Long, Long Ago (Tues. (11), 9:30-10:30 p.m., AMC) Taped around the U.S. by Off Center Prods. Executive producer, Lewis A. Bogach; producer-director, Ray Farkas; camera, Richard Crabbe, Jerome DeLoach, Tom Empy, David Golding, James Grandy, Roque Hernandez, Mark Hunt, Cory Kirk, Frank Loftus, Jay McSpadden, Sean Olson, Dusty Powers, Brian Sweet, Adam Weintraub, Gregory Weiss; sound, Patricia Armstrong, Hanks Fried, Andy Hall, Cory McRae, Holly Sweet, Philip Weiner; editor, Robert Zakin. Conversations among 26 sharp tenants of convalescent homes , retirement abodes and nursing facilities across the country seem like a long mile from film criticism, but these folks churn up fresh, amusing comments about the stars and the films from the audiences' point of view. Age can't wither a thing, and they share memories of the joy, fright, romance, suspense and laughter as they found them reeling in from film studios. The docu's a delight. The concept might sound like a downer, but Ray Farkas' guests win every time. Three people talk about how in "the old days" they paid 5 to sit in halls to watch those people up there and they relive the excitement and the newness of those early film strips. One man remembers sitting in a place that had only oil-burning lamps, and he still can't figure out how the projector projected without electricity; a woman talks of sitting with a girlfriend in the front row when the army horses came galloping toward the camera and the girl, screaming, tried to escape. A woman tells about playing the piano for the movies and, trailing off winsomely, adds "Way back when." Three former film technicians saw Lew Cody and Clara Bow rolling down Sunset Blvd. one afternoon with their phaeton's wheel caught in the streetcar tracks. When they went over to help, the actors turned out to be stark naked. The man who tells the story turns to one of the others and courteously asks, "You remember your story now?" His companion dryly retorts, "That's it!" Most of the women have their hair coiffed --- some for a 100-year birthday party --- and one remembers how athletic Douglas Fairbanks, supposed to be at a World War I bond-raising event, hadn't appeared, until he leapt out of a pepper tree onto the stage. Anecdotes and memories flow charmingly. A woman reports she was so scared by "The Phantom of the Opera" that she jumped onto her husband's lap; there's talk about "Birth of a Nation," with some citing it as magnificent and memorable, a few disturbed by the anti-black prejudice. Valentino? "He was some kind of guy, that Rudolph." One lady couldn't figure out how he always had so much food in his tent. Chaplin? He did everything to make people laugh. And he did. Mary Pickford's neglected, as is Wallace Reid. These intelligent, thoughtful people have definite opinions about picture shows. Says one woman: "It kinda opened up a new world to me --- that there was something outside Billings, Montana." The program dramatically underscores the importance of films as entertainment. People, enchanted by the magic lantern, talked about the movies they'd just seen late into the night or the next day. They made dreams so strong they're still being talked almost a century later. Farkas' production is simply splendid. He flashes clips from the silents into the format, and when an elderly testifier speaks, Farkas gently introduces a snap or a drawing of the speaker in youthtime. The music's from pianos, organs or a barbershop quartet, and it's all so well known that a few ladies warble a few tentative notes. "The Great Train Robbery" gets considerable mention, and Farkas includes the final scene in which the character, pointing a gun at the camera, fires. There's mention that 95% of all silent films no longer exist. One of its most important gifts is the reminder of how films represented inexpensive enjoyment for countless people from countless walks of life. Docu includes views of former major silent theaters across the country --- the Orpheum in L.A., the Egyptian in Hollywood. There's a sad tour of the Main Street Theater in Kansas City, the Yale Theater in Oklahoma City, Frisco's Wigwam Theater, most of them now dilapidated. But there's no mention of L.A.s just-closed Silent Theater on Fairfax and its contributions to the history of film. After all, it was the last stand for a 100-year-old art form. A cheerful, hearty man from Buffalo engagingly looks back at the actresses who were "so beautiful, and some were slinky and some were modest and some were athletic and some were demure, and every variety." And, from Chalk, Kan., "Charlie Chaplin, Fatty Arbuckle --- all those people. You knew them. At least I did. If I'd have been a little older, I'm sure I'd have gone after Douglas Fairbanks. I thought he was the last word." Robert Zakin's editing is a marvel. He capitalizes on the recollectors' spontaneity, their bright-eyed laughter, their happiness at remembering the thrill of seeing those early-day films. The docu's one big happy Valentine to silent pictures, and it's a considerable pleasure. AU: Tony Scott

