The San Francisco Silent Film Festival starts next week, with another wide and varied lineup of classic silent films accompanied with live musical performances. Comedy fans will be especially interested in the Saturday morning program, introduced by Leonard Maltin, where renowned scientist/film collector/Lon Chaney expert/musician (in no particular order) Jon Mirsalis will present and accompany a restored version of Laurel & Hardy’s epic pie fight comedy, The Battle of the Century (1927). For decades this fan favorite was known only in truncated form until Jon’s recent discovery of a complete print.
The program also includes a restoration of Buster Keaton’s most famous short film Cops (1922), the only movie in Keaton’s oeuvre filmed completely outdoors. I’ve written frequently about the alley on Cahunega, steps south from Hollywood Boulevard, where Buster grabs a passing car one-handed in Cops, showing that Charlie Chaplin (The Kid (1921)), Harold Lloyd (Safety Last! (1923)), and even Harry Houdini (The Grim Game (1919)), filmed there as well.
But the clarity of the new Kino – Lobster Films Blu-ray Buster Keaton: The Shorts Collection release of Cops invites further reflection. For one thing, you can witness several people watching the filming.
Moreover, 1651 Cahuenga, the reflected building with the diagonally cropped corner entrance standing across the street from the Keaton stunt site (see reversed image below), once a rubber and vulcanizing store belonging to Harley H. Andrews, is now a porn shop. Coincidence? Or simply 90 years of retail evolution?
A view of the reflected corner building – spin the view around to see Keaton’s alley.