22nd 05 - 2015 | no comment »

The Film Preservation Blogathon Walks into the Sunset

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Another day, and another film preservation blogathon comes to an end. We had a lot of enthusiasm for our fourth project, Cupid In Quarantine (1913), that will be repatriated to the United States from EYE Filmmuseum in The Netherlands, and restored, rescored, and streamed by our funding recipient the National Film Preservation Foundation. While the total sum raised in this blogathon was a modest $1,700 when compared with other years, the NFPF and we are still thrilled that so many of you chose to support this project.

As promised, we have prizes for some lucky donors. (Winners will be contacted by email for shipping particulars.)

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Choice of Betty Jo Tucker’s print book Confessions of a Movie Addict or Kindle version of her autobiography It Had to Be Us: Aesha Williams

Three winners of one DVD set each of NFPF’s American Treasures from the New Zealand Film Archive: Lynnette Fuller, Buckey Grimm, and Lois Palmer

Winner of autographed copy of Farran Smith Nehme’s novel Missing Reels: Mike Smith

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Winner of hardbound copy of Mike Smith’s and Adam Selzer’s nonfiction book Flickering Empire: How Chicago Invented the U.S. Film Industry: Rachel Herman

Winner of Flicker Alley’s DVD set 3-D Rarities: Susan Reynolds

Winner of Milestone’s DVD Land of the Head Hunters: Bob Fergusson

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Winner of a script for Jerry Lewis’ film The Day the Clown Cried: Gail Sonnefeld

My thanks to cohosts Rod Heath of This Island Rod and Sam Juliano of Wonders in the Dark. We’ll see you at the movies.


17th 05 - 2015 | 2 comments »

Traffic in Souls (aka, While New York Sleeps, 1913)

Director: George Loane Tucker

For the Love of Film: The Film Preservation Blogathon IV

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By Marilyn Ferdinand

The United States is undergoing another of its periodic hissy fits over waves of immigration that are disrupting the social pecking order and mobilizing some people to hop up and down on the hands of time to reverse the course of history. Nonetheless, as the saying goes, what’s old is new again. In the first decade or so of the 20th century, immigration set off a wave of concern that the pimps who were luring off-the-boat female immigrants into prostitution would start preying on the flower of white American maidenhood. (Perhaps it is no coincidence that director James Gray took up this type of story just last year in his historical drama The Immigrant [2014].) George Loane Tucker’s 1913 Traffic in Souls, one of the earliest feature-length films and from the same year as our blogathon project, Cupid in Quarantine, pretended a concern with so-called white slavery while offering audiences the titillation they craved in this era of the earliest film femme fatale—the vamp. Traffic in Souls was a huge hit, providing a solid foundation on which Universal Pictures was built, and earning its place on the National Film Registry as a “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” film.

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Traffic in Souls is equal parts overwrought melodrama, social indictment, and documentary, which makes it a fascinating film as a crowd pleaser with actual relevance. The film stratifies the worlds of respectable American society, carpetbaggers in morning suits and silk, squalid criminals, and isolated and vulnerable immigrants. The Barton family comprises an invalid inventor father (William H. Turner), responsible eldest daughter Mary (Jane Gail), who is engaged to sincere Officer Burke (Matt Moore), and devil-may-care younger daughter Lorna (Ethel Grandin). Lorna is put in danger when she is spotted in the candy store where she and Mary work by the manager of a prostitution ring (Howard Crampton) run by the wealthy social climber William Trubus (William Welsh), who hides his activities by heading the International Purity and Reform League. Such reformist associations often were hissworthy villains in silent films, with meddlesome social workers tearing babies away from the bosoms of their destitute mothers with some frequency.

