Category Archives: Academy of Motion Picture Arts And Sciences

Fotoplayer (and Joe) Applauded at Preservation Event

Style 40 FotoplayerIllustration of the Style 40 Fotoplayer. The Academy’s installation is the Style 41, built in 1917.

Fol­low­ing the enthu­si­as­tic response at the Fotoplayer’s inau­gur­al pro­gram at the Acad­e­my of Motion Pic­tures Lin­wood Dunn The­ater, Joe Rin­au­do was asked by Jon Erland of the Academy’s Sci­ence and Tech­nol­o­gy Coun­cil to speak at the year­ly Los Ange­les gath­er­ing of The Reel Thing, a group that address­es cur­rent think­ing and most advanced prac­ti­cal exam­ples of progress in the field of preser­va­tion, restora­tion and media con­ser­va­tion. 

On August 20, 2016, Mr. Rin­au­do gave the group the “fifty-cent tour” of the restora­tion process need­ed to restore the Academy’s 1917 Amer­i­can Foto­play­er. 

After­ward, the Foto­play­er was demon­strat­ed by Joe, show­ing off all its bells and whis­tles (lit­er­al­ly), and then sev­er­al musi­cal selec­tions were played as the group was exit­ing.  Play­ing the machine with his back to the audi­ence, Mr. Rin­au­do was sur­prised when he turned around to find that nobody had left — they all stayed to watch him per­form and applaud­ed enthu­si­as­ti­cal­ly.

The Reel Thing demonstrationWatch The Reel Thing demonstration video, filmed and posted on Joe Rinaudo’s Facebook page by Stan Taffel.

Mr. Erland has dis­cussed the pos­si­bil­i­ty of Joe return­ing at next year’s meet­ing for a more exten­sive dis­cus­sion of the labo­ri­ous effort to restore the Foto­play­er to its bet­ter-than-orig­i­nal con­di­tion.

Learn about The Reel Thing here and Joe Rinaudo’s expla­na­tion of the Foto­play­er here.

Bev­er­ly Gray has writ­ten an enlight­en­ing piece about the Academy’s Pick­ford Cen­ter for Motion Pic­ture Study. You’re sure to enjoy the arti­cle by “a show biz sur­vivor who believes movies can change lives.”

The End

Meet Joe Rinaudo

For a sight-and-sound glimpse into the world of Joe Rin­au­do, which includes silent films, pro­jec­tors, mechan­i­cal instru­ments, ear­ly phono­graphs and vin­tage light­ing, watch the Huell Hows­er “Cal­i­for­nia Gold” doc­u­men­tary which aired Feb­ru­ary 18, 2006. The pro­gram begins after a 60-sec­ond spon­sor announce­ment, and runs 30 min­utes:

Professor Rinaudo”

Joe RinaudoJOSEPH A. RINAUDO
Silent Cin­e­ma His­to­ri­an and Preser­va­tion­ist
Founder of the Silent Cin­e­ma Soci­ety

Having been best friends with Joe for over 50 years, I am honored to introduce you to my friend,
Mr. Joseph A. Rinaudo…

Introduction by Chaz DeSimone

PROFESSOR RINAUDOas silent cin­e­ma afi­ciona­dos call him, has been my friend for over fifty years, since junior high school.

model-ABack when I met Joe he was restor­ing his Mod­el A to show­room con­di­tion, and it was always fun rid­ing around in that thing… includ­ing the some­what embar­rass­ing episode when Joe pulled into a gas sta­tion and pur­chased a whole nickel’s worth of gaso­line! It got us home, though.

At that time Joe was also col­lect­ing 16mm silent films and would put on shows for his friends. Today he research­es, col­lects, restores and exhibits silent films (35mm these days) on a Pow­ers Cam­er­a­graph hand-crank pro­jec­tor, usu­al­ly with live accom­pa­ni­ment of the­ater organ or piano, as itin­er­ant shows to audi­ences far and wide, includ­ing the Acad­e­my of Motion Pic­ture Arts and Sci­ences (in oth­er words, the Oscar peo­ple). Joe Rin­au­do is also con­sul­tant and provider of restored films to the Library of Con­gress.

