Rome holds a special place in movie lore, as the above photo of Anita Ekberg from Federico Fellini's 1960 masterpiece "La Dolce Vita" makes clear. But it's not the only Rome with a cinematic connection.
We're referring to Rome, New York, population 34,000; any movie stars in town were probably passing through on the train; it's a stop on Amtrak, along the Chicago-New York route that used to be known as the fabled "Twentieth Century" -- from which the play and eventual Carole Lombard movie got its name. (But a check of Amtrak's timetable shows that while several of its trains stop in Rome, the one between New York and Chicago, now called the Lake Shore Limited, doesn't.) In the middle of this small upstate city is a charming old movie palace called the Capitol Theatre.
The 1,700-seat Capitol opened in December 1928 and underwent some Art Deco renovation in 1939, but essentially is still its vintage self. And while like so many other classic film palaces, it's become a performing arts center, movies remain a major part of the Capitol's fare.
Every August for the past few years, the theater has hosted an event called Capitolfest, a weekend extravaganza of vintage films. (It's sort of a complement to another upstate event for film buffs, "Cinefest," held in nearby Syracuse every March.) Many of the Capitolfest movies are silents -- and the Capitol provides a fine setting for them, because it has the same organ that opened the place nearly 80 years ago. It's been lovingly restored to its full majestic quality:
And in less than three weeks, that organ will be used to provide accompaniment for a Lombard silent, one relatively few people have seen:
That's right -- "Show Folks," the 1928 Pathe feature in which Lombard, nearing the end of her teen years when this was filmed, has a supporting role (http://community.livejournal.com/carole_and_co/92965.html). It's very hard to come by, and truth be told, Capitol officials weren't initially intending to have it on the schedule. But when Library of Congress officials couldn't find a print of the film they wanted to run (something called "The Spieler"), the Library offered "Show Folks" as a substitute. And with 2008 being the centennial year of Lombard's birth, it turned out just as well. (But not perfect: while "Show Folks" was also filmed with a soundtrack and some talking sequences -- although I'm not sure whether Lombard herself had any dialogue -- this film is completely silent. The version with sound is reportedly lost.)
"Show Folks," in which Lombard is shown above with Bessie Barriscale and Maurice Black, will run Sunday, Aug. 10 at 11:52 a.m., closing out the Sunday morning session.
Other notable features at this year's event, which begins Friday, Aug. 8 and lasts through Sunday, include Fox's 1928 "Romance Of The Underworld" with Mary Astor and John Boles; Paramount's 1930 "The Vagabond King" with Jeanette MacDonald, in a two-strip Technicolor print recently restored by UCLA; Universal's 1932 "Fast Companions," with Maureen O'Sullivan and an 8-year-old Mickey Rooney; and Clara Bow and Fredric March in the silent version of Paramount's 1930 "True To The Navy." All these films are in 35mm prints.
For the complete schedule, as well as information on registering, go to http://www.romecapitol.com/Capitolfest.html.
The Capitol has quite a few upcoming events scheduled, many of them movie-related. For example, tonight (July 24) it's having a "drive-in" night, showing "Gorgo" (1961) and "Face Of The Screaming Werewolf" (1964) -- at a '60s-style price of $1.50 for adults and 75 cents for children. In September, film fare includes:
* The famed Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra providing accompaniment for Harold Lloyd's noted 1927 silent "The Kid Brother" (Sept. 12).
* A "mystery night" with William Powell as Philo Vance in "The Kennel Murder Case" (1933) and Werner Oland in the 1935 "Charlie Chan At The Opera" (Sept. 20).
* A recreation of a 1932 double bill at the Capitol, "Three On A Match" and "American Madness" (the latter directed by Frank Capra), at the original '32 admission prices of 40 cents for adults, a quarter for kids (Sept. 27, at both 2:30 and 7 p.m.).
The entire schedule can be found at http://www.romecapitol.com/events.html.
And if you do visit, and want to check out the sights around town, go to this Web site, appropriately titled http://www.when-in-rome.com/