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Before we get to the main event—Lorna’s kidnapping and rescue—Loane Tucker offers a look at how brothels operate. The film, shot in New York City, offers location shooting at Ellis Island, the Upper West Side, and in Penn Station, where newcomers to the big city from small towns and other countries are waylaid by “helpful” procurers, like the seemingly safe “Respectable” Smith (William Burbridge), who offer to help them find their lodgings or take them to an employment service. Two Swedish girls (Flora Nason and Vera Hansey) looking like low-rent Nestle milkmaids in long-braid wigs, are separated from the brother (William Powers) who meets them at the boat, and lured into the brothel by a homemade sign scribbled in English and Swedish that says “Swedish Employment Agency.” Inside the brothel, the film increases its veracity by showing the African-American madams and prostitutes who actually comprised the largest part of the working girls in New York.

Technology plays a large role in this film. The manager writes the daily returns on a tablet that form magically on a similar tablet in Trubus’ office, the imagination of the film’s creators prefiguring email. Trubus is unmasked for what he is by Mary, discharged from the candy store because of the immorality attached to her sister’s situation—kidnapping is no excuse for low morals, apparently—and hired by Mrs. Trubus (Millie Liston) to replace the sexually loose secretary (Laura McVicker) she has discovered smooching with the manager. Mary learns the truth and brings a microphone her father has invented to eavesdrop on Trubus and his manager—an early phone bug. We also have an early example of product placement—Edison wax cylinders are used to record the conversation the bug picks up.

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I quite liked the precision of the police assault on the brothel. Loane Tucker builds suspense as the police get their orders and man various positions on top of and surrounding the building. When the police storm the building, the camera work is kinetic and dizzying, and Burke’s pursuit of the manager to the roof ends in a quick, realistic way with the manager ending as a slick on the cement below, a scene with which moviegoers are now quite familiar.

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The ruin of Trubus is the ruin of his family as well—his daughter’s (Irene Wallace) betrothel to the season’s most eligible bachelor unceremoniously ended, an outraged mob screaming for blood at his predatory hypocrisy, and his wife killed by the shock and shame of the double life he has been leading. The audience feels that Lorna has learned her lesson about straying into a willful life of her own, a redemption of their own for having thrilled to the madam’s whip hovering over her quivering, tearful form.

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Traffic in Souls has been released on DVD by Flicker Alley, a great friend to precious film history from the silent age. Our blogathon is dedicated to restoring these priceless parts of our cultural heritage. Won’t you please make a donation to bring Cupid in Quarantine back into the world.

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13th 05 - 2015 | 15 comments »

The Film Preservation Blogathon Blasts Off!

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Blogathoners, we’re all strapped in and ready to go. 3…2…1…Blast off! For the Love of Film: The Film Preservation Blogathon is underway!

Our film is Cupid in Quarantine (1918), a one-reel Strand Comedy that tells the story of a young couple conspiring to stay together by staging a smallpox outbreak. The amount we’re shooting for is $10,000 to go to the National Film Preservation Foundation to cover laboratory costs for the film’s preservation as well as a new score for the film’s web premiere. The streaming film will be available free of charge to everyone online at the NFPF website.

Ferdy on Films will play host May 13 and 14. Then This Island Rod will take over May 15 and 16. Bringing us home on May 17 will be our new host blog Wonders in the Dark. Blogathoners, please post the link to your blog post in the comments section of the host blog, and it will be added to the home page for that day. Remember, every blog post must include the donate link (with or without button) or it will not be included on the host pages. The link is https://donatenow.networkforgood.org/1397805?code=Blogathon%202015.

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Donors, we have a number terrific prizes that will be awarded through random drawing at the end of the blogathon. They include Farran Smith Nehme’s outstanding screwball novel Missing Reels, Mike Smith’s fascinating Flickering Empire: How Chicago Invented the U.S. Film Industry, three DVD sets of American Treasures from the New Zealand Film Archive, a collection of 3-D rarities from Flicker Alley, and more.

According to estimates, at least 50 percent of all films made for public exhibition before 1951 have been lost. Move into the silent era, and the estimate shoots up to about 90 percent. We are very lucky to have this opportunity to restore this irreplaceable part of our history. Please join us in having fun and help us reach our goal by donating today!

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Wednesday, May 13

Steve Bailey at Movie Movie Blog Blog kicks us off with a post on Laurel & Hardy in Hats Off, a lost film that fans of the duo hope will one day be found. Thanks for the fascinating post, Steve, that tells us why we’re holding the blogathon!

