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TCM names new host for Silent Sundays

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TCM Makes History With New ‘Silent Sunday Nights’ Host

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University of Chicago professor Jacqueline Stewart has been announced as host of “Silent Sunday Nights,” the 25-year-old Turner Classic Movies (TCM) block that offers iconic movies from the silent era as well as forgotten gems and international classics. Stewart is a professor in the Department of Cinema and Media Studies, specializing in the history of African American cinema from the silent era to the present. She is also a three-term appointee to the National Film Preservation Board (NFPB), which advises the Librarian of Congress on policy, and is the Chair of the NFPB Diversity Task Force working to ensure the films chosen for the National Film Registry reflect diversity and inclusion.

For Stewart, hosting TCM’s “Silent Sunday Nights” is an opportunity that meshes harmoniously with the kind of work she’s been doing throughout her career.

“It’s an incredible alignment of my expertise as a scholar across my career, which has included trying to reach beyond academia and enter the mainstream,” said Stewart, whose relationship with TCM began three years ago, when she was invited to present films that are featured on a groundbreaking compilation she co-curated, titled “Pioneers of African American Cinema.” It was a monumental collection of historically vital films by the earliest African American filmmakers, digitally mastered in HD using archival elements.

A Chicago native, Stewart curates a local film series called “Cinema 53,” which spotlights women and people of color. She also shepherds the archival South Side Home Movie Project which accumulates, digitizes and screens amateur films shot by people who live in the infamous south side of Chicago.

“I have this incredible life of living where I grew up and teaching at a very prestigious institution, and it’s important to me to bring those intellectual resources and those economic resources that the university has, to people outside of the walls of the campus,” said Stewart. “So this is just like taking that desire and that commitment to a new level. I did not expect to be doing work like this but I think that it’s exactly the right kind of move for me to make.”

That she is an African American woman, and the first black host of a TCM programming staple, is certainly appreciated by Stewart, who fully expects her identity will be of influence on the framing of the franchise going forward.

“I think it’s extremely significant, and I feel honored, while also feeling appropriately pressured,” she said. “I never feel like I walk into any space as just myself. I carry with me specific histories and strengths. And so I think that for so many of us who operate in predominantly white spaces, which is not new to me as an academic, we can choose to accept quite a bit of responsibility for speaking for our people.”

The pressure she speaks of includes channeling the anxieties of the communities she proudly represents, especially during a period of robust conversations around issues of diversity, equity and inclusion. And she’s well aware of how ephemeral moments like this can be, which only amplifies the urgency to seize them.

“It is incredibly important to use this platform as effectively as I can while I have it, and so being impactful, using my voice to point out things about these films, and help select films that we show that really teach us something new about the diversity of film history, is definitely something I plan to do, and that TCM has been completely supportive of,” said Stewart who is confident that, under her watch, the full range of cinematic experiences during the silent period will be represented.

And as an archivist, she also plans to introduce conversations around the preservation of these aged films that viewers will find educational. Some of her favorites of the period include Carl Theodore Dryer’s “The Passion of Joan of Arc,” which she describes as a extraordinary work of art. “It demonstrates the power of the sheer visual image, and is a film that is always spellbinding to me.”

She’s also a huge fan of Oscar Micheaux, calling the pioneer an “especially singular cinematic voice,” whose work will be included in her programming of “Silent Sunday Nights.” Included will be “The Symbol of the Unconquered” and “Within our Gates,” which were both audacious responses to D. W. Griffith’s incendiary “The Birth of a Nation,” which is also on the docket.

And Stewart will not shy away from the problematic dimensions of these films, with a goal being to critically examine them in their full complexity. “I think this is part of the invitation that TCM has given to me, to come and really talk about the challenging racial and gender questions that come up with some of these early films,” she said. “And even if I’m not talking them, I think my sheer presence as a black woman hosting this series will automatically raise the kind of inquiries that otherwise may not come to the surface.”

“Jacqueline is sharp, lively, and has an illuminating depth of information,” said Pola Changnon, senior vice president of marketing, studio production and talent for TCM. “Her knowledge of the silent era and the way she weaves a beautiful narrative about this genre of film will surely entertain viewers while also allowing them a front seat to their own personal film class with her as their teacher.”

Stewart will begin hosting “Silent Sunday Nights” on September 15, 2019.

https://www.indiewire.com/2019/09/jacqueline-stewart-tcm-host-silent-sunday-nights-1202171378/

 

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I enjoyed the preview video available by clicking the link. She just might be my new favorite TCM host. I hope, like Noir Alley, there is a way to watch her video work without staying up late. The Keeper needs his beauty sleep, don't-cha know.

