Celebrating the history of film in Ithaca Jun 24, 2005 9:42:55 GMT -5
Post by Terry Harbin on Jun 24, 2005 9:42:55 GMT -5
Celebrating the history of film in Ithaca
By Jennie Orton
By Jennie Orton
What do Rod Serling and the Wharton Brothers have in common? For those who live in Ithaca and know a little about its history, the answer is intriguing. Terry Harbin and Elliot Novak are two Ithaca residents who believe it is important to keep alive the history of these giants of television and silent film.
Harbin will host a Friday, June 2, Ithaca College (IC) reunion weekend event at Ford Hall. The screening of rarely-seen silent films both produced and filmed at Ithaca's Wharton Studios during the early 1900's will start at 8pm. ' What's unique is that we're going to be showing two episodes from the serial, Beatrice Fairfax, and two episodes from the serial Patria, which starred Irene Castle,' said Harbin. Castle reportedly 'secretly married Robert Treman of the Tremans,' according to Harbin, and 'ranked right up there' among leading ladies of the early 1900's silent film era.
Ralph Ringstad '83 (IC) will play live organ music as accompaniment. Ringstad resides as chief organist and theme show producer at the Darress Theatre in Boonton, New Jersey.
Novak will host a June 2, 10pm screening on the outside wall of the Firehouse Theatre, commemorating the 25th anniversary of Rod Serling's death. Rare footage shows humorous outtakes of Novak with former co-host, Rod Serling, in their early 1970's WCIC Ithaca-TV magazine program, 'The Sunday Show,' and never before seen footage of Serling's Night Gallery, a promotional clip originally meant for advertisers only. A film-projected episode of The Twilight Zone will be the finale. Surprise footage is also promised.
"Ithacans should care about Rod Serling because he cared about them,' said Novak. 'And this was a guy who did any TV show that we asked him. He appeared anywhere, anytime he was asked, for nothing, to do anything. If peope don't remember that, then they are remiss.' Novak wrote, acted in, and produced, They Made Movies in Ithaca, a documentary that Serling narrated in 1973 about Ithaca's silent film industry. An award-winning writer, producer, filmmaker, and personal friend of Serling, Novak can tell you that Serling was a cultural icon most widelyknown for his 1950's-60's TV Series, The Twilight Zone.
Serling lived in Interlaken 30 years, had a house on Cayuga Lake, taught at IC as a visiting professor in the early 1970's, and was later awarded an honorary doctorate. Serling worked to share his Emmy award-winning screenwriting talents with students and the community.
'You have to remember he was born in Syracuse, grew up in Binghamton, taught and lived in Ithaca, and died in Rochester. He was more central New York oriented than Carl Sagan,' said Novak. 'Well, Ithaca wasn't the old Hollywood. Sorry. Plenty of companies made silent films back then. But when you come into New York State and want to pinpoint where they were making them, it wasn't in Rochester, Syracuse, Elmira, or Horseheads.
"They were doing them n Ithaca,' said Harbin. The Wharton Brothers studios stood in former Renwick (now Stewart) Park. They filmed movies in and around the natural landscapes and city streets of Ithaca. Famous silent film stars acted in these movies - Oliver Hardy, Pearl White, Lionel Barrymore, Francis X. Bushman and Beverly Bayne. Local Ithacans often played extra during filming.
Harbin, Ithaca historian, audio-visual aide at the Tompkins County Public Library, documentary TV producer, and 'silent movies made in Ithaca expert,' unveiled the truth about the early Wharton Brothers' silent film reels. People believed for a long time that the highly combustible nitrate-based reels were dumped into Cayuga Lake to avoid the danger of fire. But Harbin discovered that a fire had destroyed a substantial stock of locally-made films, not water. Harbin found that some fims did exist, and for thirteen years has continued to retrieve what possible.
Harbin made available two Ithaca silent films to patrons of the Tompkin's County Public Library-"The Lottery Man," and "If Women Only Knew." Harbin is working to make more films available.
Harbin and Novak want to share rare footage from their collections to show Ithacans that there is something to celebrate in the contributions Rod Serling and the Wharton Brothers made to Ithaca.