Le from Critica Retro in Brazil offers a post on silent science fiction films directed by Fritz Lang. Yes, of course Metropolis is included! The translator will help you read her post easily.

Katherine at Silents, Please! has a stunning article on movie dreams of space, 1898-1910 complete with gifs and many versions of the man in the moon. You’re going to want to spend some time with this one!

The always entertaining David Cairns of Shadowplay joins us with a post about the cult classic (?) The Flesh Eaters. Ouch!

Beth Ann Gallagher of Spellbound by Movies opens with a stunning photo of Kay Francis. That would be enough, but then she talks about why we need to act fast to save our film heritage. Read and learn – and enjoy Kay!

Our good friend Peter Nellhaus at Coffee, coffee and more coffee takes on an earthbound space flick from Hammer Film Studios, helmed by Terence Fisher: Spaceways. It’s a bit of a duffer of a film, says Peter, and not only because it stars Howard Duff.

The indomitable Lee Price at 21 Films has given us a master class in early scifi and disease in film with his post on Nigel Kneale and First Men in the Moon. Excellent info, Lee, as always!

Michaël Parent of Le Mot du Cinephiliaque offers us a look at master genre director Paul Verhoeven’s Starship Troopers. As Verhoeven is a big favorite around here, we are especially excited about this blogpost!

Mike Smith, a great friend to film and a generous prize donor to this blogathon, has a typically excellent post on E. A. Dupont’s silent drama Varieté and Alexandre Volkoff’s serial The House of Mystery. The Flicker Alley DVD is one of his favorite DVD releases, and Mike will tell you why.

Joe Thompson brings an entertaining twist to this blogathon with his appreciation of the first cowboy movie star Tom Mix in The Miracle Rider. Check out all the fascinating photos, newspaper clippings and more at his fine blog The Big V Riot Squad.

Christianne Benedict at Krell Laboratories turns her superb writing and critical talents to three films based on scifi writer Robert Heinlein works, Destination Moon, The Brain Eaters, and the almost unwatchable Project Moonbase. Thanks for watching the last one, Christianne, so we don’t have to!

Good friend Jamie Uhler at Attractive Variance has a cinephile dream post on recently departed Alain Renais’ 1968 scifi film Je t’aime, je t’aime, which explores his characteristic themes of memory and guilt. Great work, Jamie.

John Hitchcock at Hitchcock’ World has a unique post on science fiction and society as seen through the films Conquest of Space and Gravity. His look at changing gender roles is very timely and useful. Thanks for the thoughtful post, John!

The delightful Donna Hill muses on a very strange scifi film from Russia, Aelita Queen of Mars (1924) at her excellent blog Strictly Vintage Hollywood. Donna really knows her silents, so this is must-reading!

Ben Alpers is rallying the writers at U.S. Intellectual History Blog who will be writing blogathon posts all week. Check out their sure-to-be-fascinating posts here.

Following on the heels of Ben Alpers’ introductory post at U.S. Intellectual History Blog is Andrew Hartman’s post on “science fiction as political criticism. He looks at a prime example in the much-beloved TV series “Battlestar Galactica.” Strong post, Andrew!

Ferdy on Films’ own Rod Heath has a classic post for a truly inspired scifi classic that just gets better with age: Blade Runner.

Thursday, May 14

Our second day leads off with WB Kelso of Micro-Brewed Reviews and a review of The Navy vs. The Night Monsters. He says, “It was pretty terrible, and yet, I kinda dug it.” Well, we dig your great review!

David Cairns of Shadowplay returns with a second post, an wonderfully unique series of title cards that deliver a socko scifi message. So much fun, David!

Lee Price at 21 Films returns with another post on First Men in the Moon dealing with selenites and skeletons! There are some great screencaps of both, especially the humanoid insects! Cool stuff, Lee!

Kimberly Lindbergs, one of the TCM Movie Morlocks, previews the line-up of British science fiction films airing on the station today with a FANTASTIC array of film posters. Something about monsters and outer space really brings out the best in illustrators!

