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August 26, 2022 / bikesbytesbites

Capitolfest 2022

Capitolfest is a film festival held in Rome NY that shows silent films and early (1930’s) talkies. This is the third time I’ve been to Capitolfest. I wrote about the 2019 visit here and the 2021 visit here. This year the featured star was Robert Armstrong. Robert Armstrong? — the male lead in the original (1933) King Kong.

The Trip There (Thursday, August 11)

As last year, I got a ride up to Rome with my friend Linda, who shares my enthusiasm for early movies. I got up early, biked and took metro to her place, and we were on the road by 8 AM. This got us to Rome in plenty of time to settle into our hotel, pick up our festival passes at the theater, and see that night’s movie. Since last year, the marquee and sign have been restored, and the exterior of the place looked great.

The opening film was Footlight Parade starring Jimmy Cagney and featuring some numbers choreographed by Busby Berkeley. It had just enough Berkeley for my tastes and an excellent (as usual) Cagney as well as Joan Blondell.

Capitolfest Day 1 (Friday, August 12)

The movie day lasts over 12 hours – the first one starting around 9 AM and the last one starting around 9 PM. There are full-length films interspersed with cartoons as well as shorter features. There are enough breaks to allow people to get something to eat and to allow me to get in a bike ride or walk. There are typically some films I classify as “historical interest only” and some that I enjoy more.

For me, today’s highlights were:

  • Penrod and Sam (1923). From a Booth Tarkington novel, about rival groups of boys. Two of the boys were Black, and fit right in the group, pretty remarkable for a film made in 1923. (But, then again, they were boys and not adults.)
  • Woman Trap (1936). This one was a mistake! The film named Woman Trap made in 1929 was supposed to be delivered, but this one got sent instead. I’m glad they made the mistake – this one had interesting story, good roles for women, a wonderful supporting turn by Akim Tamiroff, and an ending that was not easy to predict.
  • Ex-Bad Boy (1931). Ok, not really one of my favorites, but it did have an early role for Jean Arthur and was the first time I remember seeing Jason Robards (Sr!) in a movie.
  • Nobody’s Fool (1936). Young Edward Everett Horton looks just like old Edward Everett Horton. The script and word play are fantastic — wish I had been able to jot down some of the quips,
  • Till I Come Back to You (1918). Directed by Cecil deMille. A World War I movie made when World War I was still going on.

King Kong was the late film. Since I’ve never seen it in a movie theater, I stayed for Fay Wray’s entrance then decided I’d had enough movies for the day.

Capitolfest Day 2 (Saturday, August 13)

Another day at the movies.

  • Seed (1931). Well, I don’t know if I’d classify this as one of my favorites, but it was certainly very pre-code in terms of its treatment of marriage, divorce, and the role of women. Evidently, it was toned down (and greatly condensed) from the very controversial novel on which it was based.
  • Glamour (1934). Also very pre-code, but a better film, directly by William Wyler. (His daughter introduced the film and said a bit about her father’s history in the movie business.) Good roles for women in a “here’s how to make it in show biz” story.
  • Goldie Locks and the Three Bears (1926). A Walt Disney cartoon.

For lunch I headed out of town. I could follow the Erie Canal Path for a short ways, when it was on a street or a paved path. But when it turned it dirt, I headed back to the street. I found a great place to have lunch, with either indoor eating (with vintage formica tables and chrome chairs) or a picnic area. I chose the picnic area.

Capitolfest Day 3 (Sunday, August 14)

The last day of Capitolfest the films only run through the afternoon. The gives locals a chance to get home at a reasonable hour and other attendees the chance to have a leisurely dinner (if they can find a place that’s open on Sunday evening.)

Today’s films included:

  • Moonlight and Pretzels (1933) – Two strong women’s parts in the middle of another make-it-in-show-biz saga. Directed by a German emigré and featuring favorable views of Germany (pretzels).
  • The Roaring Road (1919) – The highlight is a road race between San Francisco and Los Angeles, on the last days before speed limited are implemented! The hero (“Toodles”), in a custom-made car, is trying to break the previous record of 14 hours. (I checked Google Maps. It’s about 400 miles to cover, to the speeds must have seemed supernatural to 1919 audiences.)
  • Above the Clouds (1933) – Armstrong starred (!!) as a newsreel photographer trying to capture a dirigible explosion. This was four years before the Hindenburg explosion in 1937, and dirigibles were the fashionable way to travel long distances.
  • The Fire Brigade (1926) – This one is noteworthy as a deft combination of documentary footage and a fictional narrative.

Other Highlights of Rome

Every day a different vintage car was parked in front of the theater. I wish I knew more about vintage cars.

Evidently, a large part of downtown was demolished to make way for the Fort Stanwix National Park. But there’s a lovely mural nearby — representing businesses that used to be there?

And I did get in some short bicycle rides on the Mohawk River Trail, the Erie Canal Path, and city streets. Next year — try to cycle the entire Erie Canal? Or maybe an extended tour in upstate New York?

One Comment

Leave a Comment
  1. Rootchopper / Aug 26 2022 4:19 pm

    The Erie Canal is well worth riding. The Finger Lakes are pretty cool too.

    I’m surprised by the Penrod movie. I re-read the book about ten years ago and was stunned at the offhand use of derogatory terms for black people. A book of its time, I suppose.

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