Grubby Victorian London? Nope, that’s Chicago, baby!
During the four-plus years it took Adam Selzer and I to research and write our book Flickering Empire, we spent a lot of time reading about films that were made in Chicago during the silent era that have since been tragically lost. For most of that time, our holy grail of “lost Chicago movies” was the Essanay Film Manufacturing Company’s 1916 production of Sherlock Holmes. The seven-reel feature was, after all, the first feature-length movie centered on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s legendary detective-protagonist. More importantly, it was the only record of veteran theatrical actor William Gillette’s acclaimed performance as Holmes, a performance he had perfected on stage after playing it for more than fifteen years with the blessing of Doyle himself; it was Gillette who originated the iconic look of Holmes with deerstalker cap and calabash pipe, props that have become synonymous with the character in the public imagination over the past century. Finally, we knew that the film had been acclaimed by contemporary critics, including the Chicago Tribune‘s Kitty Kelly who wrote, “It is a production to which Essanay may point with pride and may file away in the strong box for future and again future revival.” Unfortunately, it seemed that the Essanay “strong box” hadn’t been strong enough.
Then, last fall, just as Flickering Empire was going to press, it was announced that a print of Sherlock Holmes had been miraculously discovered at the Cinematheque Francaise in Paris. Adam and I were able to hastily include a footnote in our book that the film was being digitally restored and would receive a re-release in 2015. Now, after successful screenings in Paris and San Francisco, I am pleased to announce that Adam and I have teamed up with the Atlas Obscura Society to host the Chicago “re-premiere” of Sherlock Holmes. The event will take place on the evening of Friday, June 19. We will be screening a newly restored 35mm print in the Charlie Chaplin Auditorium of St. Augustine College — the very location where the movie was actually shot 100 years ago. Tickets are $75 for the screening, which is part of an evening-long affair that will include live music and open bar. Black-and-white or “period” attire is encourage. Tickets may be purchased directly from Atlas Obscura’s website here: http://www.atlasobscura.com/events/investigate-the-lost-sherlock-holmes-film-on-location
This should be the local film event of the year. I hope to see you there!
UPDATE: This event has been cancelled.
My book Flickering Empire is in stock at amazon.com and is now shipping. On Tuesday night, January 20, I will be appearing with my co-author Adam Selzer on WGN Radio’s “Pretty Late with Patti Vasquez” to talk it up. For those of you in the greater Chicago area, you can hear it by tuning your radio dial to 720 AM between 11pm and 2am.
I will also be celebrating the book’s release by running a little contest right here at White City Cinema. Over the next four days I will be posting a list of my top 100 favorite films of the past five years. I’ll be asking readers to respond by telling me how many of those films they’ve seen. The two responders who have seen the most titles on the list will each win a copy of the book. Stay tuned for more info.
In other news, I interview Ben and Kat Sachs for Time Out Chicago. Read these erudite folks talking about the philosophy behind their programming banner, Beguiled Cinema, and about the unique filmmaking style of Dan Sallitt (whose work they are presenting at Film Row Cinema tonight):
I also have four new reviews at Cine-File: I call Jean-Luc Godard’s Goodbye to Language and the double feature of Sallitt’s Honeymoon and All the Ships at Sea “Crucial Viewing,” and I recommend Ruben Ostlund’s Force Majeure and Samantha Fuller’s A Fuller Life. You can read my capsule reviews for each (and find info pertaining to venues and showtimes) here:
As I first reported here back in July, the book that Adam Selzer and I have written about the rise and fall of the silent film industry in Chicago, Flickering Empire, will be released next spring by Wallflower Press, the Film Studies imprint of Columbia University Press. Pre-order info for the book was made available today. We are pleased to announce it will be released on March 17 and can be ordered direct from the CUP website here.
It’s only 25 dollars (or 17-and-a-half pounds for all of you limeys out there) for the paperback edition, or $75/£52.00 for the hardcover. Both are illustrated with 24 handsome black-and-white photographs, a couple of which were taken by yours truly. Or you can order it from amazon and save a few bucks: it’s only $22.85 for the paperback edition. For a 240-page book, that’s a steal at less than a dollar per page, folks!
Last but not least, I’d like to point out that March 17 is St. Patrick’s Day. What better way to celebrate than by opening a package in the mail, pouring yourself a pint of the black stuff and then settling in to read all about the evils of one Thomas Alva Edison, hmmmm?
As many longtime readers of this blog know, I have spent the past four years quietly but steadily working with my good buddy Adam Selzer on a non-fiction book about the history of early film production in Chicago. I am pleased to announce that today we signed a contract with Wallflower Press, the esteemed London-based film studies imprint of Columbia University Press. Titled Flickering Empire: How Chicago Invented the U.S. Film Industry, this book tells the fascinating but too little known story of how Chicago served as the unlikely capital of film production in America in the decade prior to the rise of Hollywood.
We strove to write an account that we hope is as entertaining as it is informative, and one that will straddle the worlds of academia and popular non-fiction alike. Colorful, larger than life historical figures like Thomas Edison, Charlie Chaplin, Oscar Micheaux and Orson Welles are major players in this story — in addition to important but forgotten industry giants like “Colonel” William Selig, George Spoor and Gilbert “Broncho Billy” Anderson. Publication is scheduled for March 2015. More info concerning Flickering Empire will appear on this blog in the near future — so stay tuned!
You can visit Wallflower Press on the web and browse their wonderful catalog of titles here.
You can read pertinent posts on “Chicago movies” on this blog here.