Eternal beauty - Page 2

SF Silent Film Festival unearths treasures and curiosities

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Screen siren Dolores del Rio stars in 1928's Ramona.
PHOTO COURTESY OF THE SF SILENT FILM FESTIVAL

Her public character was invariably elegant and dignified — never mind that sometimes her affairs preceded her divorces. One high-profile lover was 10-years-younger Orson Welles. He took her to Citizen Kane's 1941 premiere and starred her in 1943's spy intrigue Journey Into Fear. But when their relationship flamed out, and Hollywood's affection too had cooled, del Rio at last returned to Mexico. There, she soon established herself as the local film industry's leading female star — exclusively playing suffering, virtuous heroines — winning a total of four Ariels (Mexico's Oscar) and very rarely returning to English-language features. When she did, it was no longer as the hothouse object of desire, but as a sacrificing mother, notably to Elvis in Flaming Star (1960) and to Sal Mineo in Cheyenne Autumn (1964), both times playing Native Americans à la the half-Indian Ramona. Such semi-color blind casting and "proud matriarch" roles provided a logical last act to a career that was honorable and iconic — if seldom quite so impressive in, y'know, the acting department.

Ramona may survive primarily as a somewhat campy cultural artifact, but nearly everything else in this year's Silent Fest remains outstanding artistically, including 1928 German heartbreaker Under the Lantern, and the same year's fine British working-class drama Underground. There's also 1923's The Sign of Four, an excellent Sherlock Holmes adventure, so long as you can overlook some very dated race and class attitudes; atypical early works by Ozu (1933 gangster saga Dragnet Girl) and Dreyer (sprightly 1920 The Parson's Widow); a goofy Soviet science fiction (1936's Cosmic Voyage); mountain climbing documentary The Epic of Everest (1924); plus vehicles for Douglas Fairbanks, Buster Keaton, and pioneering French comedian Max Linder (1921's Seven Years Bad Luck). *

SAN FRANCISCO SILENT FILM FESTIVAL

Thu/29-Sun/1, most shows $15-20

Castro Theatre

429 Castro, SF

www.silentfilm.org

 

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