Theme Month! July 2014: Rugged Gents


The silent era was not all about comedians and sheiks! There were also some rugged performers in heart-pounding, red-blooded adventures. This month, we are going to be celebrating the leading men of these exciting films.

Of course, just because I am writing about the XY-chromosone set, that does not mean that these movies are all chest-pounding tales with shrinking heroines. In fact, some of the films I will be featuring include powerful women who more than match the hero in bravery. I can promise a collection of films that feature robust action from the male protagonist with less emphasis on romance and personal grooming. Scruffiness is a must!

(And don’t worry, we will be featuring Warrior Women at a later date.)

Every review will feature a particular silent actor and I will share what qualifies the title for inclusion.

Rugged Gent #1: William S. Hart

Bad Buck of Santa Ynez (1915)

William S. Hart is a Good Bad Man whose bad habits very nearly get him hung. On the lam and wanted dead or alive, he runs into a small pioneer family in need of help. Do I sense a moral turnaround in the offing? Standard Hart story with a somewhat surprising twist.

Marks of Manliness: Our hero escapes being guest of honor at a necktie party by holding off an entire posse single-handed. Later, he knowingly rides through an ambush to fetch a doctor for a sick kid.

Rugged Gent #2: Harry Carey

Bucking Broadway (1917)

Director John Ford’s second-earliest surviving film, Bucking Broadway is the tale of a country guy who loses his fiancee to a city slicker. He follows her to New York and chaos ensues. Entertaining little western-comedy.

Marks of Manliness: After demonstrating his general westernness, our hero heads east. While there, he engages in a massive brawl and is assisted by his pals, who stampede down the streets of NYC.

Rugged Gent #3: Sessue Hayakawa

The Tong Man (1919)

A gangland tale set in Chinatown, this movie gives Hayakawa a chance to be more of a Good Bad Man. He’s a hitman and drug dealer who falls for his target’s daughter.

Marks of Manliness: Battled with guns and hatchets, much climbing over walls and general adventuring.

Rugged Gent #4: Ivan Mosjoukine

Michael Strogoff (1926)

Wow, wow, wow! Epic in every sense of the word, this movie also has heart and brains to spare. It’s about the czar’s courier and his adventures in Siberia. Pretty much the best silent epic you have never heard of.

Marks of Manliness: Where to begin? Our hero is unkillable. He survives a fight with a bear, being shot in the head and crosses Siberia with his eyes burned out. And he shaves with broken glass. Top that!