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I'm glad to hear that TCM is bringing in a subject-matter expert as the host of Silent Sundays. 

That approach worked very well with Eddie Muller, whose knowledge of film noir makes his appearances essential viewing for me.  I never miss him because he provides so much fascinating information, and gives us the perspective of someone who really knows that part of film history.  And he makes it all so entertaining.

It sounds like Prof. Stewart has the background to make her appearances as compelling as Eddie's.  There's a lot about the history of silent movies that I want to learn from her, while hearing why she finds those movies so enjoyable to watch.  From what I've seen in the preview, she should be a great addition to TCM's outstanding team of hosts, all of whom have valuable strengths.

(I do miss the glory days of Robert Osborne, who seemed able to do it all.  But if it takes five hosts to replace him, so be it -- they all have an important place in the TCM universe.)

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I have been taping Silent Sunday Night since 1999 and stopped after Robert Osborne passed away. I cherish those movies with his openings as much as gold. I am thankful to have them for when I decide to cut the cord with cable because of the outrageous price and the diverse politics the channels play.

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I was hoping that, in keeping with the silent movies, they would make a professional mime as the host.

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Just found a couple of YouTube clips of Ms. Stewart speaking at cinema-themed seminars. I discovered she possesses a very nice speaking voice. Clear, resonant, great use of proper and appropriate inflection, AND without a HINT of any nasally tones at all.

AND, I'm sure you folks know by now JUST how much THIS sort'a thing counts in MY estimation of these hosts around here, don't ya. ;)

LOL

(...yep, she's gonna do JUST fine in this new TCM position, alright...welcome aboard, Jacqueline) 

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5 hours ago, UMO1982 said:

I hope she avoids injecting race and gender into every film she introduces.

How exactly would she manage that, with a syringe?

On the other hand, if a film presents race and/or gender issues that are worth discussing, I do indeed hope she brings them up.  If you are not interested in an academic lecture, you are more than free to skip the intro and just watch the movie.  I look forward to more intros (a la Eddie Muller's) that provide interesting context and food for thought rather than the same old IMDb trivia and lame jokes.

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Today's L.A. Times has an article about this on the front page of their "Calendar" section:

She's making history at TCM by Sonaiya Kelley.

 

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6 hours ago, UMO1982 said:

I hope she avoids injecting race and gender into every film she introduces.

DITTO. I'm not sure she's the right fit for this slot, but I rarely watch Silent Sunday nights anyway as they rarely show anything new.......

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52 minutes ago, Feego said:

How exactly would she manage that, with a syringe?

On the other hand, if a film presents race and/or gender issues that are worth discussing, I do indeed hope she brings them up.  If you are not interested in an academic lecture, you are more than free to skip the intro and just watch the movie.  I look forward to more intros (a la Eddie Muller's) that provide interesting context and food for thought rather than the same old IMDb trivia and lame jokes.

Read what I said and don't extrapolate. If you don't like my comment or don't understand it, you are free to skip it.

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24 minutes ago, UMO1982 said:

Read what I said and don't extrapolate. If you don't like my comment or don't understand it, you are free to skip it.

I was going to make a comment similar to Feego;  So the host should only show movies with an all animal cast?

The point being that all films (really stories) have a race (really cultural),  and gender specific backdrop;  these two are part of the essence of the human condition.

I didn't make a comment since I wasn't sure what you were asking for;    it appears all you're asking is that the host show some restraint and that multiple perspectives are on display.

      

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I did read what you said.  I neither disliked it nor misunderstood it.  You said you hope she will not inject race and gender into the films, in other words reading into them issues that are not there.  I simply countered that if those issues are there, I hope she discusses them.  There's nothing wrong with a little education.

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There's also a brief interview with Prof. Stewart in today's NY Times:

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/09/arts/television/jacqueline-stewart-tcm.html

She strikes me as someone who'll provide an interesting, knowledgeable perspective on the Silent Sunday films without hitting anyone over the head with academic theorizing.  From what she says in the interview, she clearly has a great deal of respect for TCM viewers as people who want to learn more about the films they're seeing.

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40 minutes ago, Feego said:

I did read what you said.  I neither disliked it nor misunderstood it.  You said you hope she will not inject race and gender into the films, in other words reading into them issues that are not there.  I simply countered that if those issues are there, I hope she discusses them.  There's nothing wrong with a little education.

