Robe with Richard Burton, a tremendous success...[but] a rotten version of a rotten novel by Lloyd C. Douglas.”

The 1950s were Simmons’ years at the top, as she was cast in big-budget fare like Desiree and The Egyptian. Neither was very good, though the Siren gets plenty of pleasure from both. The Siren has little use for what Samuel Goldwyn and Joseph Mankiewicz did to Guys and Dolls, but no less an authority than Steven Sondheim called Jean’s joyous dance in Havana “a high point of the picture.” (In the 1970s, Simmons toured as Desiree in A Little Night Music and originated the role in London; she’s said to have been terrific.) The Siren does think Simmons is swell in a somewhat anemic, but enjoyable women’s picture, Until They Sail, about sisters in New Zealand experiencing World War II chiefly as man trouble.

Just after that, Simmons made The Big Country with William Wyler, who thought highly of her talent although he annoyed her as much as he did any other actor. The Siren cares not what others say of this movie, when she hears that music she sits and watches it all over again, yep, all three hours. Simmons, as she often did, had the hardest character of the lot, a well-bred orphan meant to be a battleground as vital as the movie’s Big Muddy watering hole. Instead she breathes such intelligence that certain less-plausible ideas, like courtly treatment from Burl Ives’ otherwise ruthless rancher, cause nary a flicker of disbelief. Of course he would defend this woman. Such is her radiant dignity, he might even lumber off his horse and bow. (He doesn’t, but he could have.)

The marriage with Stewart Granger began to fail, as marriage with Stewart Granger must, and Simmons made Elmer Gantry with Richard Brooks, who became her second husband. It was one of the finest roles of her career, an evangelist doomed by belief in her own cant. Simmons is remarkably free of any condescension to Sister Sharon, her conflicts or her beliefs. There haven’t been many performances like it since, as we live now in an age where we see a preacher address thousands and just assume there must be a Jim Bakker backstory somewhere. Incredibly, Simmons did not get an Oscar nomination though her work was as great as that of Burt Lancaster, who won.

She was professional as always in Spartacus, but while the movie is good and has acquired a devoted following, the Siren thinks Simmons’ part isn't particularly interesting. She gets a couple of chances to shine near the end, however. Her kiss for Laughton is so loving you feel his reaction may not be acting at all, and the moment where she sees Spartacus dying, and the camera stays and stays on her face, is the most heartbreaking in the movie.

Shipman says that around this time, “to protect this marriage and to bring up her children,” (she had one from each marriage) “she began to refuse work.” Simmons is darling in The Grass Is Greener, her giddy Mitford-esque flirt out-shining onetime Granger love Deborah Kerr. She was great again as the mother in All the Way Home, a beautiful movie based on Agee’s A Death in the Family that had an equally fine Robert Preston. But the downbeat story was a flop.

As the 1960s hurtled on, Simmons found her offers getting fewer and less interesting, as they do for most actresses with the nerve to get older. Her beauty was striking to the end, but what does that ever matter in Hollywood? The Siren hasn't seen much of her work past about 1967, including her Oscar-nominated role in Brooks' The Happy Ending. The Siren did see her in The Thorn Birds; she was lovely. Simmons was always lovely, even in silly fare like North and South where her presence was like using a Stradivarius to play “Oops, I Did It Again.”

Joseph Mankiewicz called her “a fantastically talented and enormously underestimated girl. In terms of talent she is so many head and shoulders above most of her contemporaries, one wonders why she didn't become the great star she could have been.” He went on to theorize, “It doesn't matter to her much.” The Siren isn’t so sure; stardom means good parts, and those mattered a great deal to Simmons, enough to keep her working nearly her entire life. “Maybe it doesn't help to have been so good so young,” said Shipman. Well, Simmons deserved better from the movie business, as did so many actresses. But the Siren, a Jean Simmons admirer now and always, got much indeed from her.

(Please note: the beautiful picture at the bottom is copyright-held by the gentleman we know as Yojimboen. He took it himself, the lucky devil.)

