Friday, February 20, 2015

World’s Fair on Film

Events are taking place all over the city this year to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition. Thursday night I was at the Officers' Club in the Presidio, where Anita Monga, artistic director of the San Francisco Silent Film Festival, presented an hour-long program of films documenting the World's Fair. The best footage came from a 1933 compilation that was discovered in a junk shop. The film shows a parade of floats on opening day, a joint visit by Thomas Edison, Henry Ford & Luther Burbank, mock military battles, stunt flying, camel races, sumo wrestlers & a light show mimicking the northern lights, to name just a fraction of the attractions. It all looks way more fun than anything going on in the city today.

This was the 1st World's Fair to use film as a marketing tool, & Ms. Monga showed us a sickly sentimental promotional film starring a little girl dressed as a fairy who emerges from the Portals of the Past in Golden Gate Park. We also saw the 1915 short Mabel and Fatty Viewing the World's Fair at San Francisco, in which the comedians are weirdly fascinated with the instruments of torture onboard a convict ship.

Other snippets included a glimpse of Charlie Charlie among a crowd of visitors waving to the camera, a tinted film of the fair's spectacular nighttime light displays & a bizarre clip revealing that preemies were exhibited. The audience applauded shots of the Ferry Building lit up with the year "1915".

Frederick Hodges accompanied live on the piano, playing a variety of jaunty tunes that fit the period & the images. We heard the Ride of Valkyries when a group of sailors appeared rowing a replica Viking ship.

The event was free, but I was not the only one who did not realize we were supposed to register for a free ticket online. When I arrived at the Officers' Club, I joined a line of ticketless attendees, & by the time we were let into the room, it was standing room only. A few people dressed in period costume.

§ World’s Fair on Film: San Francisco 1915
Presidio Trust & San Francisco Silent Film Festival
Feb 19, 07:00PM – 09:00PM
Presidio Officers' Club

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