Long, Long Ago (Tues. (11), 9:30-10:30 p.m., AMC) Taped around the U.S. by Off Center Prods. Executive producer, Lewis A. Bogach; producer-director, Ray Farkas; camera, Richard Crabbe, Jerome DeLoach, Tom Empy, David Golding, James Grandy, Roque Hernandez, Mark Hunt, Cory Kirk, Frank Loftus, Jay McSpadden, Sean Olson, Dusty Powers, Brian Sweet, Adam Weintraub, Gregory Weiss; sound, Patricia Armstrong, Hanks Fried, Andy Hall, Cory McRae, Holly Sweet, Philip Weiner; editor, Robert Zakin. Conversations among 26 sharp tenants of convalescent homes , retirement abodes and nursing facilities across the country seem like a long mile from film criticism, but these folks churn up fresh, amusing comments about the stars and the films from the audiences’ point of view. Age can’t wither a thing, and they share memories of the joy, fright, romance, suspense and laughter as they found them reeling in from film studios. The docu’s a delight. The concept might sound like a downer, but Ray Farkas’ guests win every time. Three people talk about how in “the old days” they paid 5 to sit in halls to watch those people up there and they relive the excitement and the newness of those early film strips. One man remembers sitting in a place that had only oil-burning lamps, and he still can’t figure out how the projector projected without electricity; a woman talks of sitting with a girlfriend in the front row when the army horses came galloping toward the camera and the girl, screaming, tried to escape. A woman tells about playing the piano for the movies and, trailing off winsomely, adds “Way back when.” Three former film technicians saw Lew Cody and Clara Bow rolling down Sunset Blvd. one afternoon with their phaeton’s wheel caught in the streetcar tracks. When they went over to help, the actors turned out to be stark naked. The man who tells the story turns to one of the others and courteously asks, “You remember your story now?” His companion dryly retorts, “That’s it!” Most of the women have their hair coiffed — some for a 100-year birthday party — and one remembers how athletic Douglas Fairbanks, supposed to be at a World War I bond-raising event, hadn’t appeared, until he leapt out of a pepper tree onto the stage. Anecdotes and memories flow charmingly. A woman reports she was so scared by “The Phantom of the Opera” that she jumped onto her husband’s lap; there’s talk about “Birth of a Nation,” with some citing it as magnificent and memorable, a few disturbed by the anti-black prejudice. Valentino? “He was some kind of guy, that Rudolph.” One lady couldn’t figure out how he always had so much food in his tent. Chaplin? He did everything to make people laugh. And he did. Mary Pickford’s neglected, as is Wallace Reid. These intelligent, thoughtful people have definite opinions about picture shows. Says one woman: “It kinda opened up a new world to me — that there was something outside Billings, Montana.” The program dramatically underscores the importance of films as entertainment. People, enchanted by the magic lantern, talked about the movies they’d just seen late into the night or the next day. They made dreams so strong they’re still being talked almost a century later. Farkas’ production is simply splendid. He flashes clips from the silents into the format, and when an elderly testifier speaks, Farkas gently introduces a snap or a drawing of the speaker in youthtime. The music’s from pianos, organs or a barbershop quartet, and it’s all so well known that a few ladies warble a few tentative notes. “The Great Train Robbery” gets considerable mention, and Farkas includes the final scene in which the character, pointing a gun at the camera, fires. There’s mention that 95% of all silent films no longer exist. One of its most important gifts is the reminder of how films represented inexpensive enjoyment for countless people from countless walks of life. Docu includes views of former major silent theaters across the country — the Orpheum in L.A., the Egyptian in Hollywood. There’s a sad tour of the Main Street Theater in Kansas City, the Yale Theater in Oklahoma City, Frisco’s Wigwam Theater, most of them now dilapidated. But there’s no mention of L.A.s just-closed Silent Theater on Fairfax and its contributions to the history of film. After all, it was the last stand for a 100-year-old art form. A cheerful, hearty man from Buffalo engagingly looks back at the actresses who were “so beautiful, and some were slinky and some were modest and some were athletic and some were demure, and every variety.” And, from Chalk, Kan., “Charlie Chaplin, Fatty Arbuckle — all those people. You knew them. At least I did. If I’d have been a little older, I’m sure I’d have gone after Douglas Fairbanks. I thought he was the last word.” Robert Zakin’s editing is a marvel. He capitalizes on the recollectors’ spontaneity, their bright-eyed laughter, their happiness at remembering the thrill of seeing those early-day films. The docu’s one big happy Valentine to silent pictures, and it’s a considerable pleasure. AU: Tony Scott

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