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Shadows So Far (and Night Three Coming Up)

More on the TCM Shadows of Russia films so far. Big Hollywood is showing the Siren some love by assigning its best writer, Robert Avrech, to cover the series; his thoughts on Night One are here.

The Way We Were: "Is this movie," demanded Mr. N, "going to be one long tracking shot coming to rest on Robert Redford?" My beloved husband saw this--imagine--as a flaw. Well, there are a lot of those shots. Sydney Pollack was a good friend of Redford's and in this movie apparently he decided to use the actor the same way John Ford used Monument Valley. At one point Mr. N went upstairs and I called up, "They just tracked to Redford on a boat." "I knew it," came the retort from above, "I could hear the music starting up."

Still, the film holds up well. It's still romantic and touching, and the Siren still sniffled over it, unlike Love Story. The tracking shots are just the camera yearning like Barbra Streisand. When those shots come to rest on Redford's face, you see everything Hubbell is holding back from. As Katie Morosky, Streisand's sincerity is so naked you want to shout at her to play harder to get; she sells the love affair, and the political dedication as well. If David Ehrenstein is right, and Katie is a self-portrait by screenwriter Arthur Laurents, then Laurents is gifted with self-knowledge as well as talent. The movie is frank about how difficult it is to be around a person of profound beliefs and constant activism. When Hubbell says to Katie, half-resigned and half-incredulous, "You think you're easy? Compared to what, the Hundred Years' War?" you have to agree. And yet Gardiner squanders our sympathy as he squanders the richest parts of his life, leaving his baby girl in the hospital along with Katie, choosing television and a Gloria Upson blonde. "People are their principles," Katie snaps at him, and the movie is one long demonstration that she is right. She will always be the person at the party trying to shame those telling vicious jokes, and Gardiner will always be the one saying, "Why bother?"

Reds: Spirited discussion of Warren Beatty at Glenn's place at the moment, tied to Glenn's slog through Peter Biskind's biography. When the Siren first saw this movie she thought it magnificent. Upon re-watching she sees more flaws, although it still should not have lost the Oscar to Chariots of Fire. (It should have lost to Atlantic City, in case you're wondering.) Vittorio Storaro's cinematography hasn't aged a minute. The witnesses remain one of the most clever exposition devices ever, and their extraordinary faces make the Siren ponder the fact that features deeply scored by time are a rare sight in mainstream movies and always have been. As Robert Avrech pointed out, most of the interviewees didn't know Bryant and Reed personally, but they are meant to be witnesses to the era. And the movie's real romance is with that moment for the American left, that optimism for the cause. The characters regard their unattainable love object--a true workers' state--in the dreamy way all such loves are seen, flaws somehow pushed to the periphery.

Beatty plays Reed with self-deprecating humor and Jack Nicholson is as drily perfect as I remember him, a precisely controlled performance free from the Jack-ishness that overtook him later in the decade. Diane Keaton is, however, nerve-wracking for the first hour and in the early episodes her connection with Reed seems shallow, as indeed does the character. Comes the revolution, however, and they turn on the heat.

What the Siren likes best about Reds, aside from the witnesses, the beauty, Nicholson and the moving conclusion, are the parts that show the self-knowledge Reed doesn't possess. Reed talks in abstractions, his concrete moments are all tied to Bryant. Emma Goldman, a small part played with burning dedication by Maureen Stapleton, anchors the movie to reality. In her first scene she interrupts Reed to insist that birth control is no distraction, but rather something that will make an immediate difference to countless women; in one of her last scenes she tries to tell Reed what his longed-for revolution is about to become.

Spring Madness: A meringue, so light it does not linger. While Maureen O'Sullivan was much less tiresome than usual, with her mannerisms gone and some nice moments conveying young love, she did not convert the Siren to the "love" column. But hey, Burgess Meredith was amusing, and usually the Siren just stares at him and wonders what in the hell enabled this guy to land Paulette Goddard. Lew Ayres, an often fine actor and a man of principle to boot, was phoning it in, I am afraid. The good bits came from Ruth Hussey (velvet-voiced Ruth, as Exiled in New Jersey calls her), tossing off some lines worthy of Eve Arden--"Why, Mr. Thatcher, is that suspicion I see coming up in the dumbwaiter of your mind?" And also from Joyce Compton, playing the same daffy Southern belle she essayed in The Awful Truth. (The second-funniest scene in one of the funniest movies of the 1930s. Siren readers will know that the still is Compton in the McCarey film, but honestly it's the same character.) Compton is adorable here too, and gets the only line that refers to Russia as an ideology and not just an interesting choice for a postgraduate stint: "Say, is he a Communist, or just a meatball?"