My own post for Ferdy on Films is a reboot of an earlier review of a film that seems to hold a very warm place in the hearts of fascists and carpetbaggers everywhere, an adaptation of an H. G. Wells story, Things to Come (1936).


4th 07 - 2014 | 7 comments »

Corn’s-A-Poppin’ (1956)

Director/Coscreenwriter: Robert Woodburn
Coscreenwriter: Robert Altman

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By Marilyn Ferdinand

altmanrobert2When artists disavow and try to bury their juvenilia, there’s usually a good reason. Often, such works are half-baked and embarrassing, or may be a work product far from the output the artist considers representative of her or his work. Robert Altman’s early career in film largely took place in his home town of Kansas City, where he wrote and occasionally directed a wide variety of educational and industrial films for the Calvin Company, the leading producer of such fare in the United States at the time. Shortly before he left Kansas City for good to start making films in Hollywood, he wrote the screenplay for a country-western musical produced by Crest Productions. The film was intended to be more affordable for Midwestern exhibitors to screen than the high-priced Technicolor epics Hollywood was bankrolling at the time to compete with television. Corn’s-A-Poppin’ is a part of Altman’s oeuvre that represents the spirit of independence he so exemplified and that is so appropriate to discuss on this Fourth of July.

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Altman never cared to acknowledge this cornpone musical, and that’s a shame. It has been many a day since I have been as entertained as I was at the recent screening of the restored Corn’s-A-Poppin’. The briskly paced, 58-minute Corn’s-A-Poppin’ was funded by the Popcorn Institute, and as it has been for funders through the years, product placement was all important. Altman, never shy about sliding a little social commentary on the evils of capitalism into every commercial venture, centers his story around the efforts of a corporate spy, Waldo Crummit (James Lantz), to drive Thaddeus Pinwhistle’s (Keith Painton) popcorn company to the brink of bankruptcy so that the competitor Crummit works for can buy it for a song and corner the popcorn market.

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As was popular at the time, Pinwhistle sponsors a musical television show, the half-hour long “Pinwhistle Popcorn Hour,” as a means of promoting his product. Crummit sees to it that he hires a tone-deaf soprano named Lillian Gravelguard (Noralee Benedict), plucked from calling her hogs to answer the call of fame and fortune. To further his nefarious cause, Crummit arranges for Pinwhistle to buy kernels that won’t pop. During the commercial portion of the show, smooth announcer Johnny Wilson (Jerry Wallace) tries to convince a bored audience that Pinwhistle puts the pop in popcorn as a stagehand tips the popper filled with unpopped kernels into the scooping tray.

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As with many musicals, the story of Corn’s-A-Poppin’ is just a background on which to stage the musical numbers, but I have to say that the regional actors they found to play the various parts are pretty good. My hat is off to Keith Painton especially for creating a likeable company president—think Arthur Carlson in “WKRP in Cincinnati” or another Altman creation, Col. Henry Blake in MASH (1970)—who realizes that he has trusted the wrong person but is always willing to give people a second chance. The musician/actors cast to play the singers who save Pinwhistle also show some major chops.

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First among them is Wallace, who sings well and plays some engaging, if predictable, love scenes with Pinwhistle’s savvy secretary Sheila Burns, performed unevenly by Pat McReynolds. Of course, the couple must be kept apart until the final clinch, and this job is in more than capable hands. Little Cora Rice plays Johnny’s sister Susie, both the woman of the house—though she only knows how to cook spaghetti—and the moral arbiter of Johnny’s love life. The camera loves Rice, and she knows how to sing, act, and steal a scene; she could have had a real career in Hollywood.

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Hobie Shepp and the Cowtown Wranglers, a group that has left no easily traceable mark, back up Wallace and Rice in some nicely done musical numbers. I particularly liked the up-tempo “Running After Love,” which featured a couple of times in the film. Other tunes included “Patches on My Heart” (Jimmy Carlyle); “Achin’ Heart” (Hobie Shepp); “Mamma, Wanna Balloon” (Eve Monroy and Jean Andes), a sweet showcase for Rice; and “On Our Way to Mars” (Leon and Rafael René), a cute duet between Wallace and Rice.

