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Secrets Beyond the Door: Treasures from the UCLA Festival of Preservation

Sunday, August 16, 2009
7:15 p.m. The Salvation Hunters
Josef von Sternberg (U.S., 1925)

Judith Rosenberg on Piano


Josef von Sternberg’s first film, shot for less than $4,800 on location in San Pedro, L.A.’s Chinatown, and the San Fernando Valley, was possibly Hollywood’s first “independent” feature. The gritty realism of its locations, the utter lack of artifice in its story, and the lower depths embodied by its three principal characters shocked audiences and the Hollywood film community alike. Seen today, the film remains thoroughly modern, not because of its realism, but because Sternberg’s characters hide so much of themselves as they create an ad hoc family more out of circumstance than choice. The Salvation Hunters made a star not only of its director, but also of Georgia Hale, who would play opposite Chaplin in The Gold Rush, and George K. Arthur, who teamed up with Karl Dane at MGM in a successful series of comedies.

—Jan-Christopher Horak

• Written by Sternberg. Photographed by Edward Gheller. With George K. Arthur, Georgia Hale, Bruce Guerin, Otto Matiesen. (c. 72 mins, Silent)

Preceded by short:
Oil: A Symphony in Motion (M. G. MacPherson, U.S., 1933). Oil was produced by Artkino, a Los Angeles collective of amateur filmmakers who here attempted a lyric documentary from the point of view of the oil itself. Photographed by Jean Michelson. (8 mins)

• (Total running time: c. 80 mins, B&W, 35mm. Preservation funded by The Stanford Theatre Foundation.)