Comrade X: A likable movie, one of the last of the screwball comedies, and of course it has Eve Arden which ups a film's coolness factor by--I will have to calculate, but it's a lot. And Eve plays an ex-girlfriend of Clark Gable's, a woman of the world and not the man-hungry spinster she often had to play. More bonus points.

The Siren saw it once before and thought it wasn't so hot. This time, she tried to look at the film on its own merits and not compare the script to Ninotchka, and found Comrade X quite entertaining. It has some problems, including a slapstick tank chase that doesn't quite come off and, more seriously, a mass-execution scene midway through (I describe it here in my Moving Image Source article) that just kills the funniness deader than Trotsky.

Comrade X does have King Vidor's direction and a bright performance from Hedy Lamarr, the best the Siren has seen from Lamarr outside of H.M. Pulham Esq. (also, and not coincidentally, a Vidor film). It has Clark Gable mouthing phony platitudes about the proletariat, a concept that Gable understands is so inherently funny it should be underplayed. It has Felix Bressart and some great lines, including a couple of sideswipes at Communism that are even more explicit than Ninotchka. (Bressart: "The communists have ideas. But they found out you can't run a government with everybody going around having ideas. So what is happening, the communists are being executed so that Communism should succeed.")

Tonight, it's Our Pals in the Red Army, with The North Star at 8 pm and, for those who missed the BAM screening and want to know what the fuss is about, Mission to Moscow at 10 pm. We then shift to Diplomatic Immunity, movies about Cold War espionage, with one movie the Siren is dying to see, The Kremlin Letter, at midnight and Conspirator with Taylor beauties Robert and Elizabeth, at 2 am. In an overnight slot at 4:15 am, TCM picked a movie not on our shortlist, Counter-Attack, with Paul Muni, to go back to the Red Army theme. The Siren was tickled to notice that that this is the movie on the background marquee as Barbra Streisand goes to work in the opening of The Way We Were. (And as if that wasn't enough cross-movie series coincidence, The North Star was Farley Granger's film debut.) Read my series co-conspirator Lou Lumenick's preview here at the New York Post.

Here also at the Post website is an edited version of Lou and me chatting with none other than Robert Osborne. I do not like how I look in the picture so scroll quickly to the interview, which contains clips from My Son John. If you aren't salivating to see that one, you should be.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Russians Are Still Coming

A gratifyingly large turnout for Mission to Moscow last night, and a lively panel discussion that was worthy of the movie, with all its surprises, historical interest, controversy and occasional loopiness. Glenn has his summary here, and Lou gives the lowdown here, along with Night 2 of the TCM Shadows of Russia festival. Ed Hulse was wonderful, putting the movie into its context within studio history and the war films being made at the time.

During her part of the panel discussion Siren spoke about the artists involved in making the film and offered some opinions about the drama and visuals. She lightly mentioned Ambassador Davies arriving on the Sea Cloud with his wife, heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post, and their stepdaughter. "That's not true!" barked a lady from the back. This lady was none other than Joseph Davies' real-life granddaughter, the offspring of the woman played in Mission to Moscow by gorgeous Eleanor Parker. She took the mike and gave some family background for a few minutes, including an explanation of her half-Belgian background and why the family brought an enormous shipment of Bird's Eye frozen food to Moscow, and handed the mike back to Lou with explaining her interruption. So the Siren had to ask, did the Sea Cloud go to Leningrad? The family didn't arrive on the Sea Cloud, the lady explained sternly; the famed yacht joined them in Leningrad later.

