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WNY Movie Expo: From silent movies to retro TV and Rod Serling

Its lengthy name is a hint that there's a lot going on at the Western New York Movie Expo and Memorabilia Show.

The fourth annual event, to be held from Aug. 1 to 4 in the Buffalo Grand Hotel (formerly the Adam's Mark Hotel), is a classic film festival, a celebration of vintage TV and collector's candy store - with a twist.

In the more than 100 movies, shorts and television episodes showing continuously in three screening rooms, there will be familiar movies from Hollywood's Golden Age ("Arsenic and Old Lace," "Modern Times")  and popular retro TV shows (Ed Sullivan, Danny Thomas). The twist is that the programming goes beyond the expected and familiar to include rarities, thanks to private collectors from around the country - and nearby. "I Dream Too Much," a 1935 musical with Lily Pons and Henry Fonda showing at 9:30 p.m. Aug. 2, is from local collector Grant Golden, who runs the Old Chestnut Film Society.

Sanborn resident and Expo founder Alex Bartosh likens the collectors who augment the programming to a "bring your own booze party for film buffs," except that they bring their own movies, he laughs. "We're just a little blue-collar show. We don't do celebrities, no one is coming in to charge for autographs - there are other shows for that."

The Expo, instead, is about diverse, unusual and rare programming ranging from silent comedies to early talkies, thrillers, film noir and television that people of all ages can enjoy.

Kirk Douglas, left, and Burt Lancaster star in "Seven Days in May," which will be shown as part of a Rod Serling tribute - he wrote the screenplay - at the WNY Movie Expo.

"We try to dig up oddities you don’t see on MeTV," Bartosh said of the retro TV shows. "Even with the Rod Serling programming, we don’t run ‘Twilight Zone’ episodes – you can see those anywhere. "

Instead, watch the political thriller "Seven Days in May," with a screenplay adaptation by Serling, at 3 p.m. Aug. 3. More programming celebrating Serling and the 60th anniversary of “The Twilight Zone” includes rarities from the Bundy Museum of History and Art in Binghamton, where the Serling archives are housed (he grew up in Binghamton). Two authors who have written about Serling - Amy Boyle Johnston ("Unknown Serling") and Nicholas Parisi (“Rod Serling: His Life, Work and Imagination”) - will give presentations.

The event also features silent movies and comedy shorts with musical accompaniment by Jeff Rapsis, who improvises his film scores at the events.

“For people unfamiliar with The Expo, this is a tremendous chance to see what these films were like when they were new and shown with an audience and live music," said Rapsis, who is making his fourth appearance at The WNY Expo.

Creating music for silent films: Jeff Rapsis returns for WNY Movie Expo

While Bartosh said he is happy to see old friends from around the country, many he has known for 45 years of attending similar film events including Cinecon, which ended its 35-year run in 2015 - he is excited that the number of new and younger faces he is seeing is growing.

"You just love to keep up old relationships and traditions. It’s part of the reason people come," Bartosh said. "And we’re slowly building up a core of regulars – locals who come in for one day to see movies and visit the Emporium.”

 

Panels and Q&A sessions are part of the WNY Movie Expo.

Highlights

Here's a quick look at some of the varied programming; read the full schedule here.

Old-time television. Look for such vintage TV episodes as “The Jimmy Durante Show,” “The Danny Thomas Show” (including an episode with Dean Martin), “Red Skelton Hour” and two episodes of “The Donna Reed Show” with silent comedy great Buster Keaton.

Comedy. The Expo loves comedy, especially early comedians like Buster Keaton, Charley Chase, W.C. Fields, Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle and Laurel and Hardy. Jerry Lewis stars in the 1961 comedy “The Errand Boy,” at 10 a.m. Aug. 2. Fibber McGee & Molly and Edgar Bergen are in “Here We go Again” at 4 p.m. Aug. 2. “The Great Radio Comedians” documentary is at 2:20 p.m. Aug. 2. “Laurel and Hardy: The Real “Stan and Ollie” will have four shorts accompanied by Jeff Rapsis at 8 p.m. Aug. 2.

The enduring appeal of Laurel and Hardy takes one man back to his childhood

Charlie Chan. The wise detective is celebrated in “Charlie Chan Theater” with “Dark Alibi” at 11:45 p.m. Aug. 1 and “Charlie Chan in Paris,” at 8:05 p.m. Aug. 2.

Alfred Hitchcock: The master is the topic of the documentaries “Hitchcock: The Early Years” at 10 a.m. Aug. 3 followed by “The Men Who Made the Movies: Alfred Hitchcock” at 10:30 a.m.

Silent movies and music. Jeff Rapsis will accompany movies and shorts including Laurel and Hardy programming (8 p.m. Aug. 2 and 9 p.m. Aug. 3), the influential 1929 G.W. Pabst feature “Pandora’s Box” with Louise Brooks (2 p.m. Aug. 3) and Buster Keaton's "The Paleface" (10:10 p.m. Sat. Aug. 3).

Thrills and chills. Friday (Aug. 2) and Saturday (Aug. 3) end on a darker note. The Jack the Ripper tale “The Lodger” is at 9:10 p.m. Aug. 2, followed at 10:45 p.m. by “Doctor Blood’s Coffin” about a scientist who tries to revive the dead. Never a good idea. On Aug. 3, “Monsters We’ve Known and Loved” (1964) has clips of horror favorites including Karloff and Lugosi. Joseph Cotten narrates. It’s followed by the self-explanatory “The Great Horror and Science-Fiction Trailer Show.”

Animation festival. Look for work from Tex Avery, Bob Clampett, Dave Fleischer and Friz Freleng.

PREVIEW

WNY Movie Expo

10 a.m. to midnight Aug. 1 to 4 at the Buffalo Grand Hotel (120 Church St.). A full festival pass is $35 or $12 per day. Tickets are available at the door. Visit wnymovieexpo.com.

 

 

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