HISTORIAN, ARCHIVIST AND APPRAISER
“A METICULOUS FILM SCHOLAR.”
“A ONE-MAN PUBLISHING PHENOMENON”
— THE LOS ANGELES TIMES
“OUR PREEMINENT HISTORIAN OF THE SILENT FILM”
— LILLIAN GISH
“THANK YOU FOR YOUR SKILLFUL, THOROUGH AND ACCURATE REPORT.
I CANNOT IMAGINE THAT THIS WORK COULD BE BETTER DONE”
— GREGORY PECK
“I CANNOT BEGIN TO TELL YOU HOW IMPRESSED I AM WITH THE THOROUGHNESS OF YOUR WORK.
I HAVE FOUND YOU TO BE VERY FAIR, HONEST AND SKILLFUL”
— ERNEST BORGNINE
Anthony Slide remains active as the country’s leading appraiser of entertainment-related memorabilia and other material. Director Ridley Scott continues as one of his ongoing clients, and in recent years, Anthony Slide has counted among his other clients the widow of Sonny Bono, the Dennis Hopper Trust, the estate of Kirk Kerkorian, the estate of Robert Osborne, the son of Rosalind Russell, the University of Michigan, the estate of director/cinematographer Haskell Wexler, and the estate of cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond. In mid through late 2019, Anthony Slide appraised the memorabilia of Gary Cooper, on behalf of his daughter; the papers of Josef von Sternberg, on behalf of his son; and all the paperwork relating to what is possibly the most famous unfinished film in the world, Jerry Lewis’ The Day the Clown Cried, on behalf of his son. One fascinating item appraised in the spring of 2020 was a ledger for the legendary Apollo Theatre, listing all acts that played there, all films that screened there, and much more, from 1934 through 1977. Unique in terms of its reference value, the ledger is also unique in terms of its financial worth. Confidentiality agreements prevent identification of many of Anthony Slide’s more prominent clients. Among the material that he routinely appraises are personal papers, correspondence, scripts, books, photographs, equipment, posters and lobby cards, autographs, films (including copyright), publicity and promotional items, costume designs, artwork, set designs, recordings, and awards (including Oscars and Emmys).
Since Anthony Slide published his first book, “Early American Cinema” in 1970, he has written or edited more than 200 volumes, including the 126-volume “Filmmakers Series,” published by Scarecrow Press.His most recent books are:
“She Could Be Chaplin!: The Comedic Brilliance of Alice Howell” (University Press of Mississippi, 2016) provides the first book-length study of a little-known silent slapstick comedienne. Alice Howell was the grandmother of George Stevens, Jr., and he generously sponsored the book and also provides an introduction. Leonard Maltin writes that this is a “long-overdue tribute,” and “The Huffington Post” names “She Could Be Chaplin!” as one of the Best Film Books of 2016.
“Magnificent Obsession: The Outrageous History of Film Buffs, Collectors, Scholars, and Fanatics” (University Press of Mississippi, 2018) has generated considerable interest. It boasts a cover blurb from Veteran actor Norman Lloyd, who writes, “As an actor of the venerable age of 103, I have come across quite a few film buffs in my career. I have never fully understood their place in society, and I am grateful to Tony Slide for casting his discerning eye of such individuals.” The equally venerable publication, “Sight & Sound” writes, “As a history, Magnificent Obsession is practically a group biography, naming and frequently shaming scores of film buffs, but taken together it provides a synoptic perspective on classical Hollywood’s afterlife.”
Anthony Slide’s latest book is “Wake Up at the Back There! It’s Jimmy Edwards (BearManor Media, 2018), a critical biography of the British comedian. In “Film International,” Tony Williams writes, “as expected from such a professional scholar, it is written from a dedicated research perspective with the author relying on his memory, notes, film collector, interviews, and e-mails with relevant figures.” The British Music Hall Society publication, “The Call Boy” describes the book as “a fascinating read.” An interview with the author, relating to the book, can be found on the Alt Film Guide site. This site also features interviews relating to Alice Howell and Magnificent Obsession: https://www.altfg.com/film/tag/anthony-slide/
Nominated by novelist Jonathan Coe, “‘It’s the Pictures That Got Small’: Charles Brackett on Billy Wilder and Hollywood’s Golden Age” was named one of the Outstanding Books of the Year by “The Guardian” newspaper.