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The production values are beyond cheap, so provisional that I wondered whether Pinwhistle’s executive suite was doubling for the Wilsons’ apartment. The flimsy walls looked like they might collapse at any second, and the artwork and props seem to have been fugitives from a Salvation Army store. When a high-performing strain of popcorn comes to Pinwhistle, saving the day by showing audiences that the popping is beyond first-rate, stagehands must have been throwing buckets of the stuff at the performers. The only lavish prop, the popcorn machine, was probably on loan from Charles T. Manley, a Kansas City native and owner of Manley, Inc., the “biggest name in popcorn.” According to Kyle Westphal, late of Eastman House and current vice president of the Northwest Chicago Film Society, which spearheaded the restoration, “A photograph featuring the junior Manley hobnobbing with Wallace, Woodburn, and Rhoden on the set strongly suggests the Pinwhistle character was meant as an affectionate tribute to a local legend.”

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It is with great thanks to the National Film Preservation Foundation, which funded the restoration of this orphan film—a great example of regional filmmaking and, in my opinion, a worthy addition to the Altman filmography—and Kyle Westphal, who recognized the value of the film when he first saw an imperfect print of it a few years ago, that I present this trailer for the unique Corn’s-A-Poppin’:


1st 02 - 2012 | 36 comments »

This Madness Between Us Can’t Go On Any Longer!

By Marilyn Ferdinand

Sorry, Alicia, we can’t help ourselves. We just have to hold another film preservation blogathon. And this may be our best blogathon yet!

Farran Nehme, the erudite hostess with the mostest at Self-Styled Siren, and I agree that raising funds for film preservation is as addictive as the 7% solution and a much longer-lasting high. From May 13-18, we’re pulling out all the stops to take on our most high-profile project yet: director Graham Cutts’ The White Shadow (1923)!

Uh, ok. Let me rephrase that.

Maybe I should have mentioned that not only will Cutts fans be thrilled with our project, but so will the rare and discerning aficionados of a portly guy who dabbled in film a bit—Alfred Hitchcock. Talented chap, deserves to be remembered.

The first For the Love of Film: The Film Preservation Blogathon raised funds to help the National Film Preservation Foundation repatriate and restore The Sergeant and The Better Man, two of the 85 silent-era American films found moldering in the New Zealand Film Archive. (For inquiring minds who want to know, we raised funds last year to help the Film Noir Foundation restore blacklisted director Cy Endfield’s 1950 film The Sound of Fury.) At the time, the biggest name found among the trove of treasures was John Ford, whose Upstream returned to thrilled audiences wherever it was shown. Only later was it learned that three reels of the first film Alfred Hitchcock had a major role in creating (assistant director, screenwriter, film editor, production designer, art director, set decorator) were among the cache. The film was restored in New Zealand and repremiered by AMPAS last September at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Los Angeles. If you weren’t there, you’re probably sitting around hoping some repertory theater near you will book it so you can see it and hear the marvelous new score written for it by Michael Mortilla.

That’s where we come in. The good people at NFPF are committed to making many of the films they have rescued available for cost-free viewing by streaming them on their website. But online hosting ain’t cheap. NFPF estimates that it will cost $15,000 to stream The White Shadow for four months and record the score. It is the mission of this year’s For the Love of Film Blogathon to raise that money so that anyone with access to a computer can watch this amazing early film that offered Hitchcock a chance to learn his craft, with a score that does it justice.

This year’s blogathon will be bigger and better as Farran and I pick up a Hitcher, and by that I mean a real Hitchcock maven, to help us host the blogathon and spread the word. My esteemed friend and blog partner Rod Heath will open his solo blog, This Island Rod, to your links. He has also created a wide assortment of banners for you to use to show your pride as a blogathoner and help publicize the event to your readers.

For the first time, we will also be offering sponsor opportunities to businesses interested in supporting NFPF and The White Shadow. We have two levels of support, with benefits that will get your message out to our base of movie-mad readers. So you’ll not only do good, but you’ll also do well by supporting the blogathon. You can find out more by e-mailing me at ferdyonfilms (at) comcast (dot) net.

