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Cinematic treasures restored

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2013 Ucla Festival
of Preservation

When: Sept. 8 to Oct. 2

Where: Gene Siskel Film Center, 164 N. State

Admission: $11; $7 students; $6 members; double-bill discount for UCLA films on Sundays


Updated: October 7, 2013 11:36AM

Celebrate 35mm celluloid this month at the Gene Siskel Film Center. The touring 2013 UCLA Festival of Preservation makes a Chicago stop with a dozen films originally made between 1926 and 1975.

The UCLA Film & Television Archive, based on the Los Angeles campus of the University of California, finds endangered dramas and documentaries and restores them.

Archive director Jan-Christopher Horak lived in Chicago in his early teens.

“We used to go into the Loop to see all the Cinerama movies,” Horak recalled in a phone interview.

Preserving films shot and projected on celluloid is harder since most labs went out of business. Yet storing films digitally costs more, he observes, as formats go obsolete.

Funds come from foundations, studios and even fans. The new print of “Mantrap” was underwritten by Chicago native David Stenn, a Clara Bow biographer. This 1926 silent comedy — directed by Victor Fleming of “Gone with the Wind” and “The Wizard of Oz” fame — will be accompanied by pianist David Drazin on Sept. 22.

Women play the most interesting characters in the lineup: Clara Bow, Carole Lombard, Gracie Allen, Sylvia Sidney and Sandy Dennis. The only woman in a director’s chair is Shirley Clarke, whose restored “Portrait of Jason,” screened here last May. She co-directs a more conventional documentary on the poet Robert Frost.

Don’t miss the zany “International House,” the noir nightmare “The Chase” and the crime romance “Gun Crazy.” Dialogue highlights include: “Say, have you ever eaten truffles in Bermuda?” and “Two people dead — just so we can live without working.”

Selected capsules:


‘That Cold Day in the Park’ (3 p.m.): Robert Altman’s transition from TV to art films stars Sandy Dennis as a 32-year-old Vancouver virgin who latches on to a mute blond lad. “A Sick Character Gets Sicker,” cautioned the L.A. Times in 1969. The Hollywood Foreign Press Association paid for this revival of Altman’s weirdest work. (Also, 6 p.m. Wednesday).

‘Double Door’ (5:15 p.m.): A 1933 stage drama based on a notorious Fifth Avenue family is adapted to the screen for a morbid tale of a tyrannical heiress. Her nephew’s new wife will kick butt and add backbone in this gothic psychodrama.


‘Thirty Day Princess’ (6 p.m.): Sylvia Sidney plays an underfed actress hired to impersonate a visiting princess during her month-long mumps quarantine. Cary Grant plays the newspaper publisher she lobbies then loves. Preston Sturges scripts this delight in deception from 1934.

Bill Stamets is a Chicago freelance writer and reviewer.

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