Anthony Slide has been involved with Pamela B. Green’s documentary, “Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy Blache,” both as a prominent onscreen presence and also as a consulting producer. Following a number of festival screenings, including Cannes, London, New York, and Telluride, the film was released in April 2019 by Kino-Lorber. Also for Kino-Lorber, in 2018, he recorded three commentaries for films (by Mrs. Wallace Reid, Ida May Park and Ruth Ann Baldwin) in its “Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers” boxed set. Another documentary, in which Anthony Slide appears, is James Freedman’s “Carl Laemmle,” which had its first screening in Los Angeles in December 2018.
Personal Thoughts and News
As I get older, I think back on those who influenced me most at the start of my career, and three names come to mind: Rachael Low, Liam O’Leary and Edward Wagenknecht. I am reminded of Rachael Low at this time because of a ghastly, academic event that took place in December 2018 at the British Film Institute. Three self-anointed academics spoke as to whether Rachael Low still matters. There can, of course, be no question as to her relevance and her lasting importance. She is the doyenne of British film historians, a woman who basically and single-handedly wrote the history of the British film from the 1890s through the 1930s. Rachael published the first volume of her history, covering the years 1896-1906, in 1948.. The entire set of six volumes was reprinted by Routledge in 1997. I don’t remember how we first met, but I do recall her inviting me to spend one day a week at London’s National Film Archive, viewing films in preparation for the 1930s volume of her history. As we looked at the films on a steenbeck, she would chatter away about the characters on screen, comparing them to members of her family. Amazingly she never seemed to make notes. Some of the cans of nitrate film were rusted shut, and we found the easiest way to open them was to drop them on the floor. We were not the most serious of archivists. Each lunch break, she would take me as her guest to the original Pizza Express on Dean Street. Our friendship endured, and I still feel honored that when the 1918-1929 volume of the history was published in 1971 and there was to be a season of films at the National Film Theatre she asked me to program them. I was honored to be invited to stay with her and her husband Michael. Rachael Low was a great lady, responsible for my long-lasting love of British films. When she died, at the age of ninety-one, in December 2014, there was no acknowledgement of her death. A shameful situation, but not unknown in the annals of film history.
Liam O’Leary was described as an affable and enthusiastic Irish man. He was not exactly a modest man, too self-involved really, and when he would interview anyone the subject was hardly able to respond to Liam’s questions before Liam interrupted with an anecdote of his own. When he failed to persuade the Irish government to create a film archive in his native land, Liam founded his own, and, of course, named it the Liam O’Leary Film Archive (now part of the National Library of Ireland). He had published an entertaining and personal history of cinema, “Invitation to the Film,” using his Gaelic name, Liam O’Laoghaire, in 1945 and had made a handful of documentaries in Dublin. Between 1953 and 1965, he was Acquisitions Officer of the National Film Archive in London, enthusiastically acquiring films and rummaging through London’s Sunday flea markets on the look out for nitrate film (which he could usually purchase for one pound a can). It was in the 1960s that I came to know him and he took my under his wing, teaching me not only a lot about film but popular culture and history in general. He introduced me to London’s East End, to the Brick Lane Sunday market, and to salt beef sandwiches. When he moved back to Dublin in 1965 to work for Radio Telefis Eireann I would visit him on many occasions. Through Liam, I got to meet and interview many famous names in Irish theatre and film, including Hilton Edwards, Michael Mac Liammoir, Eileen Crowe, and Lennie Collinge, projectionist for James Joyce at the Volta Cinema. Those meetings and Liam’s enthusiasm led to my publishing “The Cinema and Ireland” in 1988 (long out of print but still available as a Kindle book). Liam died in December 1982 at the age of eighty-two.