Once again, we’ll be offering raffle prizes to donors courtesy of NFPF. If anyone else would like to donate a raffle prize, give me a holler. And if you’ve got an itch to spend some money right now, forget the shopping malls and just click here. Operators are standing by to take your tax-deductible donation.

Finally, NFPF web czar David Wells will be posting photos and film clips on our Facebook fan page. If you want to keep up to date on blogathon developments and enjoy some of the information and surprises, be sure to become a fan by clicking here. You will actually help us raise money if you become a fan, so click that little button and ask your friends to join us as well. If you don’t know what a blogathon is, become a fan and read the explanation in the notes section of the fan page.

Let us know if you plan to blog by leaving a note in the comments section of our blogs. You’d be psycho not to! (Couldn’t resist…)


6th 01 - 2010 | 23 comments »

For the Love of Film: The Film Preservation Blogathon

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By Marilyn Ferdinand

Anyone who knows me knows what a sucker I am for a good cause. I’ve tried to help save the environment, the Uptown Theatre, the mountain gorillas, the medfly (ok, not that one. . . I think). But now it’s my turn to hold my hand out and ask you all to help save something that means something to all us: film.

According to estimates, at least 50 percent of all films made for public exhibition before 1951 have been lost. Move into the silent era, and the estimate shoots up to 85­-90 percent. The nitrate film on which nondigital movies are recorded is flammable and highly susceptible to deterioration. All or parts of thousands of films have burned up, broken down, or ended up in a dumpster.

We can’t do anything to recover those films, but we can all help ensure that not another frame is lost by supporting the work of film preservationists, restorers, and archivists. To that end, Farran Nehme (The Self-Styled Siren) and I dreamed up a fun way to do it. We’re holding a blogathon to shine a light on film preservation and raise funds for the National Film Preservation Foundation. Here is a little information from the NFPF:

The National Film Preservation Foundation is the independent, nonprofit organization created by the U.S. Congress to help save America’s film heritage. Growing from a national planning effort led by the Library of Congress, the NFPF began operations in 1997. We work directly with archives to rescue endangered films that will not survive without public support.

The NFPF raises money, awards grants, and organizes cooperative projects that enable archives, libraries, museums, historical societies, and universities to work together to save American films. Since opening our doors, we have helped preserve more than 1,560 films and assisted organizations in 48 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. In 2009, we partnered with the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia to preserve and make available on the Internet several American silent films that no longer survived in the United States; another such project will be announced later in 2010.

Here’s a brief description of the films NFPF works to save:

A two-year study prepared by the Library’s National Film Preservation Board documented that American films are disintegrating faster than archives can save them. The types of motion pictures most at-risk are documentaries, silent-era films, avant-garde works, ethnic films, newsreels, home movies, and independent works. These are not Hollywood sound features belonging to the film studios, but ‘orphans’ that fall outside the scope of commercial preservation programs and exist as one-of-a-kind copies in archives, libraries, museums, and historical societies.

There have been fundraising blogathons before, but as far as I know, there has never been one held among film bloggers. The NFPF gets its operating funds entirely through donations and grants, so whatever funds we raise through the blogathon will make a real difference.

We’ll be offering helpful advice and taking suggestions from the film community on our very own Facebook Fan Page, which we’ll be adding to regularly. Become a fan, and take a look around in the coming weeks for suggestions of topics, discussions about the blogathon, information about film preservation, and a lot more. And go to the For the Love of Film blog, where Cinema Styles’ Greg Ferrara has posted banners and commercials you can use on your own blog and Facebook page to promote participation and awareness.

For the love of film . . . please support The Film Preservation Blogathon.


What others say about us

"You put a lot of love into your blog." – Roger Ebert, Roger Ebert's Journal
"Marilyn and Roderick … always raising the tone." – Farran Smith Nehme, The Self-Styled Siren
"Honestly, you both have made me aware of films I've never seen, from every era. Mega enriching." – Donna Hill, Strictly Vintage Hollywood




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