This is Joe’s story, in his own words:

My inter­est in old films began in the 1950’s on black & white tele­vi­sion when most of the sta­tions would show silent car­toons and come­dies. The col­lect­ing bug came to a head when my father (who loved to film every­thing with his 8mm cam­era) dur­ing our reg­u­lar Sat­ur­day night 8mm home movie film shows insert­ed a Buster Keaton silent com­e­dy reel in with our home movies. He pref­aced this reel by stat­ing that this was an old home movie of our fam­i­ly from the 1920’s. Imag­ine my shock and hap­py sur­prise when I real­ized that I could own one of the mag­i­cal films that I thought could only be seen on tele­vi­sion! I then saved up enough allowance mon­ey to buy my own 8mm films from Sears & Roe­buck for 99 cents! I then began show­ing these films to kids in the neigh­bor­hood for 5 cents. I used a 78 rpm phono­graph with Spike Jones and Fats Waller records for the music. When I had saved up enough mon­ey I would buy anoth­er film.

The Music BoxThe mad­ness con­tin­ues! By the ear­ly 1960’s I began col­lect­ing 16mm silent films. I remem­ber how excit­ed I was when my moth­er would dri­ve me down to Films Clas­sics Exchange on Ver­mont Avenue in Los Ange­les. There a man by the name of Char­lie Tar­box would be seat­ed at his antique desk with an old Under­wood type­writer. He always wore a black suit with a thin black tie. He had a shock of white hair and a cig­ar in his mouth. There were stacks of film every­where. This was an old build­ing with a wood­en floor and high ceil­ings. It smelled of stale cig­ar smoke and acetate film. This was right out of the 1920’s! Char­lie was always very kind to me and his voice remind­ed me of some­thing like a com­bi­na­tion of W.C. Fields and Maxwell Smart! Then the big moment arrived when I pur­chased my first sound 16mm film from Black­hawk Films, Lau­rel and Hardy’s The Music Box. Talk about mag­ic! I now had a film of high qual­i­ty (com­pared to 8mm) and it talked! I began show­ing my 16mm films to orga­ni­za­tions and for pri­vate par­ties for mon­ey that I could invest into more 16mm film. By the 1970’s I had amassed a very large 16mm col­lec­tion.

When I was at Glen­dale Col­lege in the ear­ly 1970’s, there was a short­age of funds (some­thing called a tax over ride?).  We had heard that  two teach­ers were going to lose their jobs. A fund rais­er was start­ed. I offered to show films in the audi­to­ri­um with all pro­ceeds going for the teach­ers’ salaries. I ran Lau­rel and Hardy and W.C. Fields films. The pro­gram was a big suc­cess and enough mon­ey was raised, to the best of my rec­ol­lec­tion, from this and all of the oth­er fund rais­ing efforts to save the teach­ers’ jobs. The Glen­dale News Press inter­viewed me about the film shows and my col­lec­tion of film. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, the reporter took the lib­er­ty of stat­ing that “Joe loves to show movies at his house and any­one is wel­come to stop by and watch a film!” This was only for my friends but it was too late for a retrac­tion and the phone start­ed ring­ing with peo­ple ask­ing if they might come over for a “Show”! Com­plete strangers would stop by and ring the bell to see when the next show would be! Fend­ing off all of the crazy calls was becom­ing a real problem…until one phone call in which a woman’s voice said:

I under­stand that you have some of my father’s films.”

