What were people watching a century ago? We are about the find out! It is time to celebrate the films that turned 100 this year and to accomplish this, I will be reviewing films released in 1915 throughout the month. My goal is to provide a wide selection so that readers can marvel at the sheer variety of screen entertainment.
Last year, I had a month celebrating the films of 1914 and had a real blast. I also made some happy discoveries, films I would never otherwise have seen. I am hoping for equal success this year.
1915 was not only an important year in film history (the year feature dramas completely took over), it is also one of my all-time favorite years for silent film, tying with 1926. We are not going to have this much fun again for eleven years so let’s make the most of it.
Alas, discussions of wonderful 1915 are often taken over by The Birth of a Nation and even its fans must admit that the picture tends to suck all the air out of the room. I announced at the beginning of 2015 that Birth would not be celebrated in these parts and I am sticking to my guns. 1915 had so many brilliant films released and they deserve their moment in the sun without D.W. Griffith’s coarse, racist epic crashing the party. No, it wasn’t the first feature, first American feature, or even Griffith’s first feature. Nor was it the first movie to employ subtle acting, closeups or whatever the heck else people make up. STOP SPREADING THIS! (Pours dry and dirty martini) Between you and me, I will be a little relieved when this year is over and we can all go back to forgetting that thing exists. (Downs martini) I think I’ll burn Griffith in effigy or something when the year ends. Anyone have a wicker man handy?
But on to happier things! As an appetizer, here are the top stars of 1915, as voted in a popular movie magazine. And here are 1915 films I have already reviewed on my site:
(I have marked films of particular quality with an *)
Cecil B. DeMille
William S. Hart
A Night in the Show (Chaplin²)
*Burlesque on Carmen (Chaplin spoofs DeMille)
Sweet Alyssum (Tyrone Power Sr.)
Alias Jimmy Valentine (Maurice Tourneur directs)
A fresh look at Theda Bara’s infamous vamp vehicle.
Silent comedy wasn’t all slapstick, as this witty short shows.
However, that’s not to say that slapstick was completely absent, as W.C. Fields’ film debut shows.
Things get very dark in this film expose of exploitative child labor practices. Viola Dana stars.
Raoul Walsh directed this groundbreaking gangster drama about a reformer and a criminal.