Silent Movie Day: The Unknown / Dollar Down
In-person: Introduction by Steven Hill, Associate Motion Picture Curator, co-founder of Silent Movie Day.
Admission is free. No advance reservations. Your seat will be assigned to you when you pick up your ticket at the box office. Seats are assigned on a first come, first served basis. The box office opens one hour before the event.
While Silent Movie Day is celebrated annually on September 29, the UCLA Film & Television Archive is pleased to acknowledge the cause it promotes, the preservation, exhibition and appreciation of silent films, with this special, belated silent screening. This program will feature an introduction by Steven K. Hill, Associate Motion Picture Curator at the Archive and co-founder of Silent Movie Day.
Live musical accompaniment provided by Cliff Retallick!
In a performance that required, in the contemporaneous words of the Los Angeles Times, “the strangest of all his tricks,” Lon Chaney plays Alonzo, an armless knife thrower (he uses his feet) obsessed with his assistant Nanon, played by an alluring Joan Crawford. It’s a trick Chaney reveals on screen in character as part of a wild plot twist that only presages the shocks director Tod Browning has in store. As Alonzo pushes Nanon deeper into her traumatic fear of men’s hands, he succumbs to his own psychotic desires leading to a final act of madness. Newly restored by the George Eastman Museum, The Unknown swirls with Browning’s signature atmosphere of beauty and doom.
DCP, b&w, silent, 63 min. Director: Tod Browning. Screenwriters: Waldemar Young, Tod Browning. With: Lon Chaney, Norman Kerry, Joan Crawford.
Shortly before joining Lon Chaney for their remarkable filmmaking partnership at MGM, Tod Browning shot Dollar Down for independent Co-Artists Productions in Santa Monica. Starring serial queen Ruth Roland and frequent Browning collaborator Henry B. Walthall, Dollar Down is a comedy-tinged melodrama that follows the director’s formula of enmeshing his characters in a cinematic morality play. Here, a spendthrift middle-class family abruptly finds itself trapped in a destructive web of debt. Preserved from a decomposing and incomplete nitrate print, Dollar Down is a fascinating look into Browning’s work shortly before he would make his career-defining titles such as London After Midnight, The Unknown, Freaks and Dracula.
35mm, b&w, silent, 60 min. Director: Tod Browning. Screenwriter: Jane Courthope, Ethel Hill, Frederick Stowers. With: Ruth Roland, Henry B. Walthall, Mayme Kelso. Print courtesy of the UCLA Film & Television Archive.