Now I thought, oh my, anoth­er nut case. What can this be about?  The voice iden­ti­fied her­self as Lois Brooks — Stan Laurel’s daugh­ter! She had seen the arti­cle in the paper and read the part where I men­tioned I had almost every Lau­rel & Hardy film. Since videos were not avail­able, these films could only be seen on TV, in a the­ater, or on 16mm film. Since she found it dif­fi­cult to find any of her father’s films, she asked if she and her hus­band Rand Brooks might come over some­time to watch a Lau­rel & Hardy film! There a great friend­ship began. I brought Lois to her first Lau­rel & Hardy club meet­ing (The Sons Of The Desert). Lat­er I became the film archivist for the Lau­rel fam­i­ly as well as for the local of the Sons Of The Desert chap­ter, the Way Out West tent. I would trav­el with Lois and her new hus­band Tony Hawes for local shows and lec­tures that Lois and Tony would put on. These were very fun times as I got to meet a lot of old actors from the Hal Roach stu­dios as well as show films reg­u­lar­ly at the Masquer’s Club in Hol­ly­wood.  There I had the priv­i­lege to meet a lot of famous peo­ple back at the pro­jec­tor.

Powers CameragraphThe mad­ness gets worse! Com­pared to 35mm I always thought that 16mm was the end all be all for film col­lect­ing. In many ways it is due to the avail­abil­i­ty of so many titles, cost and ease of mov­ing the light weight equip­ment.  But…I always had a fas­ci­na­tion for 35mm hand crank pro­jec­tors. A friend of mine, Dave Feld­man, and I took a road trip to vis­it Mr. George Hall in Tuc­son, Ari­zona. George, who I now con­sid­er my men­tor, had a vast col­lec­tion of ear­ly 35mm pro­jec­tion equip­ment and film. In fact his house was set up as an ear­ly cin­e­ma muse­um. When we were there, George demon­strat­ed his 1905 Power’s mod­el 5 Cam­er­a­graph hand crank pro­jec­tor with a live arc in the lam­p­house! What a thrill to see this! I asked if I could crank a film and he took me back to anoth­er pro­jec­tor (a Sim­plex) which was hard­er to crank — but that didn’t mat­ter. All that I can remem­ber is that I start­ed crank­ing and was so mes­mer­ized by the mag­i­cal image cre­at­ed by crank­ing this won­der­ful machine, I couldn’t stop, and at about 2:00 a.m., after crank­ing some 20,000 feet of film, Dave and George had to pull me away from the pro­jec­tor!

I pur­chased a Power’s mod­el 6A lam­p­house and base from George. I then pur­chased a very nice Power’s mod­el 6B pro­jec­tor head from Mr. Dick Prather in Port­land, Ore­gon. I did a full-on restora­tion and con­vert­ed the lam­p­house to a high inten­si­ty halo­gen light source that is safe for film. I begged and bor­rowed small pieces of 35mm film. I would do demon­stra­tions on the side of my build­ing and on my garage door at home. Wow! What a pic­ture! 35mm rules!

Restored-by-Joe-RinaudoI start­ed doing out­door demon­stra­tions with any film that I could find. I nev­er thought that I would be able to afford a real 35mm film, let alone a silent. My good friend Mr. David Shep­ard asked me if I would do a show for him at the Silent Movie The­ater in Los Ange­les. He said that this year (2002) was the 100th anniver­sary of Georges Melies’s A Trip To The Moon.  Mr. Bob Mitchell would be play­ing the music and David Shep­ard would be read­ing the spo­ken text.  We would have to do two shows. He kind­ly offered to let me make a new print off of his neg­a­tive in return for crank­ing the shows! To do my first pub­lic per­for­mance with such impor­tant and won­der­ful peo­ple as Bob Mitchell and David Shep­ard at the Silent Movie The­ater with CNN in attendance…heck, I would have paid David to do the shows! So with my able assis­tant, Mr. Gary Gib­son, both of us dressed like itin­er­ant pro­jec­tion­ists from the ear­ly 1900’s, both shows went over well to full hous­es and great reviews.