For tonight, the Siren hopes everyone who hasn't seen Comrade X will tune in. It suffers by comparison with the magnificent Ninotchka, which screens directly afterward, but Comrade X is surprisingly watchable, via the great King Vidor. It boasts one of Hedy Lamarr's better performances as well as a funny turn by Eve Arden as Clark Gable's spurned lover and some unexpectedly sharp barbs.

Ninotchka--well, the Siren doesn't have to talk anyone into that one, does she? According to Wilder biographer Ed Sikov, William Powell was originally cast opposite Garbo, but he got sick and couldn't do it. The role was then offered to Cary Grant (he'd have been swell) and Gary Cooper (nope) and finally came to rest with Melvyn Douglas who was, of course, perfect.

The Way We Were was written up by James Wolcott in Vanity Fair some time back with customary panache. David Ehrenstein once stated in this blog's comments that he thinks Arthur Laurents was chronicling his own love for Farley Granger, a theory that, for the Siren, adds an extra bit of interest to the film.

Overnight, two that the Siren hasn't seen but will be recording: 1938's Spring Madness, starring Maureen O'Sullivan (who isn't a Siren love) and Lew Ayres (who is), and 1970's The Strawberry Statement, starring Bruce Davison and Kim Darby, whom the Siren hasn't seen in a big-screen movie besides True Grit.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Mission to Moscow with the Siren, Tonight at 7 pm at BAM

Be there!
Mission to Moscow
Part of BAMcinematek
Tue, Jan 12 at 7pm
BAM Rose Cinema, 30 Lafayette Avenue, Brooklyn

Followed by panel discussion with film critics Lou Lumenick (New York Post), Farran Smith Nehme (The Self-Styled Siren), Glenn Kenny (Some Came Running), and author/film historian Ed Hulse.

There are some controversial subjects that are so explosive...that it doesn't pay for anyone to be a hero or a martyr. You're a dead pigeon either way. Unless, of course, you do it under orders from the President of the United States. Even then, you're just as dead.

--Jack Warner's fond reminiscences of Mission to Moscow

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Mission to Moscow Screening at BAM; Panel Discussion to Follow

The Siren is taking one last opportunity to promote her live, in-person, one-night-only appearance at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, as part of the panel discussing Mission to Moscow, and oh my goodness, is there a lot to discuss. Ed Hulse will be there. Glenn Kenny is already doing his homework. Lou Lumenick is ready, and how. And the Siren is also studying up. Do join us for a screening and get ready to talk about this, one of the most notorious films of the entire studio era: Jan. 12th at 7 p.m., at the BAM Rose Cinemas, 30 Lafayette Avenue, Brooklyn.

To paraphrase Virginia O'Hanlon's letter, Papa says, "if you see it in the Times, it's so." And if Dave Kehr himself says it, it's really really so. So the Siren points to the last sentence of this write-up and announces that she has added "critic" to her "blogger" status, or if you prefer from the Sunday edition, "film writer"--like a frequent-flyer upgrade, except that she suspects there won't be that much more leg room. The Siren isn't sure what to do now to indicate the changed status, however. Repaint the foyer?

Anyone wanting to know why the Siren and Robert Avrech get along swimmingly need look no farther than these posts (part 1 and part 2) on Big Hollywood about the top ten movies he screened in 2009. The latest date is 1950, and the film is Madeleine, a neglected classic and favorite of the Siren's. Most of the choices are pre-1934. Plus he digs Constance Bennett in a big way, too.

The proprietor of the great Lombard fansite Carole & Co. occasionally comments here, to the Siren's delight, and last week he went a bit off-topic at his own place to offer a preview post for Shadows of Russia. Check the splendid photos of the St. Petersburg rail station.

The Siren watched Rasputin and the Empress and The Scarlet Empress live on Wednesday and is watching Reds and Red Danube off the DVR. So far she must say that the battle of the Empresses was won by Catherine in a walk, despite Dietrich's signal inability to play innocence. Don't get me wrong, I love Marlene, but that was one woman who emerged from the womb knowing the facts of life. But the stunning look of the movie had it all over Rasputin, despite Lionel's working his beard for all it was worth. The Scarlet Empress is one of the most beautiful black-and-white movies ever made, and also one of the most erotic.

