Ashes to Classics 4) The Toll of the Sea (1922)

The earliest surviving Technicolor feature film persists in cultural heritage not only for its legacy as a vibrant and awe-inspiring pioneer of technical innovation, but also as a starring vehicle for the sumptuous Chinese-American actress Anna May Wong, who appeared in her first starring role as the tragically lovestruck teenager in this retelling of the Madame Butterfly story. There are surprising observations to be made at every turn, from the inherent orientalist flavoring of story to the awe-inspiring visual direction which so beautifully survives today in spite of considerable mystery regarding its supposed rediscovery.

Also discussed is a tour of the programming seen at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival, where cohost David saw this film and a number of others, including titles from Lubitsch, DeMille, and King Vidor. Tune in as we evaluate the importance of such restorations and screenings as allowed by these festivals, and the unique experiences being curated for these special screenings we hope can be made more available as the interest in celebrating Silent Film only grows from here.

David Attends the San Francisco Silent Film Festival: 00:00 – 30:40

Color in Film, Technicolor, and The Toll of the Sea (1922): 30:40 – 1:28:46

Many thanks to Graham Austin and Jack Davenport for the creation of our beautiful logo art and theme music respectively.


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