Professor RinaudoSince that time I have worked with The Library of Con­gress in the restora­tion of silent film, as well as doing reg­u­lar hand crank shows for the Acad­e­my of Motion Pic­ture Arts and Sci­ences’ 100 Years of Film series. With Mr. Dean Mora  and Mr. Gary Gib­son we have done and reg­u­lar­ly do re-cre­ation turn-of-the-last-cen­tu­ry itin­er­ant motion pic­ture shows for The Hand­ford Fox The­ater, The Visalia Fox The­ater, The Bal­boa The­ater, The Peter­son Car Muse­um, The Turn­er Clas­sic Film Fes­ti­val, The San Rafael The­ater, six shows a year at the Nether­cutt Muse­um (boast­ing the third largest the­ater organ in the world) and numer­ous col­leges, schools, and oth­er venues.

Look­ing back to my 8mm days, I would have nev­er thought in my wildest dreams that I would have end­ed up pro­ject­ing 35mm — with a crank, no less!”


I am very proud of my friend Joe for accomplishing his dream of founding the Silent Cinema Society to preserve the art and technology of silent cinema. I am also honored he employs my talent to restore the titles for his films…

A Golden Opportunity

BC-FRONT-WEB-lowActu­al­ly, this was a Black-and-White Oppor­tu­ni­ty: Joe asked me a few years ago if I’d be inter­est­ed in restor­ing the title cards for his films and cre­ate new ones when the orig­i­nals are lost to time. Who knew two best friends would be so valu­able to each oth­er near­ly fifty years after meet­ing in sev­enth grade — my restor­ing the miss­ing parts to his films and he restor­ing my pas­sion for let­ter­ing and typog­ra­phy? I have enjoyed ren­der­ing titles for Joe for sev­er­al years now, and I even get to see them pro­ject­ed on the sil­ver screen in silent come­dies and dra­mas accom­pa­nied by the Mighty Wurl­itzer. (Twice a year Joe brings his itin­er­ant show to the Nether­cutt Muse­um in Syl­mar, Cal­i­for­nia. A cal­en­der of events and details about the shows are on their web­site.)

Silent…with Sound

Fotoplayer Model 20 modifiedJoe is all about silent film, but he also loves sound. Loud sound! Not the dia­log and music that pass­es through the pro­jec­tor that is print­ed on the film. Oh no, Joe’s silent films are accom­pa­nied by an ear-shat­ter­ing, robust “sym­pho­ny” cre­at­ed by one per­son sit­ting at one machine: The Foto­play­er. This resem­bles a play­er piano, but with two rolls for chang­ing music for dif­fer­ent scenes; an assort­ment of pull cords, levers, but­tons and stops con­nect­ed to a side cab­i­net con­tain­ing organ pipes, per­cus­sion, brass, sound effects, and lit­er­al­ly bells and whis­tles. The pianist usu­al­ly lets the rolls play the music while he selects the instru­ment stops and cre­ates the sound effects. He’s watch­ing the film, of course, all at the same time.

Joe has one of these machines. He acquired his Amer­i­can Foto­play­er Style 20 while he was 21 years old and spent the next three years restor­ing it to brand-new con­di­tion. it’s the cen­ter­piece in his liv­ing room. This thing is loud! It’s amaz­ing Joe has any neigh­bors left, unless they’re all hard of hear­ing. Joe recent­ly com­plet­ed the restora­tion of a Style 41 Amer­i­can Foto­play­er for the Acad­e­my of Motion Pic­ture Arts and Sci­ences (remem­ber, the Oscar peo­ple).

Learn more about the Foto­play­er on Joe’s Foto­play­er Page.

See the cal­en­dar of Pro­fes­sor Rinaudo’s Itin­er­ant Shows under “COMING ATTRACTIONS” and treat your­self to some com­e­dy, sus­pense, or pathos of the gold­en — er, black and white — era of silent cin­e­ma.

The End