Local movie buff Hunter Hale feels vindicated - "Sunrise" was chosen as one of the first 25 films to make up the Library of Congress' National Film Registry.
Hale is a dyed-in-the-wool film freak whose movie passion encompasses the silent era. He collects films and videos, along with memorabilia, of course . . . but he doesn't just hoard. He's a vocal advocate.Hale loves the art of so-called "silent movies," the pre-1927 (and some post-1927) motion pictures that used title cards instead of spoken dialogue and were accompanied by music, ranging from honky-tonk pianos to full orchestras, and even sound effects. And he likes to share his love for these films with others.
He often shows the old silents in his home theater to family, friends and anyone else who has an interest, and several years ago Hale coaxed me into seeing for the first time what he considers the best of the best - "Sunrise."
Though we had known each other for a while, I was a bit skeptical about Hale's raves for this film. After all, we all have our favorites - but that doesn't mean someone else will be as enthusiastic as you are about a particular film.
Since "Sunrise" was a movie I had always wanted to see, I went. And I was pleasantly surprised and rather mesmerized by the power of F.W. Murnau's deceptively simple tale of a man driven to murder his wife, then repenting at the last minute and attempting to win her forgiveness.
"I had read about it for years, and I finally got a (16mm) copy in 1972," Hale says. "Now a lot of films that you look forward to like that turn out to be kind of a disappointment. But the minute I saw `Sunrise' I saw that it was everything I had read about."
He also found that word-of-mouth was extraordinary - everyone he showed it to wanted to share it with someone else.
A year later Hale talked Art Proctor into running "Sunrise" at his Avalon Theater. Proctor was also skeptical, since silents traditionally do not play as well as sound films in Salt Lake's favorite "golden oldies" theater.
But "Sunrise" was a huge success.
Finally, as local movie fans are well-aware, "Sunrise" was chosen by the Sundance Institute to open the 1989 United States Film Festival in January, complete with a new musical score by David Newman, who conducted the Utah Symphony.
What you may not know is that Hale is the one who introduced "Sunrise" to Sundance.
Since Hale has been touting "Sunrise" for years, and the world is just coming to rediscover it in 1989, I can't help but feel he is, at least to some extent, responsible for the renewed interest in this fine film. (And if you'd like an opportunity to see it, mark next year's calendar for April, when the Organ Loft's silent film series will give "Sunrise" another public showing.)
And he is, of course, grinning from ear to ear, knowing that one of his absolute favorite films is receiving the national recognition it deserves.
But Hale is even happier knowing that more people will be anxious to see it, which can only lead to its being made more available.
Can a quality video release be far away?
MOST OF THE OTHER films in the National Registry are no surprise, safe bets ranging from "Citizen Kane" to "Gone With the Wind" to "The Wizard of Oz" to "Star Wars" to "Singin' in the Rain," etc.
But some are certainly curious choices.
First, let's understand what this recognition means and how the films were chosen.
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