As for Rasputin, it's a crash-course in scene stealing, with that art reaching its apex in the scene where John Barrymore first threatens Lionel. It's The Beard vs the Sword, as John refuses to look directly at Lionel, causing the monk to almost bulge his eyes out of the socket in an attempt to force eye contact. There's also the frightening scene where Rasputin forces little Alexi to watch a battle between a fly and an ant--hard to watch at times, between the terrorizing of a child and the grossness of seeing insects so close.

This week, it's the comedies, and the funny thing is that, as I note here in an article for Moving Image Source, the comedies have the most trenchantly anti-Stalin moments in the series.

Back soon with more thoughts.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

For the Love of Film: The Film Preservation Blogathon

The Siren's blog is approaching its fifth anniversary, and to borrow a line from the best, "things are looking up." The TCM Shadows of Russia series starts tonight, on Tuesday the Siren will appear at the august Brooklyn Academy of Music for a screening of Mission to Moscow, and traffic to her little corner of the Web is up. Time, says the Siren, to celebrate. Time, what is more, to give back some of this good fortune.

So as we swing into 2010, the Siren is doing something she never has before. She's asking you for money.

Not for herself, but for what brings people to this site and many, many great film blogs around the Web.

The Siren unpins her Lilly Daché hat and passes it around in hopes that you will donate to film preservation.

Together with the fabulous Marilyn Ferdinand of Ferdy on Films, from Feb. 14 to 21, 2010, the Siren will host For the Love of Film, a fundraising blogathon, with proceeds to go to the National Film Preservation Foundation. Here is the NFPF's mission statement:

The National Film Preservation Foundation is the independent, nonprofit organization created by the U.S. Congress to help save America’s film heritage. Growing from a national planning effort led by the Library of Congress, the NFPF began operations in 1997. We work directly with archives to rescue endangered films that will not survive without public support.

The NFPF raises money, awards grants, and organizes cooperative projects that enable archives, libraries, museums, historical societies, and universities to work together to save American films. Since opening our doors, we have helped preserve more than 1,560 films and assisted organizations in 48 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. In 2009, we partnered with the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia to preserve and make available on the Internet several American silent films that no longer survived in the United States; another such project will be announced later in 2010.

And here, also from the NFPF, is what is at stake.

A two-year study prepared by the Library's National Film Preservation Board documented that American films are disintegrating faster than archives can save them. The types of motion pictures most at-risk are documentaries, silent-era films, avant-garde works, ethnic films, newsreels, home movies, and independent works. These are not Hollywood sound features belonging to the film studios, but 'orphans' that fall outside the scope of commercial preservation programs and exist as one-of-a-kind copies in archives, libraries, museums, and historical societies.

Marilyn adds some sad stats:

According to estimates, at least 50 percent of all films made for public exhibition before 1951 have been lost. Move into the silent era, and the estimate shoots up to 85­-90 percent. The nitrate film on which nondigital movies are recorded is flammable and highly susceptible to deterioration. All or parts of thousands of films have burned up, broken down, or ended up in a dumpster.

We hope that as many bloggers as possible will contribute a preservation-related post during the week of the blogathon, and we also hope all our readers will find it in their hearts and wallets to kick in some dough for a cause that is surely very dear to us all.

This blogathon-with-a-goal is a long-held dream of the Siren's, but it is Marilyn who has been working like a demon to pull the logistics together, and she deserves all possible praise and thanks. Greg Ferrara of Cinema Styles constructed the beautiful logo you see above, showing an artist from a period badly in need of preservation money. As Marilyn says, "the NFPF gets its operating funds entirely through donations and grants, so whatever funds we raise through the blogathon will make a real difference."

Please start by clicking over to our Facebook Fan Page and becoming a fan. Marilyn, Greg and I will be updating it in coming weeks with suggestions for post topics, discussions about the blogathon, facts and figures on preservation and other matters. We welcome suggestions there, too. And go to the For the Love of Film blog, where Greg has posted ads and commercials you can use on your own blog and Facebook page to promote participation and awareness.