Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Rita Hayworth Burns Up the Screen

A co-worker mentioned this story to me today. The Stanford Theater was evacuated Friday night due to a fire. The cause of the fire was an old nitrate film getting jammed in the projector. Nitrate film stock is very flammable; it is even more dangerous as the film gets older and less stable. There have been several incidents of film vaults catching fire due to nitrate films. A few years ago, as a demonstration, a guy from France lit a small piece of nitrate film at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival and the combustion was impressive.

It was very fortunate that no one was injured or that the Stanford Theater wasn't seriously damaged. Nitrate fires can be difficult to put out and they produce toxic smoke. I assume the theater is open for business. The website still lists the upcoming film program.

The film that was screening when the fire broke out was Cover Girl (1944) with Gene Kelly and Rita Hayworth. I know that Rita Hayworth was hot but this is ridiculous.


Speaking of the San Francisco Silent Film Festival (SFSFF), I read in the Chronicle that Steven Salmons is stepping down as its Artistic Director after 17 years. Salmons and his wife Melissa Chittick were the co-founders of the festival. It's a little surprising that Salmons would step down. I don't know the circumstances but Salmons is the public face of the festival. He introduces each film and seems to enjoy the limelight (or at least the Castro Theater spotlight). In my mind, Salmons (along with Eddie Muller of Noir City) are indelibly linked to their respective festivals. Executive Director Stacey Wisnia (pronounced Visnia) is staying on at SFSFF and Anita Monga is coming on board as Acting Artistic Director.

Monga is a living legend in the San Francisco film community. She was for many years the programmer at the Castro Theater. After having been unceremoniously fired a few years back, has made her presence known on the festival circuit. Wisnia was the manager of the Castro who resigned after Monga's firing.

Monga co-programs Noir City and IndieFest. She helps selects the annual Mel Novikoff Award winner at the San Francisco International Film Festival (SFIFF). She and Balboa Theater owner/Telluride International Film Festival Director Gary Meyer are close friends and both were acolytes of Novikoff.


On April 16, the Vogue Theater is presenting I Knew It Was You: Rediscovering John Cazale, a 40 minute documentary about the actor. Cazale, best known as Fredo Corleone from the The Godfather and The Godfather II, had a short but blindingly brilliant screen career before dying in 1978 at the age of 42. He made five films and all of them were nominated for Oscars. In addition to the two Godfather movies, Cazale appeared in Dog Day Afternoon, The Conversation and The Deer Hunter. What a filmography - directed by Francis Ford Coppola (3 films), Sidney Lumet and Michael Cimino, co-stars include Al Pacino (3 times), Marlon Brando, Robert De Niro, Gene Hackman, Harrison Ford, Christopher Walken and Meryl Streep.

After the screening of I Knew It Was You and a Q&A with director Richard Shepard, they will screen Dog Day Afternoon.


Last month, I attended a few screenings of the Mostly British Film Series at the Vogue Theater. All the films screened February 26 through March 5 except Easy Virtue which screens May 14. I thought it was odd that one film screened so long after the others. After seeing the program guide for the 2009 SFIFF, it makes sense. Easy Virtue is screening May 6 and 7 at the SFIFF (both screenings at the Sundance Kabuki). They scheduled the screening because the print will be in the Bay Area the week before. I wouldn't be surprised to see it screened elsewhere in the between May 7 and 14. Easy Virtue stars Kristen Scott Thomas, Colin Firth and Jessica Biel.


The 4-Star Theater has been advertising The Beast Stalker for several months. I predict The Beast Stalker will open at the 4-Star sometime after April 29 because that is the last time it screens at SFIFF. The Beast Stalker, a Hong Kong thriller starring Nicholas Tse, is getting three screenings at SFIFF - April 24, 26 and 29. All screenings are at the Kabuki.

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