I said I hope she won't inject race and gender into EVERY film. There's a difference. If the film warrants a discussion about some issue, fine. If not, don't create one. That's all.

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The great thing about Robert Osborne was that he did not politicize the films he introduced, nor did he condescend to his audience or have an axe to grind. His love of classic cinema was obvious and infectious. The hosts who do not follow this example usually don't last.

Of course, the TCM hosts generally do not write their intros and outros anyway.

 

 

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Wouldn't she be in involved in film selection?  I get the impression that she'll be making programming decisions.  Therefore, I would expect her to select a number of films which bring up gender and/or racial issues.  I don't really see what the big deal is.  That's why TCM selected her for this position I think.

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The schedule is set through December. I wonder how much of it was done in conjunction with Stewart's input, or if the previously scheduled films will change. Here are the titles beginning with her debut on the 15th.

September

  • Two Arabian Knights (1927), Dir: Lewis Milestone - September 15
  • The Racket (1928), Dir: Lewis Milestone - September 22
  • Cleopatra (1912), Dir: Charles L. Gaskill - September 29

October

  • The Symbol of the Unconquered (1921), Dir: Oscar Micheaux - October 6
  • Faust (1926), Dir: F.W. Murnau - October 13
  • The Phantom Carriage (1921), Dir: Victor Sjostrom - October 20
  • The Haunted Hotel (1907), Dir: J. Stuart Blackton - October 27

November

  • Master of the House (1925), Dir: Carl Theodor Dreyer - November 3
  • The Pagan (1929), Dir: W.S. Van Dyke - November 10
  • Tokyo Chorus (1931), Dir: Yasujiro Ozu - November 17
  • The Passion of Joan of Arc (1927), Dir: Carl Theodor Dreyer - November 24

December

  • The Smart Set (1928), Dir: Jack Conway - December 1
  • Within Our Gates (1920), Dir: Oscar Micheaux - December 8
  • Beauty's Worth (1922), Dir: Robert G. Vignola - December 15
  • Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ (1925), Dir: Fred Niblo - December 22
  • The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1921), Dir: Rex Ingram - December 29
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I don't see Eddie very often. Dave seems to stick to the script. Ben tries to add humor. Alicia voices her own feelings. I seriously doubt Jacqueline Stewart is going to be perfect for everyone. I'm disappointed to read negative comments before she does her first show. So far I like everything about her. 

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Let's be honest, there aren't that many silent films out there. How many silent films are premiered on TCM every year?

I liked Robert Osborne because he loved movies and tried to put the film in context with the people who worked on them. That was it. He didn't spend half the intro saying something absurd, unfunny, or "insult" his family members, only to give a wink and say just kidding. I enjoy learning something about the movie being shown. That sort of behavior feels belittling of my effort to tune in, and is definitely a waste of my time. (And yes, I can always skip the intros but isn't that a basic part of TCM? Learning about the film? Otherwise why have anyone intro the film in the first place?)

One of the reasons I like Eddie Muller so much is that he really gives the film context to the people involved and the world they inhabited. I look forward to Noir Alley every week, just to hear Eddie's remarks, even if I've already seen the film many times.

That's all I ask for in a host. If Jacqueline Stewart does that I'd be so grateful.

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1 hour ago, UMO1982 said:

The great thing about Robert Osborne was that he did not politicize the films he introduced, nor did he condescend to his audience or have an axe to grind. His love of classic cinema was obvious and infectious. The hosts who do not follow this example usually don't last.

 

Ok, I'm seriously not trying to pick on you.  I'm just curious about this last statement.  The only hosts I recall being hired for (presumably) permanent positions since Robert Osborne's absence are Tiffany, Alicia and Dave.  (Alec Baldwin and Ava Duvernay were hired for temporary Essentials duty.)  Tiffany is the only one who's on-air hosting position was terminated, but I don't think it had anything to do with her political views.  In fact, I remember her being pretty much like Dave, sticking to the script and rarely interjecting personal thoughts.

Which hosts have politicized the movies or had an axe to grind?

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Ben is the only one I've noticed who seems to lean into those intros with a little bit of politics.

Though I found it interesting, in light of Chick-fil-a's anti-gay stance, that he would host this months spotlight from the Chick-fil-a College Football Hall of Fame. Not sure where you draw the line on such things.  But then again Dennis Adamovich, the HOF's CEO, is a friend of Ben's so take all of what I just wrote for what it's worth.

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