A few months after publication of my first book, “Early American Cinema,” in March 1971 I received a fan letter from Edward Wagenknecht. A fan letter from the historian I admired most who had written what I consider to be the greatest book on silent film, “Movies in the Age of Innocence,” first published in 1962. Edward wrote of “the enjoyment I have experienced” from reading my book. It was an incredible moment in my life that one of the great scholars of English and American literature should be aware of my work, and it was to lead to our collaborating on two books, “The Films of D.W. Griffith” (1975) and “Fifty Great American Silent Films, 1912-1920” (1980, and still available as a Kindle book). Through the years I have tried to emulate Edward’s style of writing and recording history, and I still feel honored that he edited and revised what was my second book, “The Griffith Actresses” (1973). We seldom met — he lived in Boston and I in Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles — but we corresponded on a regular basis. I urge anyone interested in the scope of Edward’s work to read the book that is closest to an autobiography, “As Far as Yesterday” (1968). Edward died at the age go 104 in 2004, and ten years later I was privileged to write the foreword and help revise the third edition of “Movies in the Age of Innocence.”
It was Edward Wagenknecht who quoted the immortal line spoken by Rosetta Duncan, in blackface as Topsy, in “Topsy and Eva”: “I’se mean an’ ornery, I is, mean an’ ornery. I hate everybody in the world and I only wish there were more people in the world so I could hate them too.” As he pointed out, “It is a kindly thought that comes in handy at times. I advise you to memorize it.”
Patricia King Hanson
Patricia King Hanson died on Wednesday, May 8, 2019, at 1:00 P.M. Her name may mean little to most people but Pat was, in my opinion, the most important woman working in film history in recent decades, an individual to whom we all owe a tremendous debt, be we scholar, student, researcher, or buff. Beginning in 1983, Patricia King Hanson was executive editor of the “American Film Institute Catalog,” responsible for the 1911-1920, 1931-1940, 1941-1950, and 1951-1960 volumes of the “Catalog.” They are models of serious research, with complete and detailed credits, synopses based wherever possible on a viewing of the films, and meticulous notes. Each entry is based on contemporary sources, with the notes indicating what modern sources might, rightly or wrongly, claim. Even those who insist on getting their credit information from the IMDB owe a debt to Pat in that the former generally seems to use the “American Film Institute Catalog” as its primary source.
Born in Los Angeles on January 9, 1947, Pat graduated from the University of Southern California, with a B.A. in 1968, an M..A. in 1970 and an M.L.S. in 1974. She was earlier involved in many other projects, most notably editorship of “Magill’s Survey of Cinema,” to which I contributed many essays.
I had the honor to share commentary with Pat for the DVD release of the 1937 Humphrey Bogart vehicle, “Black Legion.” With Pat and husband Stephen L. Hansen, I co-edited “Sourcebook for the Performing Arts: A Directory of Collections, Resources, and Critics in Theatre, Film, and Television” (Greenwood Press, 1988).
Pat had retired some years ago from the American Film Institute, but at the time of her death she was still working (without pay) on a revised and corrected edition of the 1921-1930 volume of the “American Film Institute Catalog.” There could be no more appropriate tribute to Pat than for the Institute to undertake publication of that volume.
My condolences to Pat’s husband Steve, longtime head of the Cinematic Arts Library at U.S..C.
Currently, as of early 2020, I am recording some commentaries for Kino-Lorber’s DVD/Blu Ray releases of various Universal silent films, and that reminds me that I have never fully documented the audio commentaries that I have recorded through the decades. Each commentary presents a challenge, not only in terms of extensive research, but also in terms of how the commentary is presented. It must be entertaining and everything must be timed for the appropriate place it will be heard on the sound track. The hardest part is perhaps realizing that as the end of the film approaches, one has said all that one wants to say and there is still perhaps as much as ten minutes of talk needed. My scripted commentaries generally run to around 90 pages in length.
So, here, in no particular order, is a listing of all the films for which I have provided audio commentaries since the 1990s:
In Old Kentucky (1935)
Doubting Thomas (1935)
Life Begins at Forty (1935)
The Razor’s Edge (1946), with Bob Birchard
The Rains Came (1939), with Bob Birchard
Under My Skin (1950)
7th Heaven (1927), with Bob Birchard
Black Legion (1937), with Patricia King Hanson
The Red Kimona (1925)
Blood and Sand (1922)
The Intrigue (1916)
20,000 Leagues under the Sea (1916)
The Reckless Age (1924)
What Happened to Jones (1925)
Skinner’s Dress Suit (1926)
Outside the Law (1920)
This site is intended to provide current information on independent film scholar, Anthony Slide, supplementing the archival site, anthonyslide.com. Anthony Slide can be reached directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.